1. Clinton Says Diplomacy with Iran not "Infinite"
Xinhua News Agency
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday that the time for diplomacy with Iran over its disputed nuclear program is not "infinite," reiterating that all options are on the table.
"We want to see a peaceful resolution of the international community's concerns, but the time for diplomacy is not infinite and all options remain on the table to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," Clinton said at a joint press conference with Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.
"Until Iran comes into compliance with its international obligations and demonstrates the peaceful intent of its nuclear program, they will continue to face strong pressure and isolation, " she said.
"So the sooner that we begin talks, the better it will be," Clinton noted, adding that EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is still consulting with Iran on the time and venues of the upcoming talks.
Clinton made the remarks ahead of the upcoming talks between Iran and the six world powers, namely the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and China, plus Germany, also known as G5+1.
She said previously on Saturday in Saudi Arabia that the six world powers and Iran had agreed on meeting in Turkey's Istanbul on April 13.
But Iran's Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi said on Wednesday that China and Iraq are also considered by Tehran as the venues for the talks.
At the end of last year, U.S. President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, a part of which is aimed at choking off Iran's crucial oil revenue by targeting its central bank and financial sector.
The law allows the Obama administration to slap sanctions on foreign banks that engage in oil transactions with Iran's central bank and cut them off from the American financial system.
The unprecedentedly tough measure resulted in heightened tensions between the West and Tehran, with Israel and the United States even talking about launching military strikes against Iran' s nuclear sites.
The tensions relatively eased recently as Iran and the six world powers agreed to resume talks on its controversial nuclear program.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2012-04/05/c_131507356.htm
2. Iran Officials Reject Istanbul as Talks Venue Amid Syria Discord
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Iranian officials say Turkey isn’t a suitable location for nuclear talks expected in mid-April as the neighbors clash over unrest in Syria, Iran’s ally.
“Given Turkey’s unprincipled policies, it isn’t beneficial for the upcoming negotiations between Iran and the 5+1 countries to be held in Istanbul,” said Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee. “Iranian lawmakers have many times said that negotiations need to take place in another spot and in a country that is a friend of Iran,” he told the Tehran-based Etemaad newspaper in a report published today.
Boroujerdi’s remarks come after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on March 31 that negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany will be held on April 13-14 in Istanbul.
The talks would be the first since a January 2011 meeting between Iran and the so-called 5+1 group, which broke down without agreements or commitments for further rounds. Since then, Iran has come under increasing pressure with the piling up of trade, financial and energy sanctions from the U.S. and the European Union to force the Persian Gulf country to abandon its uranium enrichment activity.
Iran, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, says its atomic program is aimed at securing electricity for its growing population while the U.S. and its allies accuse the Iranian government of seeking to build nuclear weapons.
Israel has threatened military strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities to forestall that development and U.S. officials have refused to rule out the use of force against it.
Yesterday, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi suggested China and Iraq as potential venues. Salehi told his Turkish counterpart that only the foreign minister, president and supreme leader can speak for Iran and remarks by other officials don’t necessarily represent the Islamic republic’s position, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.
Speaking earlier this week, Mohsen Rezai, the secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, named Baghdad, Damascus or Beirut as more suitable locations than Istanbul, citing Turkish officials’ failure to “stand by certain agreements.”
“Iran should not give a wrong indication to the 5+1 group and they shouldn’t feel that Iran is in a weak spot,” Rezai said in a report published April 2 on the Tehran-based Tabnak website.
Davutoglu told reporters in Ankara yesterday that “the important thing isn’t where the meeting is held, it’s getting results.”
“If asked to play a role in the negotiations, Turkey will do everything in its power, and if we’re asked to host the summit, we will gladly do so,” he said.
Turkey has called on Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to step down and supports efforts by the Syrian National Council, the leading opposition alliance, to establish a democracy. Turkey, whose longest border is with Syria, and Iran, which supports the Assad regime, have said they’re working to mend differences on how to resolve the conflict.
Available at: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-04-05/iran-officials-reject-istanbul-as-talks-venue-amid-syria-discord
1. N. Korea Threatens Third Nuclear Test after Rocket Launch
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North Korea hinted on Wednesday that it could conduct a third nuclear test if the U.S. and its allies put additional sanctions on the North over its planned rocket launch in mid-April.
The Chosun Shinbo, a newspaper published in Japan by an association of pro-Pyongyang Korean-Japanese residents, pointed out Wednesday that Pyongyang had conducted a second nuclear test after the U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions on the North in 2009.
“The U.S.’s words and deeds denouncing the launch of Kwangmyongsong-3 is like encouraging us to wind back the time table to April 2009,” the paper said.
The North launched a missile in April 2009 and conducted a second nuclear test in May.
The U.S. and its allies have raised concerns that the North’s planned rocket launch to put a satellite into orbit in mid-April could be a precursor to a third nuclear test.
The U.S. and Japanese governments renewed their warning to North Korea to drop its plan to launch a satellite. The U.S. and its allies see the plan as a pretext to test a long-range ballistic missile.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and his Japanese counterpart Naoki Tanaka discussed “developments related to North Korea’s announcement that it plans to conduct a missile launch in mid-April,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters in Washington.
“Secretary Panetta and Defense Minister Tanaka reiterated their view that such a missile launch would directly violate North Korea’s international obligations and U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874,” he said.
“They also affirmed the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance in defense of Japan and in contributing to regional peace and security.”
Despite international condemnation that a rocket launch would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions, North Korea has repeatedly said it would put a satellite into orbit on a rocket sometime between April 12 and 16 in celebration of the 100th year since late founder Kim Il-sung’s birth.
Ri Gun, director-general of the North American affairs bureau of the North’s foreign ministry, told reporters in Beijing that the North will go ahead with its rocket launch plan as scheduled.
He said that the North has the right to launch Kwangmyongsong-3, as every other nation has the sovereign right to “peacefully” develop space programs.
His comments came after he met with former U.S. government officials including Thomas Pickering, former under secretary of state for political affairs, in Berlin.
With mounting international concerns over the North’s rocket launch, the Philippines’ civil aviation authority said it would divert flights to and from Japan and South Korea to coincide with a planned North Korean rocket launch over fears of falling debris.
Air routes from Japan and South Korea to the Manila airport will be closed on April 12-16, when Pyongyang is expected to fire the rocket into orbit, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines spokeswoman Joy Songsong said.
Tanaka recently ordered Japan’s missile units to intercept a North Korean rocket if it or its fragments threaten Japan’s territory.
The Unha-3 rocket is expected to fly past western Japan after its launch from North Korea’s west coast between April 12 and 16.
Available at: http://www.koreaherald.com/national/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20120404001096
1. Highly Radioactive Waste Water Leaked from Desalination Device at Fukushima plant
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About 12 cubic meters of waste water containing highly radioactive substances was found leaking from the pipe of a desalination device at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in the early hours of April 5, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) announced.
The level of radiation in the water, which contained radioactive substances such as strontium, is believed to top 100,000 becquerels per cubic centimeter. There is a possibility that the contaminated water flowed into the ocean through a draining trench, said TEPCO, the operator of the troubled nuclear power station.
According to TEPCO, the flow of waste water in the pipe increased at around 1:05 a.m. on April 5. A TEPCO employee found the water leaking at 1:50 a.m. The water stopped leaking at around 2:20 a.m. after the valve to the pipe was shut off.
On March 26, water leaked from the pipe of the desalination apparatus, and about 0.08 cubic meters of contaminated water was released into the ocean.
Available at: http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20120405p2a00m0na010000c.html
2. Japan Government Fears Non-Nuclear Summer Will Hamper Restarts
Linda Sieg and Risa Maeda
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Japan's government is rushing to try to restart two nuclear reactors, idled after the Fukushima crisis, by next month out of what experts say is a fear that surviving a total shutdown would make it hard to convince the public that atomic energy is vital.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and three cabinet ministers are to meet for a third time on Friday to discuss the possible restarts of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co's Ohi plant in Fukui, western Japan - a region dubbed the "nuclear arcade" for the string of atomic plants that dot its coast.
Trade minister Yukio Edano, who holds the energy portfolio, could travel to Fukui as early as Sunday to seek local approval for the restarts, Japanese media said.
If approved, the restarts would be the first since a huge earthquake and tsunami triggered the radiation crisis at Tokyo Electric Power's Fukushima plant a year ago, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate.
Concern about a power crunch when electricity demand peaks in the summer has been set against public fears about safety since Fukushima, the world's worst nuclear accident in 25 years.
Nuclear power, long advertised as safe and cheap, provided almost 30 percent of Japan's electricity before the crisis but now all but one of Japan's 54 reactors are off-line, mainly for maintenance. The last reactor will shut down on May 5.
"They want to avoid setting a precedent of the country operating without nuclear power because it will create a huge barrier in terms of restarts," said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University's Tokyo campus.
"People will question why we need it," he said.
The government is crafting a new energy mix formula, with options for atomic power ranging from zero to 35 percent of electricity by 2030 against an earlier target of more than half.
Whether the reactor restarts can go ahead before the last reactor shuts down, however, remains in doubt.
Edano has said he wants to gain understanding from communities near the reactors, including those such as Shiga and Kyoto prefectures which are not hosts to atomic plants but are close enough to be at risk of radiation from a big accident.
On Thursday, however, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura underscored there was no legal requirement for local communities to sign off on the restarts.
"However, we will go to the localities to explain new (safety) standards," he told reporters.
On Thursday, Noda and the three ministers met and reviewed safety principles drafted by the trade ministry based on the lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster, Edano said.
On Friday they will discuss whether the Ohi reactors meet those principles, he said, and also plan to ask Kansai Electric to give a detailed report on its longer terms safety steps.
The two Ohi reactors have already passed initial computer-simulated stress tests, but the head of Japan's Nuclear Safety Commission, Haruki Madarame, has said that was not enough.
Local governments, including Fukui Prefectural Governor Issei Nishikawa, have called for provisional safety guidelines as one of the requirements for restarts.
Nishikawa, however, has said he wants to see the results of a government-sponsored probe of the Fukushima crisis. The report is not due out until summer.
Hasty moves to restart idle reactors could prompt a backlash against an already unpopular government and ruling party ahead of an election that could come later this year.
Toru Hashimoto, the popular mayor of the western city of Osaka and head of a new party keen to break into national politics, has adopted an anti-nuclear stance.
"If they do this (rush the restarts), it just gives him a higher wave to ride into what may be an election this summer," said Andrew DeWit, a professor at Rikkyo University in Tokyo who studies energy policy. No vote for parliament's lower house is mandated until 2013 but speculation is rife that Noda may call a snap election over tax reform.
Last summer, the government imposed power restrictions on some large corporate users, ordering them to cut usage by 15 percent. To deal with the shortage, manufacturers operated plants at night and on the weekends. Companies used in-house generators and cut down on use of air conditioners and lights.
Japan's biggest business lobby, Keidanren, has complained about the cost of such measures, as well as expressed worries that higher future electricity costs could force companies to move overseas, further "hollowing out" the economy.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/05/us-japan-nuclear-idUSBRE83401U20120405
3. Japan Holds Off on Decision to Restart Reactors
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Japan needs more time to decide whether to restart two offline nuclear reactors, the trade minister said on Tuesday, as concerns about a summer power crunch vie with safety worries in the wake of last year's Fukushima crisis.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will meet three cabinet members on Tuesday to discuss restarting the reactors, but will not make any immediate decision, Trade Minister Yukio Ed ano, who holds the energy portfolio, told reporters.
"Safety should be ensured to avoid massive leaks of radioactive materials as occurred in the Fukushima crisis even if an earthquake and tsunami that exceed past expectations occur," Edano told reporters.
"We should also obtain the understanding of local communities in that regard."
All but one of Japan's 54 reactors have been shut, mostly for maintenance checks, over the months since the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima plant, triggered by a huge tsunami in March 2011. The remaining reactor is set to be closed for maintenance on May 5.
Kansa i Electric Power Co's No.3 and No.4 reactors at Ohi nuclear plant in Fukui prefecture, western Japan, are the first to have passed government-imposed, computer-simulated stress tests, a necessary step before any restart.
Energy markets are keen to know when the Ohi reactors will go back on line. Their restart could reduce imports of liquefied natural gas equivalent by about 2 million tonnes a year.
To make up for the lost nuclear power, Japan's utilities burned 25 percent more imported liquefied natural gas - equivalent to a total of 51.8 million tonnes - and 150 percent more crude oil in the year to February, according to the latest power industry data.
The government, however, must persuade wary locals that the plants are safe after last year's nine-magnitude earthquake and tsunami triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years.
Nuclear power supplied about 30 percent of Japan's electricity before the crisis, and Noda's administration is now debating what role it should play in the future.
Japan's defences against another major tsunami and the safety of its nuclear plants were thrown into further doubt after two official studies released at the weekend predicted much higher waves could hit and that Tokyo quake damage could be bigger than it was prepared for.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/03/japan-power-nuclear-idUSL3E8F28P920120403
4. Radioactive ‘Hotspots’ Found Far From Fukushima Disaster
International Business Times
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Three months after the March 11, 2011, tsunami led to meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northern Japan, scientists detected higher levels of radioactive elements in the ocean up to 600 kilometers (373 miles) off the Japanese coast -- but not at levels that present an immediate threat to human health, according to a new study.
Using 24 specially equipped drifting buoys, a team led by researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts found radioactive isotopes -- slightly different versions of elements -- derived from the Fukushima Daiichi plant in seawater as well as in various underwater microorganisms and a small sample of fish, according to a paper appearing Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
While much research has been focused on measuring radioactivity near the coastline and in the air and soil of Japan, there is relatively little information about the distribution of radioactive elements farther out, the researchers say.
The levels of radioactive isotopes the team found last June were between 10 and 1,000 times higher than previously documented figures. However, the amount of radiation found is not immediately harmful to humans or marine animals and is still lower than the amount of other naturally occurring radioactive isotopes in the ocean, according to Woods Hole researcher Ken O. Buesseler, the lead author of the study.
"We're not seeing any levels that by themselves that would cause radiation sickness," Buesseler said in a phone interview.
However, there could be problems down the line, as fish eat contaminated plankton, or when radioactive elements settle onto the ocean floor and are consumed by shellfish and other creatures in a chain that leads to the supper table.
Buesseler says he's most concerned about radioactive bits of the element cesium accumulating in ocean sediments. One of the cesium isotopes measured degrades very slowly, meaning that it will be sticking around for decades.
Some of the highest levels of radioactivity were found around 100 km offshore, where radioactive elements are caught in the swirling grip of circular ocean currents called eddies.
"The ocean currents are mixing them, creating these hotspots," Buesseler said.
Currents will bring radioactive elements near U.S. shores in a little more than a year, but by that time they will have dissipated even further, according to Buesseler.
Some radioactive fallout has already reached the U.S. by air. A paper published in March in the Journal of Environmental Monitoring finds that radioactive cesium and iodine isotopes were detected in air, water and milk samples taken across the country in March and April 2011, peaking around a week after the tsunami.
But even those results provided little cause for alarm. Punam Thakur, a researcher with the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring & Research Center at New Mexico State University and the lead author of the JEM paper, says even the highest levels of radioactive elements she found were 1,500 times smaller than the maximum limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Thakur estimates that the U.S. has been hit with about 1 to 2 percent of the radioactive elements released by the Fukushima disaster, though that figure isn't rock-solid, since the Japanese government has not released figures on the total amount of radiation released from the plant.
The levels presented in the PNAS paper line up with estimates put out by the Japanese government and researchers affiliated with Tokyo Electric Power Co., which maintained the ill-starred nuclear facility.
Buesseler says it was important to verify these levels through independent research, since many people in Japan mistrust the results reported to them from the government and TEPCO.
Before the Fukushima Daiichi accident, radioactive cesium in the ocean came mostly from nuclear weapons testing in the 1960s, along with some smaller amounts from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident and intentional discharges from European nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities, according to the paper.
While offshore radiation levels are still within a safe range, the concentration of radioactive elements is still high near the Fukushima Daiichi plant, where contaminants are likely still being released into the ocean.
"Though the reactor is in cold shutdown, all the groundwater and buildings are still leaking," Buesseler said. "We're not out of the woods yet."
Available at: http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/322932/20120402/radioactivity-offshore-japan-fallout-fukushima-disaster.htm
1. Areva Predicts Uranium Demand Freeze Until 2014
Francois de Beaupuy
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Areva SA (AREVA), the world’s largest maker of atomic reactors, predicted the market for uranium will suffer from a glut before nuclear fuel demand rebounds from 2014 as the industry reels from last year’s meltdown in Japan.
“In two years, there will be very strong demand on the market, as new reactors start operating, and as new contracts with the existing fleet kick in,” Chief Commercial Officer Ruben Lazo said in a March 26 interview at the company’s headquarters in Paris. “I’m sure that Japan will restart a few reactors this year, and complete all necessary measures to restart many others in 2013 and 2014.”
Luc Oursel, chief executive officer of Areva SA. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg The tsunami that wrecked the Japanese nuclear site in 2011 has weighed on Areva, whose shares have lost 58 percent of their value since the worst nuclear accident in 25 years. Japan has idled all but one of its 54 reactors, and Germany has reversed a decision to extend the lifespan of its atomic facilities. Still, Lazo aims to double the order intake from Asia this year from more than 1 billion euros ($1.34 billion) in 2011, saying market “fundamentals” remain broadly intact.
The French company is betting that an 80 percent jump in global energy demand by 2030, combined with rising fuel prices and the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions, will lead to a 2.2 percent annual increase in the installed base of nuclear plants in the next two decades.
“Responsible governments won’t tie the whole industrial and economic development of their country to a single source of energy,” Lazo said. “Manufacturers want some predictability in power prices that can’t be provided by gas, while nuclear is the only energy that can guarantee some price stability.” The accident in Japan forced Areva to idle plants, cut jobs, write down assets and report a record 2.42 billion loss in 2011 as sales prospects for uranium ore, nuclear fuel and equipment receded. Areva, which competes with Urenco Ltd., USEC Inc. (USU) and OAO Techsnabexport on uranium enrichment, ousted its long-time chief executive officer, Anne Lauvergeon, last June, and replaced her with Luc Oursel.
Lazo said he spotted signs on a recent trip to Japan that the country won’t abandon atomic power outright. Chubu Electric Power Co. (9502), an Areva client, is spending 1 billion euros to erect a seawall to protect three nuclear reactors in Hamaoka south of Tokyo from tsunamis, he said.
The executive predicts Asia will account for about 60 percent of the 300 gigawatts of global nuclear new builds by 2030. Areva, which is building a 1.6 gigawatt reactor called EPR in France, in Finland and two in China, is in “very advanced stage of talks” to sell two additional EPRs to China, which may complete its safety review this year, Lazo said. It may wrap up talks to sell two EPRs in India in 2012, he said.
Areva is also “very confident” about prospects in the U.S., where it got a $1 billion contract with the Tennessee Valley Authority (3015A) last year to help complete a nuclear plant in Alabama, Lazo said. Areva is quickening the certification of the EPR in the U.S. as it “wants to be a significant player” in new reactors in the country.
In nuclear reactor construction, “competition is becoming more aggressive as the nuclear renaissance scenario isn’t there anymore,” said Lazo. “There’s a bigger number of players aiming for the same targets.”
In Finland, a utility for which Areva is building an EPR said March 23 that French company will face GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (7011) and Toshiba Corp. (6502) in next year’s tender. In Jordan, an Areva-Mitsubishi venture is competing against Russian and Canadian rivals.
Lazo expects a final contract this year to supply two EPRs to Electricite de France’s unit in the U.K., where a group of German utilities on March 29 dropped plans for new builds. Areva is also working on tenders to be launched this year or next in countries such as Poland, South Africa, and the Czech Republic.
Prospects remain more uncertain back home in France, where Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande has pledged to shut the country’s oldest atomic plant by 2017 and cut reliance on nuclear power should he get elected in May. France generates about 77 percent of its energy from nuclear power now.
“In France, we’re here to implement the energy policy of the government,” the chief salesman of state-controlled Areva said. “We’re also here to explain, clarify and provide information to decision-makers. New builds are cheaper that other sources of energy.”
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-04/areva-predicts-uranium-demand-freeze-until-2014-after-fukushima.html
Belarus may build a second nuclear plant in the country in addition to one already planned for the western Grodno Region, President Alexander Lukashenko said on Tuesday.
“If we have your cooperation, support and suitable conditions, we are ready to build a second nuclear power station in Belarus,” the president told International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Yukiya Amano who is on a visit to Minsk.
Construction of Belarus’ first nuclear plant in the Grodno Region, close to the Lithuanian border, was expected to begin in April. Lukashenko said on Tuesday its construction has “already begun.” The $9-billion plant will be built by Russia’s Atomstroyexport company, a subsidiary of state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom. The plant will consist of two reactors with a capacity of 1,200 MW each and will boost the entire Belarusian energy system's capacity to 8,000 MW. The power station’s first unit is due to be ready in 2017 and the second in 2018.
Belarus began preparing to build a nuclear plant back in the 1980s, but the project was shelved following the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in neighboring Ukraine.
Belarusian opposition and environmental activists have raised concerns over the project, which were further fuelled by the March 2011 accident at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power station. Lithuania has demanded the plant be moved away from its border.
Russia says it employs advanced technology to ensure accident-free operations at all the power stations it builds.
Available at: http://en.ria.ru/world/20120403/172576718.html
3. Plans to Build a Nuclear Fast Reactor at Sellafield Come a Step Closer
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A radical plan to deal with Britain’s plutonium waste – the biggest civil deposit in the world – has come a step closer with a legal contract to test the feasibility of building an American nuclear fast reactor on the Sellafield site in Cumbria.
Britain’s own fast-reactor programme was abandoned two decades ago and yesterday it was announced that the fast-reactor site at Dounreay in Scotland will be dismantled by 2025 at a cost of £2.7bn.
However, The Independent can reveal that nuclear officials have signed a feasibility study to investigate the possibility of building an American-designed fast reactor to “burn” the plutonium waste on-site at Sellafield.
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which has overall responsibility for Sellafield and its 100-tonne plutonium-waste problem, has signed the deal with GE-Hitachi to see whether its Prism fast reactor can directly eliminate the plutonium waste rather than the alternative method of converting it into mixed oxide (Mox) fuel for conventional nuclear reactors.
The deal represents a remarkable U-turn on the part of the NDA which has consistently said that its preferred option to deal with the plutonium waste at Sellafield is to build a second Mox fuel plant at Sellafield – the first Mox fuel plant was closed last year after a catalogue of failures costing £1.34bn. It is also ironic given that the reason why Britain has such a large amount of civil plutonium waste is because the UK nuclear industry wanted to burn it in fast reactors at Dounreay in Scotland, which had to be abandoned two decades ago, again because of technical failures.
Yesterday, the NDA announced that it would now cost nearly £3bn to decommission the heavily-contaminated site at Dounreay, although it attempted to sweeten the pill by claiming that this was £1bn less than originally planned.
In a statement to The Independent, the NDA said that it had originally ruled out fast reactors as a “credible option” for disposing of the plutonium because the technology was immature and such reactors would not be commercially available for several decades.
“GE Hitachi subsequently approached NDA to suggest their technology was at a more advanced stage of development. Discussions are now ongoing and a contract has been signed between NDA and GE Hitachi for a feasibility study which will be delivered over the next 3-4 months and, after review of the outputs, NDA will consider the credibility, or otherwise, of the proposal,” the NDA said.
“At this stage, evidence has not been provided which changes the NDA position that fast reactors are not credible,” it added.
The GE-Hitachi Prism reactor has come out of the US Department of Energy’s integral fast reactor programme, which was itself abandoned by President Bill Clinton in 1994, just before Britain abandoned its own fast-reactor programme.
However, GE-Hitachi has convinced the NDA that there are grounds for believing that it may be possible to build a pair of fast-reactors at Sellafield that can deal directly with the waste plutonium, rather than the more elaborate method of converting it first into Mox fuel that would then be burned in conventional nuclear reactors.
Daniel Roderick, senior vice president of GE Hitachi, said that if given the go-ahead the company will form a consortium that will build and operate the plant at no up-front cost to the UK taxpayer. “We will only charge for each kilogram or tonne of plutonium we dispose of. We’re not going to build a several billion pound plant that doesn’t work,” Mr Roderick said.
The Prism fast reactor would be licensed and built within 10 years of given the go-ahead and it could deal with all the plutonium on a “once-through” basis within five years, he said.
A Mox plant would by comparison be subsidised by the UK taxpayer and would take far longer to build and will almost certainly not be built to budget, given the example of the French-built Mox plant in the US which is nearly ten times over budget and many years over schedule, Mr Roderick said. It is believed that Professor David MacKay, chief scientist at the Department for Energy and Climate Change, has been persuaded of the merits of building a fast-reactor at Sellafield. “The more people we’ve educated on this, the more support we’re seeing,” Mr Roderick said.
Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/plans-to-build-a-nuclear-fast-reactor-at-sellafield-come-a-step-closer-7608840.html
The Foreign Ministry said a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation accord with Russia will take effect May 3, providing all necessary procedures have been completed.
The pact will pave the way for domestic companies to export nuclear technologies to Russia and help Japan secure uranium enrichment services from the energy-rich country.
The validity of the accord, signed by Japan and Russia in 2009, was confirmed by Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba and Sergei Kirienko, head of Russia's Nuclear Energy State Corporation (Rosatom), during a meeting in Tokyo on Tuesday.
The pact was approved by the Diet in December with the support of both ruling and opposition lawmakers, although concerns remain over the safety of nuclear energy in light of the Fukushima crisis.
Kirienko told reporters after the meeting he is ready to cooperate with Japan in the disposal and decontamination of rubble and waste that remain in the vicinity of the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
The Rosatom chief, who visited the plant Monday and met with officials of Tokyo Electric Power Co., said the disaster is a "tragedy" for Japan and for other countries that rely on nuclear power.
He said that Russia's experience of dealing with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in what was then the Soviet republic of Ukraine could prove useful in handling the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120405a4.html
2. National Nuclear Laboratory and GEH Sign Plutonium MoU
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The UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) agreement with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH).
Under the terms of the MoU, NNL will provide expert technical input into GEH’s work to study the potential UK deployment of its innovative PRISM reactor, which GEH is proposing as a means to dispose of the UK’s plutonium while generating 600MW of low-carbon electricity.
According to a statement, the UK will have 140 tonnes of plutonium by 2018, mostly stored at Sellafield in Cumbria. The UK government confirmed its intention to reuse this plutonium in December 2011, declaring that it ‘remains open to any alternative proposals for plutonium management that offer better value to the UK taxpayer’.
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) announced in February 2012 that it is seeking proposals for alternative approaches for management of the UK’s plutonium stocks.
Available at: http://www.theengineer.co.uk/policy-and-business/business-briefs/national-nuclear-laboratory-and-geh-sign-plutonium-mou/1012261.article#ixzz1r5QxBxst
3. Albania and IAEA Sign Country Programme Framework for 2012 - 2017
Balkans Business News
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Albania and the International Atomic Energy Agency have signed Albania's Country Programme Framework for the period of 2012 - 2017, ATA news agency reported April 2. The Framework includes projects worth over EUR3m in priority areas for the country's economic and social development.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' press office, the programme is the basic document for the medium-term planning of technical cooperation between Albania and IAEA. It identifies four priority areas, sustainable energy development, human health, local development and environment and governmental and regulatory frameworks for safety and legal framework.
Available at: http://www.balkans.com/open-news.php?uniquenumber=141013
4. EDF Sticks to U.K. Nuclear Projects as RWE, EON Quit Vent
Ladka Bauerova and Caroline Connan
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Electricite de France SA, the world’s biggest operator of atomic plants, remains committed to developing nuclear reactors in the U.K. even after Germany’s two biggest utilities abandoned projects in the country.
EDF has no intention of following EON AG and RWE AG (RWE), which announced last week they’ll scrap a plan to build reactors in Britain through their Horizon venture, Chief Executive Officer Henri Proglio told reporters today in Paris. “The British government is eager to develop new sources of energy and we will accompany them,” he said.
All of Britain’s operating reactors are scheduled to shut by 2035 as they age, leaving the U.K. with an energy gap of almost 10,000 megawatts. EDF, with partner Centrica Plc (CNA), plans two new generators at its site in Sizewell in eastern England. The company also intends to make an investment decision on two new reactors at Hinkley Point in southwest England, costing an estimated 10 billion pounds ($16 billion), by the end of 2012.
RWE and EON, which operate plants fired by coal, gas and renewables in Britain, said March 29 they’re seeking buyers for Horizon, a venture with sites in Wales and western England. RWE said high costs of capital and leaner budgets as a result of Germany’s forced reactor closures helped drive the decision.
Proglio declined to comment on whether state-controlled EDF (EDF) would be interested in acquiring Horizon.
“The question of buying the German venture is more for the government,” the CEO said. EDF rose 3.4 percent, the most in four months, to 17.685 euros in Paris trading today, for the biggest performance in France’s CAC40 index. Kepler Capital Markets raised its recommendation on the stock to buy from reduce yesterday, urging investors to acquire the shares ahead of the French presidential elections later this month.
The future of nuclear generation in France has split candidates in the run-up to the elections. Socialist contender Francois Hollande is seeking to reduce the share of atomic power in the country's energy supply to 50 percent in 2025 from about 75 percent now, a measure President Nicolas Sarkozy says will raise electricity prices and cost jobs.
France gets more of its power from nuclear generation than any other country. The nation shouldn’t abandon atomic energy because EDF’s nuclear plants give it a “competitive advantage” over its neighbors, Proglio said today.
Hollande has committed to closing reactors after 40 years of service. A third of France’s 58-reactor fleet have operated for more than 30 years, meaning they would shut within the next decade if their lifespan is capped, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance data.
“There is no doubt any French government will benefit from nuclear, so I’m not too concerned about it,” Proglio said. EDF operates 95 percent of France’s electricity generation, and closing aging reactors would reduce that share to 59 percent by 2025, BNEF said.
Hollande has committed to shut the Fessenheim atomic plant, EDF’s oldest, within five years if he’s elected. The first round of the presidential vote will be held on April 22.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-03/edf-sticks-to-u-k-nuclear-projects-as-rwe-eon-quit-venture-1-.html
5. KEPCO Plans Talks with UAE on 4 more Nuclear Plants - CEO
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Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) said it will begin talks next year with the United Arab Emirates on a new deal for four nuclear power plants, and plans to spend 800 billion won ($706.06 million) this year on overseas resources development including acquisitions.
President and Chief Executive Kim Joong-kyum told reporters late on Monday that the state-run utility would start construction on four nuclear power plants in the UAE on July 1, advancing the start date by four months, pending regulatory approval by June 30, with completion scheduled for 2017-2020.
KEPCO would also begin exclusive talks with the UAE next year on a deal to build four additional nuclear plants to be completed by 2021, he said, aiming to conclude negotiations by the end of next year.
"As far as I know, the UAE has not held talks with other countries," Kim said, referring to the potential deal for four additional reactors. "Our efficiency will increase as we build the first four. We will achieve cost competitiveness if the same type of reactor is chosen ... we can shorten construction time, meaning earlier returns on investment."
"KEPCO has also been in talks with India, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Turkey and Vietnam over possible reactor exports, although any deals are unlikely to be signed this year," he said.
Oil-exporting UAE awarded the contract for the first four to a consortium of Korean companies led by KEPCO in December 2009. At that time, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp (ENEC) said the KEPCO team would design, build and help operate four 1,400-megawatt nuclear power units, and put the value of the contract for construction, commissioning and fuel loads at about $20 billion.
ENEC said last month that it hoped to start construction on the first plant in the fourth quarter, if regulatory approval was received by the third quarter.
"We are looking into three to four deal candidates, including mines and companies," Kim said regarding the company's overseas investment plans this year, adding that KEPCO was eyeing steaming coal and uranium assets in the United States and South Africa to diversify procurement after almost zero investment last year.
To ensure stable coal and uranium procurement, he said KEPCO aimed to set up its first resources procurement and trading joint venture with Germany's RWE AG this year in either Singapore or South Korea, after selecting RWE as preferred bidder last December.
KEPCO fully owns five thermal coal power generating utilities in South Korea, the world's No.3 coal buyer - Korea East West Power Co, Korea Southern Power Co, Korea South-East Power Co Ltd, Korea Western Power Co Ltd and Korea Midland Power Co.
It also has stakes in Indonesian and Australian coal mines and companies, and uranium mines and companies in Canada, Niger and the United States, according to company data.
South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest economy, is heavily dependent on energy imports. It has been seeking ways to increase stable commodities and energy procurement as global prices soar. It imports almost all feedstocks for power generation.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/04/02/kepco-korea-idUKL3E8F22RR20120402
A fire that broke out at EDF's Penly 2 nuclear reactor in northwestern France earlier on Thursday has been put out by the fire service, an EDF spokeswoman said, adding there had been no injuries. Smoke inside the reactor triggered the automatic outage of the reactor at 1020 GMT. EDF said two small fires were caused by hot oil leaking from a pump inside the reactor building.
The fire service was on site at 1115 GMT and proceeded to put out the fire, EDF added.
The installation was described by EDF as safe.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/05/edf-fire-penly-idUSL6E8F5AG220120405
2. ASEAN Leaders Plan Nuclear Safety Information Sharing Network
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Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plan to set up an information sharing network among nuclear agencies in the region to boost cooperation in nuclear safety and security, the group said Wednesday.
The move comes in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear fiasco after last year's earthquake and tsunami disaster in northeastern Japan.
With many ASEAN countries planning to develop nuclear energy, the crisis raised awareness about the need to harmonize nuclear safety standards so as to minimize and avert the risk of trans-boundary effects of nuclear accidents.
The chairman's statement issued by leaders of the 10 ASEAN countries at the end of their two-day summit said they have agreed to ''develop a network amongst nuclear regulatory bodies in Southeast Asia which would enable regulators to exchange nuclear-related information and experiences on best practices, enhance cooperation and develop capacities on nuclear safety, security and safeguards.''
It is expected to help ''promote information sharing and transparency on nuclear-related issues in the region.''
Nuclear safety is a term generally used to refer to the safe operation of nuclear plants. Nuclear security is aimed at preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, while nuclear safeguards are meant to ensure the accountancy of nuclear materials.
Such a move is necessary for ASEAN in its pursuit of a nuclear-free region through the Treaty on Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone.
Thailand had proposed the idea of establishing a network amongst nuclear regulatory bodies last year so that they can boost regulatory capacity through training and sharing of best practices, exchange information on nuclear activities to promote transparency, and to forge cooperation in nuclear emergency preparedness, and radiation monitoring in the region.
At their summit last year, which took place a few months after the Fukushima meltdowns, ASEAN leaders had also been talking about promoting nuclear energy for peaceful use and nuclear safety.
In the statement, the leaders also welcomed Japan's plan to launch the Kizuna youth exchange program between Japan and Asia as part of Japan's reconstruction plan to promote global understanding of its revival after the disaster.
ASEAN members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Available at: http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20120404p2g00m0in107000c.html
3. Indonesia Expands Nuclear Monitoring at Major Ports
Xinhua News Agency
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More radiation portal monitors ( RPM) will be installed at Indonesia's major seaports to follow up on proposals made by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Jakarta Post quoted an official as saying here on Tuesday.
"At the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, last month, Yudhoyono proposed that nations enact regulations to promote nuclear nonproliferation and peaceful nuclear energy use," according to Nuclear Energy Regulatory Agency (Bapeten) head As Natio Lasman.
Only four major ports currently had the devices, he said: Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta, Tanjung Perak Port in Surabaya of East Java province, Batam Port in Batam of Riau Islands province and Belawan Port of North Sumatra province.
"After the successful test of the RPM at Belawan Port in Medan, North Sumatra, earlier this year, we are eyeing more ports in the near future," As Natio said.
Priority would be given to large ports with significant export- import volumes, such as Makassar Port in South Sulawesi province and Tanjung Emas Port in Semarang of Central Java province.
"The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) helped to install the RPM in Belawan as part of implementing the US-backed EXBS (Export Control and Border Security) Program," he added.
Indonesia received the assistance after attending the first Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in 2010.
An RPM is a sophisticated device that can detect radiological materials in cargo containers and vehicles and on individuals.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2012-04/03/c_131505375.htm
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