1. Iran Sees Progress at Baghdad Nuclear Talks in May
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Iran is optimistic that talks in Baghdad next month will make progress toward resolving its nuclear dispute with world powers, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Monday.
"I see that we are at the beginning of the end of what I call the 'manufactured Iran file'," he told reporters in the latest in a series of positive statements from senior figures on the long-running standoff.
"At the Baghdad meeting, I see more progress," he said during a visit to Tunis, speaking in Arabic. World powers held talks with Iran in Istanbul this month over its nuclear programme, which the United States and its allies say is a cover for developing atomic weapons.
It was not clear what Salehi meant by "manufactured", but Iranian officials have often dismissed Western allegations as fabricated and groundless, insisting that their nuclear programme is purely for power generation and medical uses.
However, the U.N. nuclear watchdog last year issued a report detailing alleged Iranian research and development activities that were relevant to nuclear weapons, lending independent weight to the suspicions.
Iran has refused to stop enriching uranium, despite a slew of sanctions. But Western diplomats greeted the Istanbul meeting with the United States, Russia, China, Germany, France and Britain with cautious optimism, and the two sides agreed to meet again in Baghdad on May 23.
"The last meeting in Istanbul came up with results that satisfied both sides," Salehi said, without giving details.
Diplomats and analysts say an agreement is still far off, but the signs are growing that Iran's leaders are changing their approach and preparing public opinion for a potential shift.
Salehi said this month that Iran was "ready to resolve all issues very quickly and simply". Analysts and some diplomats have said both sides must compromise for any chance of a long-term settlement, suggesting Iran could be allowed to continue limited low-level enrichment of uranium if it accepts more intrusive nuclear inspections.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/04/23/uk-iran-nuclear-talks-idUKBRE83M0VM20120423
1. Pakistan Plans to Build two N-Power Plants in Sindh
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Pakistan plans to build two coastal nuclear power plants with a capacity of 1,000 MW each in the southern port city of Karachi to meet the future energy needs of the financial hub, according to a media report today.
"The presidency and General Headquarters are showing great interest in the projects which will have substantial allocations in the next budget," an unnamed Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission official was quoted as saying by The News.
The military leadership has been briefed about the project and the presidency too is showing interest in the coastal nuclear power projects, the official said.
"Due to this reason, we are seeking major allocations in the Public Sector Development Plan for 2012-13," the official said.
"Right now we are in the process of carrying out the seismic survey of the coastal area where the nuclear plants are expected to be installed," the official added.
Karachi currently has an ageing nuclear power plant that can generate 80 MW. The two new plants will be called the CNPP-1 and CNPP-2.
Besides, authorities plan to build four nuclear power plants on the Taunsa Punjnad canal, about 32 km from Muzzafargarh in Punjab province.
These plants will generate 1,000 MW. Work on the third and fourth Chashma Nuclear Power Plants too is underway.
Chashma Nuclear Power Plant-3 is scheduled to be operational by December 2016 and the fourth plant in 2017.
Authorities are hoping to complete these two plants about eight months ahead of scheduled. Each plant will generate 325MW of electricity.
The Chashma complex already has two functional nuclear power plants that generate 650MW.
Under the Energy Security Plan for 2005-2030, Pakistan plans to generate 8,800MW from nuclear power plants.
"Our objective is to increase the nuclear electricity share in the current electricity mix-up to six percent from the existing two percent," the PAEC official said.
The PAEC has identified six sites for building nuclear power plants at Qadirabad Headworks, Dera Ghazi Khan canal near Taunsa Barrage, Taunsa-Punjnad canal near Multan, Nara canal near Sukkur, Pat Feeder canal near Guddu and Kabul river near Nowshera, the report said.
The PAEC will acquire 2,263 acres for four nuclear plants and 989 acres for a housing colony at Muzaffargarh at a cost of Rs 18 billion.
Despite widespread criticism by the world community, Pakistan has stepped up civil nuclear cooperation with China, which has offered to supply several nuclear power plants.
Available at: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/pakistan-plans-to-build-two-n-power-plants-in-sindh/articleshow/12835368.cms
2. EDF, Rosatom Sign Up for Bulgarian Nuclear Plant Work
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A consortium, led by France's EDF and Russia's Rosenergoatom, has signed a contract to draw up plans to extend the lifespan of Bulgaria's Kozloduy nuclear plant, the government said on Friday.
The 2,000 megawatt nuclear plant produces over 35 percent of Bulgaria's electricity. Sofia is looking into ways to ensure it will not be forced to import power after 2019, when the reactors' permits expire.
The expansion of the lifespan of the two 1,000 megawatt, Soviet-made nuclear reactors by up to 20 years at Kozloduy, on the Danube river on the border with Romania, has become a priority of the government.
Earlier this month, Bulgaria decided to start the process leading to construction of a 1,000 megawatt reactor at Kozloduy after quitting the Belene nuclear project.
Bulgaria abandoned plans to build a 2,000 MW station at Belene - a site that is prone to earthquakes, after failing to attract serious foreign investors.
"The first stage of the preparation for the lifespan expansion of the units by up to 20 years has started," the government said in a statement, after Kozloduy's chief executive Alexander Nikolov met with Prime Minister Boiko Borisov.
The consortium was the only bidder for the work.
The plant declined to elaborate on the deal, saying details will be disclosed on Saturday.
The Balkan country has closed four older reactors at its sole nuclear plant Kozloduy under its treaty with the European Union and over safety concerns raised by Brussels.
The government also plans to expand the capacity of the two reactors at Kozloduy by 100 megawatts to ensure Bulgaria continued to export electricity.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/20/bulgaria-nuclear-idUSL6E8FK5NR20120420
3. Armenian Extends Nuclear Power Plant's Operation
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The Armenian government has decided to extend the operation of the country's sole nuclear power plant until a new nuclear reactor is built.
The landlocked and impoverished ex-Soviet nation depends on the Medzamor plant for nearly half of its energy consumption. The Soviet-built plant was to be shut down in 2016, but the Cabinet ruled Thursday that it should remain operational for a few extra years until its replacement enters service.
It said the authorities would take additional measures to strengthen the plant's safety.
The new reactor being built by Russia is to become operational in 2019-2020.
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian said he had discussed the issue with Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, a U.N. nuclear watchdog, who is currently visiting Armenia.
Available at: http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-04/D9U832780.htm
4. Energy Companies Seek to Develop Reactors in Missouri
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A pair of energy companies on Thursday announced a new attempt to expand nuclear energy in Missouri, this time by seeking federal energy funds for small nuclear reactors.
Under the plan, Westinghouse Electric Co. will seek up to $452 million from the U.S. Department of Energy in investment funds designed to support the engineering, design certification and operating licensure of small modular nuclear reactors. The utility Ameren Missouri says it then would become the nation's first power company to apply for a construction and operating license from federal regulators for a small reactor developed by Westinghouse.
Ameren plans to seek a license that would allow it to build and operate up to five nuclear reactors. The license would be valid for 40 years, and Ameren said the application process could cost $80 million to $100 million and take four years. Obtaining the license would not require Ameren to add the reactors.
Applications for money from the U.S. Department of Energy are due in May, and a decision on who wins could come this summer. But it might take until 2022 before any possible new reactors would come online in Missouri.
Ameren Missouri President and CEO Warner Baxter said the proposal could save customers millions of dollars in development costs. The St. Louis-based power company has 1.2 million electric customers, mostly in eastern and central Missouri.
"This is an opportunity that the state of Missouri simply cannot let pass by," Baxter said.
Energy company officials and elected state officials, including Gov. Jay Nixon, announced the possible nuclear energy expansion at the Governor's Mansion about 25 miles southwest of the state's lone nuclear plant, which is operated by Ameren Missouri in Callaway County. Other Missouri utilities and cooperatives back the plan.
"I can't tell you how big a deal this is for our state. This is the big one," said Barry Hart, the CEO for the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. "This is going to provide jobs and economic opportunity for our state, for the people that live here, that want to raise their families here for a long, long time."
Previous attempts to expand nuclear energy in Missouri have faced criticism.
Ed Smith, the safe energy director for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, said the state should bolster energy efficiency and renewable energy efforts rather than promote expensive nuclear power.
"The fact that we are speeding so quickly into the whole small modular nuclear reactor is so frightening," Smith said.
Another opponent of past nuclear energy proposals, the Fair Energy Rate Action Fund, called the agreement a "major victory" for consumers because it would not require ratepayers to start paying for a nuclear plant before it begins producing electricity. The group also pledged to monitor Ameren's actions closely.
Twice in recent years Ameren and other supporters have sought to clear the way for possible construction of an additional Missouri nuclear power plant. Those efforts stumbled in the Legislature amid attempts to alter a 1976 state law that bars utilities from charging customers for the costs of a new plant before it starts producing electricity.
Legislators in 2009 considered a measure that would have allowed utilities to seek state regulators' permission to include the financing costs for certain types of new power plants in consumer bills before the plant is operational. Last year, lawmakers considered a proposal to allow power companies to seek permission from the Public Service Commission to charge customers for the cost of getting an early site permit from federal regulators for a possible second nuclear power plant.
Baxter said Thursday that Ameren was putting on hold those efforts dealing with the early site permit. Officials said no state legislative action is needed for the federal licensing part of the latest proposal.
Westinghouse said a small nuclear reactor could produce 225 megawatts of electricity, about one-fifth the capacity of a large nuclear plant. The small modular nuclear reactors would be built in factories and shipped to where they are needed without altering tunnels and bridges. They are expected to take about two years to build, instead of roughly five years for larger plants.
Nixon, a Democrat who endorsed Ameren's proposal to charge customers for an early site permit, said the agreement could be an economic boon for Missouri. He said it could help ensure the state's energy needs are met while creating the potential for new manufacturing and possibly sparking a new global industry in Missouri.
Available at: http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-04/D9U8ALM80.htm
1. India Cracks Down on Firms for 'Illicit Trade in Weapons'
Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury
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West Asia and South Africa-based entities with a track record of illicit trade in material for weapons of mass destruction are using importers in India to source or route the sensitive items.
The news has prompted the government to block the licences of 13 exporters trading in such supplies. The move was crucial as India is seeking membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group and three other non-proliferation regimes.
The intelligence agencies reportedly got to know that the foreign entities seeking to procure the sensitive items had a record of proliferation.
Following the disclosure, the Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) and Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) turned down 13 applications in the past one year seeking licences for export of items on the list of Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment and Technologies (SCOMET).
Sources said countries or non-state actors that indulge in proliferation often use importers based in other countries with impeccable records to bypass international export control regimes and acquire sensitive dual-use items.
Despite not signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty, India has an impeccable record in nuclear non- proliferation.
Foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai had said at a national seminar last week: "We have witnessed instances of would-be proliferators targeting India to source or route their supplies; our agencies have taken appropriate preventive action."
The SCOMET list's 'category zero' includes "nuclear materials, nuclear related other materials, Equipment and technology".
The DAE issues licenses for export of nuclear material after screening the applications carefully.
Available at: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/india-cracks-down-on-firms-for-illicit-trade-in-weapons/1/185654.html
2. Czech for Closer Ties with India in Nuclear Power Sector
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Czech Republic, the second biggest exporter of nuclear energy to European countries, is keen on having a "very close operation" with India in the nuclear power sector.
Ambassador of the Czech Republic to India Miloslav Stasek said there was a "positive move" in this direction from Czech nuclear firms and the government, which are ready to start supply of parts required for Indian nuclear firms.
Noting that nuclear energy is playing a very important role in the Czech Republic, he said his country was looking forward to a close cooperation with India in this sector.
"Of course, we would like to have a very close cooperation with India in nuclear power sector," he told PTI on the sidelines of a function here.
Stasek said an agreement on nuclear cooperation signed between India and erstwhile Czechoslovakia, which later split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in 1967 is "still valid".
He said the Czech Republic's special envoy for Nuclear Energy visited India thrice and there was a "high profile visit" from India to his country.
"That means there is a regular traffic of high-level visits between both of us. We are trying to focus on the cooperation and to do some joint project in this field," Stasek said.
On last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan and its impact on the Indian nuclear energy sector, he said India has learnt a lot from the incident.
Available at: http://business-standard.com/india/news/czech-for-closer-tiesindia-in-nuclear-power-sector/163436/on
3. Japan, Vietnam Confirm Progress on Nuclear Power, Rare Earths
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Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung confirmed on Saturday their continued cooperation on nuclear power generation in Vietnam and the joint development of rare earths in the Southeast Asian nation, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said. In their second meeting in about five months, they confirmed that progress has been made concerning a plan to build two nuclear reactors in Vietnam, after Japan secured contracts to do so in October 2010, the ministry said.
Whether foreign countries will continue to import Japan's nuclear power technology has drawn attention since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami triggered the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.
The two leaders also noted that their cooperation on rare earths development is moving forward, it said.
Japan has been keen to jointly develop the elements with Vietnam and other Southeast Asian nations where the resources are said to be relatively unexploited, as China currently controls more than 90 percent of global supplies.
The minerals are crucial for making high-tech goods including smartphones and hybrid cars. The meeting, joined by Japan's transport minister Takeshi Maeda and Nguyen Minh Quang, Vietnam's natural resources and environment minister, was held on the sidelines of a summit between Japan and the five Mekong delta nations of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
The two leaders also welcomed the signing earlier this week of a note that paves the way for Vietnamese nationals to work in Japan as nurses and caregivers under their free trade accord. Japan already has similar agreements with Indonesia and the Philippines.
Meanwhile, Dung said at a press conference Saturday he supports Japan's intention to join the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations.
"The joining of a big economic power such as Japan will make the TPP more attractive and accelerate regional cooperation and economical alliance," Dung said at the Japan National Press Club. Concerning the planned construction of nuclear reactors by Japan, Dung said he expects Japan to construct "the safest nuclear reactors using its cutting-edge technology."
Available at: http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20120422p2g00m0dm027000c.html
Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and Ukrainian Emergency Minister Situations Viktor Baloha have signed a pact stating the two countries would cooperate in the event of a nuclear accident.
The pact, which was signed Wednesday, will take effect after it is approved by the Ukrainian parliament. It calls on both countries to provide data on health problems and environmental contamination, and send experts after a crisis occurs.
In addition, the Japanese and Ukrainian governments will set up a joint committee to meet annually. The pact is the first of its kind for Japan.
Japan is hoping it will learn from the lessons and knowledge Ukraine gained after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster to aid in reconstruction efforts following the outbreak of the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and prevent similar accidents.
Available at: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120419005480.htm
The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan has violated government policy by failing to compile a plan on how it intends to use the half ton of plutonium it expects to extract from spent fuel in fiscal 2012, sources said Saturday.
The deadline was March 31, when fiscal 2011 ended. Without a plan, Japan could come under international fire again for its blatant lack of transparency, given the risks of the plutonium being diverted for nuclear weapons use or terrorism.
Japan has around 30 tons of plutonium sitting around for nuclear power generation, but only a few kilograms are needed for a nuclear weapon.
At the end of 2009, Japan had the fifth-largest stores of plutonium for nonmilitary use, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
In 2003, the Japan Atomic Energy Commission announced it would make annual disclosures of its plans for using extracted plutonium, in light of nuclear nonproliferation policy.
These include plans on which reactors will engage in plutonium-thermal power generation and for how long, as well as the amount of MOX, or plutonium-uranium mixed oxide fuel, the reactors will use.
When asked to comment on the utility group's failure to submit its 2012 plutonium plan, a member of the commission termed it "not desirable."
The extracted plutonium was originally intended for use in the experimental Monju fast-breeder reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture. But the problematic Monju, which can in theory produce more nuclear fuel than it consumes, has only proven to be a pipe dream so far.
This has clouded the outlook for Japan's nuclear fuel cycle because the Monju was supposed to be its centerpiece. According to a source, the utility federation is being stymied by uncertainties over reactor restarts stirred up by the Fukushima No. 1 power plant disaster after the earthquake and tsunami of March 11 last year.
"We will disclose the plan by October or so, when the actual extraction of plutonium will take place," a federation official said.
Plutonium-thermal power generation involves the use of MOX, which is made with weapons-grade plutonium extracted from spent fuel, and is an important pillar of Japan's nuclear fuel recycling program.
The plutonium is extracted at Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd.'s reprocessing plant in the village of Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, which is currently on a trial run. It plans to reprocess 80 tons of spent fuel to extract about half a ton of plutonium by March next year.
In 2010, the federation said that by the end of March 2016, 5.5 to 6.5 tons of plutonium will be used each year at 16 to 18 of the reactors across Japan, but the viability of the project has been threatened by the Fukushima disaster.
Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120423a4.html
3. TEPCO Finds no Damage at Fukushima No. 2 Reactor's Suppression Pool
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Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Wednesday its survey with a robot at the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has so far showed no major damage to the suppression pool at the bottom of the No. 2 reactor's primary containment vessel.
The robot, attached with cameras, showed the upper portion of the doughnut-shaped vessel connected to the primary container, and the exterior appearance was "relatively clean," a company official said, adding the utility known as TEPCO was not able to confirm water leakages.
The investigation is part of preparations toward the goal of removing melted nuclear fuel from the crippled reactor. The company needs to fill the container with water to block radiation before defueling, but to do so it has to find out from where water injected into the reactor is leaking.
The plant operator said it would further conduct similar investigations to check other parts of the suppression pool, which is 34 meters in diameter and filled with water.
The water injected into the No. 2 reactor to keep the fuel inside cool is believed to be leaking out to the reactor building and to the adjacent reactor turbine building.
TEPCO suspected that water may be leaking from maintenance hatches attached to the suppression pool, but it did not find signs of leakages, TEPCO spokesman Junichi Matsumoto said at a press conference.
The radiation level of the basement room housing the suppression pool was a maximum 120 millisieverts per hour, he added.
The suppression pool is meant to hold cooling water used for emergencies and is also used to reduce pressure inside the reactor's primary container.
The Fukushima Daiichi plant's Nos. 1 to 3 reactors suffered meltdowns in the early stage of the nuclear crisis, which was triggered by the huge earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. An explosion sound was initially believed to be heard around the No. 2 reactor's suppression pool, but TEPCO later concluded there was no such incident. The Nos. 1, 3 and 4 reactor units suffered hydrogen explosions.
Available at: http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20120419p2g00m0dm016000c.html
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