Iran will present new proposals at talks on Saturday aimed at easing concerns about its nuclear activity, state television said, but it was unclear if Tehran was willing to address its disputed uranium enrichment drive as six world powers want.
The report did not specify what Iran was set to offer and one Western diplomat said he doubted it would be enough for any quick lifting of sanctions on the Islamic Republic, which the West suspects may be seeking nuclear weapons capability.
"Iran's representatives will participate in the negotiations with new initiatives and we hope that the (six powers) will also enter talks with constructive approaches," said the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, according to Iran's English-language Press TV on Wednesday.
Jalili, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, said Tehran was "ready to hold progressive and successful talks on cooperation" but that "the language of threat and pressure against the Iranian nation has never yielded results".
Previous rounds of talks with the P5+1 group - the five U.N. Security Council members, the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China, plus Germany - foundered in part because of Iran's refusal to negotiate on the scope of its uranium enrichment work, instead floating vague proposals for trade and security cooperation.
Tehran says it is refining uranium solely for electricity and medical treatments. Western states do not believe this and the United States and Israel have not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to curb Iran's nuclear work.
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it was vital Iran come to the talks ready to engage seriously.
"We believe there is still time for diplomacy, but it is urgent that the Iranians come to the table to establish an environment conducive to achieving concrete results through a sustained process," Clinton said as she began talks with the foreign ministers of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia, collectively know as the Group of Eight (G8).
The Western diplomat said he did not expect Tehran to offer anything big enough to justify the lifting of a European embargo on Iranian oil that is due to be fully implemented by July 1.
"It would be a surprise if Iran did something that merited moving on that," the diplomat said. "It would need a significant change, I think, from Iran before that kind of alteration to the sanctions regime becomes credible."
On Sunday, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, raised the possibility of Iran suspending enrichment to the 20 percent level of fissile purity if its needs were met.
The proposal did not address Western concerns about what would ultimately happen to Iran's existing reserve of such higher-grade enriched uranium.
Uranium needs to be refined only to up to 5 percent for use in running power plants. A 90 percent threshold is required for atomic bomb material.
Iran says it needs a 20 percent stockpile to fuel a medical isotope reactor. Western powers fear Iran's underlying goal is to advance towards bomb-grade purity and are seeking guarantees via negotiations that this will not come to pass.
The Western diplomat said a previous deal with Iran that would have seen it export some of its enriched uranium in exchange for fuel for the medical reactor still made sense in theory, but would have to be altered to reflect Iran's increasing stockpile of nuclear material.
"On the fuel swap side it isn't really credible to think of just sort of getting out of the cupboard the previous offer. That said, the logic of Iran exporting some, all of, (its) uranium enriched to various levels as one of its confidence building steps, obviously, is a key thing still," he said.
If progress is made, the talks could pave the way to ease sanctions and might lift the threat of an Israeli attack.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran would not be bullied at the talks.
"They constantly insult the Iranian nation and use a language of force against Iranians," state news agency IRNA quoted him as saying at a rally.
"Speaking on behalf of the Iranian nation, I tell them that this method will not work ... and that they should speak with respect."
Iran says it has a sovereign right to uranium enrichment and accuses the nuclear-armed West of hypocrisy and of trying to stifle its technological progress.
Separately, Iran said on Wednesday it had banned imports from 100 European companies to counter Western sanctions.
Sassan Khodaei, deputy head of the state-run Trade Promotion Organisation, said the move was part of a policy to counter "antagonistic measures" by the EU, Press TV reported.
Khodaei said the banned goods included luxury items that Iran can produce itself, but he did not name the goods or their manufacturers.
A report from Press TV on Tuesday said Iran had stopped oil exports to Spain as a pre-emptive measure before the EU embargo comes into force on July 1, but Spain's biggest refiner said it had stopped buying from Iran months earlier.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/11/iran-nuclear-talks-idUSL6E8FB22Q20120411
2. P5+1 Member States no Longer Unified on Iran’s Nuclear Issue: Marandi
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Iran says the first round of talks with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany known as the P5+1, will be held in Turkey and the second in Iraq.
The Supreme National Security Council said the venue of the talks was agreed on in negotiations between the Iranian and EU officials, adding that the first round of talks is set to be held in Istanbul on April 14. It also said that the date of the second round of the talks in Baghdad will be announced after the Istanbul meeting.
Meanwhile, Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Tehran hopes that the P5+1 will come to the negotiating table with honesty. He said Tehran will also make an effort so that both sides reach a win-win conclusion. Salehi added that Tehran will not accept any preconditions before the talks.
To discuss the issue further, Press TV has conducted an interview Mohammad Marandi, professor of the University of Tehran. What follows is an approximate transcript of the interview.
Press TV: The P5+1 violated a deal that they had asked Turkey and Brazil to broker with Iran on its enriched uranium. How serious do you think the P5+1 are in the upcoming talks when it comes to the issue of honesty referred there by the Iranian foreign minister?
Marandi: The United States and Britain as well as France and Germany are now very much separated from Russia and China. So the 5+1 no longer has a unified view of the situation.
The Russians have repeatedly over the past few weeks said that there has never been any evidence that Iran’s nuclear program is anything but peaceful and the Chinese have been much more positive over the past few weeks and months with regards to Iran’s position.
So there is not a unified voice and as you pointed out, one reason is because of the United States’ behavior. The American president in a letter to the former Brazilian president and the Turkish prime minister stated the conditions upon which he will accept an agreement in Tehran.
These two leaders came to Iran and an agreement was signed and subsequently, the US president lied and he shifted his position and went for further sanctions.
Because of that, the Iranians can no longer trust Western powers and because they even slapped their own friends in the face subsequent to the Tehran declaration.
These talks, I do not think, the Iranians are expecting much to happen but I think they are going in with good will to see if the Americans and the Europeans will become more reasonable.
Press TV: Iran's foreign minister has also said that Tehran will try for a win-win conclusion in these talks. What do you think a win-win situation would be like for both sides?
Marandi: For Iran obviously, it is the recognition of these countries that Iran will not give up its nuclear rights; Iran will not stop enriching uranium and this is something that Iran will not negotiate.
The Iranians will be willing to be more constructive with the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] but again, it has to be within a broad framework where the issues can be resolved.
So because the current head of the IAEA has shown himself to be somewhat unreliable, according to the WikiLeaks documents, he is very much in the camp of the United States and in the recent talks between Iran and the IAEA, it became very clear to the Iranians that he was trying to damage the talks.
But I do think that the Europeans and the Americans recognize that Iran’s position is much stronger than it used to be. The very fact that the Iranians have forced the second part of the talks, the subsequent talks to Turkey to be held in Iraq despite European opposition and American opposition shows that Iran has that strength and also the Europeans and the American wanted the talks to be held in Europe and Iran refused.
The Iranians of course accepted to hold the first round of the upcoming talks in Turkey and apparently the Turks gave the Iranians a number of concessions so that the Iranians would have the talks in Turkey.
Press TV: So basically your observation of the situation --if you could also conclude for us briefly-- is that though these talks have been scheduled to take place, however that the Western side, the P5+1 group, is not unified on its position. They are going to start talks without sharing all of them the same view on Iran’s case.
Marandi: That is correct now. I also believe that the Western countries deeply miscalculate the situation in Iran. The fact that the Americans have brought in another aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf is meant to frighten ordinary Iranians, to sort of terrorize the Iranian public and to force the Iranians government to capitulate.
Of course, this is an inhuman gesture but I think the Europeans and the Americans simply do not understand that the more barbaric their acts are towards Iran, the less results they get and the Iranians know quite well that the United States and the Europeans are not in a position to launch any war against the country.
They would be deemed the aggressor and they would destroy the global economy and they would have no one else to blame but themselves. So they misunderstand and miscalculate when it comes to Iran and they are also losing more and more friends and allies across the globe especially through their embargo and sanctions where they try to impose their will upon independent countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Available at: http://presstv.com/detail/235555.html
1. G-8 Agrees N. Korea's Rocket Launch would Violate U.N. Resolutions
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Foreign ministers from the Group of Eight major countries agreed Wednesday that North Korea's plan to launch a long-range rocket would be a "clear violation" of U.N. resolutions.
The consensus was reached at the first day of a meeting in Washington of the ministers from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States -- four of which are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.
In discussing North Korea, much of the debate focused on how they should stand against Pyongyang in the event of the launch as the necessary preparations appear to be in their final stages, officials involved in the two-day meeting said.
Amid global concerns that the launch is a cover for testing long-range missile technology, there are no signs that North Korea is thinking twice about the plan, which forms the centerpiece of celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the birth of its founder Kim Il Sung.
On Tuesday, North Korea said it has started injecting fuel into the three-stage Unha-3 rocket to put what it insists is an earth observation satellite into orbit for peaceful purposes. The launch is scheduled to take place between 7 a.m. and noon, local time, sometime between Thursday and Monday.
The launch was announced in mid-March, just two weeks after North Korea told the United States it would freeze long-range missile launches, nuclear tests and uranium enrichment in return for much-needed food aid.
"It violates multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, chair of the Washington meeting, told her counterparts. "I think we all share a strong interest in stability on the Korean Peninsula."
Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba sought support from his G-8 peers to issue a strong message to North Korea, while they are in the U.S. capital and proposed that Pyongyang's latest provocative action be referred to the U.N. Security Council, according to the officials.
"North Korea's missile development is a real threat to regional peace and stability and it cannot be accepted," the officials quoted Gemba as saying when he led off their discussions on the planned launch. "Including how to respond in the event the launch is forced through, I would like to continue to work closely with the G-8 countries."
Other G-8 ministers supported Japan's stance and many of them denounced the possible breaking of the North's promises and existing resolutions, the officials said, adding these points will likely be noted in the chair's statement to be released after the two-day gathering.
Britain, France, Russia and the United States have permanent seats on the five-member Security Council, while Germany this year is a non-permanent member of the most powerful U.N. body. The shared stance on North Korea among the G-8 ministers counted for a great deal for Japan, which is not part of the 15-member Security Council.
Japan is planning to ask the United States, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council until the end of April, to convene an emergency meeting if North Korea goes ahead with the launch, government officials said.
On Wednesday, the ministers discussed many other issues at Blair House, the official U.S. state guest house, in preparation for the G-8 summit to be held in mid-May.
Among other topics, the continuing violence in Syria and Iran's nuclear weapons program stirred heated debate, according to the G-8 related officials.
The ministers discussed how best to achieve a peaceful resolution in Syria, as doubts persist over the government of President Bashar al-Assad's commitment to a ceasefire plan, brokered by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, under which the Middle Eastern country's armed forces must silence their guns as of 6 a.m. Thursday local time.
Russia, Syria's most powerful ally, is believed to have been persuaded by the United States and other G-8 countries that it is time for the country to play an active role in ending the violence. The ministers also expressed hope that the standoff over Iran's nuclear program would be finally resolved in the near future as Tehran has agreed to resume talks with the five U.N. Security Council permanent members, also including China, and Germany in Istanbul this weekend, according to the officials.
Available at: http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20120412p2g00m0dm053000c.html
2. North Korea Defies U.S. in Readying Launch as Soon as Tomorrow
Eunkyung Seo and Sangwon Yoon
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North Korea moved ahead with plans to fire a long-range rocket as soon as tomorrow in defiance of warnings from the U.S. that doing so would destabilize the region and scuttle a deal for American food assistance.
North Korea has begun fueling the rocket that will put a satellite in orbit sometime between April 12 and 16, Yonhap News cited space agency official Paek Chang Ho as telling a group of foreign journalists in the capital of Pyongyang. The launch, set to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim Il Sung, is on schedule, Paek was quoted as saying.
The launch, set to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim Il Sung, is on schedule, Paek was quoted as saying. Source: Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Image
The totalitarian regime maintains the event doesn’t violate a February deal to end long-range missile and nuclear tests in return for 240,000 tons of U.S. food. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday reiterated calls for North Korea to halt the launch plans, which have roiled markets.
“We share a strong interest in stability on the Korean peninsula,” Clinton told reporters after meeting in Washington with Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba yesterday. “Strength and security will not come from more provocations but from North Korea living up to its commitments and obligations.”
Concern that the event is a cover for a missile test drew warnings from Gemba, who said the launch “would obviously be a violation of United Nations resolutions.” China and South Korea also have expressed concerns with the plans, which come less than four months after Kim Jong Un succeeded his father Kim Jong Il as leader.
A South Korean intelligence report that warned the regime is preparing to test an atomic device to follow on the heels of its rocket launch contributed to declines in the benchmark Kospi stock index this week.
While markets are closed in South Korea today for National Assembly elections, three-month non-deliverable forwards on the won declined 0.2 percent to 1,151.30 per dollar as of 1:30 p.m. in Hong Kong, according to data compiled Bloomberg. They touched 1,155.83, the weakest level since Jan. 17. Debate also has centered on the prospect that North Korea may follow any launch with a nuclear test.
Activity at North Korea’s Punggye-ri atomic testing site is consistent with preparations for previous detonations in 2006 and 2009, according to the intelligence report obtained April 9 by Bloomberg News. Speaking to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, after meeting with Gemba, Clinton yesterday said “recent history strongly suggests that additional provocations may follow.”
Analysts said the totalitarian state may be seeking to sway the outcome of today’s parliamentary elections in South Korea across the demilitarized zone.
“The timing is impeccable,” said Park Young Ho, senior research fellow and director at the Korea Institute for National Unification. “Kim Jong Un is taking advantage of the domestic North Korean celebrations of Kim Il Sung to aggressively influence South Korean elections.”
Polls indicated South Korea President Lee Myung Bak’s party may lose control of the National Assembly to an opposition coalition that has pledged to improve ties with its northern neighbor. Opposition lawmakers accused the government of using the intelligence report to influence the elections. North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party meets today and may appoint Kim Jong Un the new party chief in one of the final steps marking his succession after the Dec. 17 death of his father, Kim Jong Il. The Obama administration has said firing the rocket would breach the February food deal, which included a North Korean pledge to halt uranium enrichment at its facility in Yongbyon.
“It would be impossible to imagine” the U.S. would follow through on the food aid if North Korea proceeds with the launch, President Barack Obama’s spokesman Jay Carney said yesterday. The rocket “would represent clear and serious violations” of UN resolutions, he told reporters traveling with Obama in Florida.
North Korea’s government says it is putting a “peaceful” satellite into orbit and that it doesn’t violate the deal. Ryu Kum Chol, a North Korean space official, dismissed as “nonsense” assertions that the satellite launch is aimed at developing missile technology, the AP said. Ryu said the communications satellite is fitted with a camera to monitor weather conditions.
Kim’s government may be using the prospect of a follow-up nuclear test as a bargaining chip to keep the food-aid deal from falling apart, analysts including Koh Yu Hwan said.
“The likelihood of a third nuclear test depends on whether the U.S. decides to keep the Feb. 29 food-aid deal following the missile launch,” said Koh, a professor of North Korean Studies at Dongguk University in Seoul. “With the nuclear preparations, North Korea is waving its nuclear card at the U.S. and telling them to make a choice.”
The North Korean rocket is expected to fly south over the Yellow Sea toward the Philippines, South Korea’s transportation ministry said in a March 20 statement on its website. The first stage of the fuselage is expected to fall 180 kilometers (112 miles) away from the South’s western coast and the second stage near the Philippines’ northeastern-most island, the ministry said.
Following the 2009 test, the UN Security Council passed a resolution condemning the move and strengthening sanctions that include letting cargo suspected of containing weapons be inspected. It also ordered the regime to admit International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, something North Korea agreed to in February.
In November 2010, North Korea showed its Yongbyon facility to visiting U.S. scientists, including Stanford University’s Siegfried S. Hecker, who said he saw more than 1,000 centrifuges. While North Korea claims its nuclear facility is intended to generate electricity, it can be easily converted to produce highly enriched uranium for bombs, Hecker wrote in a report on the university’s website after his North Korea trip.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-11/north-korea-defies-u-s-in-readying-launch-as-soon-as-tomorrow.html
3. Russia Criticizes North Korea over Launch Plans
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Russia criticized North Korea on Tuesday over its plans to launch a rocket, saying the decision showed disregard for U.N. Security Council resolutions restricting such actions and calling for a diplomatic solution.
"We consider Pyongyang's decision to conduct a launch of a satellite an example of disregard for U.N. Security Council decisions," state-run news agency RIA quoted Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich as saying.
"It is necessary to seek a way out of the situation on the political-diplomatic track," he said. Regional powers have said that what North Korea has described as the launch of a weather satellite, months after Kim Jong-un succeeded his father as the leader of the reclusive state, is a disguised test of a long-range ballistic missile.
Russia, which shares a short border with North Korea - Moscow's client in the Soviet era - had urged Pyongyang last month to refrain from the launch, expressing serious concern and calling for restraint from all sides.
Russia has often balanced previous criticism of North Korea's nuclear activities and its missile launches with calls on other major powers to refrain from belligerent actions against Pyongyang, which it says can be counterproductive.
A permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, Russia is displeased when nations defy council resolutions, and North Korean missile tests have sparked concern among Russians living on the country's Pacific coast on the past.
The Russian military will use tracking systems to monitor the North Korean rocket's flight, the Interfax news agency cited an unidentified official in the armed forces general staff as saying. The launch would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions and a February 29 denuclearization agreement, likely damaging prospects for new six-party talks on ending the impoverished country's nuclear program in exchange for food aid.
North Korea, which three years ago pulled out of six-party disarmament talks, agreed in February to stop nuclear tests, uranium enrichment and long-range missile launches in return for aid, opening the way to a possible resumption in negotiations.
Russia has been a participant in the six-party talks and hosted the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il last year, but has less influence on Pyongyang than China does.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/10/us-korea-north-russia-idUSBRE8390TQ20120410
4. White House Warns North Korea over Missile Launch
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The White House on Tuesday warned North Korea that its planned long-range missile launch would be a flagrant breach of the impoverished country's international obligations and would jeopardize food aid from Washington.
The launch of the Unha-3 rocket, which North Korea says will merely put a weather satellite into space, breaches U.N. sanctions imposed to prevent Pyongyang from developing a missile that could carry a nuclear warhead.
"The proposed missile launch, if conducted, would represent a clear and serious violation of North Korea's obligations under two United Nations Security Council resolutions," said White House press secretary Jay Carney.
"We will continue to work with our partners on next steps if North Korea goes through with this provocation and we continue to urge countries to have influence on North Korea to work to persuade North Korea to consider a different path," Carney told reporters traveling with President Barack Obama. He declined to spell out what the next steps might be but made clear the launch, which is set to take place between Thursday and next Monday, would sink planned U.S. food aid for the country, which has suffered from famine in the past.
"It is impossible to imagine we would be able to follow through with and provide nutritional assistance we have planned on providing, given what would be a flagrant violation of North Korea's basic international obligations," Carney said.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/10/us-korea-north-usa-idUSBRE83900D20120410
Bulgaria's government decided to Wednesday to start the process leading to construction of a 1,000 megawatt reactor at its Kozloduy nuclear plant on the Danube river after quitting the Belene nuclear project.
The Balkan country will check whether it can install the reactor, already ordered from Russia's Atomstroyexport, at the existing 2,000 MW Kozloduy plant in northwestern Bulgaria, after it abandoned plans to build a 2,000 MW station at Belene, a site that is prone to earthquakes.
"The new unit will be designed and built on a commercial basis, without government guarantees and without spending the money of the taxpayers," Finance Minister Simeon Djankov told reporters.
The centre-right government of Prime Minister Boiko Borisov launched the lengthy process to get approvals for the site and build the reactor, which could become operational in 2021-2022.
Bulgaria plans to set up a project company and seek a strategic investor for the new power generator, Economy and Energy Minister Delyan Dobrev has said.
Russia's Atomstroyexport has already build a 1,000 MW reactor aimed for the Belene station, but nuclear experts say it will be extremely difficult to install it at a new site.
If the option proves too costly or technically impossible, Bulgaria may seek to sell the Russian reactor, energy ministry officials have said.
The construction of the new nuclear unit will be realized after obtaining licenses and approvals in accordance with Bulgarian legislation and European Union law.
The Balkan country is also planning to extend the lifespans of its two operating nuclear units at Kozloduy, which expire in 2017 and 2019.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/11/bulgaria-nuclear-idUSL6E8F4B9320120411
2. FEIS Approved for Nuclear Power Plant's License Renewal
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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff said there are no adverse environmental impacts in renewing the operating license of the 1,250 MW Columbia Generating Station in Washington state.
The NRC’s final supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for the plant is one of the steps toward the 20-year renewal approval. The staff has also completed its safety evaluation report that is being evaluated by NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards.
Columbia uses one GE Mark II boiling-water reactor operated by Energy Northwest. The current operating license expires Dec. 20, 2023. Energy Northwest submitted an application to the NRC on Jan. 19, 2010 to extend the license by 20 years.
Available at: http://www.power-eng.com/articles/2012/04/feis-approved-for-nuclear-power-plants-license-renewal.html
Britain and Japan signed a framework civil nuclear co-operation pact opening up Japan's multi-billion pound decommissioning sector to UK companies, the UK energy ministry said.
The announcement on Tuesday came as UK Prime Minister David Cameron kicked off his tour of Asia in Japan. The tour is aimed at boosting trade and investment ties, while the nuclear pact follows the devastating Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown in March last year.
"British companies have significant expertise in nuclear decommissioning and clean-up, with 19 nuclear sites in the UK currently being managed through the process," Cameron said.
The two-way exchange will involve Japanese companies offering technical expertise in new plant design and construction in return for the UK's decommissioning and waste-management experience.
"The countries will share expertise, experience and technology in the remediation, decontamination and decommissioning of the Fukushima nuclear site," the UK energy ministry said.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/10/japan-britain-nuclear-idUSL6E8FA3JP20120410
1. Entergy Miss. Grand Gulf Puts out Fire in Condenser
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Entergy Corp extinguished a fire in the main condenser of its 1,251-megawatt Grand Gulf nuclear power plant in Mississippi Wednesday evening, the company told the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in a report posted on Thursday.
The unit has been on a planned refueling outage since Feb. 20. The operators at the plant declared an "unusual event," the lowest of four emergency classifications by the NRC, after the fire was discovered at about 6:11 p.m. local time Wednesday. It was put out in about 40 minutes. No one was hurt.
"The fire brigade was dispatched to combat the fire and the area was evacuated," Entergy stated. The cause of the fire was being investigated, the company said.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/12/utilities-operations-entergy-grandgulf-idUSL2E8FC1XW20120412
2. Safety of Oi Reactors 'Confirmed'/Final Decision to Be Made Later this Week
The Yomiuri Shimbun
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Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano said the safety of the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture has been basically confirmed by four ministers concerned, as the reactors meet the government's new reactor safety guidelines.
"They met the safety standards we decided on, and the safety of the reactors is generally confirmed," Edano told a press conference held after a meeting of the four ministers on Monday.
However, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Edano and two other ministers did not make a final decision Monday on whether the reactors should be restarted. They are expected to decide at their next meeting, to be held later this week.
Edano likely will visit Fukui Prefecture on the weekend to request the prefectural government approve the reactivation of the reactors.
At last Friday's meeting of the relevant ministers, the government revealed new safety guidelines for restarting idled nuclear power reactors. At the Monday meeting, they screened a road map of safety measures toward the reactivation of the Oi reactors that KEPCO submitted to Edano on the same day.
Edano said at the news conference, "We'll continue to discuss safety confirmation and the necessity [of reactivating the reactors] in consideration of power supply and demand [at the next meeting]."
The ministers will comprehensively review the safety measures for the reactors and "check whether there were oversights," Edano added.
The government's new guidelines consist of two stages:
-- Confirmation of preventive measures to avoid a worst-case scenario in which a reactor loses all power sources due to an earthquake or tsunami, as well as confirmation of emergency measures to maintain cooling functions to prevent a meltdown during a severe accident.
-- Require power utilities to submit medium- and long-term measures to improve nuclear reactor safety.
KEPCO's safety improvement timetable applies the 30 points of the nuclear reactor safety standards created by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency to 85 fields.
According to KEPCO, the power company has already completed emergency safety improvement measures in 52 of the 85 fields.
The firm has started implementing medium- and long-term measures in most of the remaining 33 fields, government sources said.
Through the road map, KEPCO has revealed its intention to swiftly implement the safety measures by moving up the schedule for conducting the medium- and long-term steps, the sources said.
Specifically, KEPCO brought forward by a year to fiscal 2015 the schedule for establishing a special "earthquake-resistant administration building."
Such a seismically isolated building played an important role as the command headquarters for the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Co.
KEPCO also set a target of fiscal 2015 for setting up filtered ventilation equipment for the reactors, which is designed to prevent the dispersal of radioactive substances when air or steam is released into the atmosphere to reduce the pressure within the reactor.
KEPCO said Tuesday it will ask its customers to save electricity again this summer, irrespective of whether it resumes operation of the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant.
"Even if the reactors at the Oi plant are reactivated, we'll request customers to conserve," KEPCO Vice President Shigeki Iwane told reporters after a meeting of the joint energy strategy council of Osaka Prefecture and Osaka city.
According to government estimates, areas covered by KEPCO are likely to experience a power shortage of 19.6 percent this summer if the two reactors at the Oi plant do not resume operations, under possible power demand of 30.95 million kilowatts--the demand in the extremely hot summer of 2010.
Even if power demand is held down to last summer's level of 27.84 million kilowatts--when KEPCO requested its customers to cut power use by least 15 percent--it will face a shortage of 7.6 percent.
Regarding estimates that a serious power shortage is expected within the KEPCO coverage areas if the Oi reactors are not reactivated, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said at a press conference on Tuesday that planned power conservation should be implemented based on detailed predictions of power demand.
Available at: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120410005406.htm
3. Ex-Areva Head Said Sarkozy Hoped to Sell Gaddafi Nuclear-Report
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The former head of France's state-controlled nuclear group Areva accused French President Nicolas Sarkozy of wanting to try to sell nuclear power to Muammar Gaddafi's Libya at least until the summer of 2010, according to a news report.
Gaddafi, who ruled Libya for 42 years, was overthrown and killed in October by rebels backed by a NATO force in which French warplanes played a major role.
Anne Lauvergeon, former chief executive of Areva, said in an interview published on Tuesday on the website of L'Express weekly that Sarkozy proposed in July 2007 to sell a nuclear reactor to the Gaddafi government to be used to desalinate ocean water.
Lauvergeon said she opposed the idea "vigorously".
"The state, which was supposed to be responsible, was supporting this folly," Lauvergeon said. "Imagine, if we'd done it, how it would look now!"
Lauvergeon said she had another meeting on the subject with an advisor to Sarkozy and the head of France's state-owned power company, EDF in 2010.
Lauvergeon was ousted last June after 10 years at the helm of Areva, the world's biggest nuclear reactor maker.
Lauvergeon reproached the president, who is facing an uphill battle to secure a second term, for organizing a "clan" system within the French nuclear network.
"This system touted low-end nuclear abroad and proposed transfering our global intellectual property rights to the Chinese and selling nuclear in countries where it was not reasonable," Lauvergeon said.
She said that Sarkozy offered her a position in his government after being elected in 2007, but she refused.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/10/france-areva-idUSL6E8FA5QU20120410
4. Japan Closer to Restarting First Reactors Since Fukushima
Tsuyoshi Inajima and Masatsugu Horie
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Japan’s government approved new safety measures for nuclear reactors, taking a step toward restarting the first atomic plant since the Fukushima disaster and to avert electricity shortages this summer that could set back the country’s economic recovery.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and three of his Cabinet members -- the group of four with the final say on reactor restarts -- held talks last night and approved safety measures to allow switching on two Kansai Electric Power Co. reactors. The units have passed so-called stress tests introduced after the Fukushima meltdowns.
The government will now take the plan for approval by authorities in Fukui prefecture, about 95 kilometers (59 miles) northeast of Osaka, where the reactors are located in Kansai Electric’s Ohi plant. Once local approval is secured, the final decision to restart the two reactors goes back to the Cabinet group. That decision may come early next month, Kyodo News reported, citing the ruling party’s policy chief Seiji Maehara.
The Kansai Electric safety measures meet “what the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency requested,” Industry Minister Yukio Edano, one of the Cabinet’s group of four, said at a news conference streamed over the Internet after the meeting last night.
Kansai Electric, the Japanese utility most dependent on nuclear power at 49 percent, has warned that if all its reactors stay offline during peak summer electricity demand, power shortages may follow.
The company’s electricity output without nuclear power may be 19.6 percent short of peak demand this summer if Japan is hit by a heat wave similar to the one in 2010, the trade and industry ministry said in a statement yesterday.
The company serves the Kansai area of western Japan that covers an area the size of Belgium, has an economy worth $1 trillion -- about the size of Mexico’s -- and is home to the cities of Osaka and Kyoto as well as factories of Sharp Corp. and Panasonic Corp.
Companies such as Komatsu Ltd. the world’s No. 2 maker of construction machinery, have said they will move factories overseas if electricity supply isn’t guaranteed.
Kansai Electric’s president Makoto Yagi met Edano in Tokyo yesterday on the safety standards. “Though I think we have improved safety to prevent an accident similar to Fukushima, steps to increase safety never end,” Yagi said after the meeting.
The government and Kansai Electric “fell short of scientifically and quantitatively explaining why some measures don’t need to be taken right now and what alternative safety measures have been secured,” Hironobu Unesaki, a nuclear engineering professor at Kyoto University, said by phone yesterday. “Their explanations are not enough.”
All but one of Japan’s 54 reactors are now offline after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami last year crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear station.
The reactors, which previously supplied 30 percent of Japan’s electricity, have either been closed by the March 11 disaster, government order or not allowed to restart after regular maintenance shutdowns. Nuclear reactors are closed every 13 months in Japan for maintenance and to replace uranium fuel rods.
Hokkaido Electric Power Co.’s No. 3 reactor at its Tomari nuclear plant is the last reactor running and is due to come offline for regular maintenance on May 5, the company said in a statement on its website on March 26.
“It is so obvious the government is rushing to restart the Ohi reactors at any cost before the Tomari unit is shut,” Tomoko Murakami, a Tokyo-based nuclear analyst at the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan, said by phone today.
The shutdown of the Tomari No. 3 reactor would become a symbolic defeat for those promoting nuclear power, because Japan would become nuclear free, she said. “But it’s really stupid if that’s the reasons behind the rush.”
Japan’s liquefied natural gas imports rose to a record in 2011 as utilities have been forced to rely on fossil fuel power plants to replace idled reactors.
Fuel costs at nine regional utilities that own atomic plants may more than double to about 7 trillion yen ($86 billion) in the year ending March 2013 if reactors remain shut, according to the report by the trade and industry ministry. Kansai Electric’s fuel bills may rise by 800 billion yen to about 1.1 trillion yen, it said.
The Fukushima nuclear meltdowns poisoned an area about half the size of New York City with radiation fallout. About 160,000 people were forced to evacuate and many areas around the plant will be uninhabitable for decades.
Japan’s central government has typically sought approval from local authorities to restart reactors, though it has no legal requirement to do so.
The Mayor of Ohi said safety measures taken so far at the plant are “sufficient,” Kyodo News reported, citing his comments at a press conference yesterday. “It’s questionable to let the plant restart, but it’s a very difficult problem,” said Masataka Tamagawa, a Buddhist priest in Obama city, about 10 kilometers from the Ohi plant. “Many people in the city have a job related to Kansai Electric. It’s not easy to find work if the plant goes.”
Toshitaro Akai, a 66-year-old resident of Ohi town said life and safety are more important than a job. “I’m against the restart of the nuclear plant; respect for human life should take priority over any other things and nuclear power is dangerous,” said Akai. “Japan should switch to other energy sources such as thermal and solar. If that means higher electricity bills, it can’t be helped.”
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-09/japan-closer-to-restarting-first-reactors-since-fukushima.html
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