1. Japan Atomic Power Defenders: Keep Ability to Build Nuclear Weapons
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Japan's nuclear power advocates have pulled out all the stops since the Fukushima crisis, even arguing that the only nation to suffer an atomic attack needs to keep its ability to build its own nuclear weapons.
Once, merely the public suggestion that Japan should debate ending its ban on such weaponry was enough to get a politician fired. But worries about North Korea's nuclear ambitions and an expanding Chinese military are eroding that taboo.
Last March's disaster at the Fukushima atomic plant, which spewed radiation and forced mass evacuations, has already prompted Japan to scrap a plan to boost nuclear power to over 50 percent of electricity demand by 2030 from 30 percent before the accident.
But politicians, experts and officials are still arguing over what role -- if any -- nuclear power should play in a new energy mix programme to be unveiled in the summer.
Even the rationales for keeping atomic energy are proving contentious.
"There are people who say that one reason we need nuclear power is in order to have the latent capability for nuclear weapons, from the perspective of national defence," Tatsuo Hatta, an economist who is on an expert panel discussing Japan's future energy mix, told Reuters in a recent interview. "I think that is one idea but if that is the case, we don't need so many reactors. And the objective should be made clear," he said. "This is not something that should be debated by the trade ministry." Japan has 54 nuclear reactors, all but three now off-line mainly for safety checks. The rest are due to shut down soon while the government tries to persuade a wary public that it is safe to restart those that pass newly-imposed stress tests.
Shigeru Ishiba, a former defence minister from the now- opposition Liberal Democratic Party, laid out the argument for a latent nuclear deterrent in a magazine article late last year. "If we had to start from basic research, it would take 5-10 years to create nuclear weapons, but since we have nuclear power technology, it would be possible to create nuclear weapons in the relatively short time of several months to a year," he said.
"And our country has globally leading-edge rocket technology, so if we put these two together, we can achieve effective nuclear weapons in a relatively short time." Japan's post-World War Two constitution prohibits going to war and, if taken literally, bans the maintenance of a standing army. But successive governments have interpreted the pacifist Article Nine as allowing a military for self-defence.
Since 1957, the official interpretation has also held that Article Nine is not an obstacle to developing nuclear arms even though the concept has long been a political taboo. "People used to be more reserved about saying it," said Koichi Nakano, a Sophia University political science professor.
"Ishiba isn't saying that Japan should have nuclear weapons but that having the potential is very important to stay in the big leagues and if you don't want to be pushed around by China." Suggestions Japan might someday use its civilian nuclear technology and stockpile of plutonium -- now totalling about 45 tonnes at home and overseas -- to arm itself with atomic bombs risk fanning concerns by an already suspicious Beijing.
Critics have questioned why Japan stays committed to developing costly nuclear waste reprocessing facilities unless it wants to be able to make atomic bombs should it so decide. The idea that Japan should have its own nuclear arms, however, is unlikely to gain traction with the majority of the public, whose collective psyche remains scarred by memories of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the final days of World War Two, experts say.
"Japan is the only country that suffered from nuclear weapons. It is a sort of shared understanding that we should use nuclear power only for peaceful uses," said Masakazu Toyoda, head of the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan and a member of the expert panel, who believes Japan needs atomic energy.
As Toyoda's remark suggests, not all supporters of nuclear power -- whose reasons range from the need for energy security in a resource-poor land to a desire to lead in atomic power safety technology, find the latent deterrent argument appealing.
"If Japan considers arming itself with nuclear weapons, then it will find itself in the same situation as Iran and North Korea," Jitsuro Terashima, chairman of the Japan Research Institute and another member of the expert panel, told Reuters.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/13/japan-nuclear-arms-idUSL4E8DA2ZK20120213
2. Atomic Energy Commission to Recommend Background Checks for Nuclear Workers
Mainichi Daily News
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The Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) on Feb. 10 put together a draft report recommending energy companies be made to do background checks on employees working at important nuclear facilities or with nuclear materials.
Specifics are expected to be ironed out by a new government atomic energy regulatory organ to be established in April.
In January of last year, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a recommendation that the trustworthiness of nuclear employees be checked, and according to the JAEC, background checks on nuclear employees are already performed in most major countries. Such checks were considered in Japan in 2004 by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, but were not implemented over privacy concerns.
In this May 15, 2011 photo released Friday, June 10, 2011 by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), workers take break in a temporary rest area at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. After the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the JAEC recommended checks because "implementing counterterrorism measures for nuclear facilities, which can cause serious damage to society, is an urgent matter."
One obstacle to the checks is that it is difficult for power companies to check on workers' criminal records or debts, so police and other authorities would have to help. Furthermore, Tokyo Electric Power Co. could not confirm the identities of some of the workers who had been sent to the Fukushima No. 1 plant in recent background checks, and the JAEC has admitted it would be difficult to put the checks into practice.
Available at: http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20120211p2a00m0na002000c.html
1. ‘Russia retains right to play nuclear card’ – Gen-Staff Chief
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The Russian Armed Forces are ready to retaliate to any threat to national security, and will not rule out using nuclear weapons, General Nikolay Makarov, head of the Russian General Staff, said on Wednesday.
"If there is a threat to the integrity of the Russian Federation, we are entitled to use nuclear weapons,” Makarov said in an interview with the Ekho Moskvy radio station.
Stressing that Russia’s nuclear deterrent remains the primary prerequisite for strategic stability, Makarov says the Russian Armed Forces will not cut corners.
"As regards our nuclear forces, we invest the allocated funding up to the last kopek,” Russia’s top military commander said. “We are working very seriously to upgrade our nuclear potential.” Makarov then provided a glimpse at Russia’s shopping list for state-of-the-art military hardware. In particular, the country’s Defense Ministry is purchasing new-generation underwater nuclear missile carriers, planning to renew and upgrade its strategic bombers, and introducing new missile systems, including Yars, for Russian Strategic Missile Troops, he said.
Makarov went on to recall that even during its darkest economic moments, Russia always provided the necessary funds for maintaining and developing its strategic nuclear forces.
"We have sufficient funds to implement the state armament program for the period until 2020,” he said. “The problem is that the national defense sector is sometimes unable to meet our demand.” Makarov also noted that efforts are being made to develop general purpose forces. Nuclear weapons, he admitted, cannot take the place of a well-trained army.
"Unfortunately, we are facing threats from a number of unstable states, where not nuclear weapons but well-trained, strong and mobile armed forces may be required to resolve any conflict situation," the General noted.
He also mentioned that battling NATO as a whole would not be an aim Russia would pursue.
Available at: http://rt.com/politics/russia-nuclear-card-general-371/
2. Russia Dock Fire Submarine Had Nuclear Warheads – Newspaper
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A Russian nuclear submarine which caught fire during repairs in the Arctic in December had its nuclear-tipped missiles and other weapons on board, the newspaper Kommersant Vlast reported on Monday.
The Yekaterinburg submarine was being repaired in a dry dock outside the north-western city of Murmansk when wooden scaffolding next to it caught fire and the flames spread to the craft on December 29. Nobody was killed in the blaze which raged on for hours. The Defense Ministry said all weapons had been unloaded before the vessel entered the dock at the Roslyakovo shipyard.
Officials also said there had been no radiation leak from the Yekaterinburg, the Delta-IV-class nuclear submarine.
But the newspaper Kommersant Vlast claimed on Monday the sub “was in the dock with torpedoes and missiles on board.” The Yekaterinburg, launched in 1984, can carry 16 intercontinental ballistic missiles, each with four warheads and 12 torpedoes.
“For almost an entire day, Russia was on the verge of the worst anthropogenic catastrophe since Chernobyl,” the paper said. The explosion at a nuclear plant in Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986 was the worst accident in the history of nuclear power.
Weapons are normally removed from docked nuclear subs but the final decision often lies with commanders, the paper said.
Unloading can take up to two weeks, which can delay scheduled maneuvers. This might result in disrupting Russia’s nuclear parity with the United States, it said. The Yekaterinburg, or K-84, traveled to two missile depots in early January.
“The only meaning of this move would be to unload the missiles and torpedoes onboard the K-84,” Kommersant Vlast said.
The paper said it also had the evidence of “several independent sources in the leadership of the Navy and the Northern Fleet.”
The fire was the latest in a string of Russia’s naval accidents, the worst being the sinking of the Kursk submarine in 2000, which left 118 people dead.
Available at: http://en.rian.ru/mlitary_news/20120213/171288769.html
Argentina said Friday it has information that Britain sent a nuclear-armed submarine to the South Atlantic near the disputed Falkland Islands in the latest verbal salvo in a dispute over the territory.
Argentina's Foreign Minister Hector Timerman told reporters at the United Nations that a submarine called the Vanguard with nuclear weapons was recently sent as part of Britain's deployment in the Falklands, which Argentina calls the Malvinas. HMS Vanguard is one of four British submarines armed with nuclear missiles.
"Argentina has information that within the framework of the recent British deployment in the Malvinas Islands they sent a nuclear submarine ... to transport nuclear weapons to the South Atlantic," said Timerman.
He said Argentina asked the United Kingdom through diplomatic channels if it had introduced nuclear weapons to the South Atlantic, but "thus far, the UK refuses to say whether it's true or not." He said the deployment of nuclear arms in the region would violate the Treaty of Tlatelolco for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, designed to create a nuclear-free zone in the region.
Full story available at: http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Argentina-UK-sent-nuclear-sub-to-Falklands-3247246.php
1. Lukashenko Urges Russia to Expedite Nuke Plant Construction
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Belarus has asked Russia's national development bank Vnesheconombank (VEB) to speed up construction of the country's first $9-billion nuclear power station, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Monday.
"The core project (for us) is the nuclear plant construction as (VEB) will finance it. We have started to implement it and would not like to see a slowdown. We should build the station rapidly," Lukashenko told VEB head Vladimir Dmitriyev.
At the same time when Europe is beginning to abandon nuclear power use, the nuclear power plant project in Belarus is important for both Russia and Belarus, Lukashenko said. "Russian technologies ... and our opportunities will show that the century of nuclear power is not over, it will continue," Lukashenko added.
Nuclear power has once again become a controversial issue after an earthquake and tsunami damaged the Fukushima station in Japan in March 2011. Germany said it would hasten its exit from nuclear energy and Italy announced a one-year moratorium on plans to restart atomic power projects. Many people died of radiation-related diseases in Belarus following the 1986 Chernobyl atomic station disaster in neighboring Ukraine, in the world's worst nuclear disaster.
Russia now says it has a full arsenal of advanced technology to ensure accident-free operations at power stations it builds.
Available at: http://en.rian.ru/business/20120213/171290222.html
2. Poland’s First Nuclear Plant May Be Delayed Five Years
Warsaw Business Journal
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PGE, which is responsible for the investment, has revealed a new strategy. Polish state-controlled energy group PGE has announced that the building of the first nuclear plant in Poland may be delayed by five years, with its completion now expected in 2025, daily Parkiet reported, citing a new investment plan unveiled by the company.
PGE has been charged by the government with overseeing the implementation of Poland's nuclear energy plans.
The company, which is waiting for a new CEO, plans to spend up to zł.330 billion on investments by 2035, according to its new strategy. “The company should have no problems getting a loan,” Kamil Kliszcz, an analyst from DI BRE Bank, told Parkiet.
PGE's power-production capacity is expected to increase by 62 percent, while new projects are expected to contribute to an improvement in the company's bottom line. The company also plans to invest in building energy blocks heated with gas, and will be taking over wind farms. The firm may also sell half of its stake in the Elektrownia Opole power station.
The publication of PGE's strategy coincided with Treasury Minister Mikołaj Budzanowski's criticism of investment projects carried out by all state-controlled energy groups. “They indicate inconsistency, some projects are mutually exclusive or are carried out too slowly,” he said.
Available at: http://www.wbj.pl/article-57979-polands-first-nuclear-plant-may-be-delayed-five-years.html?typ=wbj
3. France to Extend Life of Nuclear Plants – Minister
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French President Nicolas Sarkozy has decided to extend the life of the country's nuclear power plants beyond 40 years so the economy can continue to benefit from cheap energy, Industry Minister Eric Besson said on Sunday.
The decision comes after the French Court of Audit said late last month that extending the plants' lifespans was the country's sole option because any investments in new nuclear capacity or increased reliance on other forms of energy would be too costly and come too late.
Sarkozy's decision also coincides with a separate report ordered by Besson on long-term energy plans for Europe's second-largest economy, the definitive version of which is due on Monday. "The conclusion that I draw from this is that it would be a waste to stop our reactors at 40 years," Besson said in an interview with radio station Europe 1. Sarkozy made the decision after holding a meeting of France's Nuclear Policy Committee on Wednesday, Besson said.
By the end of 2022, 22 out of the 58 reactors in France, the world's most nuclear-reliant country, will have been in operation for 40 years.
"The president decided to ask all the operators to be ready to extend the life of our reactors beyond 40 years," he said, adding that in the United States the standard lifespan was 60 years. At the same time, Sarkozy, who is expected to formally announce his candidacy for a second presidential term later this week, favors the development of a range of nuclear plants from the 1,600 megawatt next-generation EPR reactor being built by state-controlled Areva to mid-power plants producing 1,000 megawatts and smaller 300 megawatt reactors.
A leaked version of the study, to be released on Monday, said that extending the life of France's reactors would be a cheaper investment option to 2035-2040 than building any type of new power plant.
Available at: http://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFL5E8DC2UU20120212
1. Iran sends letter to EU on new nuclear talks: Al Alam TV
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Iran has handed a letter to the European Union's foreign policy chief over its readiness to resume nuclear talks with major powers to discuss the country's disputed nuclear program, Iran's Arabic language Al Alam television reported Wednesday.
"The letter was handed over to Catherine Ashton's office on Wednesday. It expresses Iran's readiness to hold new talks over its nuclear program in a constructive way," Al Alam reported.
Available at : http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/15/us-iran-nuclear-talks-idUSTRE81E0WB20120215
2. No assurances of access to Iran site: U.N. nuclear watchdog
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The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Tuesday the agency does not know if during talks later this month Iran would give it access to a military site named in a report that said Iran could have worked on nuclear weapons.
Yukiya Amano, director general of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, said at an event in Mexico City that he hopes a second round of talks with Iranian leaders scheduled for February 20-21 "will be a good, constructive one."
Three days of talks in Tehran between IAEA experts and Iranian officials at the end of last month produced little progress toward resolving disputes about Iran's nuclear program, Western diplomats said.
The IAEA sought access to the Parchin military complex, named in a November report by the agency that said Iran appeared to have worked on designing nuclear bombs.
Asked if the agency would get access to Parchin, Amano said "We don't know yet."
"Parchin is not the only issue. Our objective is to clarify all the other issues and this cannot be done overnight but we hope that there will be a concrete outcome," he told Reuters in an interview, adding that the last meeting was not conclusive.
The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action against Iran if diplomacy fails to resolve the long-running nuclear dispute.
Iran says its nuclear program is entirely peaceful and rejects allegations that it is building atomic weapons. It has refused to stop uranium enrichment and has vowed to retaliate over oil sanctions imposed by Western countries and any military attack.
Suspicions about activities at Parchin, southeast of Tehran, date back at least to 2004 when a prominent nuclear expert said satellite images showed it may be a site for research and testing relevant for nuclear weapons.
United Nations inspectors were allowed into the site a year later but not to areas where the November report said an explosives chamber was built.
Amano is hoping the exchanges with the Iranians will lead to real progress in the new talks.
"On our part we will continue to be taking a constructive approach and I expect an equally constructive approach on their part," he said at the event commemorating the 45th anniversary of a regional anti-nuclear proliferation treaty.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/14/us-nuclear-iran-iaea-idUSTRE81D1FS20120214
A senior Iranian military official said Monday that Tehran's nuclear and other industrial facilities suffer periodic cyber attacks, but that the country has the technology to protect itself from the threat, an official news agency reported.
Iran considers itself to have been waging a complicated cyber war since 2010, when a virus known as Stuxnet disrupted controls of some nuclear centrifuges.
"Most enemy threats target nuclear energy sites as well as electronic trade and banking operations," said Gholam Reza Jalali, who heads an Iranian military unit in charge of combating sabotage. Jalali said that in addition to Stuxnet, Iran has discovered two espionage viruses, Stars and Doku, but that the malware did no harm to Iran's nuclear or industrial sites.
Full story available at: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57376575/iran-our-nuke-labs-immune-to-cyber-attacks/
Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR), in conjunction with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will hold a conference here between February 13-16, focusing on regional capabilities to deal with nuclear radiation disasters, KISR director of information Dr Nader al-Awadhi said at a press conference on Saturday.
Representatives from 26 countries, in addition to a large team of IAEA experts will be at the conference as well as specialists on nuclear radiation from Kuwait's ministries of Health and Interior and from KISR also, al-Awadhi said, who underlined the fact that the IAEA was keen on helping Kuwait build the capability to handle with aplomb any nuclear radiation accident.
He said that technical assistance by the IAEA on nuclear radiation issues to Kuwait has been ongoing for some time, through the convening of meetings, workshops, and training programs.
It is hoped that what have been learned in these meetings and workshops will be thoroughly reviewed at the Feb 13-16 conference, as well as experiences of Asian countries in mapping out fool-proof plans to withstand nuclear radiation threats, said al-Awadhi.
KISR is the official Kuwaiti conduit with the IAEA from a technical standpoint. The Kuwaiti institute tracks the work of the IAEA in the region and has been instrumental in activating 15 regional projects undertaken by the IAEA in the Asian continent, in such fields as medicine, environment, energy and others.
The upcoming conference will be the second one held in Kuwait on a regional basis. The first such conference was also hosted by Kuwait toward the end of last November.
Available at: http://www.kuna.net.kw/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=2220800&language=en
2. Namibia Pursues Nuclear Energy Dreams With France’s Areva
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Namibia, the fourth biggest uranium producer in the world, first floated the idea of acquiring a nuclear power plant of its own four years ago. Rio Tinto and Australian miner Paladin Energy currently produce Namibia’s uranium.
French state-owned Areva's Trekkopje project in 2010 received its Export Processing Zone (EPZ) license for a period of five years after Areva reportedly agreed to develop a feasibility study on generating nuclear power in Namibia. Namibia's nuclear ambitions purportedly enjoy the full support of President Hifikepunye Pohamba.
Areva Resources Namibia country manager Hilifa Mbako said only of Areva's direct involvement in the government's nuclear energy plans that there was an ongoing "bilateral government dialogue" between France and Namibia and that Areva would "gladly" help if the nuclear possibility "comes about." Namibia's nuclear plans have resurfaced following reports in the Namibian press charging Namibian Trade and Industry Minister Hage Geingob of facilitating the process to secure an EPZ license for Trekkopje, which he strongly denies, telling The Namibian that he was only part of a "collective and elaborative decision-making process" which also involved the Ministries of Finance and Mines and Energy in granting EPZ status to Areva’s Trekkopje project, remarking, "Whilst I am not at liberty to disclose some discussions held at different levels, because of the confidential nature of those discussions, it suffices to say that all necessary consultation with the relevant parties was done, resulting in Areva being granted EPZ status for a period of five years to carry out certain studies, of which I am not at liberty to disclose at this juncture."
Full story available at: http://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/Namibia-Pursues-Nuclear-Energy-Dreams-With-Frances-Areva.html
A newly negotiated agreement will enable Canada to increase uranium exports to China.
Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper announced the successful completion of negotiations on the agreement during a visit to China that has also seen the signature of numerous joint initiatives and the renewal of existing bilaterals in energy, natural resources, education, science and technology, and agriculture.
The new protocol will supplement an existing nuclear cooperation agreement between the Chinese and Canadian governments, signed in 1994. Its text will be finalised by the two countries' representatives over the next few months with a view to proceeding with the relevant adoption processes as soon as possible. Harper said the new protocol would help Canadian uranium companies to "substantially increase" exports to the fast-growing Chinese market.
According to a statement issued by Harper's office, the new protocol will be a legally binding instrument that will "govern and facilitate" the export of Canadian uranium to China, "supporting China's energy needs and Canada's long-term economic interests."
Although Canadian uranium company Cameco has signed long-term uranium supply deals with China in the past, trade restrictions have meant that it has had to source the material from non-Canadian operations. The new protocol, according to the governmental statement, will be in full accordance with Canadian nuclear non-proliferation policies and obligations, ensuring that uranium supplied by Canada to China will only be used for peaceful, civilian purposes.
Denise Carpenter, president and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Association, hailed the announcement as "good news for Canada's nuclear industry," saying the broadening of the existing Sino-Canadian agreement would mean hundreds of new jobs in Canada.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-More_Canadian_uranium_China-bound-1002127.html
4. Update 1-EDF and Areva Agree Long-Term Uranium Supply Deal
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French utility EDF and nuclear reactor maker Areva said they had agreed a long-term natural uranium supply deal covering more than 20,000 tons between 2014 and 2030.
The deal between the two state-owned companies extends the supply contract from Areva's existing mines and opens up the possibility of EDF part-funding the development of a new mining project in exchange for a share of its future production.
The French government last year asked the companies to strengthen their partnership.
Areva provides EDF with nearly 40 percent of its yearly requirements of natural uranium. "This partnership ... gives us long-term visibility and is fully consistent with our strategy to secure the uranium supplies of our nuclear power plants," EDF Chief Executive Henri Proglio said in a statement.
Also on Friday, EDF said it had made an offer to take over Photowatt, the only French maker of silicon-based solar cells, which was placed in receivership in November 2011. Photowatt controls 40 percent of PV Alliance, a research and development company in the field of photovoltaic technology, in which EDF already has a 40 percent stake.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/10/edf-areva-idUSL5E8DABKQ20120210
5. Iran: Ukrainian Experts Involved in Nuclear Program
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Ukrainian scientists are involved with the Iranian nuclear program as mentioned in statements by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iranian Ambassador to Ukraine Akbar Ghasemi-Aliabadi said, Segodnya reported Feb. 9. Aliabadi said the Ukrainian cooperation began during the Soviet era, adding that dozens of Ukrainian nuclear energy scientists and specialists are currently working with Iranian scientists at the Bushehr nuclear power plant.
Available at: http://www.stratfor.com/situation-report/iran-ukrainian-experts-involved-nuclear-program
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