1. North Korea Suspected of Having More Uranium Enrichment Plants: Newspaper
The Mainichi Daily News
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South Korea and the United States believe North Korea has at least one more secret uranium enrichment facility, a Seoul newspaper reported Friday.
"It's clear that the North has other uranium enrichment facilities in several places besides Yongbyon," a South Korean government official told the Chosun Ilbo. "The regime is probably going to use the Yongbyon plant as a showcase," the official said.
South Korea and the United States believe this is the reason North Korea has agreed in recent talks with Washington to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect its first uranium enrichment plant in Yongbyon in return for the resumption of aid.
The North used plutonium extracted from a now-defunct 5-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the United States in the late 1990s and is now probably trying to use the same trick with its uranium enrichment program, the report said.
A senior South Korean official at the presidential office also was quoted as saying, "The issue of the other uranium enrichment facilities the North hasn't disclosed also needs to be resolved."
South Korea and the United States reportedly know where some of the other uranium enrichment plants are and will bring this issue to the table once the six-party nuclear disarmament talks resume, the report said.
Meanwhile, South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung Suk, asked to comment on the newspaper report at a press briefing, said North Korea should clarify various suspicions about its uranium enrichment facilities.
"It is not proper for the (South Korean) government to comment on media reports. This is a matter to be clarified by North Korea," Kim said.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said it is ready to inspect the North's nuclear facilities in accordance with the Washington-Pyongyang agreement. Pyongyang threw IAEA inspectors out in April 2009. They will return later this month or early next month, the report said.
Under the latest nuclear deal with the United States, North Korea has said it would suspend nuclear testing, uranium enrichment and long-range missile testing and accept U.N. nuclear inspectors in exchange for food aid.
The diplomatic breakthrough follows talks in Beijing last week between Glyn Davies, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, and North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan. The U.S.-North Korea talks were part of efforts to restart the six-party talks involving North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States. China is host of the six-party process, which has been suspended since December 2008.
Available at: http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/international/news/20120303p2g00m0in022000c.html
2. Third Time Lucky for Nuclear Watchdog in North Korea?
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North Korea's agreement to allow inspections of its Yongbyon nuclear plant is a welcome emergence from isolation, but far from enough to reassure the world it will give up its ambitions for nuclear weapons, diplomats and experts say.
North Korea said Wednesday it would suspend nuclear tests, long-range missile launches and enrichment of uranium at its Yongbyon facility and allow back International Atomic Energy Agency personnel. The surprise turn of events also brings U.S. food aid for the impoverished state and makes possible the resumption of six-nation nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang.
It was unclear how much scope for inspections the Vienna-based U.N. agency would get - the North has limited their access during two previous periods when it allowed inspectors in.
And Western analysts said the Asian country may simply continue covert atomic activity elsewhere. "I assume North Korea would try to limit the IAEA's role as much as possible," said Mark Fitzpatrick, an expert on nuclear proliferation. "North Korea has always been suspicious of the IAEA."
Like other Western diplomats, a European based in the Austrian capital said the North's agreement to let international monitors back to Yongbyon was a "very positive step" as the complex was the primary focus of its nuclear program.
But, the envoy added: "Who knows what might have been built off site."Members of a U.N. expert panel said in a confidential report last year that North Korea most likely had several more undisclosed enrichment-related facilities, in addition to the one at Yongbyon revealed in late 2010.
In an ideal situation for the outside world, Pyongyang would let the IAEA "essentially map the entire history and current situation" of the nuclear program, said Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
But more likely, he said, was that it would "continue to develop a clandestine enrichment capability including facilities which are not declared and known to the IAEA." Analysts cautioned that Pyongyang had reneged on past deals, but noted its latest move marked a sharp change in course by the reclusive state after the death in December of new leader Kim Jong-un's father, veteran strongman Kim Jong-il. U.S. officials said persistence and patience were needed. "I believe it is very unlikely that North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons," said Jeffrey Lewis, a director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California.
"But we have no choice but to try."
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 a uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon, potentially offering a second path to make bombs.
Fitzpatrick, at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies, said it was "widely assumed" that North Korea could not have established this site without having at least a pilot plant elsewhere, as well as a uranium conversion facility.
Of Yongbyon, he said: "The IAEA will be able to see the uranium enrichment facility, will be able to monitor the suspension of activity and presumably will also learn something about it, how far along they were, this will be very useful to know."
But, Fitzpatrick added, Pyongyang had not declared the suspected "hidden facilities and work presumably would continue" in such locations.
Shannon Kile of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said of the North Korean authorities: "I just cannot imagine that the DPRK would allow the IAEA to undertake inspections to verify the absence of undeclared activities.
"That would surprise me very much."
To be certain that no material is diverted for military purposes, analysts said inspectors would need full access to all uranium enrichment activities. This would usually mean frequent inspections, video cameras and special seals at such sites.
Former U.N. chief inspector Olli Heinonen said that although this week's suspension announcement was a positive step, North Korea "has still to place all nuclear material and facilities under the IAEA safeguards."
The IAEA, whose mission is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in the world, is believed to have a team of inspectors who are North Korea specialists and are prepared to go to the country at short notice.
Dozens of its inspectors - who form part of a department which also has its hands full with Iran's disputed nuclear program - have past experience of working in North Korea. One Vienna-based ambassador, asked about the restrictions the agency may face in North Korea, said: "We have to face reality. To do something is better than nothing."
North Korea kicked out international inspectors a decade ago when a 1994 deal between Pyongyang and Washington unraveled. It expelled them again in April 2009 after rejecting the intrusive inspections agreed under a 2005 aid deal with five regional powers that allowed the watchdog to return.
Clearly hoping for more success this time, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano hailed Wednesday's news as "an important step forward" and said the agency stood ready to return to Yongbyon upon request and with the agreement of its 35-nation board of governors.
Diplomats said it was now up to North Korea to contact the U.N. agency about its resumption of inspection work. It was unclear, they said, whether the issue would be discussed as soon as the board's next regular meeting on March 5-9.
"It's up to the North to do the first reach-out to Director General Amano," a senior U.S. official said. "I have no doubt that there will be some tough negotiations going forward in terms of exact sequencing" of a Pyongyang-Washington accord.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/01/us-korea-north-nuclear-iaea-idUSTRE8201HC20120301
1. IAEA Has "Serious Concerns" as Iran Boosts Nuclear Work
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Iran has tripled its monthly production of higher-grade enriched uranium and the U.N. nuclear watchdog has "serious concerns" about possible military dimensions to Tehran's atomic activities, the agency's chief said on Monday.
Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also told the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors about the lack of progress in two rounds of talks between the Vienna-based U.N. agency and Tehran this year.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were to meet shortly in Washington to discuss Iran, deeply at odds over the timing for possible last-resort military action against Iran's nuclear program.
Even though Obama offered assurances of stiffened U.S. resolve against Iran before the White House meeting, the two allies remained far apart over explicit nuclear "red lines" that Tehran should not be allowed to cross.
Iran denies suspicions that it is covertly seeking nuclear weapons capability, in part by coordinating efforts to process uranium, test high explosives and revamp a ballistic missile cone to accommodate a nuclear warhead.
But its refusal to curb sensitive atomic work that can have both civilian and military applications has drawn increasingly tough U.N. and Western sanctions against the major oil producer.
During the meetings in the Iranian capital in January and February, Iranian officials stonewalled the IAEA's requests for access to a military site seen as central to its investigation into the nature of the Islamic state's nuclear activity.
"The agency continues to have serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program," Amano told the closed-door meeting, according to a copy of his speech.
The IAEA "is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities," he added.
A report by the IAEA to member states last month said Iran was significantly stepping up uranium enrichment, a finding that sent oil prices higher on fears that tensions between Tehran and the West could boil over into military conflict.
Since the IAEA's previous report in November, Amano said Iran has tripled monthly production of uranium refined to a fissile concentration of 20 percent - well above the level usually needed to run nuclear power plants.
Though indicated by the IAEA's confidential report last month, it was the first time Amano spoke in public about this rapid increase in Iran's enrichment activities, which has stoked Western and Israeli suspicions about Tehran's nuclear agenda.
The Islamic Republic says the more highly refined uranium will replenish the dwindling special fuel stocks of a Tehran reactor that produces medicinal isotopes.
But 20 percent enrichment, experts say, also represents most of the technical effort needed to attain the 90 percent threshold required for nuclear explosions.
Much of this work is carried out deep inside a mountain at Iran's underground Fordow facility to better shield it against military strikes, and further expansion is planned.
Despite intensive discussions with Iran, Amano said, there had been no agreement on a "structured approach" to resolve outstanding issues with its nuclear program during the talks held in January and February.
Iran "did not address the agency's concerns in a substantive manner," Amano said. Making clear, however, that he would keep trying to engage Iran on the issue, he added: "Regarding future steps, the agency will continue to address the Iran nuclear issue through dialogue and in a constructive spirit."
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/05/us-nuclear-iran-iaea-idUSTRE8240F320120305
2. West Seeks to Pressure Iran at U.N. Nuclear Meet
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Western powers hope to win Russian and Chinese backing for rebuking Iran at the U.N. nuclear agency next week over Tehran's failure to address mounting fears that it is secretly bent on acquiring nuclear weapons capability, diplomats say.
Seeking to ward off any such diplomatic action, Iran has warned its opponents and others against making "provocative statements" at the March 5-9 meeting of the 35-nation governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Western envoys say the lack of progress at talks this year between the IAEA and Iran and Tehran's acceleration of sensitive atomic activity mean the board should respond to the country's defiance of increased international pressure.
But they make clear they want broad support for any new board resolution and especially from Russia and China, which have backed four rounds of U.N. sanctions since 2006 but criticised unilateral Western punitive steps against Iran.
An IAEA resolution, while containing no concrete measures, would be aimed at sending a united message to Iran that it must stop stonewalling the U.N. agency's investigation into possible military dimensions to its nuclear programme, diplomats say.
"We think there needs to be a resolution that makes clear ... that Iran needs to do more, a lot more, to comply with the agency's requirements," a senior Western official said.
He said Iran's lack of cooperation with a senior IAEA team, during two rounds of meetings in Tehran in January and February, represented a "gigantic slap in the face" for the IAEA.
But an ambassador of a non-Western state showed a lack of enthusiasm, saying a resolution that was adopted at the most recent board meeting in November, and voiced increasing concern about Iran's nuclear programme, was still "relevant".
It was more important, he said, to create "favourable conditions" for a resumption of wider nuclear negotiations between Iran and the six major powers - the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.
They are discussing how to react to an Iranian offer last month to restart talks which have been frozen for more than a year, as Iran presses ahead with its nuclear programme. A report by the IAEA last week said Iran was significantly stepping up uranium enrichment, a finding that sent oil prices higher on fears tensions between Tehran and the West could escalate into military conflict.
Israel has threatened to launch strikes to prevent Iran getting the bomb, saying Tehran's continued technological progress means it could soon pass into a "zone of immunity". U.S. officials say sanctions should be given time to work.
The IAEA's report showed Iran had tripled monthly output of uranium enriched to a fissile concentration of 20 percent, well above what is usually needed to fuel nuclear power plants. Iran says the more highly refined uranium will replenish the dwindling special fuel stocks of a reactor that produces medicinal isotopes.
But 20 percent enrichment, experts say, represents most of the effort needed to attain the 90 percent threshold required for nuclear explosions.
Much of this work is carried out deep inside a mountain at Iran's underground Fordow facility to better shield it against military strikes, and it is preparing for a further expansion.
Iran is now believed to be capable of increasing its output capacity of 20 pct uranium four-fold "over a fairly short period of time", a Western diplomat said.
The IAEA report showed total production so far of this higher-grade material at about 110 kg, roughly half way to the quantity Western experts say would be sufficient for one bomb. Iran denies Western accusations that it is seeking weapons of mass destruction, saying it needs higher-grade uranium for the Tehran research reactor making isotopes for cancer care.
Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, insisted that "substantial progress" was made in the Tehran meetings.
"There shouldn't be any provocative statements. There should be encouraging statements for Iran and the agency to continue the work," he told reporters this week. During the two rounds of talks in the Iranian capital, Iran did not grant IAEA requests to visit the Parchin military facility, seen as central for its investigation.
The November IAEA report said the agency had information that Iran had built a large containment chamber at Parchin to conduct high-explosives tests which, it said, were "strong indicators of possible weapon development."
Vienna-based diplomats said the agency team at the talks had turned down a last-minute offer for them to go to another site, in the region of Marivan, also mentioned in the IAEA report as it detailed research activities relevant for atomic bombs.
But that offer came "out of the blue" and the agency team was completely unprepared to go there, one envoy said.
The IAEA board was also expected to touch on North Korea's announcement this week that it would suspend major elements of its nuclear weapons programme and allow U.N. inspectors back for the first time in three years.
On another sensitive nuclear issue, diplomats said Syria had once again made clear, in an exchange of letters with the IAEA, that it was not in a position to engage with the agency in its long-stalled investigation into Damascus's atomic activity.
"I simply can't imagine that there is any capacity in Syria at the moment to mobilise any sort of practical response on this," the Western diplomat said, referring to President Bashar al-Assad's ongoing campaign to stamp out a popular uprising.
Available at: http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/03/02/nuclear-iran-iaea-idINDEE8210DF20120302
1. China to "Safely and Effectively" Develop Nuclear Power
Xinhua News Agency
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Premier Wen Jiabao said in his report to the top legislature on Monday that China will "safely and effectively" develop nuclear power, marking the first time the issue has been addressed in a government work report.
In his report submitted to the 5th session of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, Wen said the government will optimize the energy structure, promote the clean and efficient use of traditional energy sources, safely and effectively develop nuclear power, and increase the share of new energy and renewable energy in the country's total energy consumption.
He mentioned nuclear power again when talking about price reforms. "We will prudently carry out the reform of electricity prices by implementing progressive pricing for household electricity consumption and improving pricing mechanisms for nuclear power, hydropower and power generated from other renewable energy sources."
"The government work report is a signal that the Chinese government will resolutely resume the normal development of nuclear electricity," Zhu Zhiyuan, NPC deputy and vice president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Shanghai Branch, said after hearing Wen's report at the opening meeting of the NPC session.
The Fukushima nuclear crisis that happened in the wake of a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11, 2011, aroused concerns among the Chinese general public over the safety of China's own nuclear power stations.
These concerns resulted in the suspension of the start of construction on four nuclear reactors that had already been approved. In 2011, no nuclear power projects were approved by the government. However, Yang Qi, honorary president of the Nuclear Power Institute of China and a political advisor, said the country should not stop nuclear power projects out of safety concerns, due to the surging demand in energy consumption for economic growth.
"We should have full confidence in the safety of nuclear power," Yang said during panel discussions with other political advisors during the 5th session of the 11th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee.
According to Yang, technologies used in China's operational nuclear power stations belong to the upgraded version of the second-generation of nuclear power reactors based on the French M310 technology.
With a number of technological assimilations and innovations, China's nuclear power stations in operation have adopted stricter disaster prevention and mitigation measures that are better than those used in most of the world's M310-based generating units, said Yang.
He added that the safety of China's nuclear power stations, both those in operation and under construction, can be ensured geologically, as it is unlikely to see major tsunamis at those sites.
Yang's remarks came just three days after Zhao Qizheng, a spokesman for the CPPCC session, said China will develop nuclear power in an "extremely safe" way.
The 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) also makes mention of nuclear power, saying that it will be developed more efficiently under the precondition of ensuring safety.
China made its strategy for nuclear power development in 2005, and issued long- and mid-term plans. In 2008, the total capacity of its 14 nuclear power reactors reached 9.1 million KW, accounting for 1.3 percent of the country's total capacity.
Zhu Zhiyuan urged the top legislature to enact a nuclear safety law, as it is an urgent affair for developing nuclear power plants. He suggested the NPC make nuclear safety law its priority and draw experience from other countries.
He also urged the establishment of a higher supervision institution for nuclear power development. Yang said that as the world comes to grips with last year's Fukushima nuclear accident, the development of the nuclear power industry is now regaining momentum.
The National Energy Administration said in February that it has launched a series of research and development projects to improve emergency response mechanisms for nuclear power plants in the case of extreme disasters.
According to the latest nuclear power development plan made by the National Development and Reform Commission, more than 70 nuclear power reactors will be in operation in 2020, accounting for 5 percent of the country's total capacity.
In 2050, the total capacity of China's nuclear power reactors will reach 400 million KW.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2012-03/05/c_131448151.htm
2. China May Resume Approval of New Nuclear Plants This Year
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China, the world’s biggest energy user, is “very likely” to resume approval of new nuclear projects in 2012 as the government completes a safety review prompted by the Fukushima disaster last year. “The government is coming up with a revised plan for nuclear development and is very likely to resume approvals for new plants this year,” Sun Qin, president of China National Nuclear Corp., said in an interview in Beijing.
China halted new nuclear projects after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan crippled the Fukushima Dai-Ichi station and prompted a global review of atomic plants. China National Nuclear, the country’s biggest atomic plant builder, is maintaining equipment orders this year, Sun said.
“There was a slight pause last year, and we’re definitely continuing with our orders,” Sun said at the Great Hall of the People during the opening of the country’s legislature.
China, which started operating its first commercial nuclear plant in 1994, is building at least 27 reactors and has 50 more planned, according to the China Nuclear Energy Association.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection said Dec. 12 it has submitted new nuclear safety regulations to the State Council, or Cabinet.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-05/china-may-resume-approval-of-new-nuclear-plants-this-year-1-.html
The start-up date for EDF's next-generation EPR reactor in northwestern France will not be delayed by defects found on brackets to fix a bridge on the 1,650-megawatt reactor, which will be used principally to refuel the reactor, EDF said.
Flamanville 3 is the first nuclear reactor built in France in 15 years and a landmark project for EDF, which hopes to win deals to build nuclear plants in the United Kingdom and South Africa.
Concreting of the next to last level inside the reactor building was suspended whilst EDF carries out work on the brackets, the utility said on Friday.
"This part has been stopped but the other parts of construction works is still ongoing," an EDF spokeswoman said.
Work on the third reactor built on the Flamanville site in northwestern France started in 2007 with Areva's reactor first expected to start up in 2012. The start-up date has been delayed twice, delaying the production start to 2016.
"The works on the EPR are continuing as normal and the schedule still sets the start-up of the reactor for 2016," EDF said in a note.
EDF, which expects the project to cost 6 billion euros ($8.00 billion), operates France's 58 nuclear reactors.
The first EPR reactor, under construction in Olkiluoto in Finland, will not be ready for electricity production before August 2014, five years behind schedule.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/02/france-reactor-defects-idUSL5E8E21JM20120302
4. U.S. Nuclear Power Outages Twice as High as Last Year
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U.S. nuclear power plant outages on Friday were more than twice as high as this time last year and more than 60 percent over the five-year average, according to Reuters data.
More than 18,000 megawatts (MW) of nuclear capacity was shut on Friday versus just 8,500 MW last year and a five-year average of about 11,400 MW.
At the peak of the spring 2012 maintenance season in mid-April, Reuters has calculated about 18,600 MW would be shut. That is just a little more than is out now.
Power traders said the current high number of reactor shutdowns reminded them of last spring when outages reached the highest level seen in more than a decade.
In the spring of 2011, nuclear outages reached 32,800 MW in May. The average peak for the spring maintenance season is 22,500 MW out.
Some traders noted the reactor outages could be extended again due to heightened concerns in the industry following the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan last year. Earlier this week, U.S. nuclear regulators moved to issue the first new safety rules to deal with issues raised by the Fukushima accident.
But so far the high number of nuclear outages has done little to boost electricity or natural gas prices. Natural gas has traded near 10-year lows since January. The front month on the NYMEX was up about 1 percent to the $2.40s per million British thermal units Friday afternoon.
Despite the continued low gas prices, natural gas traders said the high number of nuclear outages, among other things, was preventing gas from challenging the 10-year low of about $2.23 hit in late January.
Power prices in the West in 2011 and so far in 2012 meanwhile were at their lowest level in more than five years due in part to weak gas prices and ample hydro supplies from the Pacific Northwest. In the East, power prices for November, December and January in PJM, the biggest power grid in the United States covering all or parts of 13 Mid-Atlantic and Midwest states, and Ercot in Texas were at their lowest level in about a decade.
The traders said electric prices were low because gas prices were low due to record production of shale gas, continuing weak power demand since the Great Recession of the late 2000s and a lack of heating demand in most parts of the nation this winter.
In most parts of the United States, when a nuclear plant shuts, grid operators usually call on gas-fired power plants to operate.
The 104 operating reactors in the United States are capable of generating about 20 percent of the power the nation consumes.
A look at the 18 reactors currently out of service shows:
- 10 reactors (LaSalle 1, Limerick 1, Calvert Cliffs 1, Prairie Island 2, Brunswick 1, Robinson 2, Hatch 1, Sequoyah 1, Grand Gulf, San Onofre 2) are down for planned refueling outages, which usually takes about a month
- 1 reactors, Perry in Ohio shut this week for short work and should return over the next week or so
- 5 reactors (St Lucie 1 in Florida, Turkey Point 3 in Florida, Wolf Creek in Kansas, South Texas 2 in Texas and San Onofre 3 in California) shut weeks or months ago to replace major components and conduct work that could take months, and
- 2 reactors have been down for very long outages to repair the concrete containment structure at Crystal River in Florida and make repairs after flooding at Fort Calhoun in Nebraska.
The reactors are owned by units of Exelon, Southern , Constellation Energy Xcel Energy, Progress Energy, Tennessee Valley Authority, Entergy , Edison International, FirstEnergy, NextEra, Great Plains Energy, Westar Energy and NRG Energy.
Available at: http://af.reuters.com/article/energyOilNews/idAFL2E8E19QL20120302
1. DOE Plans Steel Cocoon for Hanford's K East Reactor
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The Department of Energy plans to try a new way to "cocoon" its next defunct Hanford reactor, putting up a steel building around it.
DOE already has made significant progress toward putting eight of Hanford's plutonium production reactors into temporary storage to let radiation decay to more manageable levels over 75 years. The ninth reactor, B Reactor, will be saved as a museum.
To cocoon the C, D, DR, F and H reactors, DOE tore down reactor structures to the radioactive shield walls around radioactive cores, sealed any openings and reroofed them before welding shut the doors. Work on a similar cocoon almost is complete at N Reactor.
But now DOE is planning to try building an enclosure around the K East Reactor, the next reactor scheduled to be cocooned.
Worker safety is the main reason to switch to the new plan, said Tom Teynor, DOE project director. The K East Reactor is larger than some of the earlier reactors that were built along the Columbia River as part of the nation's nuclear weapons program.
Piping and other penetrations are 80 to 100 feet off the ground, a high elevation for workers who would have had to put in concrete forms and pour grout to seal them. The openings still will be sealed off, but with steel plates.
Reroofing the reactor, as has been done at previous reactors, might have required extensive wall and ceiling bracing from inside the reactor, where workers would face potential radiation exposure. Because the roof of the enclosure will not be attached to the reactor, no structural changes to the building will be required.
Work still will be done inside the reactor to remove lead, oils and other hazardous substances. Ancillary structures, including the reactor basin, already have been torn down. The planned enclosure will be constructed of steel sheeting and have a roof designed at an angle to direct rain water runoff away from adjacent waste sites, according to DOE.
Cocooned reactors now are gray concrete with shiny metal roofs, but DOE has discussed making the enclosures earth toned to better blend into the surrounding desert landscape. The tribes have raised issues about the appearance of Hanford buildings, DOE said.
The cocooned reactors now can be seen by boaters along the Columbia River and from parts of the Hanford Reach National Monument. DOE is planning to have most environmental cleanup along the Columbia River completed in 2015 and most land will be left as natural shrub steppe habitat.
Building an enclosure also could save money. DOE estimates enclosing the K East Reactor in a steel shell would cost about $3.6 million less than estimated cost of about $20 million for the traditional method of cocooning. Much of the cost savings comes from not having to do engineering and construction for structural bracing.
Work to cocoon the K East Reactor is scheduled to begin in 2013, although some work is starting now to seal off below-grade piping. Hanford contractor CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. is expected to ask for bids for construction soon, Teynor said.
Work should be completed in May 2014, about nine months sooner than under the old method, he said. After K East and N reactors are in storage, that only will leave work at the K West Reactor, which cannot be cocooned while radioactive sludge still is being held in underwater containers in its basin. None of Hanford's plutonium production reactors has operated since 1987.
Available at: http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2012/03/04/1850459/doe-plans-steel-cocoon-for-hanfords.html
2. From Broken Temp Sensors to Leaky Pipes, Fukushima Nuke Plant Plagued with Problems
The Mainichi Daily News
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Nearly a year has passed since the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, and while some progress has been made in decommissioning the power station, operations continue to be plagued with problems from broken temperature sensors to leaky piping.
Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) took a major step forward in the decommissioning and dismantling process -- expected to take at least 30 years -- in January when it inserted an endoscope into the plant's No. 2 reactor vessel, beginning the first direct internal observations since the crisis began in March 2011.
Cooling at the plant's No. 1 through 4 reactors and their spent fuel pools broke down when the March 11, 2011 tsunami knocked out all power to the coolant pumps. As a result, nuclear fuel was exposed, generating hydrogen gas that built up inside the reactor buildings, eventually causing explosions that destroyed the No. 1, 3 and 4 reactor buildings and releasing a massive amount of radioactive substances.
The government and TEPCO set up a temporary water recycling system to purify water contaminated with radioactive substances and re-inject it into reactors and fuel pools.
Nine months after the crisis broke out, the government declared that the plant had achieved "cold shutdown" after judging that regular cooling of the reactors and fuel pools had been guaranteed and that there were no longer radioactive substances being emitted.
However, the nuclear plant has since been plagued by various technical problems. In particular, a sensor suddenly began registering alarmingly high temperatures at the bottom of the No. 2 reactor's pressure vessel. The temperature sensor had been registering around 40 degrees Celsius until late-January, but after the water injection method was changed the reading began to rise, topping 70 degrees on Feb. 6.
Unsure of whether there was a problem with the sensor or if the reactor really was heating up again, TEPCO gradually increased the amount of water being pumped into it and also poured in boric acid to prevent the melted core from going critical again. Still, the reading continued to rise and surpassed 80 degrees on Feb. 12 -- the maximum "safe" temperature for maintaining a cold shutdown.
The sensor eventually registered temperatures surpassing 400 degrees, leading TEPCO to conclude it was faulty. However, the entire episode revealed how little the company actually understood of the conditions inside the plant's reactors and the fragility of the cold shutdown.
The loss of the sensor also meant that TEPCO's grasp of conditions had got that much worse, while the increase in the water injected into the reactor resulted in even more contaminated water.
After the government declared that the plant had been brought to cold shutdown, water leaked from 44 locations at the plant, including seven sections of the water injection equipment -- the core of the water recycling and re-injection system -- as well as from spent fuel pools at its No. 3 and 4 reactors.
On Jan. 29, cooling at the No. 4 reactor stopped entirely for about two hours. Moreover, a weed was found growing through a pressure resistant hose of the water recycling and re-injection system, causing a pinhole-sized opening. Also, water containing radioactive strontium leaked from a tank holding enriched saline -- generated after radioactive water is purified -- on two occasions. Up to 2 millisieverts of radiation was detected around the tank following the leaks.
TEPCO wrapped the piping in insulation in a desperate attempt to prevent it from freezing, which was the cause of the leak.
Pipes freezing in winter, however, was a perfectly foreseeable difficulty.
"We've taken countermeasures against freezing of important devices, but they were insufficient," said plant manager Takashi Takahashi, and workers there are expected to continue to face problems with contaminated water.
Available at: http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20120303p2a00m0na008000c.html
3. Are India Nuclear Power Plants Safe: 3 Deaths at Kalpakkam Raises Doubts
Power Engineering International
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India is betting heavily on nuclear power to meet its surging energy needs. While India currently has six nuclear power plants (NPPs) with 20 reactors generating 4 780 megawatts seven other reactors are under construction and are expected to generate an additional 5 300 megawatts.
This current rate of nuclear power generation pales into insignificance with New Delhi s future plans as on 22 February Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told a seminar at the India International Nuclear Symposium "India plans to have a total installed nuclear capacity of 63 000 megawatts by the year 2032 using both indigenous technology and imported reactors. Nuclear technology has several distinct advantages it is compact and highly manageable in terms of handling transportation and storage of the fuel. Thermal technologies have the problems of greenhouse gas emissions fly ash and handling transportation storage problems of large quantities of fuel as well as availability of coal."
As for worries about the hazards of nuclear power generation earlier this month Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Srikumar Banerjee told a gathering at the Department of Atomic Energy s Raja Ramanna Center for Advanced Technology in Indore "All atomic energy plants in the country are totally secured as per international standards and are also capable of dealing with natural calamities like tsunamis or earthquakes."
But amidst the bland assurances lurks a darker reality.
After being in denial for years last month the selfsame Department of Atomic Energy for the first time admitted that the deaths of its employees and their dependents at the Kalpakkam nuclear site were caused by multiple myeloma a rare form of bone marrow cancer linked to nuclear radiation.
Not that the DAE willingly divulged the information it came to light in response to a Right to Information (RTI) inquiry from October 2011 with the DAE acknowledging that nine people including three employees working at the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) at Kalpakkam 44 miles from Chennai died of multiple myeloma and bone cancer between 1995 and 2011. The DAE had previously stonewalled all previous requests for information.
The report paints a troubling picture of the policies at the DAE which sends out high ranking officials with bland assurances for the public about the nation’s NPPs while privately compiling reports about their health effects concerns that can only grow as New Delhi presses forward with its nuclear program. Furthermore the statements that Indian NPPs can withstand earthquakes and tsunamis made in a country vulnerable to both smacks of more than a little hubris as Tokyo Electric and Power Co. made similar pronouncements before the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami destroyed its Fukushima Daichi nuclear power complex.
But rising to the occasion on 6 January the project director of the Kalpakkam Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research Prabhat Kumar asserted that the recent "Thane" storm proved without doubt the "foolproof safety safe technology and design concrete stability and enviable worth of all nuclear power plants."
But as for the Japanese following nuclear events in India what can they conclude if "totally secured as per international standards" NPPs nevertheless caused cancer deaths from radiation? Given the immense releases of nuclear material from Fukushima what will the country s health profile look like decades from now?
Opposition to India s nuclear power program is growing most notably at Kudankulam. Accordingly given the projected scope of India s proposed nuclear future the country may well prove to be either the salvation or graveyard of nuclear power worldwide.
And one can only wonder what other reports the DAE is sitting on. While no doubt all Indians without electricity would like a light bulb is appeal is considerably diminished if its hanging over one’s hospital bed years from now as one slowly expires from radiation induced cancer.
Accordingly the fishermen protesting the Kudankulam NPP could be doing their fellow countrymen a greater service than they currently realize.
Available at: http://www.power-eng.com/news/2012/03/01/are-india-nuclear-power-plants-safe-3-deaths-at-kalpakkam-raises-doubts.html
1. Syria Tells U.N. Atom Body of its "Delicate Situation"
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Syria has asked the U.N. nuclear watchdog for understanding of the country's "delicate situation" in response to requests for Syrian cooperation with an investigation into suspected illicit nuclear activity, agency chief Yukiya Amano said on Monday.
The Syrian comments cited by Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, were an apparent reference to President Bashar al-Assad's campaign to stamp out a popular uprising, in which over 7,500 people have died by a U.N. count.
In a speech to a quarterly meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation governing board, Amano made clear that no progress had been made in the U.N. agency's almost four-year-old investigation regarding Syria.
The IAEA has been seeking access to a desert site at Deir al-Zor that U.S. intelligence reports say was a nascent, North Korean-designed reactor intended to produce plutonium for atomic weaponry before Israel bombed it to rubble in 2007.
The Vienna-based watchdog has also been seeking information about other sites that may have been linked to Deir al-Zor.
Amano said he had written a letter to Syria in November last year urging it to address the agency's questions.
"I received a reply from Syria dated 20 February 2012, which asked for understanding of 'the difficult circumstances and the delicate situation that Syria is passing through,'" Amano said, according to a copy of his speech to the closed-door meeting.
"The letter pledged that Syria would continue to cooperate with the Agency to resolve outstanding issues."
Syria says Deir al-Zor was a non-nuclear military facility but the IAEA concluded in May 2011 that it was "very likely" to have been a reactor that should have been declared to inspectors.
In June last year, IAEA governors voted to report Syria to the U.N. Security Council, rebuking it for failing to cooperate with the agency's efforts to get concrete information on Deir al-Zor and other sites. Russia and China opposed the referral, highlighting divisions among the major powers.
"The agency continues to seek full access to other locations which the agency believes are functionally related to the (Deir al-Zor) site," Amano said. "I urge Syria to cooperate fully with the agency in connection with unresolved issues related to the Deir al-Zor site and other locations."
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/05/us-nuclear-syria-iaea-idUSTRE8240GQ20120305
Russia has approached Jordan with a bid to construct four nuclear reactors to meet the country's electricity needs as Amman closes in on a vendor for the country's first nuclear reactor. According to the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC), Russian state-owned Atomstroy Export approached Amman in January with a proposal to construct four Generation III nuclear reactors - similar to a $20 billion mega-deal inked between Moscow and Istanbul in 2010 under which the firm will build four reactors to meet up to 70 per cent of Turkey's electricity needs. "Russia came forward with a proposal to construct four reactors similar to their project in Turkey - which is something we will consider closely further down the line," JAEC Chairman Khaled Toukan told The Jordan Times in a recent interview.
The projected plants would add 4,000 megawatts (MW) to the national grid - more than double Jordan's current electricity generation capacity and transform the Kingdom from energy importer to an electricity exporter. According to observers, the Turkey-Russia deal's build-own-operate model - under which the firm agreed to bear construction costs and retain ownership of the plant - is an attractive selling point for cashapped Jordan, which has listed financing among the deciding factors in its selection of a reactor vendor. If accepted, the project would be implemented outside the framework of an ongoing competitive technology selection process - in which Amman is vetting three separate firms for the construction of a single 1,100MW reactor in northern Jordan. Toukan stressed that the offer will not influence Amman's selection of a vendor for the country's first nuclear reactor - with JAEC expected to select among Atomstroy Export, Canada's AECL and a joint venture comprising Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and French firm AREVA by the end of the month.
Amman has prioritised nuclear energy as key to weaning Jordan off energy imports - which the Kingdom relies upon for 98 per cent of its electricity generation needs at a cost of one-fifth of the gross domestic product. Ongoing disruption in Egyptian gas supplies has placed an added urgency to Jordan's quest for energy independence, forcing the government to raise electricity prices last month by an average of 9 per cent in a move that has sparked a popular backlash?
Available at: http://www.power-eng.com/news/2012/03/04/moscow-offered-jordan-nuclear-reactor-deal.html
3. Analysis - French Reactor Closure Would Hurt Germany
Muriel Boselli and Karolin Schaps
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A proposed closure of France's oldest nuclear power plant, if rushed, would strain the grid and raise the risk of blackouts in France and nearby south-western Germany, which already suffers from supply gaps after eight nuclear plants shut last year.
French Socialist candidate Francois Hollande, who is leading in polls to become France's next president in May, has vowed to close the 34-year old Fessenheim nuclear plant, which is unpopular due to its age and location in an earthquake zone.
He has not said when in his five-year mandate he would close the plant down. The timing would be crucial, because grid operators and markets need more than a few months' notice to prepare for it.
"If Fessenheim was closed, there would be a concrete issue for electricity grid operations to secure supplies locally in south-western Germany," said Fabien Roques, head of research at independent consultancy body IHS CERA.
"Fessenheim brings production to a specific point on the network, which helps it cope with record power demand during cold waves," Roques added.
If the 1,800 megawatt nuclear power facility located between Mulhouse in France and Freiburg in Germany was shut as soon as this year, Germany would struggle to ensure stability of supply in its fragile south-western region, he said.
France itself would also feel the pinch during peaktime demand in the winter, when it relies on all available power production facilities to meet constantly rising demand levels.
French electricity demand reached a new record high at of 101,700 MW during a cold snap in early February, 105 MW higher than French power production at the same time.
A loss in nuclear production would widen the gap between supply and demand at peak time even further. Comparable figures for Germany were not available.
RTE, which operates France's high-voltage lines, and nuclear operator EDF declined to comment on the impact the shutdown of Fessenheim would have on supplies.
After the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, Germany decided to shut eight nuclear power plants, four of which are located in the densely populated and industrial south-western region, which includes large cities such as Stuttgart and Heidelberg.
The region now needs to import more power from northern Germany, which has a high level of wind power output, and also from neighbouring France, Belgium and Luxembourg, analysts said.
A spokeswoman for Germany's EnBW Transportnetze, the most south-western of Germany's four grids, said the closure of Fessenheim would have an impact on its network.
Alternative and non-nuclear power plants in the area would have to be used more frequently than before to maintain the regional network balance, she said.
On top of regional network problems, the closure of Fessenheim could impact drawing rights held by Germany's E.ON to take up to 800 megawatts (MW) of electricity from EDF's Fessenheim and Cattenom nuclear plants, both located near the German border.
E.ON could instead receive drawing rights from other French nuclear plants, or the agreement could be reduced equally on both sides, a spokesman for the German utility said.
If Hollande moves ahead with his pledge soon after the election, this would tighten France's supply situation and send peaktime electricity prices higher, power traders said.
Last month's cold snap emphasised how vulnerable the French electricity market was to winter weather because of its heavy reliance on electric heating.
French power consumption surges by 2,300 MW for every one degree Celsius drop in temperatures as people turn up electric heaters.
As a result of the supply tightness, prices went through the roof, and RTE issued warnings urging the public to refrain from using electrical equipment, such as washing machines or coffee makers.
"Every year we see a new record demand, so taking off Fessenheim would definitely mean higher prices and supply deficits in the winter," one London-based power trader said.
Hollande's energy spokesman, Bernard Cazeneuve, refused to comment on the consequences of a Fessenheim shutdown.
Traders and analysts said they believed France, Europe's biggest electricity exporter, would not move ahead with the closure before having built a sufficient amount of capacity to compensate for the loss.
"So maybe he will close it in 2017, and the impact on power prices will then depend on how aggressively France builds new wind farms, new gas-fired plants and new biomass to compensate for the missing capacity," the London trader said.
EDF is in the process of building a next-generation 1,650 MW nuclear reactor in northwestern France, which is expected to come on line in 2016 after it was initially expected for 2014.
"If the reactor is further delayed, then it could complicate things," another trader said.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/03/02/uk-france-germany-fessenheim-idUKTRE8210MF20120302
4. reva Says to Remain Sole Owner of Uranium Mining Division
Caroline Jacobs and Benjamin Mallet
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Areva will not open up its recently created mining division to outside investors and will instead continue to have mining partnership agreements, the head of the French state-controlled nuclear power contractor said on Friday.
"There won't be any opening up of the capital of mining," Chief Executive Luc Oursel said at a conference call held the day after the announcement of its annual results.
Last month Areva announced a partnership with EDF whereby the French utility will take a stake in the specific development of Areva's Imouraren uranium mine in Niger in return for a share in future production.
Areva already supplies EDF, the world's biggest producer of nuclear power, with nearly 40 percent of its annual uranium needs.
Relations between the two groups have improved since Luc Oursel took over as chief executive of Areva from Anne Lauvergeon last year following project delays, a landmark contract failure and public disputes with EDF chief Henri Proglio.
Uranium production from Imouraren is now expected to get underway in 2014 after delays caused by kidnappings of foreign workers in the country's north, Niger's mines minister said last week. The mine was meant to start producing in 2012.
Areva on Thursday reported it made a net loss of 2.4 billion euros ($3.2 billion) in 2011 due to a well-flagged charge to cover project delays and cancelled orders after Japan's nuclear disaster.
The company also said it was well on track to meet its asset disposal plan that should exceed 1.2 billion euros by 2013 but declined to say if it would increase the target.
It is close to selling its 26 percent stake in mining company Eramet to the French state investment fund FSI for 776 million euros, although FSI will pay for the stake with shares, the chief executive of French state-owned bank Caisse des Depots et Consignations, which controls 51 percent of FSI, said in a radio interview on Friday.
Areva also announced on Friday the sale of its entire 27.94 percent stake in the Millennium mining project in Canada to local uranium miner Cameco Corp for C$150 million, or about 112 million euros.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/02/areva-idUSL5E8E229Z20120302
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