Six world powers have urged Iran to enter "serious dialogue" on its nuclear programme "without preconditions".
The US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China called on Iran to co-operate fully with UN inspectors and allow them to visit the Parchin military site.
The countries have until now disagreed on their approach to Iran, with the West seeking a tougher line and Russia and China urging conciliation.
Iran says its nuclear programme is purely for peaceful purposes.
But it is widely thought to be seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
On Wednesday, diplomats raised concerns about the secret military development site at Parchin, amid speculation of possible clean-up activities there.
The six countries - known as the P5+1 - are attending the talks at Vienna headquarters of the UN's nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to prepare for future talks with Iran. An IAEA board meeting had been adjourned for one day on Wednesday to allow for further talks after the envoys failed to agree on what line to take towards Iran.
But after Thursday's talks they released a joint statement saying: "We call on Iran to enter, without pre-conditions, into a sustained process of serious dialogue, which will produce concrete results." Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Mr Obama's comments on military action were "an exit from illusion"
The statement said negotiations would "address the international community's long-standing concerns and that there will be serious discussions on concrete confidence building measures".
The group expressed concern that two previous visits to Iran by IAEA inspectors had failed to resolve questions the agency had, and urged Iran to co-operate in particular over the Parchin site.
The IAEA has previously said it suspects the Parchin site may be being used for nuclear weapons related testing.
IAEA inspectors last visited Parchin in 2005 and in February this year they were turned away despite "intensive efforts" to visit.
But on Iran suggested on Monday that it would be prepared to grant UN weapon inspectors access to Parchin in the future.
The complex, south of Tehran, is dedicated to the research, development and production of ammunition, rockets and explosives.
On Wednesday, IAEA diplomats told the Associated Press that satellite images of the site suggested trucks and earth-moving equipment were being used, possibly to clear up traces of nuclear tests. Two unnamed diplomats told the AP news agency that Iran could be trying to cover up tests of a neutron device used to set off a nuclear blast.
The IAEA talks comes amid growing speculation that Israel is planning to unilaterally carry out a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
On a visit to Washington this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said time was running out to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
US President Barack Obama has criticised the "loose talk of war" - he has insisted there is still time to solve the crisis diplomatically, but has refused to rule out a military option.
On Thursday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei welcome Mr Obama's attempts to dampen the calls for a strike on Iran, calling them "an exit from illusion".
Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17295189
2. Iran 'Trying to Remove Evidence that it Tested Detonators for Nuclear Weapons'
David Blair and Adrian Blomfield
(for personal use only)
Iran is trying to remove evidence that its scientists tested detonators for nuclear weapons by clearing a military site ahead of a visit by inspectors, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, surrounded by media while arriving for the IAEA board of governors meeting in Vienna on Satellite photographs show the appearance of earth-moving vehicles and haulage lorries at Parchin, a military base where the IAEA said in its last report that Iranian scientists had experimented with a device that could only be used in the detonation system of a nuclear bomb.
When IAEA inspectors visited Iran last month, they were refused permission to visit Parchin. Since then, Tehran has partially backed down and conceded that the agency's experts can enter the location "once".
The satellite photographs appear to show a recent effort to sanitise the site beforehand, one IAEA official told the Associated Press news agency.
Last November, the IAEA said that experiments with the detonation system of nuclear weapons had been conducted inside a large metal container at Parchin.
Tehran adamantly denied this claim, which was carried under the heading "possible military dimensions" of Iran's nuclear programme.
The IAEA explained the allegation was based on documents supplied by member states that purported to show that Iranian experts had studied the stages of how to build a nuclear weapon in the period before 2003.
The information suggested that "Iran constructed a large explosives containment vessel [at Parchin] in which to conduct hydrodynamic experiments," said the report, adding that the IAEA had then independently obtained "commercial satellite images that are consistent with this information". One particular method of detonating a nuclear device is by using a "neutron initiator".
Iran is believed to have carried out experiments with this technique, possibly at Parchin. If so, they might have left a radioactive residue in the soil. Part of the purpose of the proposed visit by IAEA inspectors will be to discover whether any such evidence is present.
If the experiments were carried out at Parchin, the experts would also try to establish when exactly they happened. American intelligence agencies delivered a combined judgment in 2007 stating that Iran had stopped all work of this kind in 2003.
However, other countries disagree and assess that Iran has subsequently pressed on with the experiments.
Any deliberate sanitisation of the site using the equipment shown in the satellite photographs could make it impossible to discover the truth.
Iran has resorted to this option before. Five years ago, the Lavizan Shian base was completely dismantled before the IAEA visited. This had been a suspected store for equipment needed in a military nuclear programme.
As international grows on Iran over its nuclear ambitions, an Israeli official claimed yesterday that President Barack Obama has promised to drop his opposition to military action against Iran if the Islamist regime does not abandon its programme within a year.
Mr Obama bowed to pressure from Benjamin Netanyahu during talks in Washington on Monday by agreeing to place a finite timetable on diplomatic efforts to end the nuclear impasse, an official in the Israeli prime minister's delegation was quoted as saying.
Such a concession would represent a significant shift in US policy at a time of growing concern in Washington that Israel is preparing to launch unilateral air strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities within months.
"At first there was a gap between the Israeli assessment that an attack is necessary and the American belief that we could wait a year," the Israeli newspaper Maariv quoted the official as saying. "After the meeting, it can be said that though the two leaders did not reach an exact understanding, this gap has started to close.
"The American administration realised that it won't be possible to employ diplomacy for a full year." No official has spoken in public about the contents of the two leaders' three-hour meeting. Although Mr Obama has notably toughened his rhetoric against Iran, he has continued to insist that new European Union and US sanctions against Tehran's central bank and energy sector be given a chance to work. Members of his administration have also told Israel that it would be unwise to take action against Iran by itself. Gen Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said Israeli strikes would only set back Iran's "nuclear programme" by a couple of years.
John Chipman, the head of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a British think tank, said yesterday that he concurred with Gen Dempsey's assessment, adding that the assurances Mr Obama had given in recent days meant that Israeli military action was now unlikely this year. Mr Netanyahu, however, made no commitment to his host except to say that he had not yet decided whether to order air strikes.
The prime minister's national security adviser, the only other Israeli official to attend the meeting with Mr Obama, has suggested that this moment of reckoning is now close at hand. "Now we will have to sit down with ourselves, digest what was said by the Americans and decide," Yaakov Amidror told reporters.
Mr Netanyahu's intelligence chiefs have reportedly concluded that Israel has a window of just six to nine months before unilateral military action against Iran ceases to be effective, an analysis some observers say is deliberately overstated.
Israel has given a lukewarm welcome to a decision by Iran's six negotiating partners – Britain, the US, France, Germany, China and Russia – to accept an offer from Tehran to resume talks. The Israeli government is concerned that Iran's gesture is a ruse to give it diplomatic cover to press ahead with its nuclear programme while making the case for military action harder because negotiations are under way.
Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/9130082/Iran-trying-to-remove-evidence-that-it-tested-detonators-for-nuclear-weapons.html
3. Iran to Allow IAEA Visit Parchin Military Site: ISNA
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Iran said it will give the U.N. nuclear watchdog access to its Parchin military complex, ISNA news agency reported on Tuesday, a site where the agency believes Tehran pursued high explosives research relevant to nuclear weapons.
An International Atomic Energy Agency report last year said that Iran had built a large containment chamber at Parchin, southeast of Tehran, to conduct explosives tests that are "strong indicators" of efforts to develop an atom bomb.
The IAEA requested access to Parchin during high-level talks in Tehran in February, but the Iranian side did not grant it.
"...Parchin is a military site and accessing it is a time-consuming process, therefore visits cannot be allowed frequently ... We will allow the IAEA to visit it one more time," Iran's diplomatic mission in Vienna said in a statement, according to ISNA.
It did not give a date for such a visit. Iranian diplomats and IAEA officials were not immediately available for comment.
Western suspicions about activities at Parchin date back to at least 2004, when a prominent nuclear expert assessed that satellite images showed it might be a site for research and experiments applicable to nuclear weapons.
IAEA inspectors did in fact visit Parchin in 2005 but did not see the place where the U.N. watchdog now believes the explosives chamber was built.
The IAEA named Parchin in a detailed report in November that lent independent weight to Western fears that Iran is working to develop an atomic bomb, an allegation Iranian officials deny. Agency chief Yukiya Amano said on Monday Iran has tripled its monthly production of higher-grade enriched uranium and the U.N. nuclear watchdog had "serious concerns" about possible military dimensions to Tehran's atomic activities.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/06/us-iran-nuclear-parchin-idUSTRE8250BQ20120306
1. No Policy Shift from New North Korea Leader Despite Nuclear Deal
Benjamin Kang Lim and Brian Rhoads
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North Korea's willingness to cut a surprise deal with the United States on the future of its nuclear program does not signal any policy shift by the reclusive state's young new leader, a source with links to both Pyongyang and Beijing said.
The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, also warned against applying pressure similar to sanctions on Iran to get it to jettison its nuclear ambitions, saying any perceived insincerity from Washington would quickly drive Pyongyang from the table.
Just weeks after Kim Jong-un succeeded his father, North Korea agreed with the United States last week to suspend nuclear and long-range missile tests, uranium enrichment at a nuclear facility, and to allow nuclear inspectors back. At the same time Washington pledged to resume food aid.
Despite the agreement, the source told Reuters not to read too much into it. "There has been no change (in policy). The door has always been open" from Pyongyang's perspective, he said. The source has correctly predicted events in the past, telling Reuters about the North's first nuclear test in 2006 before it took place.
The secretive state still clings to the teachings of Kim's grandfather, the late Kim Il-sung, whose ultimate goals include a peace treaty, the removal of nuclear weapons from both Koreas, and diplomatic recognition from Washington, he said.
The United States, which has nearly 30,000 troops in the South, says it has no nuclear weapons on the peninsula.
From Pyongyang's perspective, last week's deal was possible because it believed that the United States was the one that returned to the table willing to make concessions.
"In the past, either the United States did not trust North Korea or deliberately made North Korea an enemy. The United States straightened out its thinking this time," the source told Reuters, explaining the North Korean view.
The two sides have held nuclear talks on-and-off for nearly two decades, but relations hit a low in 2009 when the North conducted a second nuclear test and a long-range missile launch. Washington imposed sanctions, and Pyongyang walked out of regional denuclearization talks.
The latest deal came about two months after Kim Jong-un, believed to be in his late 20s, inherited the leadership to become the third member of his family to rule the state. North Korea was founded after World War Two by Kim Il-sung, whose own son Kim Jong-il ruled for 17 years before his death in December.
The U.S.-North Korea deal could pave the way for the resumption of long-stalled nuclear disarmament talks involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.
The breakthrough has been met with guarded optimism by analysts and diplomats who noted that efforts to defuse tensions on the divided Korean peninsula had seen many false dawns. They also doubt the North will ever give up their nuclear card, which Pyongyang sees as the ultimate deterrent and bargaining chip.
Asked why the unpredictable North repeatedly reneged on past deals, the source defended Pyongyang, saying denuclearization is "an end for the United States, but just a means for North Korea" to achieve its ultimate objective, survival.
"It is not fair to wholly blame North Korea," he said.
Pyongyang's suspicions of Washington run deep. In 2001 then U.S. president George W. Bush branded North Korea part of an "axis of evil" along with Iraq and Iran. Pyongyang fears it could be the next after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the continuing pressure on Iran.
It all could unravel swiftly, the source added.
"If the United States stops taking steps and treats North Korea as a foe instead of a friend, North Korea will be forced to deviate," he said.
The Koreas remain technically at war since their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice. Pyongyang wants a peace treaty to formally bring an end to that technical state of war, but it ultimately prefers a "one country, two governments" model that allows both to co-exist in a form of commonwealth, he said.
Progress towards such an end would be slow. The source said North Korea will not deal with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak because it regarded him as "hostile." Lee's mandatory single five-year term ends next year.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/06/us-korea-north-nuclear-idUSTRE8250AG20120306
2. U.S. Wants "Early" Return of U.N. Inspectors to North Korea
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The United States hopes for an "early" return of U.N. nuclear inspectors to North Korea, three years after they were expelled from the Asian state, a senior U.S. official said on Tuesday.
In a surprise move, North Korea last week said it would suspend nuclear tests, long-range missile launches and enrichment of uranium at its Yongbyon nuclear facility and allow back inspectors of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency.
It was part of a deal with the United States that could see the eventual resumption of nuclear disarmament talks that broke down in 2008. The United States, in turn, pledged to resume food aid to the isolated and impoverished state.
Robert Wood, acting head of the U.S. mission to the IAEA, told the agency's 35-nation board that the international community will be "watching closely ... how North Korea comports itself in carrying forward with these commitments."
"Working cooperatively with the IAEA would be an important indicator of the DPRK's (North Korea's) seriousness of purpose," Wood said, according to a copy of his remarks to the closed-door meeting at agency headquarters in Vienna.
Washington has urged Pyongyang to "initiate direct contact" with the IAEA as soon as possible, he said.
The United States "look forward to smooth discussions between the Agency and the DPRK on monitoring modalities, and to the IAEA's return to Yongbyon at an early date," Wood added.
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano on Monday said the U.N. agency was preparing for a possible return to North Korea, but was not yet in direct contact with Pyongyang.
It is unclear how much scope for inspections the IAEA will get. The North has limited their access during two previous periods when it allowed inspectors in.
Analysts say North Korea may simply continue covert atomic activity elsewhere. Members of a U.N. expert panel said last year that the secretive state most likely had several more undisclosed enrichment-related facilities.
Wood expressed hope that last week's move by Pyongyang would lead to "substantive and meaningful" denuclearization talks.
"This would include all nuclear activities, anywhere in the DPRK, including all aspects of its uranium enrichment program and light water reactor construction activities."
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 which potentially offered a second path to making atomic bombs.
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.
North Korea expelled the IAEA a decade ago when a 1994 deal between Pyongyang and Washington unraveled.
It threw them out again in April 2009 after rejecting the intrusive inspections provided for under a 2005 aid deal with five regional powers that allowed the U.N. watchdog to return.
Peter Crail, an analyst of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, said the exact terms for the IAEA's role did not appear to be spelled out in the U.S.-North Korea agreement.
This "means the IAEA may need to play a more proactive role in reaching out to Pyongyang and spelling out just what kind of access it will need to verify that the Yongbyon enrichment plant has suspended operations," he said in an e-mail.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/06/us-nuclear-korea-north-idUSTRE82516620120306
A company based in the city of Changsha has started building the first China-made reactor to process radioactive nuclear power plant waste, researchers said Wednesday.
Changsha Boiler Plant Co Ltd (CBP) started building the plasma furnace on Tuesday at its base in the capital of central Hunan province, said Huang Wenyou, director with the national energy development and research center on nuclear equipment.
The furnace is co-developed by the CBP and Shenzhen-based China Nuclear Power Technology Research Institute (CNPRI).
It will transmute nuclear waste into less-harmful waste. The most advanced technology in the world is being put to use, said Huang.
Tests will be carried out on the furnace upon its completion, and if it passes them, it will be reproduced for use in nuclear power plants throughout China, he said.
CBP, a state-owned company established in 1956, has helped build a series of nuclear-related equipment for Dayawan Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong province and Haiyang Nuclear Power Plant in Shandong province, which is now still under construction.
Available at: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2012-03/07/content_14782230.htm
The Mühleberg atomic plant near Bern will lose its operating licence at the end of June 2013 on security grounds, the Federal Administrative Court has ruled.
The court accepted a complaint by local opponents of the plant against the indefinite extension of its licence by the environment ministry, granted at the end of 2009.
The 1972 plant, one of five in Switzerland, is run by BKW Energy and supplies five per cent of the country’s energy needs. Last September it was restarted after three months of annual checks and safety improvements.
Switzerland’s heavy reliance on nuclear energy came under intense pressure in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster almost exactly a year ago, with the government ultimately pledging to abandon nuclear power by 2034.
The phase out plan was based on a reactor lifespan of 50 years but this week’s legal turn of events may mean a more rapid and costly exit.
Last year the government estimated that gradually phasing out nuclear power in Switzerland would cost SFr2.2-SFr3.8 billion ($2.4-$4.1 billion).
In its judgment on Mühleberg, the court said various factors imposed a limit on the plant’s viability, including the condition of the reactor’s core shroud, which has fissures in it.
Other security questions cited were the inconclusive evaluations on security in the event of an earthquake and the absence of a cooling system independent of the River Aare.
Since December 2009, Mühleberg's licence has been open-ended provided it met national nuclear safety requirements. The Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate is the national regulatory body with responsibility for the nuclear safety and security of Swiss nuclear facilities.
The court noted that the issue of security was too important to be Ensi’s sole responsibility. The nuclear inspectorate did not wish to comment on the judgment, according to the Swiss News Agency, referring questions to the environment ministry. The ministry said it needed to analyse the judgment before taking a position.
A BKW spokesman also said the company intended to closely study the 44-page judgment before deciding whether to appeal. The court’s decision can be appealed to the Federal Court in Lausanne. The court’s decision has been hailed as a victory by anti-nuclear campaigners who swiftly called for the same action to be taken for Switzerland’s and the world’s oldest nuclear power plant Beznau. Greenpeace called it “a stage victory for the safety of the Swiss population”, while the anti-nuclear organisation Swiss Energy Foundation (SES) said the verdict was a slap in the face for the federal authorities, whose work had clearly been called in question.
To be able to carry on operating the plant after mid-2013, BKW will have to submit a complete maintenance concept to the environment ministry along with an application for a licence extension specifying how long it plans to keep the plant working, the court said.
A BKW spokesman told Swiss television that work on such a concept was already under way since last year, the first part of which had been submitted to the nuclear inspectorate in August 2011. The inspectorate imposed a series of extra safety measures on Swiss power plants after the Fukushima disaster.
However the lawyer for the group that pursued the case against BKW – more than 100 local residents and an environmental group – said the decision spelled the end of Mühleberg. “I do not think that BKW is going to make such an investment within a year,” Rainer Weibel told Swiss television.
With the future of Mühleberg now on shaky ground, the focus will shift to the Beznau I plant in canton Aarau, commissioned in 1969.
Critics say safety issues prove Beznau’s time is up, claiming the emergency power supply is unreliable, the reactor cover has corrosion problems and the steel container has cracks.
As for the country’s energy needs, electricity consumption is expected to continue to grow steadily until 2050 despite energy efficient appliances and other measures, according to recent predictions from the Federal Energy Office.
Available at: http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/politics/Future_of_nuclear_plant_on_shaky_ground.html?cid=32250844
3. Scots May Extend Life of Nuclear Plants Before Renewable Target
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Scotland may extend the life of the country’s two nuclear plants, which are operated by Electricite de France SA (EDF), to help the transition to producing all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
The Scottish government said today it still plans to phase out nuclear power over time and rely on cleaner thermal energy to reduce carbon emissions, according to an e-mailed statement setting out its draft energy strategy. It said it was on track to meet the target in eight years time.
“This does not preclude extending the operating life of Scotland’s existing nuclear stations to help maintain security of supply over the next decade,” it said. “Subject to the relevant safety cases being made, the government would not oppose operating life extension applications at these sites.”
The Scottish administration in Edinburgh, which is campaigning for independence from the rest of Britain, has the most ambitious target in the European Union for generating electricity from wind, hydro and marine energy. Its nuclear policy differs from the U.K. government, which has agreed to build more power stations as part of its strategy of meeting EU targets to cut carbon emissions.
Electricite de France is planning to submit plans to extend the operating life of the Torness and Hunterston plants in Scotland by at least five years, the government said. Hunterston, which is situated on the west coast south of Glasgow, is otherwise due to close in 2016. Torness, which is east of Edinburgh, is scheduled to shut in 2023.
Scotland intends to de-carbonize all electricity generation by 2030 through the use of carbon capture deploying empty offshore aquifers that previously held oil and gas.
The government also plans to have 11 percent of heat generated by renewable energy by 2020, almost four times the current level of 2.8 percent. Heat accounts for about half of Scotland’s current energy consumption.
Scotland, the windiest country in Europe, accounts for 25 percent of EU offshore wind capability, the same proportion of tidal power and 10 percent of wave power, the government said.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-05/scots-may-extend-life-of-nuclear-plants-before-renewable-target.html
At a time when Germany's solar industry is suffering from weakened political support, the Technical Inspection Association, TÜV, has uncovered rusted radioactive waste barrels in the already inoperative Brunsbüttel nuclear plant in northern Germany.
Rusted barrels of radioactive waste have been found at the Brunsbüttel Nuclear Power Plant. The nuclear power plant, which was shut down last year has an underground storage of approximately 500 barrels of low and intermediate levels of radioactive waste from the reactors. In order to move the waste to end-disposal point, Schacht Konrad repository in Lower Saxony, the material has to be transferred to cast iron containers. Amidst this process, TÜV North made the discovery of rusted barrels.
Minister of Justice, Equality and Integration Emil Schmalfuß has stopped the transfer operations for the moment. Schmalfuß emphasized that it is critical to check that no radioactive materials have been released and there is no danger to staff or to the residents of the area.
Nuclear waste has been stored in the underground storage in barrels since September 13, 1981, and there have been no reports of abnormalities reported thus far. During a routine control in January this year, TÜV proofers discovered severe corrosion in a barrel. Subsequently, the authorities have discovered more such barrels.
Schmalfuß has criticised the operator Vattenfall. He stated that Vattenfall should have gauged the significance of the situation and should have reported to the appropriate authorities on the status of the radioactive waste containing barrels. Vattenfall did admit in mid-December last year that there was damage to barrel hulls, but only reported it to the ministry in Kiel on January, 11, 2012. Vattenfall has admitted on its website that such a delay was indeed unacceptable.
Post-Fukushima, Germany has made plans to stop operations at older nuclear power plants, Vattenfall operated Brunsbüttel being one of them.
A piece of good news: The nuclear power plant in Mühleberg, Switzerland will only be active up to June 2013, after which it will be shut down. The Swiss authorities had made the decision to keep the plant running without a set deadline. An appeal by the residents in the region overturned this decision and the date has now been set to cease operations at the 40 year old plant.
Available at: http://www.pv-magazine.com/news/details/beitrag/germany--tv-finds-rusted-nuclear-waste-barrels_100006031/#axzz1oXLHnJ47
2. Nuclear Industry Plan Skirts NRC Fukushima Rules, Group Says
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Nuclear-power companies are “jumping the gun” on enhancing reactor safety to pre-empt rules set by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in response to a disaster in Japan, the Union of Concerned Scientists said.
The industry’s plan to place commercial-grade emergency equipment, including portable pumps and generators, at power plants is an attempt to discourage the NRC from proposing more expensive requirements, according to a report today from the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based environmental group.
“The industry is trying to ‘wag the dog,’” the group said.
The NRC plans to issue this week the first orders to enhance safety at U.S. reactors after a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered explosions, meltdowns and radiation leaks at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant. The Nuclear Energy Institute, a Washington-based organization of plant owners, is generally aligned with the NRC’s regulatory priorities, officials from the group have said.
The NRC is proposing to require reactor owners including Exelon Corp. (EXC) of Chicago and Entergy Corp. (ETR) of New Orleans, to have adequate equipment and plans in place to cope with a loss of electric power. Reactor owners in December proposed their plan for back-up equipment, which NRC officials said would help to speed the regulatory process.
Not all equipment to be stored at plants needs to be safety-grade, which may be more expensive than commercial-grade gear, according to Marvin Fertel, the industry group’s chief executive officer. “We think the NRC ought to have a footprint on whatever we put in place” to ensure that it meets regulators’ safety standards, he told reporters today at an event in Washington on the Fukushima disaster. Reactor owners have purchased or ordered more than 300 pieces of back-up equipment to supplement existing equipment at the 106 U.S. nuclear plants, the industry group said in a statement today. Companies have agreed by the end of March to buy or have under contract equipment to be stored at reactors, Fertel said.
Nuclear plants are “better off” having commercial-grade equipment on hand because it provides an additional layer of safety, Charles Pardee, chairman of the group’s committee that responded to the Japan disaster, said today at a news conference. “This is a financial risk worth taking,” he said. If regulators decide safeguards require further action by companies, “the industry could run to Congress and complain that the NRC was imposing standards that would render useless all the equipment it had just bought,” the Union of Concerned Scientists’ report said.
“The NRC needs to tell their industry in no uncertain terms” that reactors are buying the equipment at their own risk, it said.
“The industry’s approach, while promising, still has to be formally evaluated by NRC staff,” Scott Burnell, an agency spokesman, said in an e-mail today. “The industry’s forward- leaning approach also leads plants to closely examine the issues early in the process -- more information will lead to better eventual solutions,” he said.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-06/nuclear-industry-seeks-to-skirt-nrc-fukushima-rules-group-says.html
1. Russia to Provide Fund for Nuclear Power Plants
M. Azizur Rahman
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"We have talked with the Russian authority over the funding arrangement and they assured us in principle to fund the project costs," State Minister for Science and Technology Yeafesh Osman told the FE.
He said Bangladesh and Russia are continuing efforts in a fruitful manner to build the nuclear power plants.
Bangladesh estimates that around US$ 2.0 billion will be required to build a 1,000 mw capacity nuclear plant.
"We are expecting up to 85 per cent funding assistance from Russia," said Osman.
A 10-mmber Bangladesh team visited Russia last week to move forward the implementation of the country's first-ever nuclear power plant project.
"We also inked an inter agency agreement (IAA) with Russian regulator, Rostechnadzor, for cooperation on nuclear and radiation and safety on February 27 in Moscow," Osman said.
The deal was inked between Bangladesh's ministry of science and technology and Russia's Rostechnadzor where Osman signed on behalf of the Bangladesh side.
Osman said both the signatory parties will develop a detailed programme of cooperation aimed at the transfer of expertise and the provision of advisory support to Bangladesh in the area of regulation, licensing and supervision, under the agreement.
Bangladesh earlier inked an inter-governmental agreement (IGA) with Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom) over construction the nuclear power plant at Rooppur in Pabna, some 200 kilometres off the capital in November 2011.
The agreement was signed with Russia for construction of two 1,000 mw capacity electricity generation nuclear power plants as well as fuel supply, take-back of spent fuel, training and other services.
Under the deal Russia will supply necessary fuel for the entire life of the nuclear power plants.
Spent fuel will be taken back to Russia to avoid any possible hazard.
It will also help decommissioning of the nuclear power plant in future.
The government is considering either a government-owned turnkey project or a build, own, operate, transfer (BOOT) contract to implement the nuclear power plant projects.
"We are hopeful of starting construction of at least one of the two nuclear power plants within the tenure of the incumbent government," Osman said.
The nuclear power plants would be built as part of the government's plan to generate 20,000 mw of electricity by 2021, he said.
Bangladesh's overall electricity generation is about 5,000 mw against the demand for more than 6,500 mw.
The nuclear power plants would contribute to resolving the country's nagging electricity crisis and meet future increased demand for energy at affordable costs, Osman said.
Bangladesh is also maintaining communications regularly with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ensure implementation of the project with safety and security, he said.
IAEA has praised Bangladesh's progresses towards implementing the country's first nuclear power plant to meet mounting electricity demand.
The government is stressing safety issues to implement the country's first-ever nuclear power plant project, said Osman.
"Safety first and safety last," is our philosophy for the nuclear power plant project," he added.
Available at: http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/more.php?news_id=122622&date=2012-03-08
2. U.S. Unlikely to Allow S. Korea to Reprocess Nuclear Fuel: Diplomat
Yonhap News Agency
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The United States is unlikely to allow South Korea to adopt its indigenous technology aimed at reprocessing highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel in their negotiations to revise a bilateral nuclear accord, a senior Seoul diplomat involved in the talks said Thursday.
The refusal by U.S. negotiators stemmed from a "deep-rooted distrust" of South Korea, which had once authorized a clandestine nuclear weapons program in the early 1970s under former president Park Jung-hee but shut it down under pressure from Washington, the diplomat said on the condition of anonymity.
Rather than pressing the U.S. to allow South Korea to adopt the proliferation-resistant reprocessing technology, called "pyroprocessing," Seoul is focusing on revising the nuclear accord to make it easier to export nuclear power plants, the diplomat said.
South Korea, which operates 20 nuclear plants, and the U.S. have held five rounds of formal negotiations since 2010 to rewrite the 1974 nuclear agreement, which prevents Seoul from reprocessing spent nuclear fuel from civilian nuclear plants. The accord is set to expire in 2014.
In the face of growing nuclear waste stockpiles and its ambition to become a global power in the civilian nuclear industry, South Korea hopes to adopt pyroprocessing technology, which leaves separated plutonium, the main ingredient in making atomic bombs, mixed with other elements.
South Korea wants the U.S. to allow it to use the new technology because it has to deal with more than 10,000 tons of nuclear waste at storage facilities that are expected to reach capacity in 2016.
But nonproliferation experts say pyroprocessing is not much different from reprocessing and pyroprocessed plutonium could be quickly turned into weapons-grade material.
"Little progress was made on the issue of whether the revised accord would include the pyroprocessing technology," the diplomat said.
"In spite of our repeated display of willingness for non-proliferation during the talks, U.S. negotiators remain reluctant to recognize our technology due to the deep-rooted distrust over the short-lived nuclear program under the Park Jung-hee government," he said.
Even if the provision of pyroprocessing technology is included in the new accord, the U.S. Congress won't approve it because it undermines Washington's non-proliferation efforts, the diplomat said, citing conversations with U.S. negotiators.
U.S. officials are also wary of calls for "nuclear sovereignty," which have often been resurfaced by conservatives in South Korea after North Korea's second nuclear test in 2009, the diplomat said.
Apart from the negotiations, South Korea and the U.S. launched a 10-year joint study last year on the pyroprocessing technology. The study costs some US$10 million, according to the diplomat.
"With the results of the joint study, a decision could be made on whether we could adopt the pyroprocessing technology in the future," he said.
As the U.S. side is unlikely to accept South Korea's demand for the new technology in the talks, the diplomat said Seoul is shifting its focus to eliminate U.S. regulatory barriers in exporting nuclear plants.
Under the current accord, it takes more than one year for South Korea to get approval from the U.S. to export such plants, the diplomat said. The approval is necessary because South Korea uses some U.S. technologies and parts in building reactors.
South Korea won a $20 billion contract in late 2009 to build four nuclear reactors for the United Arab Emirates. No approval from the U.S. is needed when South Korea bids for a nuclear plant overseas.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2012/03/08/23/0301000000AEN20120308007100315F.HTML
Russia has offered Jordan a deal under which it will construct four nuclear power reactors. The proposal - similar to that offered to Turkey - is separate to the tender to supply the country's first power reactor, the winner of which is set to be selected by the end of this month.
Rosatom's reactor export subsidiary AtomStroyExport (ASE) approached the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) in January with a proposal to build four 1200 MWe VVER units, similar to the agreement it reached with Turkey, according to a Jordan Times report reproduced by Rosatom.
According to the report, if all four units are built, 4000 MWe of generating capacity would be added to the grid, more than doubling Jordan's current generating capacity. This would transform the country from an energy importer to an energy exporter.
In May 2010, an intergovernmental agreement was signed by Russia and Turkey under which Turkey's first nuclear power plant will be built, owned and operated by a Russian project company. The deal - worth some $20 billion - covers the construction of four 1200 MWe VVER units at the Akkuyu site on Turkey's Mediterranean coast. Russian state nuclear enterprise Rosatom will create a project company subsidiary, which will initially be 100% Russian-owned. In the longer term, Russia may sell up to 49% of the company to other investors from Turkey and elsewhere, but will retain the 51% controlling stake. If Jordan accepts the Russian offer, the project would be implemented outside of the framework of the ongoing tender process to select the supplier of the country's first power reactor. JAEC chairman Khaled Toukan stressed that the Russian offer would not influence Jordan's selection of the winning bid.
The invitation to tender for the turnkey plant was announced in January 2011 with three vendors subsequently shortlisted in May: an Areva-Mistubishi Heavy Industries consortium, Russia's AtomStroyExport and Canada's SNC-Lavalin International. The designs under consideration are the Atmea1 pressurized water reactor, the AES-92 model VVER-1000, and the Enhanced Candu-6 pressurized heavy-water reactor. The vendors submitted their technical offers to JAEC in July 2011. Their financial proposals were submitted the following month. A specially formed tenders committee is expected to select the winning bid by the end of this month. A financial adviser to assist the project will also be announced. JAEC expects to sign an engineering, procurement and construction contract in mid-2012.
JAEC expects to start building a 750-1100 MWe nuclear power plant in 2013 for operation by 2020 and a second one for operation by 2025. Longer-term, four nuclear reactors are envisaged. Further nuclear projects are likely to involve desalination.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Jordan_receives_reactor_offer-0703124.html
4. ‘UAE to Place Orders for Four More Nuclear Power Plants’
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The United Arab Emirates is expected to place orders for four more nuclear power plants next year beside the four units currently being built by a Korean consortium, Knowledge Economy Minister Hong Suk-woo said.
“I heard that the UAE is planning orders for about four additional nuclear power stations,” Hong said in a press conference in Abu Dhabi on Monday, according to the ministry.
About the nuclear power plants currently under construction in the UAE, Hong said the project has great meaning in terms of job creation, as it requires about 2,000 high-skilled engineers.
Considering the expected additional orders, Korea may need about 6,000 people in 2020 for the UAE project, he said.
There is already a site large enough for four units next to the plants under construction, according to a ministry official.
“Since all the neighboring infrastructure will be built based on the Korean standard nuclear power plant, there is a good chance Korea could win the additional orders,” the official said.
Hong also said that Korea was the most likely winner of orders for nuclear power plants in Turkey and other countries.
“We also have a good chance in Vietnam,” the minister added. “The United States, France, Canada, Russia, Japan and Korea can build nuclear power plants, but the U.S. lags behind in technology as it hasn’t built one for 20 to 30 years. This is a good time for us to speed up (atomic power plant construction).”
Amid fast developing ties between Korea and the UAE, an Abu Dhabi commercial bank is set to open a branch in Seoul as early as the first half of this year, according to Kwak Seung-jun, chief of the Presidential Council for Future and Vision, who accompanied Hong in the signing of a major oil field development contract in the UAE.
Available at: http://www.koreaherald.com/national/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20120306001250
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