US intelligence agencies have significantly stepped up spying operations on Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor prompted by concerns about the security of weapons-grade plutonium there, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
Citing unnamed US officials, the newspaper said the increased US surveillance of Bushehr has been conducted in part by US unmanned drones operating over the Gulf.
The effort resulted in the interception of visual images and audio communications coming from the reactor complex, the report said.
Iran says its nuclear programme is peaceful but many in the international community suspect its real aim is to develop nuclear weapons.
The UN Security Council has imposed four rounds of sanctions on Iran which have been augmented this year by painful Western restrictions on its vital oil exports, leading to serious economic problems.
Tehran suggested that a US drone was spying on Bushehr on November 1 when it sent Iranian fighter jets to pursue the unmanned craft, firing at it but missing, the US paper said.
But according to US officials, the drone was conducting surveillance that day, but not on Bushehr, The Journal said.
The stepped up surveillance came after the US government became alarmed over activities at Bushehr, especially the removal of fuel rods from the plant in October, just two months after it became fully operational, the paper said.
Tehran formally protested the Pentagon's spying activities in a November 19 letter to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, The Journal said.
The complaint charged that the United States has repeatedly violated Iranian airspace with its drone flights, according to the paper.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hl_jg1ToVhrCRfwXvEs2tyONz0hw?docId=CNG.e74adb0aba38c8fff47792f393a62118.281
2. Iranian Defiance at IAEA sparks Western 'pessimism'
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Iran fiercely denied Friday seeking nuclear weapons and threatened to withdraw from a key treaty aimed at stopping their spread, in another note of defiance just as fresh diplomatic efforts gather pace.
Speaking at a tense UN atomic agency meeting, Iran's envoy said that no "smoking gun" indicating a covert weapons drive had ever been found and that the West wanted to hijack the agency for their own ends.
Presenting a list of "50 questions and answers," Ali Asghar Soltanieh said that "no doubt is left that the (International Atomic Energy Agency) file has to be closed immediately."
He told the closed-door IAEA meeting in Vienna that the six resolutions on Iran passed by the UN Security Council were "illegal" and that Tehran would "never suspend" its programme, according to the text of his remarks.
The meeting followed the release of an IAEA report this month showing that Iran is continuing to defy those UN resolutions by expanding its capacity to enrich uranium, which can be used in peaceful purposes but potentially also in a nuclear bomb.
One Western diplomat called the comments "absolutely ridiculous" and said that it made him "very pessimistic" about renewed diplomatic efforts to resolve the long-running crisis.
Soltanieh "did not address any of the issues that have been expressed in the board. It is very clear that the Iranians are not serious," the diplomat said.
Soltanieh also repeated long-standing Iranian threats that if Israel bombs it, Tehran "may" withdraw from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which aims to stop the spread of atomic weapons.
Israel, widely believed to have nuclear weapons -- it has not signed the NPT, like India and Pakistan, while North Korea withdrew -- has refused to rule out military action to prevent its arch-rival from also getting the bomb.
Israel's envoy to the IAEA, Ehud Azoulay, said he was not surprised by Soltanieh's comments about the NPT.
"I think they are going to do it anyhow in the near future, so I am not surprised," Azoulay told reporters. "When they make their first nuclear explosion they will have to withdraw (from the NPT)."
The IAEA is due to hold talks in Tehran on December 13 aimed at addressing what the agency calls "overall, credible" evidence that until 2003, and possibly since, Iran conducted activities "relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device."
Several rounds of talks this year were fruitless however and Washington's envoy to the IAEA, Robert Wood, said Thursday that the United States would push for the agency's board to take the rare step of referring Iran to the UN Security Council if Tehran displays no "substantive cooperation" by its next board meeting in March.
On a parallel diplomatic track, the P5+1 powers -- the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany -- said after a meeting in Brussels last week that they want talks with Iran "as soon as possible". This may happen as early as December.
But it is far from clear whether the P5+1 will want to sweeten an offer, made in talks in May and June, which for Tehran stopped short of offering sufficient relief from sanctions that have started to cause major economic problems this year.
Signals coming out of Iran meanwhile indicate that Tehran is not any readier to meet P5+1 and Security Council demands to suspend its most sensitive nuclear activities, most notably uranium enrichment.
Iran's nuclear chief Fereydoon Abbasi Davani also said Wednesday that Iran would continue "with force" to expand its activities, and that Iran plans to "soon test" its new heavy water reactor at Arak -- another worry for the West.
Mark Hibbs from the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace said that Iranian threats to the NPT were not new, and warned against reading too much into either Soltanieh's or Abbasi Davani's comments.
"Iran's supreme leader may decide on January 1st that he wants to do a deal with the P5+1, and then all bets are off," Hibbs told AFP.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday that she was not a "not a wild-eyed optimist" but that she still saw "a window of opportunity to reach some kind of resolution" over Iran?s nuclear programme.
"We put together this unprecedented coalition to impose these very tough sanctions on Iran. We know they?re having an effect internally. But I think that we?ll see in the next few months whether there?s a chance for any kind of a serious negotiation," she said. "And right now, I?m not sure that it can happen, but I certainly hope it does."
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jjDTkpEC4bAhiwg-SAoD0ZuFMa_w?docId=CNG.eaf50d584a35b859ce6e8254526061f5.301
3. Iran May Quit Anti-Nuclear Arms Pact if Attacked -Envoy
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Any attack on Iran's nuclear facilities may lead to it withdrawing from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a pact aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear arms, a senior Iranian official said on Friday.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, also suggested Iran in such a case could kick out IAEA inspectors and install its uranium enrichment centrifuges in "more secure" places.
His comments may strengthen concerns among many Western nuclear experts that military action against Iran aimed at preventing it from developing nuclear weapons may backfire and only drive its entire nuclear programme underground.
There has been persistent speculation that Israel might bomb Iran, which it accuses of seeking a nuclear weapons capability. Iran denies the charge and says Israel's assumed atomic arsenal is a threat to regional security.
If attacked, "there is a possibility that the (Iranian) parliament forces the government to stop the (U.N. nuclear) agency inspections or even in the worse scenario withdraw from the NPT," Soltanieh said in a statement in English submitted to a meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation Board of Governors.
Asked about Soltanieh's comments, Israel's ambassador to the IAEA, Ehud Azoulay, said: "I believe that they are going to do it anyhow, in the near future, so I'm not surprised.
"When they make their first nuclear explosion they will have to withdraw, I believe," he told reporters, adding he thought Iran was "following the steps" of North Korea.
North Korea was the first country to withdraw from the NPT, in 2003, and has denied IAEA access to its atomic sites. It carried out nuclear tests in 2006 and in 2009.
Iran, one of the world's largest oil producers, says its nuclear programme is a peaceful bid to generate electricity.
Like nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, Israel has never signed the NPT. It neither confirms nor denies having nuclear arms, although non-proliferation and security analysts believe it has several hundred nuclear weapons.
The Jewish state has said it would sign the treaty and renounce atomic weaponry only as part of a broader peace deal with Arab states and Iran that guaranteed its security.
Under the 189-nation NPT, which came into force in 1970, non-nuclear weapons states commit to not develop such arms.
Israel and the United States see Iran as the world's main nuclear proliferation danger. Iran and Arab states say Israel's nuclear capabilities threaten regional peace and security.
In a defiant 11-page statement which prompted one Western diplomat to say he was "very pessimistic" about a new round of talks between Iran and the IAEA in mid-December, Soltanieh said the Iranian nuclear file "has to be closed immediately" and U.N. inspections work regarding the country returned to "routine".
"This is the only way that encourages Iran to show more flexibility in taking voluntary steps," Soltanieh said.
The IAEA is seeking to resume a long-stalled investigation into suspicions that Iran has conducted atom bomb research, and Western officials accuse Tehran of stonewalling the inquiry.
Soltanieh said nuclear weapons have no use and only creates vulnerability, and that any military action against Iran would not stop it from enriching uranium.
Refined uranium can have both civilian and military purposes, and a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions since 2006 have demanded that Iran suspend the activity, something the Islamic state has repeatedly ruled out.
"Iran is master of enrichment technology ... it can easily replace damaged facilities," Soltanieh said. But, he added, Iran is "well prepared to find a negotiated face-saving solution and a breakthrough from the existing stalemate".
Diplomacy between Iran and six world powers - the United States, China, Russia, France, Germany, and Britain - aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the decade-old dispute has been deadlocked since a June meeting that ended without success.
Both sides now say they want to resume talks soon, after the re-election of U.S. President Barack Obama, and diplomats expect a new meeting in Istanbul in December or January.
Iran has faced a tightening of Western trade sanctions which the United States and its allies hope will force it to curb its nuclear programme. Soltanieh said: "Western sanctions have had no effect whatsoever on the enrichment activities."
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/30/nuclear-iran-npt-idUSL5E8MU7OR20121130
4. Stray Bolts Blamed for Iran Nuclear Plant Shutdown-Russia Source
Steve Gutterman, Associated Press
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A Russian-built nuclear reactor in Iran was shut down last month to limit any damage after stray bolts were found beneath the fuel cells, a Russian nuclear industry source said on Friday.
The explanation for the shutdown of the 1,000-megawatt Bushehr plant contradicted assurances by Iran that nothing unexpected had happened and removing nuclear fuel from the plant was part of a normal procedure.
"Indicators showed that some small external parts were ... in the reactor vessel," said the source, identifying them as bolts beneath t h e fuel cells.
The West suspects the Islamic Republic of trying to develop nuclear arms. It denies the accusations, and its first plant near the Gulf city of Bushehr is a symbol of what it says are its purely peaceful nuclear ambitions.
The U.N. nuclear agency said in a confidential Nov. 16 report that fuel assemblies - bundles of fuel rods loaded into the reactor - had been transferred from the reactor core to a spent fuel pond in October, but gave no reason.
It was the second time in less than two years fuel has been unloaded from the reactor, which Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom said in late August had been powered up to full capacity.
Rosatom subsidiary NIAEP which runs the project said in October Bushehr would be formally "handed over for use" to Iran in March 2013. Officials had earlier expected this to happen by the end of 2012.
In a written reply to questions, NIAEP said "unscheduled additional tests and checks, as well as repair work on equipment and systems" had been carried out at the plant.
NIAEP said the reactor would be at full capacity again in late December and the additional work was behind the delayed transfer of responsibility to Iranian operators.
It has said dozens of Russian specialists will remain at the plant after the handover, which will be a milestone for the project started by Germany's Siemens before the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed shah.
U.S. concerns the Bushehr project, which Russia took over in the 1990s, could help Tehran develop a nuclear weapon were eased by a requirement Iran return spent fuel, from which weapons-grade plutonium can potentially be extracted, to Russia.
Bushehr is not considered a major proliferation risk by Western states, whose fears are focused on sites where Iran has defied global pressure and Russian-approved U.N. sanctions by enriching uranium beyond levels needed to fuel power plants.
But Western officials have voiced concern about unloading fuel, saying it raised questions about safety and potentially about proliferation if the fuel were misused. They have also criticised Iran for the secrecy surrounding the operation.
Asked on Thursday about fuel removal from the plant, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency said the country was determined to make sure safety was guaranteed after the plant is turned over to Iranian operators.
"We are going to make sure that every item, every part of it is safe before we receive (it) because it will be our obligation afterward," Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh told reporters at the U.N. nuclear agency in Vienna.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/30/nuclear-iran-bushehr-idUSL5E8MT7YN20121130
5. U.S. Gives Iran Until March to Cooperate with IAEA
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The United States set a March deadline on Thursday for Iran to start cooperating in substance with a U.N. nuclear agency investigation, warning Tehran the issue may otherwise be referred to the U.N. Security Council.
The comments by U.S. diplomat Robert Wood to the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency signaled Washington's growing frustration at a lack of progress in the IAEA's inquiry into possible military dimensions to Tehran's nuclear program.
Iran - which was first reported to the U.N. Security Council over its nuclear program by the IAEA's 35-nation board in 2006 and then was hit by U.N. sanctions - rejects suspicions it is on a covert quest for atomic bomb capability.
But its refusal to curb nuclear work with both civilian and military applications, and its lack of openness with the IAEA, have drawn tough Western punitive measures and a threat of pre-emptive military strikes by Israel.
A year ago, the IAEA published a report with a trove of intelligence indicating past, and some possibly continuing, research in Iran that could be relevant for nuclear weapons.
The IAEA has since tried to gain access to Iranian sites, officials and documents it says it needs for the inquiry, but so far without any concrete results in a series of meetings with Iran since January. The two sides will meet again in December.
In his statement, Wood requested IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano to say in his next quarterly report on Iran, likely due in late February, whether Tehran has taken "any substantive steps" to address the agency's concerns.
"If by March Iran has not begun substantive cooperation with the IAEA, the United States will work with other board members to pursue appropriate board action, and would urge the board to consider reporting this lack of progress to the U.N. Security Council," Wood said, according to a copy of his statement.
"Iran cannot be allowed to indefinitely ignore its obligations ... Iran must act now, in substance," Wood said.
Amano earlier told the board that there had been no progress in his agency's year-long push to clarify concerns about suspected atom bomb research in Iran, but said he would continue his efforts.
A simple majority in the IAEA board would be required to refer an issue to the U.N. Security Council, which has imposed four sanctions resolutions on Iran since 2006.
It is unclear whether Russia and China - which have criticized unilateral Western sanctions on Iran - would back any U.S. initiative to report Iran again to the Security Council.
Wood later told reporters he hoped the December talks between the IAEA and Iran would be fruitful. But, he added, "I have my doubts about the sincerity of Iran."
The 27-nation European Union told the board that Iran's "procrastination" was unacceptable. "Iran must act now, in a substantive way, to address the serious and continuing international concerns on its nuclear program," it said.
Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, criticised what he called "political noise" and "pressure" from the United States and the EU.
Diplomacy between Iran and the powers - the United States, China, Russia, France, Germany, and Britain - has been deadlocked since a June meeting that ended without success.
Both sides now say they want to resume talks soon, after the re-election of U.S. President Barack Obama, and diplomats expect a new meeting in Istanbul in December or January.
Iran is ready for a "face-saving" negotiated solution to the nuclear dispute, but the West must accept the reality that Tehran would never suspend uranium enrichment, Soltanieh said.
Refined uranium can be used to fuel nuclear energy plants, Iran's stated aim, and also provide bomb material if processed further, which the West suspects is Iran's ultimate aim.
The West wants Iran to suspend enrichment, but Iran is showing no sign of backing down.
Iran "has provocatively snubbed the international community by expanding its enrichment capacity in defiance of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions," Wood said.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/29/us-nuclear-iran-usa-idUSBRE8AS0VS20121129
1. Clinton Visits Czech Republic Amid Nuclear Deal Hopes
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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in the Czech Republic Monday for a brief visit, hoping to win a tussle with Russia and help secure a $10 billion nuclear plant contract for US giant Westinghouse.
After arriving before dawn in a snowy Prague, Clinton, on her first solo trip to the eastern European nation as secretary of state, was to meet later with Prime Minister Petr Necas and Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg.
"The Czech Republic, like many of its neighbours is significantly dependent on a single supplier and turning to the United States in partnership to develop its civil nuclear energy would be a way of diversifying that energy supply," a senior State Department official told reporters travelling on Clinton's plane.
Prague is aiming to extend its Temelin plant, south of the capital, and is set to start negotiations with the two companies left in the running this month.
Westinghouse faces stiff competition from Russia's Atom Story Export, after France's Areva was apparently ruled out of the tender process.
Earlier this month, Necas said the Czech Republic wanted to boost nuclear power to at least 50 percent of its electrical energy mix by around 2040 from the current 30 percent and cut coal use. The Czech government is betting on nuclear power as its communist-era coal plants face likely closure due to tighter regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.
"The plans call for the construction of two new facilities at the Temelin nuclear power station, the upgrade of four existing facilities and building a fifth station in Dukovany," he added.
About 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of Prague, but only about 60 kilometres from the Austrian border, Temelin has been repeatedly criticised by Vienna over safety concerns.
A winner for the contract to build at Temelin is to be named in 2013 and the new units are to come online by 2025.
Although the negotiations will be left to the company, the State Department official highlighted Westinghouse's "great track record in terms of safety."
"Not surprisingly in the wake of Fukushima there's a lot of concern about safety," he said. The Americans say if the US giant is awarded the contract it could create some 9,000 jobs in the United States, as well as jobs in the Czech Republic.
There will also be benefits to the Czechs of "high-technology and civil nuclear cooperation with American scientists," the senior US official said.
Clinton, on the first leg of a five-day Europe trip, will spend less than 12 hours in the Czech Republic and head later to Brussels for talks with her Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar.
She will then spend two days in Brussels for the annual NATO foreign ministers meeting, before travelling to Dublin later in the week for a meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Her final stop on her 38th trip to Europe will be a short visit to Belfast on Friday.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iaMnmlaDuLSJ5oF0oR3yyEXCTRcw?docId=CNG.e74adb0aba38c8fff47792f393a62118.1d1
2. Russia Interested in Building Future Nuclear Plants in Turkey
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Russia's Rosatom, which is already set to build Turkey's first nuclear power plant, is interested in building future plants in Turkey, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Sunday.
"Rosatom wants to be involved in the establishment of other nuclear power plants in Turkey. We have expressed our desire to be involved in negotiations on this," Novak told reporters during a visit to Istanbul.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/02/us-turkey-russia-nuclear-idUSBRE8B109Y20121202
For decades, the elite engineers turned out by Paris's grand Corps des Mines academy were faithful followers of the pro-atomic creed that transformed their country into the most nuclear-reliant nation in the world.
But a new generation of Mines graduates is starting to question that policy. It is a change of mindset that could aid efforts by President Francois Hollande to cut reliance on nuclear power from 75 percent to 50 percent of the electricity mix by 2025.
"Noone at the Corps des Mines questions the need for nuclear power in the energy mix, however the younger generation is more concerned about the environment and leaving room for other energy sources," said Francois Bordes, a 40-year old Corps des Mines graduate who advises businesses on energy efficiency.
Bordes is part of a generation of Mines engineers who believe atomic energy has a role to play - but not the dominant one given it by elders who helped build the world's second-largest nuclear programme after the United States.
"There is a generation gap between Mines members who had key jobs during the three booming post-war decades and those who started out in the past 15 years," Bordes added.
The Corps des Mines was founded in 1794 to turn France's now-exhausted coal mines to the advantage of Europe's industrial revolution. But after World War Two it won a new raison d'etre when Corps des Mines engineer Pierre Guillaumat worked with De Gaulle to create the state-funded CEA nuclear research body.
It became an example of French post-war "dirigisme" - the policy under which the state seeks to direct the economy - determining how nuclear energy was used for civilian and military purposes, with the development of France's atomic bomb.
The construction of 58 nuclear reactors prompted successive French governments to invest massively in electric heating to absorb the supplies. France became the world's top electricity exporter. Now some Mines graduates say the heavy dependence on one energy form means France struggles to cope with seasonal demand spikes.
"We believed for too long that nuclear energy was cheap and that we could, for example, massively develop electric heating as a result. This is nonsensical," said Vincent Le Biez, a 27- year-old Mines graduate.
Alumni include Anne Lauvergeon, ex-head of nuclear giant Areva, current head of France's nuclear energy watchdog ASN, Pierre-Franck Chevet, his predecessor Andre-Claude Lacoste, and Jacques Repussard of the IRSN nuclear safety institute.
The nuclear industry's image was tainted in the eyes of the French public after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, when the nuclear watchdog insisted radioactive contamination from the accident had not spread to French territory.
In fact it released vast quantities of radioactive material over the whole of Europe and France was no exception. For many French, the episode created the perception of an invisible pro-nuclear lobby pushing its interests against those of the nation.
France's nuclear lobby is hard to pin down because it is intricate. Its critics tend to be anti-nuclear NGOs or green politicians with no ministerial experience. A rare exception is Corinne Lepage, former ecology minister under Alain Juppe's government between 1995 and 1997.
Lepage said the lobby had strong leverage in parliament. "There is at the parliament a powerful group of parliamentarians and senators who are pro-nuclear, with some formerly from EDF," she said, referring to the state utility that is Europe's biggest electricity producer. "They are so close to the (nuclear) lobby that they are called 'EDF allies'."
Chernobyl was for many a wake-up call to the dangers of nuclear energy, an alarm which sounded again with Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster last year.
"Graduates who started out working in the 1990s are more worried about a riskier world where no technology is perfect," said Bordes Published by HT Syndication with permission from South Asian Media Network.
Available at: http://www.power-eng.com/news/2012/11/30/france-love-affair-with-nuclear-cools.html
1. US Official Terms N-Liability Law a `Major Challenge`
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Ahead of the arrival of an American nuclear trade mission in India this week, a senior US administration official reiterated that India’s nuclear liability law was not in line with the international nuclear liability principles reflected in the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage.
Speaking in Washington, DC, the US State Department’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Geoffrey Pyatt said, “Current liability law and regulations impose the risk of a heavy financial burden on equipment suppliers seeking to enter the Indian market and expose such companies to the risk of significant financial penalty in the event of a nuclear accident, neither of which is consistent with international standards.”
Pyatt, who will join the trade mission organised by the US- India Business Council and the Nuclear Energy Institute, identified India’s nuclear liability law as a “major challenge” and said American companies would find it difficult to participate in India’s nuclear power expansion plans without legislation consistent with the Convention. He was speaking at the Pillsbury NEI Nuclear Export Controls Seminar in the US capital.
The official advised India to consult with the International Atomic Energy Agency to move into the “international mainstream of civil nuclear commerce”. Pyatt said the US wanted to ensure equal opportunities for American companies to conduct nuclear commerce in India, as well as to preserve safety standards.
In his speech, Pyatt also welcomed news of the expected commissioning of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project in December in the face of “formidable domestic hurdles”, noting it would be critical in addressing Tamil Nadu’s crippling power shortage.
Acknowledging the debate over safety of nuclear power, especially in the light of the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima reactor following last year’s earthquake and tsunami, Pyatt insisted nuclear power was one of the “safest and cleanest forms of energy, compared with other sources” and stated, “Simply put, fear of nuclear power is out of proportion to the actual risks.”
He added the US remained committed to the implementation of the 2008 civil nuclear cooperation agreement.
The USIBC-NEI mission from December 3 to December 7 is the seventh commercial nuclear mission to India, and will include representatives from across the nuclear supply chain. The delegation will be led by senior executives from GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Westinghouse Electric Company.
Available at: http://business-standard.com/india/news/us-official-terms-n-liability-law%60major-challenge%60/494371/
A team of experts is inspecting the Tsuruga nuclear power plant in Japan to determine if crush zones on the grounds are active faults, officials said.
The five-person team, comprised of experts and led by Nuclear Regulation Authority Commissioner Kunihiko Shimazaki, began the inspection Saturday and was scheduled to finish Sunday, The Yomiuri Shimbun reported Sunday.
The plant in Fukui prefecture has crush zones under the buildings of its two nuclear reactors. Officials with Japan Atomic Power Co., which owns the plant, said previous research showed the crush zones had not moved in 130,000 years, meaning they are not active.
An April inspection by the now-defunct Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, indicated the crush zones might be active faults, the newspaper reported.
The information collected Saturday and Sunday will be analyzed at a meeting Dec. 10 in Tokyo.
Available at: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2012/12/02/Faults-inspected-at-Japanese-nuclear-plant/UPI-65611354456859/
2. U.S. Scientists Search for Lessons in Fukushima to Improve Nuclear Safety
The Japan Times
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American scientists met in Tokyo this week to study the Fukushima nuclear crisis in hopes of finding lessons to improve the safety of U.S. atomic power reactors.
Norman Neureiter, head of the 22-member committee of the National Academy of Sciences, said the Fukushima No. 1 disaster and its continuing impact have caused widespread concerns about the safety of nuclear energy.
"We are trying to look at the whole experience and to take from that lessons which can be applied to increasing safety of nuclear power," he said Tuesday.
Neureiter said the committee is hearing from Japanese officials and will conduct its own investigation. He said the findings could be valuable to the nuclear industry throughout the world.
"Because after a thing like this in Japan . . . human losses and continuing radiation and all of these things, people will have more and more questions about nuclear energy," he said. "Hopefully useful lessons (can be drawn) which can be applied elsewhere to make sure nothing like this happens again."
During the three-day meeting that began Monday, the group held hearings involving experts who led Japanese investigations, as well as regulators and officials from Tokyo Electric Power Co., to gather information independently and discuss technical details.
Neureiter said collusion between the industry and regulators, a cozy relationship known as "the nuclear village," has caused deep-rooted public distrust.
Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20121130f3.html
3. IAEA Concludes Safety Review at Gravelines Nuclear Power Plant, France
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An IAEA-led international team of nuclear safety experts noted a series of good practices and made recommendations to reinforce some safety measures during a review of operational safety at France's Gravelines Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) that concluded today.
The Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) was assembled at the French Government's request. The in-depth review, which began 12 November 2012, focused on aspects essential to the safe operation of the NPP. The team was composed of experts from Bulgaria, China, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Romania, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Ukraine and the IAEA.
The review covered the areas of management, organization and administration; training and qualification; operations; maintenance; technical support; operating experience; radiation protection; chemistry; emergency planning and preparedness; and severe accident management. The conclusions of the review are based on the IAEA's Safety Standards.
The OSART team has identified good plant practices, which will be shared with the rest of the nuclear industry for consideration of their possible use elsewhere. Examples include the following:
The Power Plant uses a staff-skills mapping process that significantly enhances knowledge of the facility's collective and individual skills and provides proactive management to address the loss of such skills;
As a measure to reduce the risk of workers' radiation exposure, the Power Plant uses a system to ensure that dose rate measurements are carried out at a precise distance from the source of radiation; and Flood protection of the Power Plant is supported by special technical guidance documents and associated arrangements.
The team identified a number of proposals for improvements to operational safety at Gravelines NPP. Examples include the following:
The Power Plant should reinforce its measures to prevent foreign objects from entering plant systems;
The Power Plant should ensure the 24-hour presence of an operator with the authority to initiate - promptly and without consultation - the on-site emergency plan and the off-site notification process; and
The Plant should improve its programme to identify causes of anomalies so it can reduce or eliminate any recurrence.
Gravelines management expressed a determination to address all the areas identified for improvement and requested the IAEA to schedule a follow-up mission in approximately 18 months.
The team handed over a draft of its recommendations, suggestions and good practices to the plant management in the form of "Technical Notes" for factual comments. The technical notes will be reviewed at IAEA headquarters including any comments from Gravelines NPP and the French Safety Authority. The final report will be submitted to the Government of France within three months.
This was the 173rd mission of the OSART programme, which began in 1982, and the 24th mission in France.
An OSART mission is designed as a review of programmes and activities essential to operational safety. It is not a regulatory inspection, nor is it a design review or a substitute for an exhaustive assessment of the Plant's overall safety status. Experts participating in the IAEA's June 2010 International Conference on Operational Safety of Nuclear Power Plants (NPP) reviewed the experience of the OSART programme and concluded:
In OSART missions NPPs are assessed against IAEA Safety Standards which reflect the current international consensus on what constitutes a high level of safety; and
OSART recommendations and suggestions are of utmost importance for operational safety improvement of NPPs.
The IAEA Nuclear Safety Action Plan defines a programme of work to strengthen the nuclear safety framework worldwide in the light of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident. The plan was unanimously endorsed by IAEA Member States during the Agency's 55th General Conference in September 2011. The Action Plan recommended: "Each Member State with Nuclear Power Plants to voluntarily host at least one IAEA Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) mission during the coming three years, with the initial focus on older nuclear power plants. Thereafter, OSART missions to be voluntarily hosted on a regular basis."
Available at: http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/2012/prn201230.html
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