1. Japan Trade Min Urges Tepco to Consider State Control
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Japanese Trade Minister Yukio Edano on Tuesday urged Tokyo Electric Power Co, operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, to consider temporarily going under state control, in the first official hint at a long speculated de facto nationalisation.
Japan's biggest utility, also known as Tepco, faces massive compensation and cleanup costs after an earthquake and tsunami on March 11 triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years at the Fukushima plant, putting the firm's future in doubt.
The government may inject about $13 billion into Tepco as early as next summer, sources told Reuters this month, effectively nationalising it via a purchase by a government-run bailout fund of newly issued Tepco shares.
"Tepco's financial base must be fundamentally strengthened if it is to pull off the cleanup from the nuclear disaster without a hitch, decommissioning the reactors and compensating victims swiftly and in earnest," Edano, who oversees energy policy, told Tepco President Toshio Nishizawa after cabinet ministers met to discuss power sector reform and support for Tepco.
"I want the (government-backed bailout) fund and Tepco to consider a comprehensive business plan without excluding any options, including temporary state control," he said, stepping up pressure on the utility to agree to the possibility of a de facto nationalisation.
Tepco and the government-backed bailout body are aiming to come up with a comprehensive business plan by March that will include restructuring steps and possible electricity rate hikes.
Nishizawa did not indicate whether Tepco would accept an injection of public funds or how the utility could survive without one.
"There were various instructions, or rather opinions, expressed by the minister today. We would like to move forward in compiling our comprehensive special business plan based on that," Nishizawa told reporters.
The utility and the government declared this month that the reactors at the Fukushima plant 240 km (150 miles) northeast of Tokyo had achieved a state of cold shutdown, with the acute phase of the crisis behind them and radiation leaks significantly reduced, more than nine months after multiple fuel meltdowns forced tens of thousands to evacuate the surrounding area.
But decommissioning the reactors will take up to 40 years and may cost Tepco an estimated 1.2 trillion yen ($15.4 billion), while the bill to compensate victims may reach 4.5 trillion yen in the first two years after the crisis alone, the government and an advisory panel said, leaving the firm's future unclear.
Earlier on Tuesday, Tepco asked the government-backed bailout body for an additional 690 billion yen to help compensate victims of the crisis, on top of 890 billion yen the government had agreed to in November.
Tepco must win Edano's approval before the funds are released, but Edano told Nishizawa that the utility must first improve its compensation payment system and pay victims more quickly.
A source close to the matter told Reuters earlier in the day that Edano was likely to approve the request as early as January.
The utility, also struggling with the cost of thermal fuel to make up for the loss of nuclear power, is seeking additional loans and plans to raise corporate electricity rates in April, while aiming to cut 2.6 trillion yen in costs over 10 years.
Edano announced on Tuesday an agenda for power sector reform to be discussed under an energy policy overhaul the government is considering in the wake of the Fukushima crisis.
The agenda included a possible separation of power generation and transmission operations, a long-discussed idea that would break the monopolies of regional power companies like Tepco and open the sector to smaller players, but stressed that any movement on the proposal would be cautious.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/27/tepco-nationalisation-idUSL3E7NR25120111227
2. Japan Probe Finds Nuclear Disaster Response Failed
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Japan's response to the nuclear crisis that followed the March 11 tsunami was confused and riddled with problems, including an erroneous assumption an emergency cooling system was working and a delay in disclosing dangerous radiation leaks, a report revealed Monday.
The disturbing picture of harried and bumbling workers and government officials scrambling to respond to the problems at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant was depicted in the report detailing a government investigation.
The 507-page interim report, compiled by interviewing more than 400 people, including utility workers and government officials, found authorities had grossly underestimated tsunami risks, assuming the highest wave would be 6 meters (20 feet). The tsunami hit at more than double those levels.
The report criticized the use of the term "soteigai," meaning "outside our imagination," which it said implied authorities were shirking responsibility for what had happened. It said by labeling the events as beyond what could have been expected, officials had invited public distrust.
"This accident has taught us an important lesson on how we must be ready for soteigai," it said.
The report, set to be finished by mid-2012, found workers at Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that ran Fukushima Dai-ichi, were untrained to handle emergencies like the power shutdown that struck when the tsunami destroyed backup generators — setting off the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
There was no clear manual to follow, and the workers failed to communicate, not only with the government but also among themselves, it said.
Finding alternative ways to bring sorely needed water to the reactors was delayed for hours because of the mishandling of an emergency cooling system, the report said. Workers assumed the system was working, despite several warning signs it had failed and was sending the nuclear core into meltdown.
The report acknowledged that even if the system had kicked in properly, the tsunami damage may have been so great that meltdowns would have happened anyway.
But a better response might have reduced the core damage, radiation leaks and the hydrogen explosions that followed at two reactors and sent plumes of radiation into the air, according to the report.
Sadder still was how the government dallied in relaying information to the public, such as using evasive language to avoid admitting serious meltdowns at the reactors, the report said.
The government also delayed disclosure of radiation data in the area, unnecessarily exposing entire towns to radiation when they could have evacuated, the report found.
The government recommended changes so utilities will respond properly to serious accidents. It recommended separating the nuclear regulators from the unit that promotes atomic energy, echoing frequent criticism since the disaster.
Japan's nuclear regulators were in the same ministry that promotes the industry, but they will be moved to the environment ministry next year to ensure more independence.
The report acknowledged people were still living in fear of radiation spewed into the air and water, as well as radiation in the food they eat. Thousands have been forced to evacuate and have suffered monetary damage from radiation contamination, it said.
"The nuclear disaster is far from over," the report said.
The earthquake and tsunami left 20,000 people dead or missing.
Available at: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-501712_162-57348365/japan-probe-finds-nuclear-disaster-response-failed/
3. Tepco Plans to Dismantle Fukushima Reactors Within 40 Years
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Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to decommission the damaged reactors at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant in 30 to 40 years, the Japanese government said, outlining a “roadmap” for dismantling the station.
The company known as Tepco will start removing the spent fuel rods at Fukushima Dai-Ichi within two years, according to the schedule released today in Tokyo. Engineers will attempt to start removing melted fuel from one of the reactors within a decade, the government said.
Three reactors went into meltdown after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami damaged the station, causing the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986. Decommissioning the station may cost at least 1.15 trillion yen ($14.8 billion), according to a government estimate in October.
Dismantling the reactors will probably be more complex than Chernobyl because it involves more nuclear fuel, said Najmedin Meshkati, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Southern California, who worked as a consultant on decommissioning the Ukraine station.
“It is difficult to get an accurate estimate now because we really don't have a very good understanding of the level of devastation, the amount of the meltdown and the material that needs to be removed and the exact radiation level,” he said.
Tepco and the government may have to revise the timetable after robots are used to gather more details about the extent of the damage deep inside the reactors, Meshkati said.
To get to the spent fuel rods engineers must negotiate blown out walls and the twisted remains of steel infrastructure, after explosions tore reactor buildings apart in the early days of the crisis.
There are more than 2,700 spent fuel assemblies in four buildings, according to the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum. More than 1,300 are located in the No. 4 unit, which didn't melt down because the fuel had been removed from the reactor for maintenance before the quake and tsunami struck.
Once the spent rods are removed, Tepco will start working on extracting the melted cores, which dropped to the bottom of the reactor vessels then burnt through inner steel casings into concrete foundations. The fuel didn't breach a second steel containment barrier.
Reactor No. 1 had 400 fuel assemblies and reactors 2 and 3 had 548 each, according to the atomic forum.
Each assembly contains 60 uranium rods about 4.35 meters (14 feet) in length adding up to about 270 metric tons of fuel to be removed, said Tony Irwin, a former reactor manager for British Energy Group Plc who lectures on nuclear technology at the Australian National University.
Tepco is probably waiting for radiation levels to fall before attempting to extract the melted fuel, Irwin said.
“It's a balance between the dose they're going to get to workers doing this job and the need to remove the fuel from the reactor,” he said.
The government on Dec. 16 announced Tepco had brought the station into a state known as cold shutdown, meeting its target to stabilize the reactors by the end of the year and allowing it to move to the next phase of resolving the crisis.
Radiation fallout caused 160,000 people to flee areas around the Fukushima station, which is located about 220 kilometers (137 miles) north of Tokyo and has six reactors.
The cost of the cleanup and compensating residents and businesses affected by the catastrophe may bankrupt Tepco, which has asked the government for support and received emergency loans from its creditors.
Tepco shares fell to the lowest in two months today after the Yomiuri newspaper said the utility may be nationalized to avert collapse. The government may invest 1 trillion yen to acquire stock while banks may be asked to lend the same amount, the newspaper reported. Tepco shares fell 9.8 percent.
“We are considering all options,” Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano said today in Tokyo when asked about the Yomiuri report. He was speaking at a press conference to outline the decommissioning schedule.
Edano said the roadmap didn't include decommissioning costs because “it's difficult to make a firm estimate at the moment.”
The cost of the cleanup won't be an impediment to carrying out the project, Goshi Hosono, the minister in charge of the response to the disaster, said today at the same briefing.
“There won't be any delays in the decomissioning process due to the cost,” he said. “I ordered Tepco not to allow that to happen.”
The government will be sensitive to the aspirations of those displaced by the disaster, Edano said.
Available at: http://news.businessweek.com/article.asp?documentKey=1376-LWJE3P6TTDS001-6TQOK8VKBKQTH63QCHMN4D7CC5
1. Syria Sought Nuclear Know-How From Pakistan's Khan in 1980, 2002
The Mainichi Daily News
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The Syrian government approached disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan twice -- in 1980 and 2002 -- for assistance in its clandestine nuclear program, but the moves were rejected, Khan recently told Kyodo News.
The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency in May this year issued a report that a facility that Damascus had been constructing was "very likely" a nuclear reactor.
The accusation, although completely denied by Syria, served to corroborate claims that it had been working on a secret nuclear program for many years.
Although Khan, the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, in 2004 confessed to selling nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya, he has never previously spoken of his contacts with Syria.
Khan said that Syria first contacted him in 1980, when he had completed Pakistan's first uranium enrichment facility.
Specifically, the Syrian ambassador in Islamabad visited Khan at his laboratory in a suburb of the capital and told him that the government of then-President Hafiz al-Asad was interested in uranium enrichment and requested his cooperation in Syria's nuclear development.
It was decided that the Syrians should be told clearly that such cooperation was not possible until it was on country-to-country basis, according to Khan.
In 2002, the current administration of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, son of Hafez, invited Khan to Syria, ostensibly to suggest improvements in technical and scientific education. However, the real purpose of the invitation was to acquire nuclear know-how.
During a trip he made to Syria the same year, Khan suggested to the Syrian authorities that basic industrial infrastructure and workshops were necessary for any country aspiring to master nuclear technology.
According to the Associated Press, buildings in northwest Syria closely match the design of a uranium enrichment plant provided to Libya when Muammar Gaddafi was trying to build nuclear weapons under Khan's guidance, fuelling suspicions that Khan directly cooperated in Syria's nuclear program.
In 2007, Israeli warplanes destroyed a suspected plutonium production reactor in northern Syria it had apparently built with help from North Korea, which had previously received the technology from Khan.
The Assad government continues to violently crack down on pro-democracy protesters, drawing international criticism.
Khan, former head of the Khan Research Laboratory, confessed on television in 2004 that he had passed nuclear secrets to North Korea, Iran and Libya.
But in recent meetings with selected people allowed to meet him, he has claimed that he was pressurized to take the blame, failing which Pakistan could be declared a terrorist state.
Available at: http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/international/news/20120102p2g00m0in003000c.html
Despite divergences on non-proliferation issues, India and Japan have decided to push ahead with the nuclear cooperation at their annual summit on Wednesday, besides charting out ways to firm up the ties in a host of areas, including defence and infrastructure development.
To facilitate Japanese business and give weakening rupee a breather, Japan has agreed to extend a $15 billion currency swap line to India.
"As part of our energy cooperation, we reviewed the ongoing discussions on furthering civil nuclear cooperation between our countries. These are moving in the right direction," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said after meeting his Japanese counterpart Yoshihiko Noda.
"The two prime ministers welcomed the progress made to date in negotiations between India and Japan on an Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, and directed their negotiators to exert further efforts towards a conclusion of the agreement, having due regard to each side's relevant interests...," said the joint statement issued after the meeting.
However, Japanese prime minister wanted India to be part of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) that New Delhi finds discriminatory. India and Japan held three rounds of talks for a nuclear deal. The talks didn't happen after the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan.
"Prime Minister Noda stressed the importance of bringing into force the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) at an early date. Prime Minister Singh reiterated India's commitment to a unilateral and voluntary moratorium on nuclear explosive testing," said the joint statement.
"Japan at least wants us to join the International Monitoring System (IMS) under the CTBT. That's one step closer to be part of the CTBT. That's not a position that we would like to have," said a senior Indian official.
The $15 billion currency swap line expected to support the Indian Rupee, which continues to weaken.
The arrangement comes at a time when Europe's deepening debt crisis threatens to curtail many Asian countries prospects in getting dollar funding.
Defence and security ties figured prominently in talks and they decided to expand their cooperation in maritime security and anti-piracy operations.
Available at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/NewDelhi/India-Japan-to-improve-nuclear-ties/Article1-788470.aspx
Senior officials of India and Pakistan on Tuesday ended their two-day talks in Islamabad by agreeing to consider renewing for another five years a pact on reducing nuclear accidents and to explore additional confidence-building measures (CBMs).
The Indian delegation, led by D B Venkatesh Varma, joint secretary (disarmament) in the external affairs ministry, held the sixth round of expert-level talks with the Pakistani side led by Munawar Saeed Bhatti, additional secretary in the foreign office.
"Both sides reviewed the implementation and strengthening of existing CBMs in the framework of Lahore MoU, and agreed to explore possibilities for mutually acceptable additional CBMs," said the statement.
One of outcomes of the meeting was that the two sides agreed to recommend to their foreign secretaries to extend the validity of the "agreement on reducing the risk from accidents relating to nuclear weapons" for another five years.
Available at: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-12-28/india/30564880_1_cbms-foreign-secretaries-confidence-building-measures
4. Canada Shipping Bomb-Grade Uranium to U.S.: Memo
The Canadian Press
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Weapons-grade uranium is quietly being transported within Canada, and into the United States, in shipments the country's nuclear watchdog wants to keep cloaked in secrecy.
A confidential federal memo obtained through the Access to Information Act says at least one payload of spent, U.S.-origin highly enriched uranium fuel has already been moved stateside under a new Canada-U.S. deal.
The shipments stem from the highly publicized agreement signed last year by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama, amid fears that nuclear-bomb-making material could fall into the hands of terrorists.
The Canadian stash gradually being shipped from Chalk River, Ont., contains hundreds of kilograms of highly enriched uranium -- large enough to make several Hiroshima-sized nuclear bombs.
But even as the radioactive freight travels toward the U.S. border, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has no plans to hold public hearings or disclose which communities lie along the delivery route.
The shipments themselves are protected by intense security protocol, which means specifics like routes, transportation method, quantities and schedules remain top secret.
The federal nuclear body, a co-regulator of the uranium transfers, says rules restrict it from disclosing such information to the public.
A ministerial memorandum, classified as "Secret," says the nuclear watchdog considers it unnecessary to hold public sessions that would allow citizens to ask questions and comment on the shipments.
That same memorandum, dated Feb. 25, 2011, points out that recent hearings for another nuclear-shipment case generated intense public and media interest. The controversy has stalled the project to ship 16 generators from a Bruce Power nuclear plant through the Great Lakes, up the St. Lawrence River and onto Europe.
The memo, obtained by The Canadian Press, appears to warn against a repeat scenario.
"Given the public and media interest surrounding Bruce Power's plan ... there may be an expectation that similar information be made public on the shipments of spent HEU (highly enriched uranium) fuel to the U.S., and that the CNSC (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) hold public hearings," said the document, addressed to then-natural resources minister Christian Paradis.
"To date, the CNSC has not considered it necessary to hold public hearings on the shipment of spent HEU fuel to the U.S."
When asked why public hearings aren't necessary for the uranium deliveries, a commission spokeswoman replied by email: they "are not carried out given the robustness of the packages used and due to the security issues related to the transfers of highly enriched uranium."
The government added that there has never been a significant transport accident involving nuclear materials, anywhere in the world, and that such shipments occur regularly in Canada.
It said only authorized people or agencies, like police forces along the shipment route, are made aware of the details.
One nuclear expert said theft is the primary concern when shipping highly enriched uranium fuel -- because there is virtually no danger of leaks or explosions.
"If I were the people doing the shipping and so on, I'd want to keep as low a profile as possible ... you don't want to give terrorists or criminals any advantage," said Bill Garland, a professor emeritus from McMaster University in nuclear engineering.
"There's a greater risk in the general public knowing, because then the bad guys would know as well."
As for non-theft incidents, like possible road accidents, he described the containers carrying the substance as highly resistant to collisions, chemicals, fire and explosions.
"It's relatively easy to contain and secure and it's not going to go off like a bomb," Garland said.
"I would have no hesitation sitting in the truck and driving across the country with it. It wouldn't bother me in the least."
Garland added that drivers share Canadian highways every day with trucks carrying loads of liquid chemicals, like gasoline and chlorine, that would pose a much bigger danger in a smash-up than nuclear waste.
While the risks are small, he said, that doesn't mean they don't exist. He warned that radiation could be released if someone deliberately opened a container, for instance.
Garland said moving uranium poses far more danger than shipping Bruce Power's old generators up the St. Lawrence.
He calls the generator shipments a "trivial radioactive situation" and a "non-issue" because the cylinders hold very low levels of radioactive material. He said that even if they fell into the bottom of the river, the generators would pose a negligible risk.
Canada has been importing highly enriched bomb-grade uranium from the U.S. to make medical isotopes at Chalk River for the past two decades. While Canada has been pushing for all nations to move to low-enriched uranium, it maintains a large inventory of the substance at Chalk River.
The Canada-U.S. agreement is part of a broader international project by the Obama administration to consolidate highly enriched uranium at fewer, more secure sites around the world.
The U.S. government says it wants to convert the uranium into a form that cannot be used to build nuclear weapons.
Canada made its first uranium delivery under the repatriation deal in 2010, the February memo says. It occurred in "a single shipment using an existing, licensed fuel shipping package."
The continued shipments are scheduled to take place until 2018.
But some nuclear-industry observers fear that Canadians have been left in the dark about the project.
"I don't think Canadians are aware that strategic nuclear material is, in fact, travelling across Canadian roads," said Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition of Nuclear Responsibility.
"I think it's essential that people be aware of what is involved here. People should be aware of the degree of secrecy which is required."
While he has few fears about the safety of the shipment Garland, the nuclear engineering professor, does have some concerns about the government's selective approach to transparency.
"They're willing to talk about those things (the Bruce Power generators) publicly, but yet when they talk about something that's more dangerous -- like moving HEU -- they're not so willing to talk about it," Garland said.
He said while it's critical to keep specific details about the shipments confidential, there are ways to maintain security while offering some public oversight.
"If I were king ... I would say, 'Look, let's have a committee of experts looking at this, working on behalf of the public so that they could analyze this without having to give out all the details to the public,' " Garland said.
Available at: http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Canada/20111227/canada-uranium-shipments-federal-memo-111217/
A Russian firm has finalized agreements with two Japanese companies on deliveries of low-enriched uranium for nuclear electrical power generation.
The Russian contractor is OAO Tekhsnabeksport, which trades uranium fuel and fuel processing services abroad and is a subsidiary of Russian state-run Rosatom civil nuclear corporation.
Tekhsnabeksport Director Aleksei Grigorev said, "We would like to emphasize that, despite the events at the Fukushima NPP (nuclear power plant) in Japan, Tekhsnabeksport has finalized agreements on two new contracts for delivery of Russian uranium product to ensure the specific needs of Japanese power companies.
"Since the situation in Japan today is difficult, I will not name these companies at the present time but we have already had contracts with them and these companies are not new to us," Rosatom reported on its Web page Friday.
Grigorev added that Tekhsnabeksport was working with 10 of the 11 Japanese companies involved in nuclear power generation.
Available at: http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Resources/2011/12/23/Russia-to-supply-uranium-to-Japan/UPI-17131324673104/
6. Russia, U.S. Ink Uranium Enrichment Pact for 2013-2022
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Russia and the United States signed an intergovernmental agreement on Tuesday enabling the contract for uranium enrichment services in 2013-2022 to come into force, General Director of Russian state-controlled nuclear equipment exporter Techsnabexport (Tenex) Alexey Grigoriev said.
Sergey Kiriyenko, the head of Russian state-run civil nuclear corporation Rosatom, and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman signed the agreement.
“Just yesterday the head of the industry Sergey Kiriyenko and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman signed, virtually, during a videoconference, the administrative arrangements for the intergovernmental US-Russian agreement on cooperation on peaceful use of atomic energy,” Grigoriev said.
Grigoriev noted that the new arrangements replace the HEU agreement that was signed in 1993 and expires in 2013.
“The contract between Tenex and USEC, which we signed on March, 23, 2011 for the supply of low-enriched uranium, entered into force with the signing of the [new] agreements,” Grigoriev said.
Tenex, wholly owned by Rosatom, signed a $2.8 billion 10-year deal with the U.S. Enrichment Corporation (USEC) to supply low-enriched uranium. Under the deal, Russia will supply USEC with 21 million separate work units over a period of 10 years starting from 2013.
The long-stalled U.S.-Russian Agreement for Cooperation in the Field of Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, also known as the U.S.-Russia 123 Agreement, signed for 30 years, came into force on January 11. It lays the legal framework for cooperation in nuclear research, production and trade, and both sides see it as contribution to non-proliferation regime.
Available at: http://en.ria.ru/russia/20111221/170411168.html
1. Libya's Nuclear Materials Remain Intact, UN Report Says
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The United Nations Security Council was reassured Thursday that none of Libya's nuclear materials had gone missing and there appeared no risk of arms proliferation in the country.
The head of the UN mission in Libya, Ian Martin, reported to the 15 nation council through a teleconference that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had on December 9 inspected the Tajoura Nuclear Facility in Tripoli and uranium concentrate storage in Sabha.
The IAEA found that "none of the previously recorded nuclear materials in either facility had gone missing," Martin said.
The Vienna-based nuclear watchdog also recommended the sale and transfer of about 6,400 barrels of nuclear materials in Sabha because the storage condition of barrels was deteriorating. It also reported that there was no risk of radiation.
"There appears no risk of proliferation, given the weight and state of the barrels," Martin added.
Martin also struck down the fear that surface-to-air missiles could spread to neighboring countries.
He said that thousands of so-called MANPADS abandoned by troops loyal to the former Gadhafi regime had been looted, but remained within Libya and were held by revolutionary brigades or local militias.
Libya's transitional government had also asked the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to study chemical weapons stocks, Martin said. He said the organization was scheduled to visit sites in Libya in January to verify declarations made by the Gadhafi regime.
In his briefing to the council, Martin reported on progress made by the transitional government to hold legislative elections in January and lay the ground for a new government next year.
He said that Tripoli welcomed the council's unfreezing of Libyan state assets, worth more than 40 billion dollars, as it struggled to rebuild the country.
Most of the funds were held by the Central Bank of Libya and the Libyan Foreign Bank. The asset freeze was ordered in March, in retaliation for the killing of pro-democracy protesters.
Available at: http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/libya-s-nuclear-materials-remain-intact-un-report-says-1.403006
1. Report: Iran Builds, Tests First Nuclear Fuel Rod
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Iran has succeeded in building and testing the country's first domestically produced nuclear fuel rod, the semi-official Fars news agency reported Sunday.
The uranium fuel rod was tested successfully and installed in the core of a research reactor in Tehran, the news agency said, citing Iran's atomic energy agency website.
Fuel rods are stacks of low-enriched uranium pellets that are bundled together at the core of a nuclear reactor. Sunday's announcement appeared aimed at demonstrating Iran's growing sophistication in developing a home-grown nuclear program, amid fears from the West that it will use its knowledge to build nuclear weapons.
In January 2008, Fars reported that Iran was able to produce everything it needs for the nuclear fuel cycle, making its nuclear program self-sufficient. But it was not clear that Tehran actually had the technology to turn enriched uranium into fuel rods.
Iran has repeatedly insisted its nuclear program is for peaceful, civilian energy purposes only. But it has rebuffed repeated demands to halt its production of enriched uranium, and a November 8 report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog found "credible" information that Tehran has carried out work toward nuclear weapons -- including tests of possible bomb components.
After the report, the governing council of the International Atomic Energy Agency adopted a resolution expressing "deep and increasing concern about the unresolved issues regarding the Iranian nuclear program."
The Islamic republic responded to the IAEA report by calling it a fabrication aimed at bolstering U.S. accusations that Iran is working toward a bomb.
"We will never ever suspend our enrichment," Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's permanent envoy to the IAEA, said in November.
In December, the United States as well as several other Western and Asian nations announced increased sanctions against Iran in an international effort to tighten the screws around the suspected nuclear weapons program.
Available at: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/01/01/world/meast/iran-nuclear-rod/?hpt=hp_c3
2. Iran Plans Letter to EU to Restart Nuclear Talks
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Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili plans to submit a letter to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to restart talks on the country’s nuclear program, Mehr news agency reported today, citing Iran’s ambassador to Germany.
A new round of talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany may follow, Alireza Sheikh Attar told the state-run news agency. Michael Mann, a spokesman for Ashton, said today that she hadn’t received a response to a letter sent to Jalili in October.
The EU continues to pursue a “twin-track approach” and is “open for meaningful discussions on confidence-building measures, without preconditions from the Iranian side,” Mann said in an e-mailed response to questions.
Iran is facing new Western efforts to halt its suspected nuclear weapons program, including U.S. sanctions that are awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature and a possible European Union ban on imports of oil from Iran, the world’s third-largest oil exporter. Iran denies seeking to develop atomic weapons.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-12-31/iran-plans-letter-to-eu-to-restart-nuclear-talks-mehr-says.html
1. S. Korea Plans to Build More Nuclear Power Plants: Minister
Yonhap News Agency
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South Korea will seek to build more nuclear power plants in an effort to expand its dependence on atomic energy for its electricity needs, the commerce minister said Sunday.
"There is no change in the government's nuclear energy policy," Minister of Knowledge Economy Hong Suk-woo said in an interview with news Y, Yonhap News Agency's all-news cable TV channel. "The government will continue to construct nuclear power plants."
In the future, the government will move to increase the electricity generated by nuclear power plants to 40 percent of the country's power needs, said the head of the ministry in charge of the country's energy policy.
South Korea currently has 21 active nuclear reactors, supplying about 14 percent of the country's total energy needs. The country plans to build 11 new reactors by 2030, in addition to seven other reactors already under construction.
The government will also do its utmost to secure the safety of nuclear power plants in the wake of Japan's Fukushima plant crisis triggered by a devastating quake and subsequent tsunami in March, Hong said.
The minister also stressed the need to determine ways of processing spent fuel as soon as possible, saying temporary repositories at the nuclear power plants will soon exceed their capacities.
Hong's remarks came two days after the state-run Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP) named two possible locations for its new plants Thursday. The locations cited are Yeongdeok in North Gyeongsang Province and Samcheok in Gangwon Province. Both sites are located some 300 kilometers from the capital Seoul.
Resource-poor South Korea has been increasingly turning to nuclear power to power its export-oriented economy, Asia's fourth-largest. The country is the world's fourth-largest importer of crude oil.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/business/2011/12/25/95/0501000000AEN20111225001500320F.HTML
2. Hitachi, Lithuania Agree on Guidelines for Nuclear Plant Deal
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The Lithuanian government and Hitachi Ltd. (6501) agreed on the guidelines of a preliminary agreement to build and finance a nuclear power plant in the Baltic country.
“This is an important intermediate point of the negotiations,” said Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius at a press conference following the signing the agreement in Vilnius today. “This means it’s been agreed on the content of the concession agreement and its components.”
Hitachi will sign the final contract to begin building the 400 billion-yen ($5.1 billion) project next year, company President Hiroaki Nakanishi said on Dec. 20. The plant, to be built by Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy Ltd., a venture with General Electric Co., is scheduled to be operational in 2020, said Hitachi, Japan’s second-largest builder of nuclear reactors.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-12-23/hitachi-lithuania-agree-on-guidelines-for-nuclear-plant-deal.html
3. Jordan to Start Building First Nuclear Reactor in 2013
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Arabian Business quoted Mr. Khalid Touqan chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission as saying that Jordan will select the likely builder of its first nuclear reactor in March and plans to start construction of the facility in 2013.
The government has pre-approved three bidders to provide technology for the USD 4.5 billion plant Russia's ZAO Atomstroyexport, Canada's SNC Lavalin International Inc. and Atmea, a Paris based JV between France's Areva SA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Limited of Japan.
Mr. Touqan said that "We will fine tune the offers in February 2012 and by the second part of March 2012, we will choose the preferred bidder."
He added that Jordan expects to confirm its choice of builder by the end of 2012 and begin the project the following year.
The Middle East country, which relies mostly on imported energy, is turning to nuclear power to meet rising domestic electricity demand. The government plans to build at least one reactor by 2019, in northern Jordan, and has signed nuclear cooperation agreements with 12 countries. It estimates the nation to contain 70,000 metric tons of uranium deposits.
Mr. Touqan said that Jordanian authorities opened offers from the three pre-selected bidders on December 4th 2011 and will hold final negotiations with them at the beginning of January 2012. Jordan is also seeking bidders to operate and invest in the reactor.
He added that "In parallel to the selection of the technology provider, we are expecting to receive proposals from the operators, investors, by March 1st 2012."
Available at: http://www.steelguru.com/middle_east_news/Jordan_to_start_building_first_nuclear_reactor_in_2013/242416.html
4. Work on Taiwan’s 4th Nuclear Power Plant to Proceed
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The ROC government will continue with efforts to build the No. 4 Longmen nuclear power plant in New Taipei City, Atomic Energy Council Deputy Minister Huang Tsing-tung said Dec. 20.
“During the construction process, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the AEC will strengthen project management and safety surveillance,” Huang said. “We will uphold the principles of safety first with quality as our top priority.”
Huang made the remarks during a Safety Oversight Committee meeting at the plant amid concerns over a Taiwan Power Co. safety report that has been criticized for failing to adequately address safety issues.
In pre-operation tests at the plant over the past year, the nuclear facility has seen fires, blackouts and other irregularities.
“We cannot accept the AEC’s decision to proceed with construction,” said Tsui Shu-hsin, secretary general of the nongovernmental Green Citizens’ Alliance and a member of the committee.
Work on the plan should stop immediately and not be allowed to start again until a thorough safety review has been completed, Tsui added.
According to Taipower, construction on the nuclear power plant is now 93.3 percent complete.
Since the start of construction in 1999, experts from both Taiwan and overseas have been hired to help Taipower solve different kinds of problems, the power company said.
“A safety team based at the Longmen plant was established Oct. 1,” Li Jung-yao, manager of the team, pointed out.
“The unit is an affiliation under Taipower’s Department of Nuclear Safety and is responsible for safety controls of pre-operation tests. It also assists in the establishment of operational measures that meet safety culture at the plant,” he added.
Other participants in the meeting included the Homemakers’ Union and Foundation, National Association for Radiation Protection and Yenliao Anti-Nuclear Self-help Association, Li said.
Available at: http://www.taiwantoday.tw/ct.asp?xItem=182789&ctNode=445
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