1. North Korea-U.S. Deal Revives Hopes of Nuclear Disarmament Talks
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North Korea has agreed with the United States to suspend major elements of its atomic weapons program in a surprise breakthrough that could pave the way for the resumption of long-stalled nuclear disarmament talks with the secretive state.
But the announcement, made simultaneously on Wednesday in Pyongyang and Washington and accompanied by pledges of U.S. food aid, was met with very guarded optimism by analysts and diplomats who noted that efforts to defuse tensions on the divided Korean peninsula had seen many false dawns.
"These are concrete measures that we consider a positive first step toward complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
But U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it "a modest first step in the right direction," adding that Washington continued to have profound concerns over a range of North Korean activities.
North Korea said it would suspend nuclear tests, long-range missile launches and enrichment of uranium at its Yongbyon nuclear facility and allow back international nuclear inspectors. It was not clear how much access inspectors would be allowed nor whether all of its nuclear weapons program would be suspended.
The move comes two months after the young Kim Jong-un took over the family dynasty that has ruled the isolated North since its founding and which has for years relied on the threat of a nuclear arsenal to give it some leverage in its dealings with the outside world.
But the policy has also left it heavily sanctioned by the international community and sapped an already crumbling economy.
China, which hosted the U.S.-North Korean talks that led to the latest deal and is the North's only powerful backer, welcomed the agreement on Thursday and said it would work to restart the long-delayed six-party disarmament talks.
"China is willing to strive with all other concerned parties to continue advancing the six-party talks process, playing a constructive role in achieving the lasting peace and stability of the peninsula and of northeast Asia," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement.
The on-off disarmament talks, which last broke down in 2008, involve the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia. Pyongyang expelled U.N. nuclear inspectors in 2009. J apan, a close U.S. ally, echoed China's comments, saying the environment for six-party talks was improving, but it also joined with U.S. officials in stressing the North now had to follow through with action.
Analysts cautioned that Pyongyang had reneged repeatedly on past deals, but its latest move marked a sharp change in course, at least outwardly, by its reclusive leadership after the death in December of Kim's father, veteran leader Kim Jong-il.
U.S. officials said persistence and patience were needed.
"The truth is we've been around the six-party block before. It has a history of ups and downs, sometimes more downs than ups," one U.S. official said. "We can't allow the same patterns of the past to repeat themselves."
Along with suspending weapons activities, North Korea said it would permit inspectors from the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit its Yongbyon nuclear complex to verify the moratorium on uranium enrichment has been enforced.
The State Department said that in return, the United States was ready to go ahead with a proposed 240,000 tonnes in food aid requested by North Korea and that more aid could be agreed.
The IAEA said it was ready to return, calling the moratorium deal "an important step forward". South Korea too welcomed the announcement, saying it could be the basis for a broader nuclear agreement.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he hoped North Korea would move towards verifiable denuclearization of the peninsula.
"The Secretary-General also stresses the urgency of meeting the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable people in (North Korea)," his spokesman Martin Nesirky said in a statement.
The U.S. decision to resume food aid was a gesture toward Pyongyang, which has sought international help to cope with chronic food shortages.
It halted food aid to North Korea in 2009 in a dispute over transparency and monitoring, compounding problems that have followed a crippling famine in the 1990s that killed an estimated one million people. The North has been accused in the past of siphoning off aid to feed its army, one of the world's largest, or even exporting it.
This time, the food aid will be aimed at alleviating chronic malnutrition among young children, pregnant women and other vulnerable people, U.S. officials said.
The surprise announcement was a step forward for Washington's campaign to rein in renegade nuclear programs around the world and comes as the Obama administration steps up pressure on Iran over its nuclear ambitions, which western governments fear are aimed at producing nuclear weapons. It also comes several weeks before U.S. President Barack Obama visits Seoul for a nuclear security summit in March.
Jack Pritchard, a former U.S. negotiator with North Korea who heads the Korea Economic Institute, said he believed it was unlikely that Pyongyang's young and untested new leader Kim Jong-un was ready to comply with demands that he scrap the entire nuclear program. "How does a 28-year-old give up the only legitimate piece of leverage that he has in dealing with the superpowers to preserve the survivability of his regime? He's not going to do that."
Daniel Pinkston of the International Crisis Group think tank said it was likely there were other uranium enrichment facilities than Yongbyon for military use. He cited intelligence reports that there are two or three such facilities.
"The fact Yongbyon was built so quickly, and is so sophisticated, suggests it is not the first time they have built such a facility."
The announcement followed talks between the United States and North Korea last week in Beijing, the first such meeting since Kim Jong-un succeeded his father as leader.
North Korea agreed to curtail its nuclear activities under an aid-for-denuclearization agreement reached in September 2005, but the embryonic deal was never fully implemented.
Instead, the North held two nuclear test blasts -- in 2006 and 2009 -- and later disclosed a uranium enrichment program, giving it a second path to obtaining fissile material for bombs, in addition to its long-standing program of producing plutonium.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/01/us-korea-north-usa-talks-idUSTRE81S13R20120301
2. U.N. Nuclear Agency "Ready to Return" to North Korea
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The U.N. nuclear watchdog stands ready to return to North Korea, its chief said, after the reclusive state agreed to stop nuclear tests and uranium enrichment and let inspectors visit its Yongbyon site to verify the moratorium.
"The agency has an essential role to play in verifying (North Korea's) nuclear program," Director General Yukiya Amano of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement. "Pending further details, we stand ready to return to Yongbyon to undertake monitoring activities upon request and with the agreement of the agency's Board of Governors."
The Vienna-based agency's 35-nation governing board is due to meet next week for a regular quarterly meeting.
IAEA inspectors were expelled from North Korea in 2009.
Wednesday's announcement, made simultaneously by the U.S. State Department and North Korea's official news agency, paves the way for the possible resumption of six-party disarmament negotiations with Pyongyang and follows talks between U.S. and North Korean diplomats in Beijing last week.
It also appears to mark a significant policy shift by North Korea's leadership following the death in December of veteran leader Kim Jong-il - although analysts cautioned that Pyongyang has backtracked repeatedly on past deals.
The IAEA's Amano, a Japanese diplomat, called the U.S. statement about its recent talks with North Korea "an important step forward."
In an interview last year, Amano told Reuters that his inspectors could return "quite quickly" to North Korea once the parties in the dispute reached an understanding on the issue.
The IAEA is believed to have a team of inspectors who are specialized on North Korea and prepared to go there at short notice. Dozens of its inspectors have past experience of working in the Asian state. Allowing IAEA staff to travel to North Korea may help address international concerns about Pyongyang's atomic aims, but analysts have in the past voiced doubt the North would grant the U.N. agency full access to nuclear facilities.
The Yongbyon complex is at the heart of North Korea's plutonium weapons program. It includes a reprocessing plant where weapons-grade material is extracted from spent fuel rods. In late 2010, foreign experts said North Korean officials had shown them what they said was a uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon, potentially offering a second path to make bombs.
To be sure no material is diverted for military purposes, analysts said inspectors would need unfettered access to all uranium enrichment activities. This would usually mean frequent inspections, video cameras and special seals at such sites.
It was unclear how much access IAEA inspectors would really get if they could return. North Korea has limited their oversight in the past.
The secretive state kicked out international inspectors in 2002 after seals placed on key parts of the Yongbyon plant as a 1994 deal between Pyongyang and Washington unraveled.
It expelled inspectors again in April 2009 after rejecting the intrusive inspections agreed under a 2005 nuclear-disarmament-for-aid deal with five regional powers that allowed watchdogs to return.
Former IAEA chief inspector Olli Heinonen said by email that although the announcement was a positive step, North Korea "has still to place all nuclear material and facilities under the IAEA safeguards."
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/29/us-usa-nkorea-iaea-idUSTRE81S1JT20120229
The U.N. nuclear watchdog believes unspecified "activities" may be taking place at Iran's Parchin military facility that make its request to visit the site more urgent, Western diplomats said on Wednesday. It was unclear whether the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) thought Iran might be trying to clean the site or conceal something ahead of a possible visit by inspectors.
The Vienna-based U.N. agency has asked for access to Parchin as part of its probe into suspicions Iran may be seeking nuclear weapons capability, but Tehran has not granted it.
Diplomats who attended a closed-door briefing on Iran's nuclear program by senior IAEA officials including chief inspector Herman Nackaerts on Wednesday said the U.N. agency was monitoring the site southeast of Tehran via satellite images.
One Western envoy said "some of the reports we have heard about possible sanitation" of the Parchin facility were "very concerning."
"It is very clear that Iran doesn't want the agency to go to Parchin because it has something to hide," he said.
The IAEA asked to visit the military complex after issuing a report in November that suggested Iran was pursuing military nuclear technology, an allegation Tehran denies.
The report helped trigger the latest round of U.S. and European sanctions on Iran and bolstered hawkish politicians in Israel and the United States calling for pre-emptive military strikes on Iran's military sites.
Despite talks with Nackaerts's team in January and February, Iran has not agreed to the request to access Parchin.
The report said the IAEA had information that Iran had built a large containment chamber there to conduct high-explosives tests which, it said, were "strong indicators of possible weapon development."
Another diplomat present at the briefing in Vienna quoted Nackaerts as saying there "may be some ongoing activities at Parchin which add urgency to why we want to go." Nackaerts was reportedly asked by one of the diplomats present whether Iran might be trying to clean the Parchin site.
The IAEA was not immediately available for comment.
Iran's envoy to the U.N. agency earlier said his country had not refused access to Parchin during the talks with the IAEA.
"We are not ruling out access," Ali Asghar Soltanieh told reporters, suggesting it may happen once a broader agreement had been reached on how to address the IAEA's questions.
Soltanieh also dismissed statements by Western diplomats that the negotiations with the IAEA had been a failure, insisting that "substantial progress" was made and that the discussions should continue. In Iran, a senior official said it was up to the military to decide if U.N. inspectors would be allowed to visit Parchin.
The official IRNA news agency quoted Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, as saying that IAEA inspectors could in theory visit Parchin "whenever they want." But it then quoted him as saying: "Whether or not IAEA inspectors can visit Parchin will be a decision for the country's military officials."
He said his own organization was under no obligation "to show them anywhere they ask to visit in the country."
Suspicions about activities at the Parchin complex date back to at least 2004, when a prominent nuclear expert said satellite images showed it might be a site for research and testing relevant to nuclear weapons.
U.N. inspectors did in fact visit Parchin in 2005. But they did not see the place where the IAEA now believes the explosives chamber was built.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/29/us-nuclear-iran-idUSTRE81S1BM20120229
2. Clinton: Internal Power Struggle in Iran Over Nuclear Weapons
Voice of America
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that there is an internal power struggle in Iran over the country's pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Secretary Clinton says the U.S. intelligence community believes Iran has not yet decided to produce a nuclear weapon, in part, because there are deep-seated disagreements among its leaders about whether it is the right thing to do.
“There is a continuing debate going on inside the Iranian regime," said Clinton. "And it's an especially complicated debate for anybody on the outside, and I dare say some people who are on the inside, to understand because there is a lot of power struggle going on. There are personality clashes.”
Clinton says that internal debate over the future of Iran's nuclear program includes members of the clergy, the Revolutionary Guard, the parliament and the presidency, leading to what she calls “a lot of static” in intelligence reporting on Tehran's atomic ambitions.
Much of the internal opposition to nuclear weapons comes from a fatwa issued by the late Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri. A leader of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, Montazeri ruled that Islamic law forbids the development and use of nuclear weapons.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful civilian purposes. Clinton says there is no doubt that Iran has the right to develop such a peaceful civilian program. But she told U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday that there is no doubt that much of what has been discovered by United Nations inspectors “points to the direction of a nuclear weapons program.”
The United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany are considering Iran's response to a request to resume talks over its nuclear program. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton says she is cautious and optimistic that Iran might be ready to begin substantive talks.
There is added pressure to make progress on the issue as Israel reportedly considers preemptive military action to remove what it considers an Iranian threat.
Clinton says the international community is pursuing a dual track of intense pressure and a willingness to engage in talks.
“I want to gather as much information, not only about actions, but [also] about intentions," she said. "We have very deep, ongoing consultations with Israel, with the [Persian] Gulf Arabs, with the Europeans, with others. There isn't anybody of any stature in the world in any government that really is not concerned about what the Iranians are doing.”
Clinton says tougher U.S. sanctions against Iran are having an economic effect. As the world's third-largest exporter of crude oil, Iran is a major supplier for China, Japan and India as well as the European Union.
The United States is working with its European and Asian allies to dry up Iran's oil market because, they say, Tehran is using those profits to support its nuclear program.
Available at: http://www.voanews.com/english/news/Clinton-Internal-Poweruggle-in-Iran-Over-Nuclear-Weapons-140784443.html
3. Iran Nuclear Talks With Six-Nation Group of Powers Set to Be Agreed
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A new round of nuclear negotiations with Iran is likely to be agreed in the next few days when diplomats from six major powers hammer out a common response to Tehran's offer to resume contacts, official sources said on Tuesday.
The diplomats from the UK, US, France, Russia, China and Germany have agreed in principle to accept the Iranian offer, spelt out in a letter from Tehran's chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, on 14 February. Sources said that although there are no high expectations of a breakthrough, there was a growing consensus that every peaceful avenue should be explored in the hope of avoiding a new conflict in the Middle East.
"We have to use every opportunity to test Iran's willingness to talk," a European diplomat said. After talks between the political directors of the six powers, it is hoped an official response, probably offering to meet in Turkey in March, will be ready this week. It will be issued by Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief who acts as the group's coordinator. Ashton has said she is cautiously optimistic about the resumption of talks.
"And then all the things that come from that: where we're going to talk, what the talks will consist of … and what we need to do, what steps we need to take to move forward. So that is being discussed now, the political directors will meet me very shortly in order to tell me the results of those discussions and then we'll move forward from there," Ashton said on Monday. "I'll be in touch then with Iran." The stakes and pressures at any new round of talks will be extremely high, as they will take place against a backdrop of worsening tensions, a military build-up in the Gulf and constant speculation that Israel may be planning air strikes against Iran's nuclear sites, which the west believes are designed to give Iran the capacity to make weapons.
Tehran says its programme is entirely peaceful, and has defied repeated demands from the UN security council to suspend the most controversial element, the enrichment or uranium. Unless new negotiations can break the deadlock, Iran will face an EU oil embargo in July and US financial sanctions against its oil trade at about the same time.
Diplomats said there was significant western scepticism over Iranian intentions, particularly from Paris. The last set of talks, in Istanbul in January 2011, were widely seen as a fiasco. Jalili refused to discuss uranium enrichment or negotiate confidence-building measures, including the exchange of Iranian enriched uranium for foreign-made fuel rods. Since then, Iran has said it would only resume talks if all sanctions were lifted and enrichment was taken off the agenda.
Furthermore, two visits to Tehran in the past month by UN weapons inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) failed to win Iranian cooperation on unanswered questions over past Iranian research work which the agency says could be related to the development of nuclear weapons. The inspectors also found that Iran had tripled its production of 20% enriched uranium, which is of particularly concern because it would be relatively easy to turn into weapons-grade material.
European diplomats said the six-nation group of powers was discouraged by the outcome of the IAEA mission but decided not to allow it to prevent broader negotiations.
Ashton's office has spoken to Jalili's deputy, Ali Bagheri, in an effort to clarify some of the outstanding questions about the Iranian letter, and a consensus is emerging in western capitals that the mention of the nuclear programme in the document does reflect a significant advance, signalling the dropping of Iran's preconditions for talks.
"If that turns out not to be the case, then the next talks will be over pretty quickly," a diplomat said.
Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/feb/28/iran-nuclear-talks-six-nation-group
1. India Conference Confirms Commitment to Nuclear Future
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A New Delhi conference last week reaffirmed India’s commitment to nuclear energy. The country’s new limited liability rules for resolving risk impediments for uranium producers and equipment suppliers in the case of a serious accident at an Indian nuclear power plant should see a positive outcome for uranium producers.
Presently, as much as 50 percent of India’s 1.2 billion citizens do not have access to electricity. A rapidly growing economy has placed a heavy demand on energy sources and electric power, but while reforms to improve efficiency and competitiveness in the power sector have been developing over several years, a continuing power access shortage is a major constriction for industrial capacity. India only consumes the sixth-highest amount of electricity despite being the second most populous country in the world. As a comparison, this represents only 8.5 percent more electricity than Canada, which as a country consumed the seventh-largest amount of electricity in the world. On a per capita basis, the average Canadian consumes 32 times as much electricity as an Indian citizen.
Introducing nuclear power on such a large scale represents a greener policy for India. Currently as much as 56 percent of the country’s energy solution is reliant on coal burning operations. The growing expectation for energy demand and population forecasts give insight into the significant challenges posed for a country with a massive population and concern for secure, safe, and reliable sources of energy.
The objective for India is to supply as much as 25 percent of its electricity through nuclear power by 2050. The country generates approximately 2.9 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, so future demand on global uranium and nuclear industry expertise will be considerable. A forecast from the International Energy Agency indicates that India will be adding between 600 and 1,200 GW of additional new power generation capacity to meet targets for 2050. The country expects to import light-water reactors in order to supplement a domestic three-stage fuel cycle that will eventually bring in thorium to complement current uranium-fuelled units.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has made efforts to change the country’s current policy, which does not permit uranium sales to India. As the policy change is still in its infancy, it will require a special safeguards framework and bilateral treaty to be developed between Australia and India. The arrangement will continue to evolve over time, and India will be sourcing supplies from other countries as the relationship progresses. Australia already produces approximately eleven percent of the world’s supply of uranium, and reducing trade impediments with India should see increased interest in the country’s uranium assets.
The increase in demand and the inevitable supply deficit should benefit major producers by increasing both uranium prices and interest in the broader uranium industry. With the value of underlying uranium deposits being recognized by the market, junior mining exploration companies will also benefit considerably. Major exploration budgets will increase, with interest and capital investment likely reflecting higher valuations for junior exploration companies and a growing appetite for merger and acquisition activity.
India is expecting to commission a new uranium mine and related processing plant in the very near future. The Mouldih mine could produce up to 500 tonnes of uranium ore per day. The ore will be processed at the Turamdih mill, which has the capacity to process 3,000 tonnes of uranium ore per day.
Recognizing the importance and opportunity of the emerging nuclear market, in the fall of 2009, uranium giant Cameco established an office in India in order to build a presence within the country’s nuclear community.
Available at: http://www.businessinsider.com/india-conference-confirms-commitment-to-nuclear-future-2012-2
2. Mexico Should Turn to More Nuclear Power, Herrera Says
Carlos Manuel Rodriguez
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Mexico should turn to nuclear power to reach renewable energy goals and could “easily” build two more reactors at its Laguna Verde plant, Energy Minister Jordy Herrera said.
“It’s time to put nuclear power on the table,” Herrera said during an event in Mexico City today. The ministry is recommending expanding nuclear capacity as part of its strategic energy plan through 2026. Mexico, one of three Latin American nations that use nuclear power, has delayed for over three years a decision on building nuclear plants as lower natural-gas prices make the energy source less attractive.
The country operates a 1,360-megawatt nuclear plant in Laguna Verde, Veracruz state. In an interview Nov. 1, Herrera said Mexico’s rising gas reserves made the fossil fuel a cost- effective option over nuclear power.
To implement the ministry’s recommendations to increase Laguna Verde’s capacity, the government would need to find funding for Comision Federal de Electricidad to build new reactors, the state power company.
Mexico’s long-term energy strategy does not currently contemplate adding nuclear capacity, Herrera said. The nation could opt to build one or two more reactors, he said. The country’s wind power capacity is poised to surpass 700 megawatts and will reach 1,500 megawatts by the end of the year, he said.
The government is in the process of taking bids on three natural gas pipelines, according to the Energy Ministry’s long- term strategy, released today. The winners of the contracts to build three pipeline projects in Mexico’s north and one on the Yucatan Peninsula will be announced in March, Herrera said. The ministry sees crude production rising to 2.822 million barrels a day in 2016 and 3.354 million barrels a day in 2026, according to the strategic plan.
If Mexico fails to enact the recommendations listed in the ministry’s plan, oil output would probably be 2.826 million barrels a day in 2026, according to the document.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-01/mexico-should-turn-to-more-nuclear-power-herrera-says.html
3. MOX Fuel Suitable for U.S. Power Reactors, NRC Told
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An independent study of irradiated MOX fuel samples confirms the material will work properly in commercial power reactors, according to a report given to federal regulators Wednesday. “All the results were consistent with safe and acceptable performance,” said Kevin McCoy, an advisory engineer with AREVA – a component of the consortium building the government’s $4.8 billion Mixed Oxide Fuel Facility, or “MOX Plant,” at Savannah River Site.
During a briefing before U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff, company officials shared results of independent tests conducted by Oak Ridge National Laboratory on French-made MOX fuel samples that were tested in Duke’s Catawba 1 reactor for two 18-month cycles from June 2005 to May 2008. Unlike traditional nuclear fuels, MOX is manufactured by blending small amounts of plutonium with uranium, rendering the plutonium permanently unavailable for use in weapons. The MOX project in South Carolina is designed to dispose of 34 metric tons of pure plutonium – mostly from dismantled warheads.
The MOX fuel pellets irradiated at Catawba 1 were examined and tested in many different ways, with extensive documentation of each step in the process.
“All of these examinations, as Oak Ridge will happily attest, were detailed and thorough,” McCoy told regulators, during a meeting at the NRC’s Rockville, Md., headquarters, made accessible to The Augusta Chronicle via telephone monitor.
MOX fuel containing reactor-grade, rather than weapons-grade plutonium, has been used successfully in Europe, where about 5,900 assemblies have been irradiated in 39 reactors, he said. Even when subtle differences between the two variations of MOX fuel are considered, all the data supports predictions that weapons-grade MOX will perform adequately under U.S. irradiation conditions, he said.
Critics of the MOX project are awaiting more details of the Oak Ridge study.
“We still have seen no data whatsoever, so the question is when the full details of that report will be public,” said Tom Clements, the nonproliferation policy director for the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability.
The Duke tests, he said, were halted after just two fuel cycles, while some reactors are designed to use fuel through three complete cycles. “So they are at risk, if they base all their documentation on that one test, of only being able to license the stuff for shorter, or fewer, cycles,” Clements said. The National Nuclear Security Administration, which manages the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile and is in charge of the MOX project, has acknowledged challenges finding clients willing to use the fuel assemblies.
Tennessee Valley Authority and a small utility in Richland, Wash., are evaluating the idea, but no formal user agreements have been completed.
The MOX fuel plant at Savannah River Site, in its sixth year of construction, employs about 2,200 workers and is 60 percent complete. It is scheduled to open in 2016, with production of commercial fuel commencing by 2018.
Available at: http://chronicle.augusta.com/latest-news/2012-02-29/mox-fuel-suitable-us-power-reactors-nrc-told?v=1330527356
4. Oldbury Nuclear Plant, World's Oldest Nuclear Power Station, Closes
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The world's oldest running nuclear reactor is due to shut at 1100 GMT on Wednesday after 44 years of operation, starting the countdown to 2025, by when a new British nuclear station is expected to open on a site just a few hundred metres away.
Some local residents who have lived in this quaint village for decades say they had no choice when the plant was first built in the 1960s and have little prospect of preventing a new station now, given that the Oldbury site has already been shortlisted for new nuclear plants by the government. Allan Knapp, 86, remembers when the local government started speaking in 1958 of the construction one of the world's first civil nuclear plants on a huge field, a site next to his childhood home, on the banks of the river Severn, 12 miles north of Bristol.
"Nobody wants a nuclear plant on their doorstep," he said. "But back then people accepted it in the end because radiation was little known about. If a power station is going to be, it's going to be." A joint venture of two German utilities, E.ON and RWE, plans to build a new Oldbury nuclear plant more than six times the capacity of the current station by 2025, relying on a strong government drive in favour of nuclear power to help reduce carbon emissions.
The new plant will use so-called pressurised water reactors (PWR), which require the construction of huge cooling towers containing water, a part of the project residents fear will further spoil their landscape.
Horizon, the German joint venture, said its preferred choice of cooling towers was only around 15 metres higher than the plant's current reactor buildings, two blue and white striped cylinders that peak out between trees and fields from miles away.
The project is early in the planning stages, and Horizon is still far away from applying for necessary planning and environmental permits from UK agencies and the local government, which will give Olbury-on-Severn residents a say.
Japan's Fukushima nuclear crisis nearly one year ago has not swayed nuclear plant developers or the UK government's opinion about the necessity for new nuclear capacity, although developers such as EDF Energy admit the incident has pushed back timetables for other new stations.
"People here just want to get on with their lives. They don't want a new nuclear plant," said Reg Illingworth, who lives in a cottage decked with solar panels less than one mile from the Oldbury station and who also leads a local anti-nuclear movement.
"Fukushima has galvanized the idea that nuclear should and could be stopped."
On the site of the world's oldest nuclear plant, run by U.S.-owned Magnox, with its weather-worn paint and 1960s-style concrete architecture, employees say Fukushima has strengthened their will to run their nuclear plant even more safely and are sad to see it turned off.
"Control room staff requested not to press the shutdown button, saying 'I don't want it to be me'," Site Director Phil Sprague said.
"Some of the workers got quite emotional; they have worked here for 40 years." Most plant staff will continue working on site for another 12 to 18 months to start dismantling the nuclear plant, but headcount will drop by around one quarter after that, with most workers going into retirement, Sprague said.
For Project Manager Matt Thames the new Oldbury nuclear plant is likely to be a future employer as the south-westerner wants to continue working in the nuclear industry in his home region.
"We join fairly young. I never intended to stay within the same industry for 22 years, it kind of happens," he said, wearing his wind-proof black Magnox jacket proudly. "It's the availability of work in the industry that attracted me to it."
Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/29/oldbury-nuclear-plant-closes_n_1308461.html?ref=world
After a yearlong suspension, construction of nuclear power facilities across China may be starting up again, signaling the resumption of a 1-trillion-yuan ($158.73 billion) nuclear investment across the country.
In February, Harbin Electric Corp., one of China's major nuclear power equipment producers, received an order for the main components required in nuclear power generation from Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant, located in Lianyungang, east China's Jiangsu Province. This was the first order since the country suspended nuclear power projects last March following the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan.
Although nothing official has been announced, industry insiders say the suspension has been lifted, as the construction of the No.1 generating unit of Sanmen Nuclear Power Plant in east China's Zhejiang Province restarted, and three nuclear power-related planning reports were recently submitted to the State Council for review. The reports are expected to be officially released later this year.
After the nuclear accident at Fukushima on March 11, 2011, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao chaired a State Council meeting on March 16 and made four decisions on China's nuclear power development: A complete safety check was required immediately on all nuclear facilities; approval of newly built nuclear power projects will be tightened; formulation of a nuclear safety plan will be accelerated; middle and long-term development plan of nuclear power will be readjusted, and before the plan is approved, approval of nuclear power projects, including preliminary work of the projects, should be suspended.
Following the meeting, a nation-wide safety screening on all operational and under-construction nuclear power facilities was put into effect, with approval of some construction projects suspended outright. From April 15 to August 5, the comprehensive check group on national civil nuclear facilities jointly organized by the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) of the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), the National Energy Administration (NEA) and some other departments checked all the country's power plants.
The safety check drew lessons from the Fukushima accident, forcing many nuclear power operators to take a more aggressive approach to nuclear power safety.
On January 21, the generating units at the Ling'ao Nuclear Power Plant in south China's Guangdong Province were upgraded, which ended on February 10. The overhaul showed that the plant was in good condition. Starting on February 12, the generators at Tianwan began a 50-day overhaul, including 8,436 checks on individual components and technological upgrades.
Wang Binghua, Chairman of the State Nuclear Power Technology Corp., said besides safety check of nuclear power facilities in operation, designing, equipment manufacturing and construction of projects with third-generation AP1000 technology have been slowed down.
In fact, the AP1000 projects in Sanmen and Haiyang, east China's Shandong Province are safer than second-generation technology used at Fukushima. But China still places safety, not just technology upgrading, as its top priority in the construction of the third-generation nuclear power technology.
According to NEA's Readjustment Plan of Middle and Long-Term Development of Nuclear Power, which has been submitted to the State Council for approval, China plans to install a total nuclear power capacity of 80 million kilowatts (kw) by 2020.
Donghai Securities Co. Ltd. estimated that at least 60 million kw of nuclear power installed capacity will be added by 2020, excluding the capacity under construction now, which will drive up investment by 1.2 trillion yuan ($190.48 billion).
A plan previously issued by the National Development and Reform Commission says by 2020 the proportion of renewable energy among primary energy consumption will reach 15 percent, but in 2011, the proportion was only 8.9 percent, and nuclear power only accounted for 1.038 percent of the country's primary energy consumption.
Pan Ziqiang, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and an expert of nuclear radiation protection and environmental protection, said the disparity will be made up for mainly through development of nuclear power, because most exploitable hydropower resources have been developed, leaving little potential for future development. Also, restricted by technologies and natural conditions, wind power, solar energy and biomass energy are unlikely to see rapid development. Compared with other clean energies, only nuclear power can be developed in a large enough scale to meet China's energy needs.
An MEP news release showed that in the future China's safety standards for nuclear power will be raised. The Nuclear Safety Plan completed by the MEP and submitted to the State Council mainly focuses on supervision so as to improve the safety of nuclear power facilities and nuclear power utilization, reduce risks of radiation, ensure operation safety and safety to the environment and public health, and push forward safe, sound and sustainable development of nuclear energy and technology.
China has also made changes to its supervision mechanism for nuclear safety. The NEA will set up a nuclear power department, the NNSA will increase from one department to three and the number of nuclear safety supervision personnel will increase by 1,000, the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense will also set up a department of nuclear emergencies. As China gears up to resume approval of nuclear power projects, arguments against construction of new nuclear power plants abound.
On February 7, a government document requiring the cessation of the nuclear power project construction in Pengze, Jiangxi Province attracted widespread attention on the Internet. The document was issued by the government of Wangjiang County, Anhui Province, as the project in Pengze sits along the Yangtze River, on the opposite shore from Wangjiang.
This report says Pengze nuclear power project will have hidden dangers if completed.
Establishment of Pengze nuclear power plant was approved two years ago, but was suspended by the State Council after the Fukushima accident last year.
The opposition of Wangjiang County Government is also supported by He Zuoxiu, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He published articles opposing construction of nuclear power plants in the inland areas of the country, mentioning that problems such as construction of Pengze nuclear power plant will be blocked by drought and nuclear power plants in inland areas will pollute rivers.
Pan said this reflects the fact that people are still concerned about the safety of nuclear power plants.
"From the safety and nuclear safety standards, there is no difference between inland and coastal nuclear power plants. The site of Pengze nuclear power project is good, and in principle its safety is ensured," Pan said.
According to Pan, China's provisions on preventing and protecting against environmental radiation in nuclear-powered factories impose detailed requirements on site selection and safety standards of nuclear-powered factories. Pengze nuclear power project is located along the Yangtze River, which has plenty of water and is highly capable of diluting and diffusing pollutants.
At present, China has approved a total of 43 nuclear power plants, with a planned capacity of 200 million kw. These plants are located in 16 provinces, including eight inland provinces such as Jiangxi and Anhui.
It is unknown whether opposition from Wangjiang can successfully stop construction of the Pengze project, but according to information from the environmental protection authority, since there are still big disputes on the safety of building nuclear power plants in inland areas, China will temporarily suspend approval of building nuclear power plants inland.
The voice of opposition against nuclear power has always existed in China. An organization named Ocean Protection Commune once organized a signature campaign from March 2006 to January 2008 opposing construction of nuclear power plants, and sent the signatures in written and electronic forms to the MEP and the State Oceanic Administration.
According to a media release from the Ocean Protection Commune, labeling nuclear power as "clean energy" is a total lie.
The commune thinks that there are risks of leaks during the transportation of nuclear fuels. It is also hard to ensure safety in disposal of nuclear waste.
If war breaks out, the enemy state will be able to cause serious nuclear radiation by targeting nuclear power plants, said the release.
The organization says these are problems faced by all nuclear power countries and as of now there is no safe solution.
Available at: http://www.bjreview.com.cn/print/txt/2012-02/27/content_427876.htm
1. India to Build Two More Nuclear Powered Submarines
(for personal use only)
As the induction of the first locally built Indian nuclear powered submarine, INS Arihant is almost complete, the Indian government has decided to build two more of its type. Right now, only five superpowers, including US, Russia, France, Germany and UK are having locally built nuclear submarines. India is expected to join the elite league within a short time, as the trials are almost completed for the INS Arihant.
INS Arihant, which is the first nuclear powered submarine of the Arihant class submarine genus, was fully developed by the Indian agency Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). It is expected to complete its marine trials by early next year. The Indian Navy’s capabilities are already boosted significantly, after they recently inducted the Russian built INS Chakra in to its fold. However defence sources were sceptical whether the Indian Navy was technically advanced enough to operate two additional nuclear submarines without overstretching the resources.
Nuclear powered submarines are extremely difficult to detect through normal ship based sonars and other equipment. They can remain under water for as many as 100 days continuously, and they hardly emit any sound waves which can be detected by the enemy warships.
The news from India is significant, as many of their neighbours are also trying to build nuclear powered submarines. Defence experts believe that China is trying to develop its first fully indigenous version of the nuclear powered submarine, which is expected to be completed soon. It is already operating a number of nuclear submarines like Type 091 (Han) and Type 092 (Xia), but they are not fully nuclear powered.
The development of INS Arihant took many years and required a lot of effort from the Indian defence scientists. The first concrete steps were taken during 1998, when George Fernandes, the then defence minister gave his approval for the project. The project was officially launched in July 2009, by the Indian Prime Minister, Man Mohan Singh.
Available at: http://www.indiandefence.com/india-build-nuclear-powered-submarines-20120229/
1. Japan Nuclear Disaster: Fukushima Power Plant Remains Fragile, Plant Chief Says
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Japan's tsunami-hit Fukushima power plant remains fragile nearly a year after it suffered multiple meltdowns, its chief said Tuesday, with makeshift equipment – some mended with tape – keeping crucial systems running.
An independent report, meanwhile, revealed that the government downplayed the full danger in the days after the March 11 disaster and secretly considered evacuating Tokyo.
Journalists given a tour of the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant on Tuesday, including a reporter from The Associated Press, saw crumpled trucks and equipment still lying on the ground. A power pylon that collapsed in the tsunami, cutting electricity to the plant's vital cooling system and setting off the crisis, remained a mangled mess.
Officials said the worst is over but the plant remains vulnerable.
"I have to admit that it's still rather fragile," said plant chief Takeshi Takahashi, who took the job in December after his predecessor resigned due to health reasons. "Even though the plant has achieved what we call 'cold shutdown conditions,' it still causes problems that must be improved."
The government announced in December that three melted reactors at the plant had basically stabilized and that radiation releases had dropped. It still will take decades to fully decommission the plant, and it must be kept stable until then.
The operators have installed multiple backup power supplies, a cooling system and equipment to process massive amounts of contaminated water that leaked from the damaged reactors.
But the equipment that serves as the lifeline of the cooling system is shockingly feeble-looking. Plastic hoses cracked by freezing temperatures have been mended with tape. A set of three pumps sits on the back of a pickup truck.
Along with the pumps, the plant now has 1,000 tanks to store more than 160,000 tons of contaminated water.
Radiation levels in the Unit 1 reactor have fallen, allowing workers to repair some damage to the reactor building. But the Unit 3 reactor, whose roof was blown off by a hydrogen explosion, resembles an ashtray filled with a heap of cigarette butts.
A dosimeter recorded the highest radiation reading outside Unit 3 during Tuesday's tour – 1.5 millisieverts per hour. That is a major improvement from last year, when up to 10 sieverts per hour were registered near Units 1 and 2.
Exposure to more than 1,000 millisieverts, or 1 sievert, can cause radiation sickness including nausea and an elevated risk of cancer.
Officials say radiation hot spots remain inside the plant and minimizing exposure to them is a challenge. Employees usually work for two to three hours at a time, but in some areas, including highly contaminated Unit 3, they can stay only a few minutes.
Since the March 11 crisis, no one has died from radiation exposure.
Tuesday's tour, organized by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., or TEPCO, came as an independent group released a report saying the government withheld information about the full danger of the disaster from its own people and from the United States. The report by the private Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation delivers a scathing view of how leaders played down the risks of the reactor meltdowns while holding secret discussions of a worst-case scenario in which massive radiation releases would require the evacuation of a much wider region, including Tokyo. The discussions were reported last month by the AP.
The report, compiled from interviews with more than 300 people, paints a picture of confusion during the days immediately after the accident. It says U.S.-Japan relations were put at risk because of U.S. frustration and skepticism over the scattered information provided by Japan.
The misunderstandings were gradually cleared up after a bilateral committee was set up on March 22 and began regular meetings, according to the report.
It credits then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan for ordering TEPCO not to withdraw its staff from the plant and to keep fighting to bring it under control.
TEPCO's president at the time, Masataka Shimizu, called Kan on March 15 and said he wanted to abandon the plant and have all 600 TEPCO staff flee, the report said. That would have allowed the situation to spiral out of control, resulting in a much larger release of radiation.
A group of about 50 workers was eventually able to bring the plant under control.
TEPCO, which declined to take part in the investigation, has denied it planned to abandon Fukushima Dai-ichi. The report notes the denial, but says Kan and other officials had the clear understanding that TEPCO had asked to leave.
But the report criticizes Kan for attempting to micromanage the disaster and for not releasing critical information on radiation leaks, thereby creating widespread distrust of the government.
Kan said he was grateful the report gave a favorable assessment of his decision to prevent TEPCO workers from abandoning the plant.
"I give my heartfelt respects to the efforts of the commission," he said in a statement. "I want to do my utmost to prevent a recurrence."
Kan has acknowledged in a recent interview with AP that the release of information was sometimes slow and at times wrong. He blamed a lack of reliable data at the time and denied the government hid such information from the public.
The report also concludes that government oversight of nuclear plant safety had been inadequate, ignoring the risk of tsunami and the need for plant design renovations, and instead clinging to a "myth of safety."
"The idea of upgrading a plant was taboo," said Koichi Kitazawa, a scholar who heads the commission that prepared the report. "We were just lucky that Japan was able to avoid the worst-case scenario. But there is no guarantee this kind of luck will prevail next time."
Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/28/japan-nuclear-disaster-plant-remains-fragile_n_1307203.html
2. Europe Not Ready to Deal With Disaster Like Fukushima, IRSN Says
Tara Patel, Bloomberg
(for personal use only)
Europe is ill-prepared for a nuclear accident on the scale of Japan’s Fukushima disaster, a French safety authority said.
“There are doubts about the ability of some European countries to manage this type of situation,” Jacques Repussard, director of the Institut de Radioprotection et de Surete Nucleaire, or IRSN, said at a press conference in Paris today. “It’s extremely problematic. We need to progress in crisis management in many regions.”
Some European countries lack sufficient atomic crisis centers while health authorities across the region don’t agree on what instructions to give local populations in case of accidents, he said. “There isn’t enough coordination.”
The findings are part of an IRSN report nearly a year after a March 11 earthquake and tsunami destroyed the Fukushima Dai- Ichi station, sparking the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986. A Japanese independent probe, whose results were also released today, found the government response to the crisis was “haphazard” and top officials discussed a worst- case scenario that included the evacuation of Tokyo.
The IRSN is the technical adviser to France’s nuclear watchdog, which decides whether the country’s 58 atomic reactors operated by Electricite de France SA are safe. France relies on atomic power more than any other country.
The agency faulted Japanese authorities for failing to take measurements of radioactivity in the thyroids of people and especially children in the vicinity of Fukushima in the days after the accident. Data provided by authorities on radiation exposure by workers at the plant and local residents wasn’t precise or detailed enough, the study concluded.
“Today it’s too late to evaluate exposure to radioactive iodine,” Jean-Rene Jourdain, deputy director of human protection at the IRSN, said at the press conference.
IRSN calculations indicate the amount of radioactive iodine released at Fukushima was one-tenth that at Chernobyl and the amount of cesium was one-third. Most of the contamination at Fukushima was dispersed over the ocean.
“If the same accident had occurred in the heart of Europe where there is no ocean, it would have been much, much worse,” Didier Champion, head of the team that followed the Japanese crisis at the IRSN, said at the press conference.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-28/europe-not-ready-to-deal-with-disaster-like-fukushima-irsn-says.html
3. Rosatom-Owned Company Accused of Selling Shoddy Equipment to Reactors at Home and Abroad, Pocketing Profits
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Russian Federal Prosecutors have accused a company owned by the country’s nuclear energy corporation, Rosatom, with massive corruption and manufacturing substandard equipment for nuclear reactors under construction both at home and abroad.
The ZiO-Podolsk machine building plant’s procurement director, Sergei Shutov, has been arrested for buying low quality raw materials on the cheap and pocketing the difference as the result of an investigation by the Federal Security Service, or FSB, the successor organization to the KGB.
It is not clear how many reactors have been impacted by the alleged crime, but reactors built by Russia in India, Bulgaria, Iran, China as well as several reactor construction and repair projects in Russia itself may have been affected by cheap equipment, given the time frame of works completed at the stations and the scope of the investigation as it has been revealed by authorities.
“The scope of this scandal could reach every reactor in Russian and every reactor built by Russia over the past several years and demands immediate investigation,” said Bellona President Frederic Hauge. “Were is the political leadership in the Russian government to deal with such a crime?"
Hauge expressed outrage that an alleged crime of such a massive scale was not leading to immediate action to check each reactor that may have been affected by the profit pocketing scheme, and he was frustrated that the FSB and prosecutors were not naming specific reactors that may be involved. “As long as the Russian government is not investigating this case correctly, we will have to ask international society to do it,” he said. “Bellona will be taking further action in this case.” Vladimir Slivyak, co chair of Russia’s Ecodefense agreed.
“Stopping and conducting full-scale checks of reactors where equipment from ZiO-Podolsk has been installed is absolutely necessary,” said Slivyak. “Otherwise [there is] the risk of a serious accident at a nuclear power plant with cleanup bills stretching into the tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars [that] will have to be footed by taxpayers.”
The criminal case was opened against ZiO-Poldolsk in December, but information about the investigation was released in the Russia media via the official Rosbalt agency only last week – a common circumstance in FSB-associated investigations.
The charges leveled against ZiO-Podolsk, which is Russia’s only manufacturer of steam generators for nuclear plants built by Rosatom domestically and by its international reactor construction subsidiary Atomstroiproyekt are a staggering blow to Rosatom’s credibility.
ZiO-Podolsk is a subsidiary organization of Atomenergomash, founded in 2006. Atomenergomash was acquired by Atomenergoprom, which is 100-percent state-owned, in 2007. Atomenergoprom is a part of Rosatom.
But the paperwork is rather a technicality for a machine works that has been involved with the nuclear industry since its inception. Founded in 1919, ZiO-Podolsk produced the boiler for the first electricity-producing nuclear reactor at Obninsk in 1952, and has produced the boilers for every Russian reactor built ever since.
According to prosecutors, ZiO-Podolsk began shipping shoddy equipment in 2007 or perhaps even earlier. This has implications for the safety of nuclear power plants built by, or that bought equipment from, Rosatom in Bulgaria, China, India and Iran – as well as Russia – striking a chord of outrage and distress among environmental groups.
ZiO-Podolsk is also making critical parts for the reactor pressure vessel and other main equipment for the BN-800 fast reactor at Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Plant, in Russia’s Sverdlovsk Region in the Urals, a source told Bellona on the condition of anonymity.
The machine works giant is also making steam generators for Russia’s Novovoronezh, Kalinin, and Leningrad Nuclear Power Plants, and Belene in Bulgaria, according to the London-based World Nuclear Association.
The case assembled against ZiO-Podolsk involves embezzlement of state funding intended for purchases of raw material that are compatible with contemporary safety standards for nuclear reactors, Rosbalt reported.
According to the FSB investigation – which was described in unusual detail by the news wire – procurement director Shutov allegedly purchased low-grade steel for equipment in collusion with ZiO-Podolsk’s supplier AТОМ-Industriya. That company’s general director, Dmitry Golubev, is currently at large after embezzlement charges were filed against him by the same Moscow court that ordered Shutov’s arrest, Rosbalt quoted FSB sources as saying.
The scheme between Shutov and Golubev allegedly involved Shutov turning a blind eye to inferior quality steel in return for a large portion of the profits reaped by ATOM-Industriya, the FSB told Rosbalt, citing transactions that were accounted for in bookkeeping documents the security service said it confiscated from the financial director of ATOM-Industriya. “ This company purchased cheap steel in Ukraine and then passed it off as [a] more expensive [grade]; the revenues were shared by the scam’s organizers,” an FSB source was quoted by Rosbalt as saying.
FSB agents said that ATOM-Industriya produced some 100 million roubles’ (€2.5 million) worth of pipe sheets, reactor pit bottoms, and reservoirs for ZiO-Podolsk – equipment that was delivered to Russian and foreign reactors – including an order of so-called tube plates for high-pressure heaters at Bulgaria’s Kozloduy NPP. High-pressure heaters, while having no relation to the safe operation of reactors, are used to improve efficiency of power output.
When Rosbalt ran its detailed story last week, the management of Kozloduy NPP was quick to respond by releasing an early statement saying its two heaters had been “functioning flawlessly” since their installation dates in 2010 and 2011.
A statement released 10 hours later that day carried by a different news agency, however, reported that Kozloduy NPP CEO Alexander Nikolov had sent off a letter to ZiO-Podolsk and Atomstroiexport demanding that they certify the quality of the metal in the heaters.
The FSB alleged to Rosbalt that the use of shoddy steel in the case of the heaters manufactured for Kozloduy NPP alone netted a black profit of 39 million roubles (€1 million) for ATOM-Industriya. Ecodefense’s Slivyak said he believed the Rosbalt report and its copious quotations from the typically secretive FSB to be on the level.
Aside from the suspicions raised by Kozloduy NPP, Slivyak also said that the Russian built Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant in China had previously complained to Rosatom with over 3,000 grievances regarding the low quality of materials delivered to construct the plant, lending credence to the FSB’s version of events.
Slivyak further noted the FSB, which functions as an attack dog for the government of Vladimir Putin, has nothing politically to gain by giving Rosatom – a pet corporation in Putin’s “power vertical” – a black eye.
Two spokesmen for the FSB contacted by Bellona confirmed the version of events their colleagues described to Rosbalt, but refused to discuss “an ongoing investigation” further. They also refused to comment on what other nuclear power plants besides Kozloduy may have been affected by defective materials from ZiO-Podolsk.
A spokesman for Russia’s Prosecutor General’s office refused to discuss the case on similar grounds. Rosatom also refused commentary.
A source with ATOM-Industriya told Rosbalt that his company had been through a similar legal ringer in 2010, but the case was dismissed from lack of evidence of a crime.
“Now, more than a year later, prosecutors have brought charges,” he told Rosbalt and protested his company’s innocence.
“We have done nothing illegal – our innocence has been confirmed in the arbitration courts,” he said. Bellona’s Hauge said that, “this is a real case for Russia’s security services to be working on – instead of harassing the environmental movement.”
Available at: http://www.bellona.org/articles/articles_2012/podolsk_corruption
Measures have been taken to address deficiencies in cyber security measures that were identified at Canadian nuclear power plants in 2008, according to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).
Cyber security programmes focus on protecting nuclear safety-related and security systems from the consequences of cyber attacks. They also ensure sensitive information regarding nuclear security and nuclear materials is not compromised. It is important to point out that nuclear safety and safety-related systems are isolated and separate from other systems and have no connection to the Internet.
In 2008, the CNSC issued an action item to operators requesting them to conduct self-assessments of cyber security measures in place at their facilities, to establish systematic programmes to deal with potential threats, and to implement protective measures.
CNSC said in a statement that: “Although security matters must remain confidential, the CNSC can confirm that site-specific analyses have been conducted since then and that measures have been taken to address identified deficiencies.”
Internally, the CNSC has a multidisciplinary team and is working with national and international partners, in order to proactively deal with cyber security issues for existing plants nuclear power plants and new ones, it said.
Available at: http://www.neimagazine.com/story.asp?sectioncode=132&storyCode=2061846
1. Britain Eyes Japanese Participation in Plans to Reuse Plutonium Stocks
Mainichi Daily News
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Britain is likely to convert plutonium stocks into nuclear fuel and will be seeking Japanese involvement in the project, according to government officials.
The government's preferred option is to turn the stockpile into mixed uranium and plutonium oxide nuclear fuel (MOX) to power civil reactors.
Britain stores around 112 tons of plutonium, of which 11.6 tons belong to Japanese firms as a result of reprocessing nuclear fuel at the Sellafield complex in Cumbria, northwest Britain. Officials are now studying the plan to ensure it is affordable, deliverable, offers value for money and can be implemented safely.
The government is expected to make a final decision in 2015 -- with the facility due to come onstream by 2024 -- and as part of the consultation will be sounding out Japanese utility companies that hold plutonium at Sellafield.
If Japanese companies do not wish to participate in the project, which would involve the construction of a new MOX plant, Britain may consider taking ownership of their plutonium, subject to commercial terms and international agreements.
Bill Hamilton, head of stakeholder communications at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority or NDA, said commitments from Japanese utilities are "important" but not "critical" to the project getting the green light. Estimated costs are 3 billion pounds ($4.7 billion).
Britain has been mulling over the long-term safe disposal of plutonium, which is currently being stored under tight security at Sellafield.
One option is to immobilize the entire substance and bury it.
But it comes out at about the same cost as converting it into MOX fuel, burning it in a reactor and then storing the residue pending final disposal underground, says Hamilton. In addition, the MOX fuel could be sold to utility firms to generate electricity and thereby raise some income.
The government argues MOX manufacture is a "technologically mature" process and "lessons have been learnt" from the disappointing performance of Britain's first MOX plant, which was also located at Sellafield.
The NDA closed the facility last year following the nuclear disaster at Fukushima in Japan. It was going to be used to produce MOX for Japan but NDA officials feared orders from Japan would not materialize. Japan is currently reviewing its nuclear policy. If the plant is given the go-ahead, it would be the first time that British plutonium has been converted into MOX, and it is estimated that between 1,000 and 1,500 tons will be manufactured.
In this April 28, 2011 image from video footage released Friday, April 29, 2011 by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), top parts of fuel rods are seen about 6 meters (20 feet) from the surface of water in the spent fuel storage pool at the damaged Unit 4 reactor building at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.) T om Burke, a nuclear energy expert, said he doubts whether the plan will come to fruition and recommends that the government continue to store the plutonium.
He said, "No one wants to buy MOX because it's more expensive and harder to manage. It's nuts. And what are you going to do with the MOX once it has been burned in the reactor?" Reprocessing nuclear fuel was once considered a good way of preserving "scarce" uranium supplies. But the feared shortages have not materialized, with many experts now questioning the rationale behind the policy.
Reprocessing results in fresh uranium and small quantities of plutonium. They are mixed together to form MOX.
In the 1960s it was hoped that fast reactors -- which use plutonium -- would be the answer to the problems. However, although technologically proven, they have failed to be commercially viable.
The NDA is a public body which manages and owns several nuclear sites in Britain, including Sellafield. The Sellafield complex reprocesses spent nuclear fuel, as well as storing and managing nuclear waste.
Available at: http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20120229p2g00m0dm059000c.html
2. Rosatom-Bellona Seminar on Global Partnership Progress Shows Signs of Hope
Anna Kireeva and Charles Digges
(for personal use only)
A Monday seminar arranged between Bellona and Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom in Moscow yielded encouraging results in how to deal with remaining nuclear Cold War legacy sites – particularly the storage of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste – on Russia’s northerly Kola Peninsula. At the seminar entitled “The Condition of Nuclear and Radiologically Dangerous Installations in Northwest Russia: Problems and Perspectives for Solutions,” Rosatom sought to demonstrate its progress under the Global Partnership program, under which G-8 countries 10 years ago pledged $20 billion to Russia over 10 years toward remediation of Cold War legacy sites in the former Soviet Union, presenting several reports. Bellona general manager and nuclear physicist, Nils Bøhmer, who was in the Russia capital for the seminar, was pleased with the results. “The information we heard today allows us to draw the conclusion that work that has been performed has improved the radiological situation in northwest region and planned further actions are cause for optimism,” he said. “In my opinion, the information exchange between Rosatom and representatives of non-governmental organizations must be continued in the future – such an approach allows a better understanding of the details of the problems we are discussing.” The installations under discussion over the weekend are sites that fall under Rosatom’s decommissioning and cleanup purview and the seminar was attended by some 40 people from Rosatom management, and representatives of Norwegian, Swedish, Russian governmental, scientific and NGO sectors, as well as the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which has played a key financial roll in many of the projects “This seminar has the potential to define where we stand in realizing these projects,” said Bellona’s Alexander Nikitin. “Knowing this, we can define what directions we need to work in and what the solutions will be.” The event, said Nikitin, who chairs Bellona’s Environment and Rights Center Bellonain St. Petersburg, was an opportunity for Bellona and the NGO community and Rosatom – which is financing and carrying out the decommissioning projects – to compare notes and come to a common point of view. Over the period of the Global Partnership’s timeframe, noted Niktin, a majority of the designated projects to rehabilitate radioactively dangerous sites have been accomplished – especially those concerning nuclear submarines: 47 subarmine reactors have been removed and placed for storage at Sayda Bay; some 50 tons of nuclear fuel has been removed and 23 nuclear installations dismantled. Some $1.4 billion (40 billion roubles) have been allocated by foreign countries toward these project and another $700 million (20 billion roubles) by Russia. Andreyeva Bay, the former naval technical base come solid radioactive waste storage facility has undergone many improvements, but problems also remain. Andreyeva Bay is one of the hottest radioactive spots in Northwest Russia and work deadlines are hard to meet. Founded in between 1960 and 1964, Andreyeva Bay’s task was to remove, store and ship for reprocessing at the Ural Mountains Mayak Chemical Combine spent nuclear fuel from nuclear submarines. After a 1982 accident in the spent nuclear fuel storage, Russia Ministery of Defense decided to reconstruct the facility. But the turbulent political and economic conditions of the 1980s and 1990s scuttled the plans. Andreyeva Bay was assigned to Minatom, Rosatom’s precursor, in 2000. The beleaguered facility, which is nearby the Norwegian border is of special concern to Oslo. Norway’s Deputy Ambassador in Moscow, Bård Svendsen, noted that the two countries had cooperated on solving the Andreyeva bay issue for many years. “Over these years, much has been done and much remains to be done,” said Svendsen. “Norwegian authorities will continue this work, which costs some €10 million euro a year.” According to Rosatom’s deputy head of Department for Project Implementation and Nuclear and Radiaiton Safety, Anatoly Grigorieyev, the last 10 years have seen the installation of constant radiation monitoring and significant improvements in the conditions in which radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel is stored.
A new installation for working with spent nuclear fuel is expected to be installed at Andreyeva Bay in 2014, and by 2015 the fuel is slated for removal – the same year a facility for handling radioactive waste should be installed, he said in remarks reported by Regnum news agency. “The work we have planned will allow for the territory to be brought up to suitable conditions within 10-15 years,” said Grigorieyev.
Vladimir Romanov, deputy director of the Federal Medical and Biological Agency, said that studies conducted by his institute confirm that the radiological conditions at Andreyeva Bay and at Gremikha - the second onshore storage site at the Kola Peninsula for spent nuclear fuel from submarines – are indeed on the mend.
“We have not discovered contamination beyond the sanitary protective zones of the installations [and] conditions at the installations themselves are constantly improving thanks to Rosatom’s efforts,” he said. “The effects of radiation on personnel are within accepted norms, and natural factors account for most of that,” he added, meaning that radiation that personnel is exposed to is accounted for by natural background radiation.
According to Valery Panteleyev, head of SevRAO, the Northwest Russian firm responsible for dealing with radioactive waste Some 846 spent fuel assemblies have been taken from storage at the former naval based to the Mayak Chemical Combine for reprocessing thanks to infrastructure built for fuel unloading purposes.
Panteleyev said Gremikha still currently is home to used removable parts from liquid metal cooled reactors submarine reactors, spent fuel assemblies, a reactor from an Alpha class submarine and more than 1000 cubic meters of solid radioactive waste.
Panteleyev said that by the end of 2012, all standard and non-standard fuel will have been sent to Mayak from Gremikha. He said that between 2012 and 2020 the removable parts of the liquid metal cooled reactors would also be gone, and that during the period between 2012 and 2014, 4000 cubic meters of solid radioactive waste would also be removed to long term storage at Saida Bay.
If all goes according to schedule, the Gremikha site will be rehabilitated by 2025.
Rosatom also presented detailed reports on an international project to build long-term storage for reactor compartments at the Saida Bay storage site for aged submarine reactors.
Panteleyev said none of the achievements at either Saida Bay or Gremikha would have been possible without international help.
The projects are being completed with funding from Germany, Italy, France, Norway, Sweden, Great Britain and the EBRD.
“These countries are investing in the creation of infrastructure for handling radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel, dismantlement of nuclear vessels of the atomic fleet and in the infrastructure for the safe storage or reactor compartments,” said Panteleyev.
Answering critics who say SevRAO is dragging its feet in fulfilling the rehabilitation programs, Panteleyev criticize us, saying we work slowly. However I can say that from the beginning our priority tasks have been to build reliable physically safe storage, and to do that with maximum safety to personel.
Another item of special concern at the Bellona/Rosatom seminar was the disposition of the floating spent nuclear fuel vessel, the Lepse. A former technical support vessel, taken out of service in 1988 the Lepse presents the biggest nuclear and radiation risk of all retired nuclear service ships in Russia. The Lepse's spent nuclear fuel storage holds – in casks and caissons – 639 spent fuel assemblies, a significant portion of which are severely damaged.
Extraction of these spent fuel assemblies presents special radiological risks and technical innovation. The vessel is currently moored at Atomflot in Murmansk, the base of Russia’s nuclear icebreaker fleet. Mikhail Repin, group director for the Russian Federal State Unitary Enterprise the Federal Center for Nuclear and Radiation Safety, said work on the Lepse is divided into three categories: transfer of the vessel to the ship repair yard Nerpa in the Murmansk Region, fixing it to an assembly based, removing the spent fuel and dividing into blocks. The work is expected to be complete by 2012. But the barriers to enacting this project, however, remain largely bureaucratic.
“One gets the impression that international and Russian bureaucrats are capable of muddling any project, as shown by the experience with the Lepse,” said Bellona’s Niktin. The project of dismantling the Lepse have remained on paper since 1995.
The Lepse was built in 1930, and the vessel has been afloat for 75 years, said Repin. Among results that have been achieved with the Lepse, argued Repin, were that analysis of the diagrams of the project have been completed, the base schedule coordinated, risks assessed, and transport options weighed.
The toughest part remains safely removing the fuel.
According to Anatoly Tsubannikov, a representative Aspect Konversiya, a consortium of companies dealing with ;arge scale technological projects in the nuclear field, some 313 spent fuel assemblies in canisters remain aboard the Lepse along with 307 more spent fuel assemblies in caissons. The remainder of spent fuel assemblies remains in irremovable canisters.
The equipment necessary for removing the spent fuel assemblies must be fabricated for specifically this project. The equipment must first ensure the safety of the workers, meaning the work will have to be done essentially remotely to ensure minimum exposure.
Svendsen, was optimistic that the talks had gone well saying in closing remarks that, “cooperation with Russia on issues of nuclear and radiation safety are one of three spheres of our bilateral relations where we have managed to achieve noticeable results.”
“Much has been done over these years and much remains to be done. Norway for its part will continue apply all efforts toward the support of the current work in the future,” he said.
Available at: http://www.bellona.org/articles/articles_2012/rosatom_seminar
3. Jordan Willing to Become Full Disarmament Conference Member, Judeh
(for personal use only)
Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh on Tuesday voiced Jordan's willingness to join the disarmament conference as a full member as soon as possible.
In remarks at the UN-sponsored disarmament conference in Geneva, the minister said Jordan had worked relentlessly to lay solid foundations for peace and support efforts and initiatives to bring about security and stability in the whole world.
He stressed that peace and stability would not attainable amid fears over the spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction WMD, mainly nuclear arms.
Jordan, he added, continuously calls for eliminating all forms of WMD.
"Today, we look forward to a world that is free of such weapons and this prompts us to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the biological and chemical weapons conventions," the minister added.
Judeh said that Jordan, under the leadership of His Majesty King Abdullah II, called for international conventions on WMD, enhancing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and active international cooperation to enhance nuclear safety.
"The Middle East is undergoing radical changes and is facing enormous challenges that require concerted efforts by the international community to prevent things from spinning out of control", he added.
Judeh called for practical steps to free the Middle East of WMD and enhance security and stability in the region and the world at large.
The minister reiterated Jordan's stance which called for taking all necessary measures to hold the 2012 conference on disarmament with the participation of all countries of the region.
He also urged the world to exert genuine efforts to free the Middle East of nuclear weapons "as this would actively contribute to enhancing regional and international security and stability." "Jordan believes that there is no alternative to diplomacy and constructive dialogue to address challenges that threaten world security and stability," he said, adding that the best means to address disarmament issues is through arriving at agreed-upon solutions through multilateral negotiations.
The Kingdom, he added, attached special importance to the conference as it is the only forum for multilateral negotiations on disarmament.
Available at: http://www.petra.gov.jo/Public_News/Nws_NewsDetails.aspx?lang=2&site_id=1&NewsID=61066&CatID=13
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