1. U.N. Nuclear Agency Starts Talks With North Korea over Visit
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The U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Thursday it had begun talks with North Korea over Pyongyang's invitation for it to visit the country, three years after its inspectors were expelled from the reclusive Asian state.
North Korea's invitation to the International Atomic Energy Agency appeared to be an attempt to show it was serious about a nuclear moratorium deal with the United States last month even though it drew international condemnation last week for saying it would launch a long-range rocket carrying a satellite.
"I can confirm that the IAEA has started consultations with the DPRK about its invitation," agency spokeswoman Gill Tudor said in an e-mailed response to a question.
North Korea is known formally as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
The secretive North has twice tested a nuclear device, but experts doubt whether it yet has the ability to miniaturize an atomic bomb to fit inside a warhead.
Pyongyang is believed to have enough fissile material to make up to a dozen nuclear bombs. In 2010 it unveiled a uranium enrichment facility to go with its plutonium program, which opened a second route to making an atomic weapon.
The U.S. State Department said on Monday that, in principle, it supported efforts by the IAEA to gain access to North Korea to monitor Pyongyang's implementation of all aspects of the February 29 nuclear agreement.
However, it repeated that it believed this deal had been undercut by the North Korean announcement last week of the planned satellite launch.
Pyongyang had repeatedly backtracked on past deals over its nuclear program, but its latest moves mark a sharp change, at least outwardly, by its reclusive leadership led by 28-year-old Kim Jong-un following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il.
Under the February 29 accord, Washington agreed to supply the North with food in exchange for a suspension of nuclear tests, missile launches and uranium enrichment and to allow IAEA inspectors back into the country.
It is unclear how much scope for inspections the IAEA will get despite assurances it would grant inspectors access to the Yongbyon nuclear complex to verify a moratorium on uranium enrichment.
The North has limited their access during two previous periods when it allowed inspectors in.
North Korea expelled the IAEA a decade ago when a 1994 deal between Pyongyang and Washington unraveled.
It threw the organization out again in April 2009 after rejecting intrusive inspections agreed under a 2005 aid deal with five regional powers.
Analysts say North Korea may simply continue covert atomic activity elsewhere. Members of a U.N. expert panel said last year that North Korea most likely had several more undisclosed enrichment-related facilities.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/22/us-nuclear-nkorea-iaea-idUSBRE82L0EW20120322
2. North Korea Issues Warning About South's Nuclear Summit
Voice of America
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North Korea is warning world leaders not to raise the issue of its nuclear weapons during a summit next week in South Korea. The reclusive country says it will consider as a "declaration of war" any statement about the North Korean issue at the Nuclear Security Summit.
At a time when tensions are again quickly escalating on the Korean peninsula, Seoul is about to host dozens of top-level foreign dignitaries - including the presidents of the United State and China. The Nuclear Security Summit is intended to make it more difficult for terrorists to get their hands on materials to make atomic weapons. But it is will be overshadowed by events just across the Demilitarized Zone.
North Korea Wednesday warned Seoul any resolution at the summit concerning its nuclear program will be a provocation “considered an act of war.”
Although North Korea is not an official topic at the summit, officials here say one-on-one leaders' meetings are certain to discuss Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs.
Last week, North Korea said it plans to launch a satellite into orbit in mid-April. That announcement was condemned by the international community, which asserts any space launch violates a ban on North Korea utilizing ballistic missile technology.
The announcement also appears to unravel an agreement Pyongyang and Washington jointly announced just weeks ago, on February 29, in which North Korea would freeze some of its nuclear programs in exchange for food aid. Pyongyang, however, says the agreement remains in effect and it is inviting U.N. nuclear inspectors to return to the country.
Leon Sigal, who formerly advised the U.S. government on strategy toward North Korea, says it is difficult to imagine future diplomacy between the United States and North Korea if Pyongyang goes ahead with its so-called earth observation satellite launch.
"A rocket launch would be confidence-destroying. Unless it is suspended, fruitful dialogue will come to an end, I’m sorry to say," said Sigal, who was speaking Wednesday at an international conference about Northeast Asia nuclear issues.
South Korean Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik, in a speech Wednesday at a separate international conference here said a launch - which would be North Korea's third attempt - is senseless in a country whose people are hungry and repressed.
South Korea's point man on North Korea says it would be a grave provocation and a serious security threat to South Korea and the international community.
Japan's government is vowing to take “all possible measures to ensure that people and property are safe” - the latest indication it might try to shoot down the North Korean rocket if it soars over Japanese territory, as indicated by its planned trajectory.
Analysts say North Korea likely has several nuclear weapons but has yet to perfect the technology to make them small enough to place atop a missile. Nor has it demonstrated it can successfully launch such a payload.
Stanford University research professor Siegfried Hecker has visited North Korea seven times. The North Koreans in 2010 revealed to him a facility to enrich weapons-grade uranium.
At Wednesday's regional nuclear issues conference, Hecker said re-engagement and diplomacy with Pyongyang is the only way to try to persuade the North Koreans to give up their nuclear ambitions.
"We should be able to convince them that it’s a much greater liability than it is an asset. But to do that they have to have a sense of security. So there’s a lot of work to be done. And so, we must make the price of keeping the weapons greater than the benefits of giving them up," said Hecker.
Speaking at the same conference, the Asia Foundation's Peter Beck argued for a "reality check" in regards to North Korea's nuclear development.
"We can’t de-nuclearize North Korea," he said. "The best we can do is a freeze. And, that’s frankly unacceptable to Washington, to Seoul, certainly for Tokyo, but that is the reality we face. North Korea attaches tremendous meaning and value to being a nuclear power. It’s increasingly tied to their identity."
North Korea watchers are also warning of the likelihood that Pyongyang will soon follow its so-called space launch attempt with a third underground test of a nuclear device.
Available at: http://www.voanews.com/english/news/North-Korea-Issues-Warning-About-South-Korean-Nuclear-Summit-143620496.html
3. U.S. in Consultations with IAEA over N. Korea Invitation for Monitoring
Yonhap News Agency
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The United States has been in consultations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on whether the agency will accept an invitation from North Korea to visit the communist state to monitor parts of its nuclear program under a deal with the U.S., the State Department said Tuesday.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog confirmed that Pyongyang invited its inspectors last week to the country under the Feb. 29 nuclear freeze-for-food deal with Washington, but the prospects for the deal have been thrown into question following the North's Friday announcement of a planned rocket launch.
"We are obviously consulting with the IAEA on the right course of action. They haven't made any decisions," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
Asked whether the IAEA will accept the invitation, Nuland replied, "You know the concerns that we have. Our concerns have to do with whether this regime is trustworthy and will keep its word now." The U.S. is part of the decision-making process at the Vienna-based nuclear agency.
U.S. officials have warned that North Korea's plan to launch a satellite using a long-range rocket would break the deal calling for the North to suspend its uranium enrichment and nuclear and missile tests in return for 240,000 tons of U.S. food aid.
North Korea announced that its Unha-3 rocket carrying Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite will blast off from its satellite launching station in western North Korea between April 12 and 16.
The North's tactic marked the first tension, or possible diplomatic gamble with the U.S. for more concessions, generated by its new leader Kim Jong-un, who inherited power in December following death of his father, Kim Jong-il, analysts said.
The planned launch will mark the 100th birth anniversary of Kim Il-sung, North Korea's founder and grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un.
Meanwhile, a diplomatic source in Washington said North Korea had already notified the U.S. of its plan to blast off the satellite last December, before the death of Kim Jong-il.
"On Dec. 15, a North Korean official notified the U.S. of the plan to launch a satellite," the source said on the condition of anonymity.
The reason why the North recently announced the planned rocket launch despite the February deal with the U.S. is that the plan was previously decided by Kim Jong-il when he was alive, the source said.
North Korea's state media announced the death of Kim on Dec. 18, two days after he died of a heart attack.
Last year, Washington and Pyongyang held a series of negotiations to explore ways to resume the long-stalled six-nation talks on ending the North's nuclear weapons program. The six-party talks, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan, were last held in late 2008.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2012/03/21/30/0301000000AEN20120321001000315F.HTML
The city of Osaka should issue a demand at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s June shareholders' meeting that the utility get out of the nuclear power business and rely instead on renewable energy sources, a joint prefectural-municipal committee has recommended.
The proposal made Sunday by the joint energy strategy panel came a few days after the mayors of Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe were told by Kepco that nuclear power would remain an important energy resource. The mayors had called on the utility to provide a clear timetable for weaning itself from nuclear power.
Kepco, which has 11 reactors, all on the Sea of Japan coast in Fukui Prefecture and all currently idled, relied on them to generate about 44 percent of Kansai's electricity. The mayors have urged the utility to switch to liquefied natural gas and renewable sources.
The energy committee offered eight basic reform proposals that will be decided next month by the city assembly, where Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto's Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka) is the largest group. The city also owns about 9 percent of Kepco's stock, making it the largest shareholder.
In addition to shutting down all of its nuclear plants and introducing renewable energy sources, the committee recommended that Kepco be forced to take stronger disaster-prevention measures at its atomic plants, and called for competition in the electricity distribution sector.
"It's necessary to eradicate the distrust Japanese people have toward nuclear power," the committee said in a statement.
Since becoming mayor last November, Hashimoto has said he would use the June shareholders' meeting to introduce a resolution that would obligate Kepco to reduce its reliance on nuclear power and switch to renewables. But the energy strategy committee's recommendation marks the first time municipal and prefectural officials have called on Kepco to abolish its reactors.
However, no timetable was offered for achieving this goal. Kepco's reactors are currently shut down, however, pending the results of regular checks and obligatory stress tests to ensure they can survive a disaster.
Pressure on Kepco to end its dependence on nuclear power continues to grow. In early February, a citizens' group collected enough signatures to force a city vote on whether to hold a plebiscite on nuclear power, although the city is expected to reject that approach later this month or early next month because many supporters of the drive are seen as political opponents of Hashimoto and his group.
At the same time, however, Hashimoto, along with Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa and Kobe Mayor Tatsuo Yada, demanded the utility produce a detailed timetable for shifting from nuclear power to LNG and renewable energies.
"In the event of an accident, it's clear that, with Kepco's 11 reactors, there will be a huge impact on lives and the economy. It's necessary to (create) an electricity supply (strategy) that does not rely on nuclear power as soon as possible," the three mayors said in a joint statement submitted to Kepco in late February.
But in its formal reply last week, Kepco defended the use of nuclear and offered only general assurances it was introducing more renewable energy plants.
"From the standpoint of energy security, economic feasibility and environmental conservation, nuclear power will continue to remain important," Kepco said.
Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120320a2.html
2. Radioactive Water Leaks at Nuclear Power Plant in Japan
Xinhua News Agency
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Japan's nuclear safety watchdog said Monday that a leakage of about 1.5 tons of low-level radioactive water occurred at a plant of Japan Atomic Power Co. in the village of Tokai in Ibaraki Prefecture.
The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency launched investigation to check whether the water had leaked into the sea.
The water was used to decontaminate radiation protection suits and other items and was contaminated to an extent of 33 becquerels per gram, Kyodo News said, adding the leakage occurred when water was transferred from a storage tank to another tank of a nuclear reactor during decommissioning Wednesday.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2012-03/19/c_131476412.htm
Milestones have been reached in the preparatory work for the international next generation fusion reactor, Iter, as Chinese and Italian suppliers complete the construction of key manufacturing facilities and trial versions of parts for the superconducting magnets.
In late February China completed and shipped its first major component for the project - 660 metres of toroidal field dummy conductor; while in Italy in early march the Italian Consortium for Applied Superconductivity (ICAS) completed the commissioning of the jacketing line facility, as well as equipment needed for the manufacturing of conductors.
The superconducting magnets are some of the highest value and most essential components of the Iter reactor, which is soon to start construction at Cadarache in Southern France. The reactor is to be a kind of tokamak – a doughnut-shaped vacuum vessel which, when operational, will confine and heat a plasma of deuterium and tritium ions to achieve sustained nuclear fusion.
Confinement of the plasma is maintained through the toroidal field system which keeps the plasma moving around the chamber, and a poloidal field which pinches the plasma and keeps it away from the walls. In total Iter will require 16 toroidal field and six poloidal field coils. Each D-shaped toroidal coil contains multiple strands of superconducting cable, and weighs in at about 363 tonnes. Each cable consists of about 1000 strands of a special alloy of niobium and twisted together and encased in a steel jacket.
The 'dummy' version replaces this alloy with copper so as to qualify the cabling and jacketing process without wasting the more valuable superconducting material. In the jacketing process long sections are welded together into a line about 750 metres long and the cable is drawn through it, allowing weld quality to be checked and repaired if necessary.
Twenty kilometres outside of Turin, ICAS – a consortium of ENEA, Tratos Cavi and Criotec – has just completed the commissioning of a facility to fabricate and test superconductor. An 800 metre jacketing platform has been assembled just outside this. The consortium intends to produce three superconducting dummies, with two dummies produced by the end of June this year. ICAS will eventually produce 27 production lengths, measuring approximately 20 kilometres, for the Iter toroidal field coils and will supply jacketing for 22 kilometres worth of the poloidal field coil.
The Chinese dummy magnet conductor was constructed at a facility in Hefei. It reached Fukuoka on 10 March having departed from a port in Shanghai on 26 February. The dummy conductor will be stored at the Wakamatsu site awaiting further processing. This is the first shipment of a major component to be completed component between Iter member countries.
Iter is overseen by seven domestic agencies representing China, the European Union, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States. It relies upon in-kind contributions from these member agencies for component work packages which have been divided between them. This international scientific collaboration is the largest in the world.
The schedule for the Iter project looks set to be delayed by a year, in part due to the disruptive influence of the natural disasters that struck Japan last March. However the project remains on track to meet costs targets established in an extraordinary meeting in July 2010. The first major part is due to arrive at the site in 2014 and first plasma remains nominally slated for 2019.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN_Superconductor_work_progresses_for_ITER_210312a.html
2. Bruce Power Restarts Ontario Reactor After Repairs
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Private power utility Bruce Power said it restarted its Unit 2 reactor at the Bruce A nuclear plant following completion of minor repairs to a pump system, after the newly rebuilt reactor was shut down over the weekend due to a leak.
On Friday, Canada's nuclear regulator had given Bruce Power the green light to restart the reactor, which had been offline for nearly 20 years.
The company's operations team detected a leak on a Unit 2 pump system during restart activities, it said in a statement.
"There was no impact on the rest of Bruce A, the public, external environment or worker safety," the Ontario utility added.
Bruce Power is a partnership between uranium producer Cameco Corp and pipeline company TransCanada Corp. A retirement trust, the Power Workers' Union, and the Society of Energy Professionals all have a smaller share.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/20/brucepower-idUSL3E8EK3C720120320
1. IAEA Says Nuclear Security Improving, More to be Done
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More still needs to be done to safeguard nuclear and radioactive materials given the scores of security incidents the U.N. atomic agency hears about each year, a senior official said on Wednesday. Khammar Mrabit, a director of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, said much had been achieved in the last decade to help make it harder for militants to carry out "malicious acts" involving potentially dangerous nuclear substances.
But, Mrabit told reporters ahead of next week's Nuclear Security Summit in South Korea: "Nuclear security is work in progress. Continuous improvement is a must. Complacency is bad."
"The agency continues to receive reports ... which show that nuclear and other radioactive materials (are) still not properly secured. We have roughly around 200 incidents per year," said Mrabit, who heads the IAEA's Office of Nuclear Security.
He was referring to cases reported to the IAEA's Illicit Trafficking Database by the 113 countries which participate in this information exchange project, covering cases including theft, sabotage, unauthorized access and illegal transfers.
The percentage involving highly enriched uranium, which can provide material for bombs, is "very low," he said, adding most cases concerned other types of radioactive materials.
The Vienna-based body is helping states prevent smuggling of uranium, plutonium or other items that could be used to make a nuclear weapon or a dirty bomb, which combines conventional explosives such as dynamite with radioactive material.
Analysts say radical groups could theoretically build a crude but deadly nuclear device if they have the money, technical know-how and the amount of fissile material needed.
They say groups such as al Qaeda have been trying to get the components for a nuclear bomb. Obtaining weapons-grade material is the biggest challenge and keeping it secure is vital.
In 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama hosted the first global nuclear security summit in Washington, at which he secured specific commitments from world leaders to help keep bomb-grade material out of terrorists' hands.
Independent experts say most of the pledges are being met though many were modest in scope. The March 26-27 Seoul nuclear security conference, expected to be attended by some 50 world leaders including Obama, is focused on preventing nuclear terrorism and safeguarding nuclear materials and facilities.
"The 2010 summit focused attention and galvanized action to better secure nuclear materials," said Kelsey Davenport, co-author of a report published this month by the U.S.-based Arms Control Association.
"It would be a huge missed opportunity if states do not make significant new commitments and adopt higher nuclear security standards in Seoul to better safeguard vulnerable nuclear material," she said. The IAEA sees continuous improvement in nuclear security and "this is really good," Mrabit said. "Many people will hope that the summit will give an additional high-level political impetus to global efforts to improve nuclear security worldwide," he said.
In the last decade, he said, the IAEA has trained more than 10,000 people from 120 countries in different areas of nuclear security. Together with member states, it has also secured thousands of radioactive sources that were vulnerable.
"Through that we have made it more difficult for people to carry out malicious acts," Mrabit said.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/21/nuclear-security-iaea-idUSL6E8EKA3W20120321
Takeover activity is poised to heat up in the Canadian uranium sector as energy-hungry China hunts for feedstock to fuel its growing family of nuclear reactors.
The state-controlled China Daily recently reported that the country plans to buy more uranium mines abroad, and is looking in Canada. China also expects to import more uranium this year as its nuclear program resumes after being halted following Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster.
China has 15 reactors in operation and 25 under construction, and plans to build another 50. It imports nearly all its uranium from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Namibia and Australia.
“It comes as a surprise” that China is showing its hand by publicly targeting this country’s miners, which could boost the prices of potential acquisitions, said Versant Partners analyst Rob Chang. But he said the country’s announcement deserves to be taken seriously in the wake of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision last month to overturn previous trading bans and permit uranium sales to China for civilian use.
China would most likely focus on buying Canadian “exploration companies with high-quality assets” because there are no ownership restrictions on early-stage firms, Mr. Chang said. However, Ottawa bars foreigners from owning more than a 49-per-cent stake in a company that is mining the metal. China has already been on the acquisition trail for explorers in Africa. China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corp., its nuclear agency, recently struck a $2.4-billion (U.S.) deal to snap up Australia-based Extract Resources Ltd. , which owns a huge uranium deposit in Namibia.
In Canada, uranium juniors such as Fission Energy Corp. , which has a property in Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin, Kivalliq Energy Corp. , which has a deposit in Nunavut, and Strateco Resources Inc. , which is developing the Matoush project in northern Quebec, could be of interest, Mr. Chang said. There is industry speculation that the Conservative government will relax its foreign ownership laws on uranium mines. Throne speeches since 2010 have talked about lifting regulations that inhibit the growth of Canada’s uranium industry.
Foreigners are already snapping up Canadian exploration companies. Last year, British mining giant Rio Tinto PLC trumped Cameco Corp. to buy Hathor Exploration for about $625-million (Canadian). Paladin Energy Ltd. , Australia’s second-biggest uranium miner, acquired the Michelin uranium project in Labrador for $261-million from Fronteer Gold Inc.
Euro Pacific Canada analyst Merrill McHenry, who is bearish on the uranium sector because Japan’s 52 reactors are still shut down, agrees that Fission Energy could be a strategic acquisition for China. If ownership rules don’t change, China could comply by partnering with a player like Cameco when it comes time to extract uranium, he said.
Macusani Yellowcake Inc. , which has acquired Southern Andes Energy Inc. and merged their uranium properties in Peru, is also a potential takeover candidate, Mr. McHenry suggested. But those deposits would need to be combined with another project for the play to become economically viable, he added. The Chinese could buy Macusani Yellowcake and also acquire an additional nearby deposit in Peru from Fission Energy through an outright purchase or joint venture with that company, he said. “You would then not have a foreign-ownership problem with the Canadian assets [because they are not in Canada].”
China could also become involved with Canadian uranium projects through joint ventures in properties like Paladin’s Michelin project, he said. A three-year moratorium on uranium mining on Inuit lands was lifted this month and the Chinese could help finance the next phase, he said.
“They [Paladin] would need a mill so we are talking about a substantial amount of capital expenditures.”
Available at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/investment-ideas/china-eyes-canadian-uranium-mines/article2377160/
2. Russia Says Near Deal on Two New Indian Reactors
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Russia's ability to restart long-delayed work at India's Kudankulam nuclear plant has paved the way for a deal with Delhi to build two more atomic reactors in the near future, Russia's nuclear chief said on Wednesday.
The first two reactors at the plant in the state of Tamil Nadu were meant to be operational last year, but work by Russian engineers was delayed after protesters blocked access to the site following Japan's nuclear catastrophe.
Work to launch the reactors restarted on Tuesday, however, after Indian police arrested dozens of protesters.
"The resolution of the political dispute over the first two reactors paves the road to sign the agreement on the third and fourth (nuclear) generators," Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russian state nuclear monopoly Rosatom, told Reuters.
"The decision (on the third and fourth) reactors was linked to the launch of the first and second generators."
Kiriyenko said Moscow was ready to sign the agreement with India on the third and fourth reactors "starting tomorrow," adding he already had initial political approval for the project despite the fact that talks have dragged on for years.
However, he ruled out sealing the deal during President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to India for a summit of the BRICS group of nations.
Russia is keen to cash in on its nuclear know-how and has ambitious plans to triple nuclear exports to $50 billion a year by 2030. It possesses about 40 percent of the world's uranium enrichment capacity, and exports some $3 billion worth of fuel a year, offering discounts to clients who buy its reactors. India meanwhile continues to suffer from huge electricity shortages which are hampering its growth, and is therefore anxious to get more nuclear power stations built as quickly as possible.
Kiriyenko hailed the Indian authorities' decision to press ahead despite domestic opposition to the project, saying the plant more than complied with stricter safety rules brought in after the Fukushima crisis.
"There is nothing safer that this project compared to other plants across the globe," Kiriyenko told Reuters.
Rosatom has argued that the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl more than 20 years ago helped it hone its safety technology.
Kiriyenko did not say when the first two reactors at Kudankulam could go online, stressing that the halt in construction meant additional checks would be necessary.
"We need to carry out an inspection of the equipment that has been idle," Kiriyenko said. "This of course may take some time because we have put all the equipment in storage."
India plans to add 64 gigawatts of nuclear power to its power generating capacity by building 30 reactors by 2032.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/21/russia-india-nuclear-idUSL6E8EL5OC20120321
3. Russian Bidder Offers ‘Full Financing’ for Temelín Expansion
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The Russian-Czech joint venture bidding to construct two new nuclear reactors at the Czech Temelín site says that it is willing provide up to 100 percent financing for the project if need be.
“We are ready to provide anything from a small part [of the financing] to 100 percent,” said the operational vice president of Rusatom Overseas, Leoš Tomíček. “It is up to the Czech Republic to decide how much they want,” added the top manager of the overseas marketing arm of state nuclear construction company Rosatom.
However, Tomíček said he believed it would not come to more than 49 percent. That would mean the state-controlled Czech power company ČEZ would to cover the remaining 51 percent of the estimated Kč 150 billion – Kč 200 billion costs of the nuclear expansion.
Tomíček said that a share stake in ČEZ or a joint venture just focusing on the third and fourth reactors at Temelín would be possibilities for a deal. “There are many options,” he said, adding that Rosatom could seek the necessary financing from the Russian state.
‘We are ready to provide anything from a small part [of the financing] to 100 percent.’ Rosatom is one of three bidders to carry out the Temelín expansion in a joint venture with Czech engineering company Škoda JS. Confirmation that the Russian state could help pay for the Czech nuclear expansion will put pressure on the other two bidders, France’s Areva, and US-based Westinghouse, which have to date both insisted they are interested solely in building nuclear power plants — not financing them or having a final ownership stake in them.
The willingness of the Czech-Russian JV to come forward with financing comes amid concerns whether ČEZ can underwrite the nuclear expansion alongside other conventional and renewable power projects already in hand. ČEZ has plans for expanding renewables, mainly in Poland and Romania, an ongoing program for refitting some of it coal-fired power plants and building new gas-fired plants in the Czech Republic.
ČEZ managers have stressed that that the near 70-percent state owned company can finance Temelín’s expansion from its own resources and borrowing, but doing so would put a substantial squeeze on its other plans. The Central European power giant has already contracted French-based bank BNP Paribas to help it explore the possibilities for partners to help come up with the financing for the two new reactors.
“These signals that ČEZ might not have the financing for Temelín are very disturbing for us,” Tomíček commented. “We have invested a lot of money in this project already.”
The Rusatom Overseas manager, who took part in the construction of the Dukovany nuclear power plant when the former Czechoslovakia was part of the Soviet bloc, said that 100-percent financing has been offered for construction of Russian nuclear power plants in Belarus, Vietnam and Turkey. Such a deal or something similar would have to be underwritten by a bilateral agreement between Prague and Moscow, Tomíček said.
While overcoming the financial problem, Russian state financing would create political and diplomatic headaches for the Czech Republic, which sought to distance itself from the Soviet Union following the collapse of the puppet communist regime in 1989 and sought to tie itself to the West as soon as possible afterwards.
Opting for the Russian-Czech bid would be a clear slap in the face for the country’s biggest strategic ally, the US, which has been lobbying strongly for Westinghouse to land the Temelín deal, and France, one of the most influential members of the EU, which the Czech Republic joined in 2004. Paris has been peddling the line of Prague’s key role in a European grouping of countries that could help to push nuclear power following declarations from a series of countries, headed by Germany, that they are no longer counting on it for future power production.
Tomíček was speaking Tuesday in the margins of a press conference to announce the signing up of a further 10 Czech and Slovak companies as possible suppliers for the Temelín project and some of the 30 reactors being currently constructed by Rosatom in Russia and around the world. A similar ceremony in October last year resulted in 15 Czech and Slovak companies being given the chance to benefit from a slice of massive contracts being competed for worldwide.
“We are taking part in nearly all the ongoing [nuclear] tenders around the world. We are talking with Hungary, South Africa, in Latin America, Vietman and other countries in Southeast Asia,” said Tomíček, adding that the Russian company had a target to increase the number of reactors constructed or being built from around 30 now to around 80 by 2030.
“Rosatom is planning to buy equipment and services for the construction of nuclear power plants amounting to more than $300 billion by 2030,” it said in a press release. “We are currently cooperating with Czech colleagues. For example, for the two reactors at the Indian Kudankulam plant, we have nine Czech companies providing fixtures, pumps, cables and other equipment worth $58 million.” Offers from the three bidders for the Temelín expansion should be submitted to ČEZ by July 2 with the company having until the end of 2013 to decide whether to go ahead with the project and pick a winner.
Available at: http://www.ceskapozice.cz/en/business/energy-green-biz/russian-bidder-offers-%E2%80%98full-financing%E2%80%99-temelin-expansion
4. US and Russia Work Together Against Threat of Nuclear Terrorism
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It would seem that the relationship between the United States and Russia has once again settled into a sour state. Disagreements over missile defense in Europe are creating additional obstacles to a Russia-NATO summit planned for May.
Russia and the US continue to disagree over policy toward Iran and Syria. But behind the front pages, there is significant cooperation happening between the US and Russia over an issue that both countries consider among the most serious facing them — nuclear terrorism.
Next week, on March 26, Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev will meet in Seoul along with 50 other heads of state attending the second Nuclear Security Summit. One of the topics they will discuss is combating the threat from nuclear terrorism, a threat that Obama and Medvedev, and their predecessors, Presidents Bush and Putin, have called one of the most dangerous of our time.
Russia and the US have done much to raise awareness of the threat including forming a Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. But identifying the next steps that countries can take against this new threat has been difficult. Ideas and trust are lacking. This is why in October 2010 a small group of senior, retired general officers from US and Russian military and intelligence agencies formed the Elbe Group.
The purpose of the Elbe Group, named after the river where American and Russian forces met at the end of World War II, is to establish an open and continuous channel of communication on sensitive issues. The group is unique in that it brings together former leaders and members of the CIA and FSB, DIA and GRU (the military intelligence services), and the military and internal security forces.
The first major issue tackled by the group has been preventing nuclear terrorism — a threat that combines the Cold War peril of nuclear holocaust and the 21st century danger of international terrorism. In May 2011, the Elbe Group participated in creating a first-of-its-kind US-Russia Joint Threat Assessment on Nuclear Terrorism. The unclassified report, published by Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center and the Russian Academy of Science’s Institute for US and Canadian Studies, details the growth of the threat that terrorist groups could obtain nuclear materials.
The report is important because it is so far the only joint assessment of the threat from nuclear terrorism compiled by experts from the two leading nuclear powers. It represents a consensus among intelligence officers, scientists, and military leaders about how terrorists could obtain nuclear materials and use them. As the report concludes, “If current approaches toward eliminating the threat are not replaced with a sense of urgency and resolve, the question will become not if, but when, and on what scale the first act of nuclear terrorism occurs.”
In the opinion of the Elbe Group, the nuclear security summit in Seoul provides an important opportunity to reaffirm US and Russian leadership against the deadly menace of nuclear terrorism. We believe that, as the two leading nuclear powers in the world, Russia and the United States have a special responsibility to do everything in their power to deny weapons-useable nuclear materials to terrorists. Specifically, the governments of our countries should jointly take the following steps in cooperation with other responsible nations:
We encourage our governments to develop an assessment of the threat from nuclear terrorism to provide a basis for a common understanding of the threat and its component parts.
Our governments should establish a “domain” for combating nuclear terrorism — recognizing that nuclear terrorism, like nuclear security, should be understood as a cross-cutting issue requiring clearly responsible leaders in the government. Government efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism would benefit from clarification of the architectures for addressing this domain.
We suggest that the US and Russia increase coordination between special services in the interest of providing better warning about terrorist threats, with priority given to preventing nuclear terrorism. The catastrophe at Fukushima, which was the result of an accident, could happen again as the result of intentional actions by terrorists. US and Russian relevant government agencies should lead international preparation for interdiction and consequence management of such acts.
US and Russian governments should continue to allocate resources to sustain and strengthen efforts to combat all forms of terrorism, in particular nuclear terrorism.
There are, of course, issues over which the members of the Elbe Group disagree but all agree that preventing nuclear terrorism is a priority for joint action by our two countries. By vigorously and diligently confronting common threats, the US and Russia can build the mutual trust that will lead to cooperation and agreement on other sensitive issues.
Available at: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/commentary/us-and-russia-work-together-against-threat-nuclear-terrorism
5. South Korea Must Revise U.S. Nuclear Accord Terms, Group Says
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South Korea should revise a bilateral nuclear accord with the U.S. so that it can export reactor technology in an expanding global atomic power plant market, a Seoul-based private research institute said.
The agreement, which restricts South Korea from exporting the technology independently, must reflect the country’s status as the world’s fifth-largest reactor operator, Jang Woo Seok, a research fellow at Hyundai Research Institute, said in a note.
The world’s nuclear power project construction market may reach as much as $1.15 trillion by 2030 with the addition of up to 350 reactors, the institute estimated. South Korea had to seek the consent of the U.S. after winning its first order in 2009 to export nuclear reactor technology to the United Arab Emirates, according to the note.
Talks with the U.S. on revising the agreement, signed in 1974, started in October 2010. The government should seek to shorten the terms of the accord, expiring in 2014, according to Hyundai Research.
Under the agreement, South Korea is also not allowed to reprocess nuclear power plant fuel until 2020. The Ministry of Knowledge Economy has said the country’s temporary waste repository will run out of space in 2016.
South Korea started trial operations of its first nuclear power plant in 1977, and currently operates 21 reactors.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-20/south-korea-must-revise-u-s-nuclear-accord-terms-group-says.html
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