1. Iran Ready for Nuclear Talks with West, Says Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
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Iran says European countries will be the losers from the EU's oil sanctions, imposed earlier this week. "It is the West that needs Iran and the Iranian nation will not lose from the sanctions," President Ahmadinejad said in his first public comments on the issue since the EU's 27 member states agreed the ban on Monday. EU countries comprise 10 per cent of the market for Iranian oil. Although the EU believes resurgent production from Libya will eventually replace the oil currently supplied by Iran, some economists fear there could be significant price rises in the short term, harming already fragile European economies.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that Iran was ready for nuclear talks with the world powers amid toughening sanctions aimed at forcing Tehran to sharply scale back its nuclear program. Ahmadinejad, however, said sanctions would not force Iran to capitulate to Western demands. The United States and allies want Iran to halt uranium enrichment, which they worry could lead to weapons-grade material. Iran says it only seeks reactors for energy and research.
Ahmadinejad made the remarks in Kerman, southeastern Iran. Iran had previously indicated that it is ready for a new round of talks with the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany.
A senior U.N. nuclear agency team is expected to visit Tehran at the weekend.
How Tehran deals with the International Atomic Energy Agency may offer pointers to prospects for resolving a long-running dispute that an oil embargo and threats of war, along with talk of Iran closing in on nuclear weapons capability and the U.S. presidential election calendar, have escalated to crisis level.
The outcome of the inspectors' meetings from Sunday to Tuesday will be closely watched in Washington, European capitals and Israel for signs of whether Iran's leadership may finally be prepared to give ground after a decade of pursuing its nuclear development goals or whether it remains as defiant as ever.
"I hope that, at a minimum, the parties can agree on how to proceed in resolving outstanding issues, and that also includes the military dimension of Iran's nuclear program," said Olli Heinonen, a former chief U.N. safeguards inspector.
Meanwhile, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency said a U.S.-made F-14 Iranian fighter jet crashed in Bushehr province in southern Iran Thursday. Provincial governor Mohammad Hossein Jahanbakhsh said both the pilot and the co-pilot were killed in Thursday's crash.
The Fars report said the fighter plane crashed due to technical failure and that authorities had recovered the wreckage outside Bushehr, a port city with the same name as the province. Bushehr is known as the location of Iran's first nuclear power plant.
Iran purchased many U.S.-made planes, including F-14s before the 1979 Islamic Revolution and during the rule of the late pro-Western Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
Available at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46145422/ns/world_newsmideast_n_africa/#.TyGPOMVDtPw
2. Russia, Turkey Call for Resumption of Talks on Iran’s Nuclear Program
Xinhua News Agency
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Russia and Turkey are calling for a resumption of nuclear talks between Iran and some of the world's leading powers, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday.
"Both Moscow and Ankara stand for a sooner resumption of the talks on Iran's nuclear program between G5+1 (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) and Tehran," Lavrov told reporters after talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
Lavrov said that both countries are working to create favorable conditions necessary for the talks and Turkey has offered a place to host the negotiations.
"We support Turkey's proposal," Lavrov said.
Davutoglu, for his part, said that Turkey rules out any military operations against Iran on its territory. "As a NATO member, we are against measures being taken against our neighbors. Our border with Iran is a border of peace, and it will remain so," Davutoglu said. "Turkey has never worked in contact with those who want to damage our neighbors."
Following an IAEA report on Iran's nuclear program in November, the U.S., Britain and Canada announced new sanctions against Tehran and are working to impose an embargo on Iran's crude exports.
The EU also imposed an embargo on Iranian oil supplies Monday in a bid to force Iran to quit its nuclear effort.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2012-01/25/c_131376915.htm
3. IAEA Aims to Resolve “Substantive Issues” in Iran
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The U.N. nuclear watchdog Monday confirmed plans for a January 29-31 visit to Iran and said its main objective was to "resolve all outstanding substantive issues," referring to suspicions of military dimensions to the Iranian atomic energy program.
A senior International Atomic Energy Agency team is expected to seek explanations during the talks in Tehran for intelligence information indicating that Iran has pursued research and development relevant to nuclear weapons, diplomats say.
The IAEA mission will be led by Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts, head of nuclear safeguards inspections worldwide, and will include Rafael Grossi, the assistant director general for policy.
"The Agency team is going to Iran in a constructive spirit, and we trust that Iran will work with us in that same spirit," Yukiya Amano, Director General of the Vienna-based agency, said in a statement. "The overall objective of the IAEA is to resolve all outstanding substantive issues," the IAEA statement added, confirming for the first time the dates for the visit.
Iran's ambassador to the IAEA told Reuters last week the visit would take place from January 29-31 and that his country was open to discuss "any issues" of interest for the U.N. agency.
But Western diplomats, who have often accused Iran of using stalling tactics in the long-running nuclear dispute while it presses ahead with its atomic activities, are skeptical about the chances for major progress in the talks.
Tension between Iran and the West has increased since November, when the IAEA published a report that said Tehran appeared to have worked on designing a nuclear weapon. Iran, one of the world's leading oil producers, says its nuclear energy program is peaceful and aimed at generating electricity.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/23/us-nuclear-iran-iaea-idUSTRE80M17Q20120123
4. Treasury Designates Major Iranian State-Owned Bank
Department of the Treasury
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The U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated Iran's third-largest bank, Bank Tejarat, for providing financial services to several Iranian banks and firms already subject to international sanctions for their involvement in Iran’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation activities. With today’s action, 23 Iranian-linked financial institutions, including all of Iran’s largest state-owned banks, have been sanctioned by the U.S. based on their involvement in Iran’s illicit activities.
“At a time when banks around the world are cutting off Iran and its currency is depreciating rapidly, today’s action against Bank Tejarat strikes at one of Iran’s few remaining access points to the international financial system,” said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, David S. Cohen. “Today’s sanction against Bank Tejarat will deepen Iran’s financial isolation, make its access to hard currency even more tenuous, and further impair Iran’s ability to finance its illicit nuclear program.”
Bank Tejarat was designated pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13382 (Blocking Property of WMD Proliferators and Their Supporters) for providing financial services to Bank Mellat, the Export Development Bank of Iran (EDBI), the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), and the Ministry of Defense for Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL), all of which were previously designated by the the Treasury Department or the Department of State for their involvement in Iran’s WMD proliferation activities. Trade Capital Bank also was designated today for providing financial services to EDBI and for being owned or controlled by Bank Tejarat.
Today’s designations of Bank Tejarat and Trade Capital Bank could result in sanctions under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA) for foreign financial institutions that conduct business with Bank Tejarat or Trade Capital Bank. Under CISADA, foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitate significant transactions or provide significant financial services for an Iranian-linked financial institution designated by the U.S. – such as Bank Tejarat or Trade Capital Bank – face the loss of their direct access to the U.S. financial system. Bank Tejarat has nearly 2,000 branches throughout Iran, as well as foreign branches in Paris, France and Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Trade Capital Bank is a Minsk, Belarus-based bank that is owned by Bank Tejarat.
Bank Tejarat has directly facilitated Iran's illicit nuclear efforts. For example, in 2011, Bank Tejarat facilitated the movement of tens-of-millions of dollars in an effort to assist the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran's (AEOI) ongoing effort to acquire uranium. The AEOI, which reports directly to the Iranian president, is the main Iranian organization for research and development of nuclear technology, and manages fissile material production programs. In addition to being identified in the Annex to E.O. 13382, AEOI is sanctioned by the United Nations under Security Council Resolution 1737.
Bank Tejarat has repeatedly assisted U.S.-designated banks in circumventing international sanctions. In providing financial services to Bank Mellat and EDBI in the past few years, Bank Tejarat has also supported the activities of subsidiaries and subordinates of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Defense Industries Organization and MODAFL. Like Bank Tejarat, Trade Capital Bank facilitates Iranian access to the euro by bypassing European regulators.
Bank Tejarat has also provided banking services for IRISL and its U.S. designated affiliates Safiran Payam Darya Shipping Co., South Shipping Line Iran and Khazar Sea Shipping Lines. South Shipping Line was also designated for sanctions by the United Nations in UNSCR 1929.
To date, the U.S. has designated 23 Iranian-linked financial institutions under E.O. 13382 and E.O. 13224, as detailed in the fact sheet
Available at: http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg1397.aspx
1. Russia, U.S. to Dispose of 34 Tons of Weapon-Grade Plutonium
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The United States and Russia are successfully implementing their nuclear disarmament agreements and are continuing to work on the next steps in this direction, a U.S. Department of State official said on Tuesday.
Rose Gottemoeller, the Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance said addressing the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva that last year “the U.S.-Russian Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA) and its Protocols came into force.” “The PMDA commits the United States and the Russian Federation each to dispose of no less than 34 metric tons of excess weapon-grade plutonium - enough material in total for approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons,” she added.
The New START document, signed by the Russian and U.S. presidents in 2010, cuts both countries’ strategic nuclear arsenals to a maximum of 1,550 warheads, down from the previous ceiling of 2,200. “The New START Treaty entered into force on February 5, 2011. Implementation is going well and continues to contribute positively to the U.S.-Russian relationship,” she said.
“The treaty represents a strong foundation for further bilateral reductions and an important step on the path towards a world without nuclear weapons. Discussions between our two governments on the next steps are underway,” Gottemoeller said.
Relations between Moscow and Washington have been tense recently over the United States continuing its build-up of missile defense systems in Europe, which Russia sees as a direct threat to its national security.
Last November, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned that Russia would deploy missiles and may opt out of the New START nuclear reductions agreement if Russia, the United States and NATO failed to find a way to work together on European missile defenses.
Earlier this month, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control Ellen Tauscher said, however, that the administration of President Barack Obama would not give Russia any legally binding guarantees that U.S. missile defenses in Europe will not impact Russia’s strategic deterrent.
Available at: http://en.ria.ru/world/20120124/170932116.html
Russia is actively upgrading its strategic nuclear forces. Before the end of the year two modern missile submarines will be put into service. At the same time the nuclear focus of the State Armaments Program threatens to weaken the conventional armed forces.
In 2012 the Russian Navy will receive two submarine cruisers of Project 955 «Borey». Within a few months interval "Yuri Dolgoruky" and "Alexander Nevsky" will be put into service. The same year the third missile submarine of the project “Vladimir Monomakh” will be launched. Such announcement was made by Russian news agencies that cited a high-ranking source in the defense industry.
The same source said that starting with 2013 the Navy will receive one «Borey» submarine per year, which would allow to complete the construction program of the eight submarines of that project by the end of 2018.
First of all the mentioned schedule does not appear to be realistic. After the release of «Dolgoruky» and «Nevsky» there are currently only two missle submarines under construction in the shipyards right now – the «Monomakh» and «Saint Nocholas». The latter is under construction despite the fact that oficially the process has not commenced yet. The «Monomakh» has a chance to be put into service in 2013, and optimistically speaking, «Saint Nicholas» - in 2014. But in order to put a fifth submarine into service in 2015, its construction should have already sttarted by now. Nonetheless, serious funding is allocated to the Naval component of the Strategic Nuclear Forces (SNF). And thus if not by 2018, by 2020-21 all of the eight missile submarines under this program may be put into service. Worrisome are other factors directly related to the program's focus on SNF for the Navy or land forces.
The priority of the SNF in the Russian Armaments Program has been set: according to Russia's military doctrine, the threat coming from the NATO is listed as the top external threat. All the development of the Armed Forces and the defence industry today is aligned with this order of proirities.
Today's situation is rooted in the 1990s. Back then in the situation of a sharp decrease in defence spending maintaining the SNFwas considered top priority in order to ensure the intergity and independence of the country. Despite all the changes, this position was transferred to the modern military doctrine and determined the order of priorities of the State Armaments Program.
At present the long term planning of the SNF development is based on the principle of parity with the US, as it is set in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (START). However, it seems more practical too move to the concept of maintaining of Russia's nuclear potentail at the level that would allow to inflict guaranteed irreparable damage to any aggressor. Various high ranking officials have spoken in favor of this concept, including Yuri Solomonov, the chief designer of the «Topol», «Yars» and «Bulava» missiles: «We are trying to preserve parity with a country whose gross domestic product not to mention its budget is dozens of times the size of that of Russia. Which in itself calls for a question – do we need this?» - this is how Yuri Solomonov described the future program of SNF development in the Spring of 2011.
At the same time, taking into account the political and miitary situation in the world, possible regional conflicts present a more real threat for Russia. Such conflicts either on Russia's borderline or in remote places can seriously affect the country's interests and require well developed conventional armed forces in case of their potential involvement. Unfortunately, today there is only one type of nonategic armaments that is being produced on a sufficient scale and does not present a cause for alarm – it covers helicopters of various classes.
All other systems designed for the conventional forces are supplied in quantities that are not sufficient for full-scale arms upgrade and frequently behind the schedule. At the same time the situation in the world is not getting any more peaceful. The thought that Russia has preserved nuclear parity with the US will be of little consolation when it is forced to surrender its positions and loose soldiers due to the insufficient focus on the conventional forces.
Available at: http://english.ruvr.ru/2012/01/23/64445178.html
A Chinese nuclear company has moved a step closer to bidding for Australian uranium explorer Extract Resources but the target says it is still seeking alternative suitors.
State-owned China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group (CGNPC) is pursuing Extract because of its rights to the Husab uranium deposits in Namibia, reputedly the fourth-largest in the world. Taurus Minerals - which is owned by CGNPC - has announced on the London Stock Exchange it had acceptances and pledges for 30.8 per cent of Extract's major shareholder, Kalahari Minerals. Taurus said Kalahari Minerals had a 42.74 per cent holding in Extract Resources and that CGNPC had a relevant interest in Kalahari.
This follows Taurus' US$979 million takeover offer for Kalahari. China wants new sources of uranium to help shore up resource security for the country. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) said last month that under Australian law, CGNPC had to launch a takeover for Extract if it successfully acquired Kalahari.
A potential $2.2 billion offer would be at around $8.65 a share, according to Extract. ASIC said that CGNPC would have to bid for Extract in less than four weeks if it acquired more than 50 per cent of Kalahari.
Extract said yesterday its board was still investigating alternatives that could maximise value for Extract shareholders. "Extract's independent directors intend to make a recommendation in relation to the Taurus offer for Extract once such an offer is made," it said.
Rio Tinto is a possible rival as it operates the neighbouring Rossing uranium mine and owns 14 per cent of Extract, making it the second-biggest shareholder. Separately, it also owns 11.5 per cent of Kalahari.
Rio has spoken to Extract about combining Rossing with Husab, which has 280 million tonnes of uranium reserves.
Namibia is the world's fourth-largest uranium producer. Shares in Extract were up steady at $8.58 on yesterday compared with a flat performance by energy stocks.
Available at: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10780677
2. Plans for Sellafield Plutonium Reactor Rejected
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A plan to build a plutonium-burning reactor at Sellafield in Cumbria has been rejected by the UK government's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).
Internal emails seen by the Guardian reveal that the NDA regards the reactor technology as immature and commercially unproven. It would also create large amounts of plutonium-contaminated waste and increase the risk of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons, the NDA says.
The reactor plan was announced by General Electric (GE) Hitachi in November as a way of converting the UK's 82-tonne stockpile of plutonium at Sellafield into power.
Known as "Prism" (Power Reactor Innovative Small Modular), it is a new design of sodium-cooled fast reactor that is fuelled by plutonium.
In an email to GE on 29 November 2011, the NDA's strategy and technology director, Adrian Simper, said that the two organisations "have struggled to reach a clear agreement on the work necessary to demonstrate credibility, without which neither NDA nor government can consider Prism further in the development of our strategy."
In a draft response to GE prepared for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), the NDA said it had carried out a "high-level assessment" of Prism. The technology was "still to be demonstrated commercially", it concluded, and "the technology maturity for the fuel, reactor and recycling plant are considered to all be low".
One drawback with Prism, according to the NDA, was that it would be fuelled by plutonium metal, rather than the oxide form in which UK plutonium is currently stored. Converting the oxide to metal would result in "a likely large amount of plutonium contaminated salt waste requiring management". Plutonium metal is also thought to be easier to make into bombs. "This would introduce more security/proliferation risk," warned the NDA. "In summary the Prism concept is unlikely to start before 2050 and as such does not appear to meet the requirement for deployment within 25 years." Jean McSorley, a Cumbria-based nuclear critic, obtained the emails under freedom of information law. GE said that there had been "miscommunication" about Prism, which had been under development in the US for 30 years. "We haven't had a chance to explain it yet," the company's chief nuclear engineer, Eric Loewen, told the Guardian. "We're working on a framework with the NDA."
But Decc said that the alternative of turning plutonium into mixed oxide (Mox) fuel was "the most credible and technologically mature option" so it was prioritising work on that. "We are not closing off alternatives," added a Decc spokesman. "We remain open to any technically mature proposals that offer better value to the taxpayer and can be delivered in within a comparable timeframe as our preferred option."
Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jan/24/sellafield-plutonium-reactor-plans-rejected
Dutch utility Delta has announced that it has postponed making a decision on whether to build a second reactor at the existing Borssele site by two to three years. Meanwhile the government has approved the construction of a replacement for the Petten research reactor.
Delta said that it has informed its shareholders that plans for a new reactor had been put on hold due to "a combination of the financial crisis, the high investment required for a nuclear power plant, the current investment climate and overcapaity in the electricity market combined with low energy prices." It added that its decision was also influenced by uncertainty about Europe's emissions trading system and the allocation of carbon dioxide emission rights. "These uncertainties are currently too great for a project of this magnitude," Delta concluded.
However, the company said that the project will resume once the situation improves. In the meantime, Delta said that it plans to continue investing in new generating capacity and "remains convinced" that nuclear energy is an "essential factor" in securing an electricity supply that is not dependent on imported fossil fuels and offers low long-term costs while significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Delta first announced its plans for a new plant in September 2008, but did not formally launch the process to seek government approval to build a new nuclear power plant until June 2009. The company had been expected to submit its permit application by the end of 2011, but this was postponed. Under its original plan, Delta proposed starting construction of a 1000-1600 MWe reactor in 2013, with operation set for 2018.
The existing Borssele plant was previously jointly owned by Delta and Essent through the EPZ operating company. However, German utility RWE agreed to buy Essent in 2009 and Essent's share of EPZ was then placed into a new company - Energy Resources Holding (ERH) - owned by the provincial and municipal authorities comprising Essent's original shareholders. Alongside Delta's proposed new plant at Borssele, ERH also announced similar plans for expanding the plant. In September 2010, it applied to build a new nuclear plant there with a capacity of up to 2500 MWe, with construction to start around 2015 and operation in 2019. Following the May 2011 buyout of ERH, RWE was reported as offering to underwrite 20% of Delta's new build project.
Delta noted that, with the delay in a decision on the new Borssele unit, a new plant would not be operational there until 2020 at the earliest. However, Delta said, "There are several options that will involve a shorter implementation time than nuclear power."
Meanwhile, the Dutch government has given its approval for the construction of a replacement for the ageing High Flux Reactor (HFR) at Petten. The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation announced the cabinet's decision on 20 January. The ministry said that the government and the province of Noord-Holland would each provide €40 million ($52 million) for the design, procurement and licensing procedure of the Pallas reactor.
Paul de Jong, Pallas project director, commented, "The Pallas project team has worked hard during the last three years on the preparation for implementing the pallas project. This decision means that we can continue with the next project phase. We are certainly ready for that." The Pallas reactor could be operational in 2022, the ministry noted.
"The European call for tenders and the licensing and permits process will be started soon," the Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group (NRG), which operates HFR, said.
Since it became operational in September 1960, the 45 MW HFR at Petten has been largely shifted from reactor materials testing to fundamental research and the production of medical radioisotopes. The reactor has for a long time supplied about 60% of Europe's and 30% of the world's supply of medical radioactive sources.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Mixed_news_on_Netherlands_new_build-2301124.html
A power plant operator said Wednesday that it had shut down a nuclear reactor in Niigata prefecture, central Japan, for regular checkups, which would leave only four of the nation’s 54 reactors in service. Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) suspended reactor 5 of its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant Wednesday, leaving only one out of a total of 17 reactors run by the utility in operation, it said. All 17 reactors will go offline by the end of March, when reactor 6 at the plant is halted for checkups, the utility said.
As Japanese utilities have shut down their reactors for regular inspection, accidents or maintenance, they have been unable to reactivate them amid growing public concerns about atomic power following the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, also run by TEPCO.
The Fukushima plant was hit by a magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami on March 11, which triggered the crisis, leading meltdowns at three of its six reactors.
All 54 reactors in Japan are scheduled to be suspended for servicing by the end of April 2012. Unless a utility restarts one, none will be left running after that.
Last week, Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency endorsed the positive stress test results for two suspended nuclear reactors at Oi Nuclear Power Station in Fukui prefecture, central Japan. In a stress test, utilities assess to what degree their reactors are capable of withstanding natural disasters such as an earthquake or tsunami.
The decision was the first since the government announced in July that safety assessments on reactors across the country would be conducted in two stages in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Before the disaster, around 30 per cent of Japan’s electricity was nuclear generated.
Available at: http://www.timeslive.co.za/scitech/2012/01/25/another-japanese-nuclear-reactor-suspended
2. Government Withheld Estimates Showing Electricity Surplus to Boost Nuclear Power: Critics
Mainichi Daily News
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The government withheld an estimate that there would be no electricity shortages in the upcoming summer in an apparent bid to underscore the need to restart nuclear power plants, it has been learned. Instead of announcing the realistic estimate, the government announced last summer that electric power supply in the summer of 2012 "will be about 10 percent short across the country." Furthermore, the released government estimate greatly downplayed the supply of renewable energy, disregarding the country's actual energy status.
"The released government estimate stresses the need to resume operations of nuclear power plants by underestimating the actual supply capacity," a concerned source has told the Mainichi. Currently, 49 out of 54 commercial nuclear reactors in Japan are under suspension, with five other reactors anticipating regular inspections. By this summer, the country will have no nuclear reactors in operation unless some of them are restarted.
The government's Energy and Environment Council compiled the published estimate in July last year as the council was reviewing the country's energy strategy in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, which began in March last year. The council calculated that power supply will be 9.2 percent short at the peak of demand on the assumption that the summer of 2012 will be as hot as the summer of 2010, when temperatures hit record highs, and that all nuclear plants will have been suspend by that time.
Aside from the estimate, then Prime Minister Naoto Kan instructed a team assisting him in the National Policy Unit in late June last year to study the actual status of electric power and supply. The team asked the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry to submit data supporting the government's estimate, including the installed capacity and operating capacity at each power station and the operational status of renewable energy sources by region, and had the ministry recalculate the estimate.
As a result, it was found that electric power companies were capable of procuring 7.59 million kilowatts through renewable energy under the current law -- equal to the output of about seven nuclear reactors. However, the released government estimate stated that utilities were unable to provide renewable energy supplies.
In addition, the released estimate apparently deliberately presumed that some of the thermal power plants would be suspended in August -- a peak-demand period -- for regular inspections and also anticipated that there would be no cut in power use at the time of a power crunch through the supply-demand adjustment arrangement with major electricity contractors. The estimate also played down the supply capacity of pumped-storage hydroelectricity, which utilizes night-time surplus power during the daytime.
The recalculation found that the country would have a surplus power supply of up to 6 percent even without a government order for power restrictions if renewable energy supply and other elements were factored in. The recalculated data was compiled in August last year and was reported to Prime Minister Kan, but it was never released to the public.
Satoshi Kusakabe, councilor to the Cabinet Secretariat, who is in charge of the Energy and Environment Council, denied that the government withheld the estimate in order to underscore the need to reactivate suspended nuclear reactors.
"In the nation's decision-making process, we wouldn't be able to later say that we were actually short of power, so we carefully compiled an estimate that had solid figures," he said. "We had no intention of propagating possible supply shortages and cited an increase of renewable energy and thermal power supply as necessary efforts in a countermeasure released in November last year."
Hisashi Kajiyama, research fellow at the Fujitsu Research Institute, who was a member of the team assisting Kan and took part in the recalculation of the estimate, said the initial estimate was biased. "The (released) estimate is based on the extreme presumption that was drawn from claims by utilities. The figures in the estimate led to politicians' remarks approving the restarting of nuclear plants. I assume the Kan administration couldn't release the recalculation because of the chaos in the final days of his administration."
Available at: http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20120123p2a00m0na007000c.html
1. Japan, Ukraine to Launch Talks on Nuclear Cooperation This Week
Mainichi Daily News
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Japan and Ukraine will begin negotiations for an agreement to help strengthen cooperation on nuclear accidents, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
The talks will start on Thursday in Kiev. By concluding a bilateral agreement, the Japanese government is hoping to obtain information about the effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster on human health and the environment from the former Soviet republic.
The government will use the data in treating people exposed to radiation in the worst disaster since Chernobyl at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, a Foreign Ministry official said, adding that the agreement will enable the two countries to facilitate exchanges of experts on nuclear accidents.
Available at: http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20120125p2g00m0dm019000c.html
2. UN’s Nuclear Disarmament Conference May Sink over Pakistan’s Reluctance: Ban-ki Moon
The Express Tribune
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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned on Tuesday that the UN Conference on Disarmament could fail because of a three-year stalemate over Pakistan’s reluctance to discuss nuclear power. “Today, this distinguished body is no longer living up to expectations,” Ban said at the first of three public sessions scheduled this year, in a speech read out by the top UN official in Geneva, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
“The tide of disarmament is rising, yet the Conference on Disarmament is in danger of sinking,” Ban warned the delegates from 65 countries. “Let us restore the conference to the central role it can and must play in strengthening the rule of law in the field of disarmament.”
The UN chief lamented that the practice of deciding by consensus “is currently used as a de facto veto power to stall every attempt to break the impasse.”
“The future of the conference is in the hands of member states,” Ban said, urging the immediate start of nuclear negotiations.
Citing national security, Pakistan has since May 2009 balked at implementing a work programme established by the UN conference, blocking the resumption of nuclear talks.
Taking advantage of a new climate established by US President Barack Obama, the conference emerged in May 2009 from 12 years of obscurity, adopting for the first time since 1996 a programme of negotiations on fissile materials and weapons.
Since then the reluctance of Pakistan to accept a possible treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons has prevented the conference moving forward.
In recent years authorities in Islamabad said they did not wish to enter into negotiations on a treaty which they say endorses an “asymmetry” of nuclear power between Pakistan and its arch-rival India. The council ends its first session of this year on March 30.
Available at: http://tribune.com.pk/story/326660/uns-nuclear-disarmament-conference-may-sink-over-pakistans-reluctance-ban-ki-moon/
3. UK Nuclear Watchdog Toughens Stance on Waste Reuse
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Britain's nuclear watchdog has hardened its stance against a proposal by U.S.-Japan joint venture GE Hitachi to dispose of UK radioactive waste in a plutonium-burning reactor but has not ended talks. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which advises the government on how best to manage the UK's growing plutonium stockpile, is considering a number of options including the fast-reactor design proposed by GE Hitachi in November.
The NDA has repeatedly ruled the multi-billion pound 600 megawatt (MW) reactor out of the running on the grounds that the technology lacks credibility for the purposes of plutonium disposal. An email from Adrian Simper, the NDA's strategy and technology director, to GE Hitachi on November 29, which was obtained by Reuters, cited as a reason that "the market did not expect to deploy them (the plutonium reactor design) commercially for several decades (until 2050)."
In that email, Simper also told an unidentified official at GE Hitachi that the NDA wanted to use "market-provided reactors" because the government "was not prepared to take technology risk on a new reactor."
The email also referred to a joint meeting in which NDA set out "a hurdle for credibility" that GE Hitachi had thus far failed to meet.
Hurdles included the safe management of recycling byproducts as well as finding a British utility willing to own and operate the reactor.
The NDA also demanded financial certainty that costs would be contained to about 2.5 billion pounds ($3.9 billion) and that the government would be insulated from technology deployment risks. The correspondence concluded with an admission that the two parties have "struggled to reach a clear agreement on the work necessary to demonstrate credibility," on which further progress depends.
Talks between GE Hitachi and NDA are expected to continue for several more months, an NDA spokesman said.
The front-runner proposal for converting the UK stockpile of waste plutonium - the biggest civilian stash in the world - involves making it into a mixed-oxide fuel for reuse in a new generation of thermal light water reactors.
The government said in December it preferred this option.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/24/us-nuclear-waste-uk-idUSTRE80N1XR20120124
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