More than 8 tonnes of water have leaked from Japan's stricken nuclear power plant after a frozen pipe burst inside a reactor buiding, but none of the water is thought to have escaped the complex, Kyodo news agency said on Thursday.
Kyodo, quoting the Fukushima plant's operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), said the water had leaked from the No.4 reactor when a pipe "dropped off" but that the liquid had all been contained inside the reactor building.
The plant, on the coast north of Tokyo, was wrecked by a huge earthquake and tsunami in March last year, triggering the evacuation of around 80,000 people in the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years. The major leak follows the discovery and plugging of smaller leaks at the same reactor last weekend. Kyodo quoted Tepco officials as saying the latest leak had been found late on Tuesday night and was stopped by closing a valve. The report did not make completely clear if the leaked water was radioactive but implied it, noting that water inside the No.4 reactor was being used to cool spent fuel rods.
"The total amount of leakage from the reactor was initially estimated to be 6 litres, but the utility revised the figure later Wednesday, adding that the leakage appears to have started at around 5 p.m. (0800 GMT) Monday," Kyodo said.
"The utility plans to check whether there are similar cases in the other crippled reactors," it added. Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/01/japan-nuclear-leak-idUSL4E8D18D020120201
2. IAEA Reports on Japan’s Nuclear Power Plant Safety Assessment Process
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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has delivered a Preliminary Summary Report to Japanese officials based on a review of Japan's process for assessing nuclear safety at its nuclear power plants.
On a request from the Japanese government, a ten-member IAEA expert mission completed the review on Tuesday.
During its nine-day mission, the IAEA team held meetings in Tokyo with officials from Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), the Japanese Nuclear Energy Safety Organization and the Kansai Electric Power Company. The experts visited the Ohi Nuclear Power Station to see an example of how Japan's Comprehensive Safety Assessment is being implemented by nuclear operators. "We concluded that NISA's instructions to power plants and its review process for the Comprehensive Safety Assessments are generally consistent with IAEA Safety Standards," said team leader James Lyons, Director of the IAEA's Nuclear Installation Safety Division.
The team found a number of good practices in Japan's review process and identified some improvements that would enhance the overall effectiveness of that process.
It noted that emergency safety measures were promptly addressed in Japanese nuclear power plants following the accident at Fukushima Daiichi in March last year.
NISA's practice of conducting an independent walkdown of emergency measures implemented at nuclear power plants enhances confidence that plants and operators can respond effectively during an emergency.
By observing European stress tests, NISA is demonstrating its commitment to improve Japanese nuclear safety by gaining experience from other countries, the report says. The IAEA team recommended that NISA should conduct additional meetings with interested parties near nuclear facilities that are subject to Comprehensive Safety Assessment.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog told Japan that there are areas that NISA could address more thoroughly, such as seismic safety margins and severe accident management. NISA has been asked to ensure that the Secondary Assessments are completed, evaluated and confirmed by regulatory review within an appropriate time-frame.
The expert mission will deliver its complete findings when it provides a final report to Japanese officials in "several weeks," IAEA said in a press release.
Available at: http://www.rttnews.com/1810097/iaea-reports-on-japan-s-nuclear-power-plant-safety-assessment-process.aspx?type=gn&utm_source=google&utm_campaign=sitemap
1. Japanese Atomic Agency Exposes Nuclear Accident in Beijing
Xiong Bin and Lan Zhu
The Epoch Times
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Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency said a nuclear reactor in suburban Beijing had an accident last October and has stopped operating since then. Chinese authorities did not report the accident.
The information was reported by Japanese media Sankei Shimbun on Jan. 25. It said the nuclear reactor was Russian-built at a military facility 38 miles west of Beijing. In October 2011, an accident took place in the building housing the power generator for the reactor, causing the reactor to stop running. The reactor does not have an outer container to stop radiation leakage, it said.
Based on the news, Chinese netizens have speculated that the reactor in question is the China Experimental Fast Reactor, located in Beijing’s Fangshan District, at the southwest corner of the China Institute of Atomic Energy.
The Japanese news report caused a public uproar in China and a quick official statement from the Chinese regime denying an accident. The Japan Atomic Energy Agency also later issued a statement, saying that its information was not obtained from official sources, and that it actually “does not have adequate information” on the reactor situation.
But the regime’s statement inspired little confidence in Chinese citizens. “The Chinese Communist Party hides the truth from the public, and it has the capability of concealing the truth completely. They cover up everything, and hence we know nothing,” Mr. Long, a Beijing resident told New Tang Dynasty (NTD) Television, a New York based broadcaster.
China has an ambitious nuclear power program that is shrouded in secrecy and has raised security concerns.
Presently China has at least 13 nuclear power plants in operation, most of them on the coast, with close to 30 units under construction and over 90 additional units in the planning stages. Li Xutong, a former researcher at China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, Center for Nuclear and Radiation Safety, told NTD that human error accounts for 80 percent of nuclear accidents. Hence, when China begins developing nuclear power on a large scale, what concerns the world most is quality control.
“Everything [in China] is politically oriented. As a result, the issue of safety may not be prioritized, and this is what worries us most,” Li said. In a first-of-its-kind Nuclear Materials Security Index released on Jan. 11 by the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative, China ranks 27 out of 32 countries with regard to transparency of nuclear security and safety measures.
A radiation leak on Oct. 23, 2010, at the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, and a subsequent cover-up by Chinese officials, angered Hong Kong residents and authorities. The reactor, which is located 28 miles northeast of Kowloon, Hong Kong, mainly produces power for Hong Kong and has had numerous problems during the past decade.
Available at: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/world/japanese-atomic-agency-exposes-nuclear-accident-in-beijing-184888.html
2. No Threat from Gas Leak at California Nuclear Plant, Feds Say
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A small amount of radioactive gas escaped from a steam generator at Southern California's San Onofre nuclear power plant during a water leak, but there was no threat to public health, federal regulators said Wednesday.
Operators shut down the plant's No. 3 reactor on Tuesday after the water leak was discovered, Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Victor Dricks said. The gas was vented from the steam generator into an auxiliary building, where it triggered a radiation monitor, he said.
The amount of gas that leaked was not immediately known, but it was a small amount that won't endanger the public or plant workers, Dricks said. He said the water leak was about six-hundredths of a gallon per minute, far below the levels required to declare an "unusual event" -- the lowest of four NRC alert levels.
NRC inspectors will conduct a follow-up review of the incident, Dricks said. The plant's owner, Southern California Edison, reported the problem Tuesday, but had no new comment on Wednesday. The water leak occurred in the thousands of tubes that carry heated water from the reactor core through the steam generator, a 65-foot-tall, 640-ton piece of equipment that boils water used to drive the unit's turbines. Though leaking tubes periodically occur in older units, Dricks said, Southern California Edison replaced the steam generators at San Onofre between 2009 and 2011.
Available at: http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/01/us/california-nuclear-shutdown/?hpt=us_c2
3. NRC Wants U.S. Nuclear Operators to Adopt New Seismic Model
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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Tuesday the agency wants nuclear plant operators in the central and eastern United States to use a new seismic model to reassess the potential for earthquakes in their area.
The study comes almost a year after the disaster in Japan in March when an earthquake and tsunami damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, causing reactor fuel meltdowns and radiation releases.
It also follows a magnitude 5.8 earthquake in August in Virginia that shut the two reactors at the North Anna nuclear power plant for about three months and a much smaller magnitude 3.2 earthquake Monday night that had no impact on the Virginia plant.
The study focused on the eastern and central parts of the United States because that area is considered a "stable continental region" where big earthquakes are rare. The study sponsors said nuclear sites in the western part of the country, where earthquakes are more common, will need to continue developing site-specific seismic models for their use.
The study, which gathered historical earthquake and geological data from 1568 through 2008, determined the largest potential earthquakes in the eastern and central parts of the country could occur near New Madrid, Missouri, and also in Charleston, South Carolina, where large magnitude seismic activity has occurred in the past.
There are no nuclear power plants within 100 miles of either city. The central and eastern United States however is home to 90 reactors, 22 potential new sites and five Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear facilities, the study said.
Some of the nation's biggest nuclear power operators include units of Exelon Corp, Entergy Corp, Duke Energy and Progress Energy.
Overall, there are 104 operating power reactors in the United States, providing about 20 percent of the nation's power, and proposals to build up to three dozen new reactors mostly in the eastern half of the country.
The four-year study cost about $7 million and was sponsored by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), which conducts research on issues related to the electric power industry, the DOE and the NRC.
Although the project sponsors said they did not undertake the new seismic study in response to the Fukushima or Virginia earthquakes in 2011, the NRC said its call for nuclear operators to re-evaluate seismic hazards was part of the agency's implementation of lessons learned from the events at Fukushima.
The new seismic model will replace previous models used by industry and government since the late 1980s.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/31/us-utilities-nrc-earthquakes-idUSTRE80U1OS20120131
1. Energy-Poor Albania Wants Nuclear Power Plant, Neighboring Montenegro Opposes
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The good news?
According to Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha, Albania has postponed its intention to build a nuclear power plant (NPP) in the Shkoder region near Albania’s border with Montenegro, until all issues concerning its potential impact on the environment and territory are fully assessed. The city of Shkoder is located near a lake of the same name, whose waters are divided between Albania and Montenegro.
On 26 January Berisha said after meeting with Montenegrin Prime Minister Igor Luksic, "Nuclear energy is the purest and cheapest, but the Fukushima nuclear plant case has imposed the need to revise this position," adding that the region around Lake Skoder, which was envisaged as a site for a nuclear plant, "is susceptible to tectonic changes" before concluding that the project would be postponed "until science gives its opinion and solves the existing dilemmas."
On the positive side?
Berisha and Luksic concluded an agreement on a highway connecting Plav and Podgorica, which will transit Albania.
But that’s not good enough for Montenegrin Deputy Tourism and Environment Minister Sinisa Stankovic, who in an interview with Radio Televizija Crne Gore noted that, "international documents bind countries which intend to build plants, which could in any way threaten the environment in a cross-border area, to secure the agreement of all potentially threatened states. Montenegro has said that it does not want to build nuclear plants on its territory, and logically, not in its neighborhood either. Albania does not have an interest to go into this without informing Montenegro, as it could have some damage rather than benefit from this."
The $5.3 billion, 1,500 megawatt Shkoder NPP has been on the drawing boards since 2009. The state-owned national utility, Hrvatska elektroprivreda (Croatian Electricity Company, or HEP) would be in charge of construction works and the majority of the power is due to be supplied to Croatia. Further irritating Montenegrin authorities over the project, said they received no offer to take part in the project of building a nuclear power plant on the piece of the Skadar Lake's coastline falling within its territory.
Albania has been interested in developing nuclear power for a half-decade, as in December 2007 the government discussed constructing a NPP in Durres. Besides meeting Albania’s domestic energy demands, the plan foresaw electricity export to neighboring Balkan countries and Italy via an underwater cable, which would link the Italian and Albanian electricity networks.
What impelled the sudden interest? A drought that had lasted for months, causing Albania to endure energy shortages because of its effect on the country's hydroelectric power plants, its main source of electricity. Authorities had to ration electricity to an average of four hours per day, introduce power cuts for consumers and state institutions and order many companies to work at night when power consumption was lower.
The previous month Berisha said at an investment conference on 11 November 2007, "Our main goal is to make Albania an energy superpower in the region," adding that he instructed lawyers to prepare a legal framework for the introduction of nuclear energy in Albania before concluding, "I am convinced that nuclear energy is the most stable and the cleanest sort of energy."
Berisha’s rampant enthusiasm for nuclear power was not shared by Albanian Power Corp. head Gjergj Bojaxhi, who observed, “Our company lacks the human capital necessary for the management of such a venture. For such a project to be considered feasible, a foreign company would have to step in.”
Albania’s interest in nuclear power quickened when in April 2009 Croatian officials confirmed that an agreement was concluded with Albania for the construction of a joint nuclear facility near the Montenegrin border. Croatian Economy Ministry spokesman Tomislav Mazal told Podgorica television station Vijesti that the two governments had formed a working group of five experts each tasked with the technical implementation of this major project. First U.S. nuclear firm Westinghouse and then Italian utility Enel were touted as possible partners for the construction and operation of an Albanian NPP. Zana Gonxholi, an economic adviser to the Albanian government, added that a Franco-Swiss consortium had prepared a plan for a nuclear plant at Drac on the north coast.
Furthering the interest, in January 2010 Albania's government approved the creation of the Agjencia Kombetare Berthamore (National Atomic Agency) to supervise the development of nuclear projects. Albanian Nuclear Energy Program coordinator Milo Kuneshka said, "Producing nuclear energy in Albania is a real prospect, although we are in the early phase of the process. Our first focus is to establish the legal framework, at the same time working on other plans to expedite the process." Heightening Montenegrin concerns, on 14 - 15 July 2011 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano visited Albania, meeting with top government officials to discuss Albania's ongoing cooperation with the IAEA in the fields of technical assistance, nuclear safety and security.
So, why is Montenegro throwing such a hissy fit over the proposed Albanian NPP? For a start, Montenegro, home to just 625,000 people, for over 20 years has assiduously sought to be regarded as a ‘green state” protecting the environment, declaring itself an "ecological state" in 1990 and banning construction of nuclear facilities five years later. Now Podgorica is promoting the appeal of its pristine landscapes to make tourism a pillar of its economy, a scenario which hardly includes “nuclear tourism.”
And the future?
Cash-poor Albania has positioned itself as being "open to partnership" with any government interested in its NPP, as Tirana has made it clear that it does not have the money to launch the project alone. Accordingly, Montenegro’s pristine landscapes may yet remain pristine for a while longer.
Available at: http://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Nuclear-Power/Energy-Poor-Albania-Wants-Nuclear-Power-Plant-Neighboring-Montenegro-Opposes.html
2. Update 1- France Must Extend Nuclear Reactor Lifespans-Audit
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France has no option but to extend the lifespan of existing nuclear plants, because any investments in new nuclear capacity or an increase in its reliance on other forms of energy would be too costly and come too late, the French Court of Audit said.
The French independent government body, which is charged with conducting financial and legislative audits, said in a report that a lack of investment decisions to build new reactors meant there were few choices left.
"In the absence of investment decisions, an implicit decision has already been made that commits France either to prolong the reactors' lifespan beyond 40 years or to quickly change the energy mix, which implies more investment," said the report on the costs of the French nuclear power sector. By the end of 2022, 22 out the 58 reactors in France, the world's most nuclear-reliant country, will have been in operation for 40 years.
The report, published on Tuesday, said that if the reactors' lifespan was limited to 40 years, this would mean having to build 11 new-generation reactors by 2022. "Putting in place such an investment programme in the short term is highly unlikely, even impossible," it said.
Greenpeace said the failure to make any investment decisions in the past is resulting at higher financial costs and putting the population at risk.
The failure to invest is "in total contempt of the nuclear safety authority (ASN), which is the only authority entitled to decide whether to extend the lifespan of reactors," said Sophia Majnoni, who is in charge of nuclear at Greenpeace France.
State-owned utility EDF, which operates all of France's reactors, has said it aims to extend their lifespan to 60 years, but there is no official limit to their functioning. The bulk of French reactors were built in the 1980s and 1990s.
The Court of Audit also said that to maintain the current level of electricity production, heavy investments would be needed in the short and medium term, including a doubling of maintenance investments, which would in turn push production costs up by 10 percent.
The Court recommended that the choice of the future of the energy mix should not be made in an implicit manner but that a strategy should be explicitly elaborated, debated and adopted. French energy minister Eric Besson said in a Twitter post that even if the costs of nuclear power rose by 10 percent, it would remain the cheapest form of energy after hydro-power.
The Court of Audit said French nuclear companies, including Areva and EDF, had taken into account all costs related to nuclear energy but that there was still a great deal of uncertainty regarding future costs.
"This uncertainty cannot be lifted for the moment, because we have not gone through the concrete experience of dismantling reactors or putting in place the deep burial of radioactive waste," Didier Migaud, the head of the Court of Audit, told a news briefing.
France's nuclear energy waste management agency (ANDRA) pegged future costs for storage at 35 billion euros in 2010, up from 15 billion euros in 2005, with a new cost level to be announced at the end of 2012.
EDF's investments costs to upgrade the reactions could reach 3.7 billion euros per year, including work imposed by ASN earlier this month to prevent a nuclear disaster such as Japan's Fukushima accident, the report added.
The report's conclusions echo a leaked draft government study on Monday, which 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.
The leaked government study on energy scenarios for France until 2050, due to be published in its final form on Feb. 13, shows that such extensions would cost 680 million to 860 million euros per reactor. That would compare to the roughly 5-6 billion euros ($6.56-$7.87 billion) it would cost to build a new-generation reactor such as the 1,600 megawatt EPR reactor constructed by state-controlled Areva. The Court of Audit report, commissioned by Prime Minister Francois Fillon in May 2011, comes as France's reliance on nuclear power has become part of the country's presidential campaign in the aftermath of Japan's nuclear disaster in March.
While the ruling UMP party plans to maintain the country's nuclear share of 75 percent in the electricity mix, the highest in the world, socialist candidate Francois Hollande said he would bring down that share to 50 percent by 2025.
Hollande, campaigning against President Nicolas Sarkozy, has said that if elected he would close France's oldest plant, Fessenheim, toning down earlier plans as part of a pact with the Green party to shut 24 reactors by 2025.
The Fessenheim plant, one of 19 across the country, houses two 900-megawatt reactors. France first opted for a full-blown nuclear energy programme with minimal public debate after the first oil crisis in 1974 and continued to support nuclear power after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/31/nuclear-france-report-idUSL5E8CV46820120131
3. Charlotte Company Prepares to Build Nation’s First Nuclear Plants in 3 Decades
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The long and winding road of America's nuclear renaissance runs down South Tryon Street on its way to the first U.S. power plants to be built in a generation.
Headquartered one block off the Square in Charlotte, N.C., Shaw's Power Group shares contracts with Westinghouse to build two additional reactors at both the Summer nuclear plant northwest of Columbia and at the Vogtle plant in eastern Georgia.
No U.S. nuclear construction permit has been granted since 1978, and the industry's history is riddled with cost overruns and plant cancellations. Demand for electricity has stagnated as the economy soured, and investors have hesitated to back nuclear projects. The reactor meltdowns in Japan last March stunned the world, prompting some nations to shut down their plants or ditch plans for new ones.
Against that backdrop, utilities, regulators, investors and power engineering competitors will have all eyes on the $9.8 billion Summer and $14 billion Vogtle projects.
Available at: http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/01/29/1816412/charlotte-company-prepares-to.html
1. North Korea Opens Door to Talks with South Korea
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North Korea is open to immediate talks with rival South Korea if Seoul responds to several preconditions for dialogue, a North Korean military official told The Associated Press on Thursday. But Ri Son Gwon, a colonel working for the Policy Department of the North's powerful National Defense Commission, also challenged South Korea to "state to the world whether it honestly intends to enter into dialogue with us."
The comments came a day after a senior U.S. diplomat said that Washington is open to settling a nuclear standoff with North Korea through diplomacy if Pyongyang first improves ties with Seoul. "The South speaks loudly of dialogue in public, but behind the scenes it also says it cannot shake the principles that plunged North-South Korean ties into complete deadlock," Ri said in an interview in Pyongyang.
"If clear answers are given, dialogue will resume immediately," said Ri, dressed in an olive green military uniform. "The resumption of dialogue and the improvement of relations hinge completely on the willingness of the South's government."
In the form of an "open questionnaire," the North's defense commission also laid out nine points for South Korea to respond to, including ending U.S.-South Korean military drills. The statement, however, backed away from earlier vows to shun Seoul's conservative leader.
South Korea quickly called the statement "unreasonable," but its timing and the change in tone after weeks of Pyongyang refusing to talk with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak could signal a willingness to ease tensions, analysts said.
The North's defense commission also said South Korea should apologize for failing to show proper respect to Kim Jong Il during the mourning period that followed the late leader's Dec. 17 death. It also posed questions about Seoul stopping criticism of Pyongyang over two deadly 2010 attacks blamed on North Korea, and following through on previous agreements that call for South Korean investments in the North.
The North also said U.S.-South Korean military drills must end. "It does not make sense to sit face to face with (an) enemy carrying a dagger by the belt and talk about peace," the North's statement said. Pyongyang calls the drills a rehearsal for war. A round of military exercises by the allies are to start later this month.
South Korea has called for dialogue with new North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But South Korea's Unification Ministry released a statement Thursday saying it regrets the North's "unreasonable claims as part of its propaganda at an important juncture for peace" and "does not feel the need to respond to these questions put forth by North Korea one by one." Still, the North's statement is "a bit of an olive branch" when contrasted with its previous promises to ignore Seoul, said John Delury, an assistant professor at Yonsei University's Graduate School of International Studies in South Korea.
The North, he said, could be acknowledging a message relayed by Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell during a trip to Seoul this week that Washington favors a diplomatic solution to a North Korean nuclear standoff, but only if Pyongyang improves ties with Seoul. Pyongyang has suggested a willingness to negotiate with the United States. But "the statement is meant primarily to pull the fig leaf off the South Korean government's claims that it is open to dialogue," Delury said. "Pyongyang is trying to call Seoul's bluff by claiming South Korea is the intransigent one."
Campbell, in comments in Vietnam on Thursday, said he wasn't aware of the North's statement because he had been in meetings. "We've communicated directly to them that our expectation will be that if they want a better relationship with the international community that they will need to establish better ties between the North and the South," he said.
Pyongyang conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 and has developed missiles with the potential to attack its neighbors and possibly reach the United States.
In 2010, a South Korean warship exploded in disputed waters, killing 46 people. South Korea said the North torpedoed the warship; the North denies the allegation. North Korea that year also fired artillery shells at a front-line South Korean island, killing four people. Pyongyang says a South Korean live-fire drill triggered the bombardment.
North Korea has pressed for the resumption of aid-for-nuclear disarmament talks that have been stalled since early 2009; Washington and Seoul have said Pyongyang must first follow through on previous nuclear commitments.
In late December, the North's defense commission warned South Korea and the rest of the world not to expect any change from North Korea after Kim's death and said it would never deal with Lee's conservative government, which ended a noings-attached aid policy to the North after taking power in 2008.
Thursday's statement called Lee a "traitor," but it didn't repeat earlier pledges to never talk with Seoul. "It appears North Korea is cooling off after being infuriated at South Korea during the mourning period for Kim Jong Il," said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea professor at Seoul's Dongguk University. "North Korea understands its relations with South Korea should improve for progress in its relations with the United States."
The Korean peninsula is still technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.
Available at: http://www.ajc.com/news/nation-world/north-korea-opens-door-1327478.html
Senior U.N. nuclear inspectors plan another trip to Iran later this month after holding what both sides described as good talks on the Islamic state's disputed atomic program.
The Jan 29-31 talks in Tehran were a rare direct dialogue in the long-running international stand-off, which has worsened in recent weeks as the West pursues a punitive embargo on Iranian oil and Tehran threatens retaliation.
"The Agency is committed to intensifying dialogue. It remains essential to make progress on substantive issues," Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in a statement.
Tehran says its uranium enrichment program is solely for peaceful electricity generation and has dismissed allegations that it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons as baseless. Led by the U.N. agency's global head of inspections, the IAEA team returned on Wednesday from three days of meetings in Iran to try to end three years of deadlock in efforts to resolve the questions about Tehran's nuclear work.
The fact both sides said talks would resume suggested the round just completed at least created some basis for progress.
"We are committed to resolve all the outstanding issues and the Iranians said they are committed too," Herman Nackaerts, IAEA deputy director general, told reporters after returning from Tehran. "But of course there is still a lot of work to be done and so we have planned another trip in the very near future."
Asked if he was satisfied with the talks, Nackaerts said: "Yeah, we had a good trip." He described the talks as "intensive discussions" with their Iranian counterparts but declined to give any more details, saying he first needed to brief his boss, Amano.
Later, the IAEA issued a brief statement saying another meeting would take place from Feb 21-22 in Tehran.
The U.N. agency said it had explained to Iran its "concerns and identified its priorities, which focus on the clarification of possible military dimensions" to Iran's nuclear program. "The IAEA also discussed with Iran the topics and initial steps to be taken, as well as associated modalities," it said.
Western diplomats based in Vienna, the IAEA's headquarters, said the jury was still out on whether the mission accomplished anything concrete.
"This visit will be judged by whether the Iranians provided the visiting IAEA team with cooperation on substantive issues. Anything short of that type of cooperation is not acceptable," one envoy said. Proliferation expert Mark Fitzpatrick described Nackaerts' statement about more meetings as a positive sign.
"The IAEA would not be scheduling another trip unless they had an expectation of progress in clearing away at least some of the questions about suspicious past nuclear activity," said Fitzpatrick, a director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. In Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi also said more talks would be needed but did not say when.
"We had very good meetings and we planned to continue these negotiations. The team had some questions about the claimed studies. One step has been taken forward," he told the semi- official Fars news agency in Tehran.
By "studies," Salehi was alluding to intelligence reports indicating that Iran has covertly researched ways to design a nuclear weapon - Western allegations that were backed up by a detailed IAEA report in November.
Salehi added: "We were ready to show them our nuclear facilities, but they didn't ask for it." Lower-level IAEA inspectors based in Iran have regular, if limited, access to Iran's declared nuclear installations.
Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, had already announced Iran's readiness to hold talks with world powers.
"I hope this meeting takes place in the not too distant future," Salehi said. Western diplomats have often accused Iran of using offers of dialogue as a stalling tactic while it presses ahead with stockpiling enriched uranium, the key energy source in nuclear power plants or bombs, depending on the level of refinement.
They say they doubt whether Tehran will show the kind of concrete cooperation the IAEA wants. The IAEA made clear before the visit it wanted to focus on its growing concerns of possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program. Among others, its team included French nuclear weapons expert Jacques Baute, one diplomat said.
Olli Heinonen, Nackaerts' predecessor at the IAEA, said it would take time to resolve all outstanding issues but that coming weeks would show whether Iran was ready to take "pragmatic steps" to address international concerns.
"It is of great importance that the IAEA experts will have unfettered access to information, sites, equipment and people, who have been involved in the military-related activities," Heinonen, now at Harvard University, said.
Friction between Iran and the West has worsened this year after the United States and the European Union imposed sanctions targeting Tehran's oil sector over its continued defiance of U.N. resolutions demanding it suspend enrichment, grant unfettered access to the IAEA and engage in negotiations. Iran has been open to resuming talks with six world powers frozen for over a year but only to discuss broader international issues, not its nuclear program.
The new Western measures take direct aim at the ability of OPEC's second-biggest oil exporter to sell its crude. Iran has threatened to cut off oil exports to EU countries before July 1, when the sanctions would take full effect.
U.S. intelligence chiefs told legislators in testimony on Tuesday that Iran is feeling the bite from sanctions and that its nuclear program is now capable of yielding a weapon although Tehran had not yet decided on such a course.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/01/us-iran-iaea-idUSTRE8100M220120201
3. Lavrov to Discuss Space, Nuclear Cooperation in Australia
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will discuss bilateral cooperation in high-tech industries, including space and nuclear power, during his one-day working visit to Australia on Tuesday. The visit marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries. “Moscow regards Australia as an important and prospective partner in the fast-developing Asia-Pacific region,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
During the visit, Lavrov will meet with Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, Defense Minister Stephen Smith, as well as with a host of businessmen and members of Russian community in Australia. The talks with Australian officials will focus on bilateral cooperation in nuclear power, space and mining industries, information technologies and agriculture, the ministry said.
Russia and Australia signed a peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement in September 2007. Australia, the global leader in uranium production, agreed to supply fuel to Russia for conversion and use in its nuclear reactors.
Available at: http://en.ria.ru/russia/20120131/171037702.html
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