1. Iran Agrees to Restart Nuclear Talks With U.S., Allies
James G. Neuger and Ladane Nasseri
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The U.S. and its European allies will press Iran for tangible action to curb its nuclear program when talks restart this week after a 15-month hiatus.
Nuclear negotiations between Iran and the five permanent United Nations Security Council members plus Germany will take place starting April 14 in Istanbul, European Union spokesman Michael Mann said yesterday. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Laura Seal confirmed the plans.
Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson talks about Iran and North Korea's nuclear ambitions. Richardson, also former U.S. energy secretary, talks about China's energy diversification, and the price of crude oil and its effect on the global economy. He speaks with Bloomberg's Stephen Engle at the Boao Forum for Asia. (Source: Bloomberg)
“We have agreed to launch talks in Istanbul on April 14,” Mann said. “We hope that this first round will produce a conducive environment for concrete progress. We are of course aiming at a sustained process.”
Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said in a statement today cited by the state-run Mehr news agency that a second round of talks will be held in Baghdad, the date of which will be announced at the end of the Istanbul meeting.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi today said he won’t accept any pre-conditions before talks begin. His comment came after the New York Times, citing unidentified diplomats, reported that the allies plan to demand the immediate closure of a nuclear enrichment facility in central Iran.
“Setting any conditions before a meeting means drawing a conclusion before the negotiations, which is completely meaningless,” Salehi said, according to a separate Mehr report. “None of the parties will accept any conditions set before the talks.”
The U.S. and its allies are seeking to avoid a repeat of the previous meeting in January 2011, also in Istanbul, when talks broke down after Iran demanded a lifting of UN sanctions as a condition for discussing the nuclear program. Iran is under increasing pressure from trade, financial and energy sanctions, including U.S. and EU measures to cut oil purchases.
In a joint statement March 8, the U.S. and its five partners in the talks -- China, France, Germany, Russia and the U.K. -- said they wanted sustained discussions with Iran and for the Persian Gulf nation to allow UN inspectors into its secret Parchin military installation.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the six powers should demand that Iran stop enriching uranium to 20 percent and give up any material already processed to that level. Iran also must shut down the Fordo underground enrichment facility near Qom, Barak said in an interview broadcast yesterday on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” program.
The U.S. and its allies say their concern is that the uranium, which can be used to generate energy, can be further processed into 90 percent weapons-grade material.
Iran does not need uranium enriched beyond a 20 percent purity level, Iranian Atomic Energy Organization chief Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani was quoted as saying in an interview on state television late yesterday, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
“We will produce and store uranium enriched to that level until able to fulfill the fuel needs of the Tehran reactor for several years,” Abbasi-Davani said. “Once we have as much fuel as needed we will decrease its production and may even revert to solely enriching to 3.5 percent.”
Iranian officials say they need 120 kilograms of the 20 percent-enriched fuel to supply the reactor in the capital, which produces medical isotopes for cancer patients.
Demands to give up a stockpile of material that Iran considers strategic raise the question of what the U.S. would be willing to offer in return, such as easing of sanctions, said Trita Parsi, the founder and president of the National Iranian American Council.
“If there are no concessions given, I find it very unlikely that the Iranians would agree to those demands, however justifiable those demands would be,” said Parsi, the author of “A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran.” “It doesn’t just seem very likely that the Iranians would agree to give up a strategic asset and still wait for oil sanctions to kick in.”
Both sides have shown a repeated pattern of pushing the other to “maximalist demands,” said Parsi, whose Washington- based group advocates diplomacy with Iran.
“Every time, that has ended up being a miscalculation,” he said. “Neither side is going to capitulate.” Iran denies Western suspicions that it is pursuing a weapons capability, saying it wants nuclear power to provide energy for a growing population and to conduct medical research.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said yesterday that Iran, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, will retain its right to scientific progress in its atomic program. He also attacked Israel and its allies for having nuclear weapons and threatening his country.
“Certain countries in the region not only possess nuclear technology but also have the atomic bomb,” Ahmadinejad said in an address to industry officials on the occasion of Iran’s nuclear technology day. “However there is no mention of them and no one is bothering them.
Iranian officials often have condemned what they see as a double standard because none of the three nuclear-weapons powers in the region -- Israel, Pakistan, and India -- has signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel hasn’t acknowledged having nuclear weapons.
The U.S. has sought support from Russia and China for international efforts pressing the Iranians to curb uranium enrichment. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said March 30 that Iran is breaching UN resolutions and ‘‘expanding’’ the scale of its nuclear program.
Earlier this month, Iranian officials said Turkey wouldn’t be a suitable location for nuclear talks in light of its sympathies for the opposition in Syria, an Iranian ally.
Iran’s Salehi had suggested China and Iraq as potential venues. The secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, named Baghdad, Damascus or Beirut as more suitable locations than Istanbul.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rebuked Iranian official as being ‘‘dishonest,” saying they were proposing alternative locations they knew the U.S. and its European allies wouldn’t find acceptable.
The Turkish government once blamed officials in Washington for the continuing U.S.-Iran conflict, thinking leaders in Tehran hadn’t been approached properly, said Karim Sadjadpour, an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a policy research group in Washington.
Turkey was soon frustrated with its own efforts to find agreement with the Iranian regime over the nuclear issue and on Syria, Sadjadpour said yesterday in an e-mail. The result is that Iran risks isolating itself with few allies other than North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, he said.
“There are increasingly few locales in the world today which both the U.S. and Iran consider neutral diplomatic terrain,” he said.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-08/iran-to-meet-major-powers-for-nuclear-talks-on-april-14-eu-says.html
2. Iran Not Interested in Nuclear Fuel Swap - Atomic Chief
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Iran has no interest in reviving a failed nuclear fuel swap deal with Western powers, but might scale back production of higher-grade enriched uranium once it has the material it needs, the head of the country's atomic energy organisation said.
U.S. officials say that getting Iran to suspend high-level uranium enrichment and close an underground nuclear facility near the holy city of Qom are priorities for talks between Iran and world powers that are due to resume on Saturday.
Iranian media also quoted Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on Monday as saying that Tehran would not agree to world powers imposing pre-conditions before the nuclear talks which will resume in Istanbul after collapsing more than a year ago.
"Setting conditions before the meeting means drawing conclusions, which is completely meaningless and none of the parties will accept conditions set before the talks," the Iranian parliamentary news agency quoted him as saying.
The United States and its allies suspect Iran's nuclear programme is hiding attempts to develop an atomic weapons capability and Washington has not ruled out military action against Tehran if diplomacy fails.
Iran says the programme is solely for power generation and medical needs, adding that it needs to enrich uranium to 20 percent to produce medical isotopes from a Tehran Research Reactor for the treatment of thousands of patients.
Iranian media on Monday quoted nuclear chief Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani as dismissing a revival of the swap deal to supply Iran with fuel enriched abroad for peaceful purposes at a Tehran research reactor but which collapsed in 2009.
"The Islamic Republic won't turn back and has no interest in receiving 20 percent fuel from other countries because it has made an investment," Abbasi-Davani said during a Sunday night television interview, the Iranian state news agency reported.
"We made the investment because they (Western powers) blocked us. If they had given us fuel, there would be no problem and our (Tehran) reactor would have been working," Abbas-Davani added.
Iran started enriching uranium to 20 percent purity in early 2010 to refresh the dwindling fuel stock at a Tehran research reactor. Tehran has repeatedly said it had no other choice after the swap deal failed to secure uranium to keep the reactor running.
However, Abbasi-Davani raised the possibility of converting fuel back to 3.5 percent purity, the level of enrichment required for reactors producing nuclear power.
"Once the necessary fuel is obtained, we will scale back production and maybe even convert it to 3.5 percent," he said.
Trying to find a way to halt Iran's higher-grade uranium enrichment capability has become the focus for Washington and its allies which believe Tehran is developing all means and components required for a nuclear bomb in isolation.
Crude oil prices slipped on Monday following news that the talks would resume between Iran and the P5+1 countries - the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany. Brent Brent crude futures were $1 a barrel lower.
Western experts say Iran has enough 3.5 and 20 percent-enriched uranium for around four bombs if the material is refined to more than 90-percent purity. While Iran has refused to suspend its enrichment activities it has at times appeared more flexible regarding 20 percent enrichment.
It is unclear what it would expect in return, but its demands would revolve around the lifting of sanctions against its financial and energy sectors which have caused increasing financial hardship within the country.
On Sunday, Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak also emphasised that the key to successful talks would be on the basis of Iran halting enrichment to 20 percent.
Later Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went further, saying the P5+1 representatives to the talks should demand an end to all enrichment activity, the transfer of all enriched material out of Iran and the closure of the nuclear facility near Qom.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/09/iran-nuclear-idUSL6E8F90C720120409
3. Israel Accepts Focus on Curbing Iran's Purer Atom Fuel
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Israel has signaled it would accept, as a first priority, world powers focusing on persuading Iran to stop higher-level uranium enrichment when they resume stalled nuclear negotiations this week with Tehran.
Israel, which has threatened last-resort attacks on its arch-foe's nuclear facilities if diplomacy fails, demanded last month that any negotiated resolution should end all uranium enrichment, high and low level, and remove all fuel already stockpiled by Iran.
But Western diplomats have said the six powers - the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany - that are due to open new talks with Iran on Friday would first tackle its uranium refinement to a fissile concentration of 20 percent rather than its more abundant 3.5 percent-pure fuel. The two sides have not yet agreed where the talks will take place.
The 20 percent enriched uranium would be far easier to enrich to bomb-grade 90 percent purity, though Iran denies having such designs, saying it is only seeking electrical energy and medical isotopes.
"We told our American friends, as well as the Europeans, that we would have expected the threshold for successful negotiations to be clear, namely that the P5+1 will demand clearly that - no more enrichment to 20 percent," Barak said in an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS to be aired on Sunday.
Iran's stocks of 20 percent-pure uranium should be removed "to a neighboring, trusted country", Barak said, according to an advance transcript of the interview.
Iran says it has a sovereign right to peaceful nuclear technology and has repeatedly rejected U.N. resolutions calling for a suspension of all uranium enrichment.
But it has at times appeared more flexible regarding 20 percent enrichment, which it began in early 2010, and some experts say that initially getting Iran to stop this higher-grade work could open a way to ease the deadlock.
Asked about Barak's comments to CNN, another Israeli official confirmed that the Netanyahu government was focusing lobbying efforts on Iran's 20-percent pure uranium but said the long-term goal remained the ending all of its enrichment work.
"The understanding that has emerged in our contacts with the powers is that there should be a staggered approach," the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Western diplomats have similarly stressed that an initial focus on 20 percent enrichment should not be seen as "legitimizing" lower-level work as the U.N. Security Council has demanded a full suspension.
Iran has enough 3.5 and 20 percent-enriched uranium for around four bombs if refined further, Western experts say.
Barak's remarks dovetailed with what the New York Times said on Saturday would be submitted to Iran by the United States and other Western nations in the upcoming talks.
According to the report, the world powers, which have ramped up sanctions against Iran, also plan to press it to close and ultimately dismantle a recently completed enrichment bunker in a mountain near Qom - another demand leveled by the Israelis.
Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented U.S. President Barack Obama last month with propositions for an Iran deal that included allowing limited operations at its main enrichment facility at Natanz.
Netanyahu's office had no comment on the Yedioth report.
Many analysts believe it may be unrealistic to demand that Iran suspend all enrichment as its leaders have invested so much national and personal prestige in the project.
In return for allowing limited, low-level enrichment, those analysts argue, Iran would need to accept much more intrusive U.N. inspections to make sure there is no military diversion.
Widely assumed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal, Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran would be a mortal threat.
"We don't have to make a decision next week, and we cannot wait years, though," Barak said in the CNN interview when asked about the prospect of an Israeli pre-emptive attack. "We don't have any decision about what to do or a date for (a) decision."
He dismissed speculation that Israel might settle for a Cold War-style nuclear deterrence with the Iranians if they get the bomb.
"No mutually assured destruction kind of situation ... will serve as a modifier or stabilizer in this case, because we are not continents, and Israel is not either the United States or the Soviet Union," Barak said.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/08/us-iran-nuclear-israel-idUSBRE83703O20120408
4. U.S., Allies Set Demands as Iran Nuclear Talks Loom
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The United States and its allies will demand that Iran halt higher-grade uranium enrichment and immediately close an underground nuclear facility at a new round of talks this week over Tehran's nuclear standoff with the West, a senior U.S. official said.
The negotiations between Iran and world powers - a resumption of talks that collapsed more than a year ago - will be held on April 14 in Istanbul, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.
The Obama administration sought to define the parameters for the much-anticipated meeting, which it has said could represent Tehran's last chance to resolve the nuclear dispute diplomatically.
A senior U.S. official said on Sunday that one of the "near-term priorities" would be to get Iran to agree to immediately shut its recently completed Fordow facility, built under a mountain near the Shi'ite Muslim holy city of Qom.
The New York Times reported that negotiators for the West would press Iran to ultimately dismantle the site, which is reported to have been used to expand uranium enrichment.
Another key opening demand from Washington and its allies will be for Iran to stop production altogether of 20 percent enriched uranium, the administration official said.
Nuclear bombs require uranium enriched to 90 percent, but much of the effort required to get there is already achieved once it reaches 20 percent purity, shortening the time needed for any nuclear weapons "break-out".
Iran has remained defiant, saying its program is for power generation and producing isotopes for medical purposes, not for bomb-making.
But the U.N. Security Council has demanded a full suspension of enrichment, both to the 20 percent and the 3.5 percent level, and Washington has made clear that its broader goal is to make sure that Iran abides by those requirements.
"Our position is clear: Iran must live up to its international obligations, including full suspension of uranium enrichment as required by multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions," said Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the White House National Security Council.
President Barack Obama is under pressure at home to take a tough line with Iran as he seeks re-election in November.
Republican presidential candidates have accused him of not being hard enough on Iran, even as he has spearheaded international sanctions that are taking a toll on the Iranian economy and its vital oil sector.
He has pressed U.S. ally Israel to hold off on any pre-emptive attack on Iran's nuclear sites to give sanctions and diplomacy more time to work. But he has also declared that military action remains an option as a last resort.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/08/us-iran-usa-idUSBRE83708S20120408
1. North Korea Readies Longer Range Rocket; Japan, South Korea Wary
Max Duncan and Jack Kim
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North Korea has readied a rocket for a launch from a forested valley in its remote northwest this week that will showcase the reclusive state's ability to fire a missile with the capacity to hit the continental United States.
Pyongyang says the rocket, to be launched this week, will only carry a weather satellite, but South Korea and the United States say it is a test of a ballistic missile. And although the risk of it veering off course is low, guidance remains its weakest point.
In a rare move, reporters were taken to the new Sohae launch station, close to the border with China, where work was in progress to ready the 30-metre high Unha-3 rocket and its satellite.
The three-stage rocket was on the launch platform, indicating the launch will go ahead on plan between April 12-16.
"Supreme Commander Kim Jong-un made a very bold decision, that is why you are allowed to be this close to the launch site," site director Jang Myong Jin told visiting foreign journalists on Sunday.
North Korea announced plans to launch the satellite-bearing rocket to coincide with the 100th birthday celebrations of its founder, Kim Il-sung, a move that will help cement the prestige of his grandson Kim Jong-un, who took power in December.
The second stage booster is planned to separate in the seas to the west of the Philippines, about 3,000 km (1,860 miles) from the launch site, and experts say that represents the first possible landfall for the rocket if things go wrong.
If North Korea does achieve a successful separation of the third stage - something it says it achieved in 2009, but most experts say failed to put a previous satellite into orbit - that would show it had improved its technology and the capacity to produce a missile that could carry an intercontinental nuclear warhead.
Pyongyang has also shifted its launch site, and the new, more sophisticated site on the west of the Korean peninsula reduces the risk of debris falling on Japan, which was overflown in a previous test-launch of a missile.
This launch will take the rocket down the west coast of the Korean peninsula. Japan, which fears a repeat of a 2009 firing over its territory, has put its missile batteries on alert to shoot the rocket down.
"They have come pretty far on the question of range, but they still need a lot to resolve in the precision technology needed for (warhead) re-entry and guidance," a South Korean military official who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
The Unha-3 is likely the same three-stage liquid-fueled ballistic missile the North fired in 2009 over Japan which eventually splashed down after a 3,800 km flight, military experts in South Korea said.
The new rocket is believed to have a design range of more than 6,700 km (4,160 miles), and can carry a payload of up to 1,000 kg.
At its closest point, Alaska in the United States is about 5,000 km from North Korea.
The launch will be the first at the Sohae rocket station, construction of which began in 2007. It is a large, sophisticated facility with specialized assembly and transport, according to analysis from military specialist consultancy IHS Jane's Defense Weekly.
While most international observers doubt that the Unha-2 rocket launched in 2009 managed to put a satellite into orbit, few experts believe there is a high risk the Unha-3 will land on a densely populated urban area.
The biggest risks are a massive failure of the guidance system that could send the rocket north over China, the North's main political and economic backer, or the destruct mechanism not functioning if it does veer off course, said Markus Schiller from Schmucker Technologie in Munich, an expert on North Korean missile systems.
"There always is a residual risk, of course, that several things might go wrong and lead to unforeseen disaster ... but this risk is very low, actually approaching zero," Schiller said in an emailed response to questions.
"It is far more likely that the rocket itself fails and blows apart."
The launch site is located 50 km (30 miles) from North Korea's border with China.
"The worst case scenario is it strays into China or South Korea if the rocket goes out of control," said an expert on rocket technology at a South Korean state-run research institute, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.
While North Korea's 23 million people live in poverty and many are at risk of malnutrition, the prestige of developing rocket technology and nuclear weapons capacity is the most important issue for Pyongyang, which sees it as a deterrent against invasion.
The North is believed to have stockpiled enough fissile material to manufacture up to 10 nuclear bombs and South Korea's Yonhap news agency said on Sunday it was preparing for a third nuclear test. Government officials in South Korea have calculated the North is spending $19 million on this launch. "I believe North Korea is developing many technologies simultaneously - technologies on rocket that can deliver nuclear warheads, materials that can cope with high temperature when reentering the atmosphere and on the miniaturization of nuclear bombs," said the South Korean rocket expert.
2. North Korea Planning Third Nuclear Test, Yonhap
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North Korea, pressing ahead with a rocket launch in defiance of a UN resolution, is also preparing a third nuclear weapons test, South Korean news reports said on Sunday, a move bound to scare neighbours and infuriate the West.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted an unidentified intelligence source as saying North Korea was "clandestinely preparing a nuclear test" at the same location as the first two.
The source added that workers in the destitute North had been seen in commercial satellite images digging a tunnel in the northeastern town of Punggye-ri, Kilju County, in addition to existing mines believed to have been used for tests in 2006 and 2009.
"We have confirmed the (mining) work is coming to its final stage," the source was quoted as saying.
The satellite imagery showed piles of earth and sand at the entrance of the tunnel, Yonhap said.
North Korea, which three years ago pulled out of six-party disarmament talks on its nuclear programme, agreed in February to stop nuclear tests, uranium enrichment and long-range missile launches in return for food aid, opening the way to a possible resumption of the negotiations.
But that has all since unravelled with the North's rocket launch planned for this month, probably between Thursday and the following Monday. The North says it is merely sending a weather satellite into space, but South Korea and the United States say it is a ballistic missile test.
Two previous launches of the long-range missile have failed, but Washington says the North's missile programme is progressing quickly and that the American mainland could come under threat within five years.
U.S. President Barack Obama last month called on North Korea to curb its nuclear ambitions or face further international isolation.
He said North Korea could be hit with tighter sanctions if it goes ahead with the launch, but experts doubt China will back another U.N. Security Council resolution against it.
China, Japan and South Korea, three of the "six parties" along with the United States and the two Koreas, on Sunday expressed concern over the planned launch.
The foreign ministers of the three countries, ending their annual meeting with a joint news conference in the coastal Chinese city of Ningbo, largely stuck to established positions.
"China expresses our concern for the development of the situation and urges all relevant parties to take into consideration the bigger picture and think long-term," Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said.
Obama has urged China to use its influence to rein in North Korea instead of "turning a blind eye" to its "deliberate provocations".
Japan and South Korea reiterated warnings that Pyongyang would face international consequences if it went ahead with the launch.
"I made it clear that the international community needs to make rigorous responses against North Korea's violation of its obligation as a member country in the world community," South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said.
Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said the launch would roll back progress Pyongyang has made in talks with various countries, including with the United States, which has suspended the planned food aid.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/08/korea-north-idUSL3E8F60ZK20120408
1. China Expands its First Nuclear Power Plant with New Reactor
The Times of India
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China has expanded its first nuclear power plant at Qinshan with installation of a new generator unit, authorities said on Sunday, indicating resumption of work at new nuclear projects halted for safety review in the wake of Fukushima atomic disaster in Japan last year.
The pressurised water reactor power-generating unit, with a capacity of 650,000 kw, takes the total number of generator units at Qinshan to seven and the total capacity to 4.32 million kw, China National Nuclear Corporation said in a statement.
The nuclear plant is expected to generate about 34 billion kwh of electricity annually, it said.
The expansion project of the nuclear plant started in 2006, aims to install two units.
The first one, also with a capacity of 650,000 kw, was put into commercial use in October 2010.
The new units are designed, built and operated by Chinese companies, said Chen Hua, assistant general manager of CNNC.
Qinshan nuclear power plant, situated not far from Shanghai, started operation in December 1991.
The operationalisation of the new units formally kicks off the resumption of work of new nuclear power plants which was halted after Fukushima nuclear disaster last year.
According to the National Energy Administration, China has 15 nuclear reactors in operation with 26 more reactors under construction.
Available at: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-04-08/china/31307747_1_nuclear-power-qinshan-nuclear-reactors
2. Record Nuclear Power Output Despite Kudankulam Stir
The Times of India
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The stalling of the Kudankulam nuclear power project for nearly six months has not prevented the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, overseeing the controversial project, to surpass all records in electricity generation for the financial year 2011-12.
The NPCIL, under which there are 19 nuclear reactors operating across the country, has produced 32,455 million units (MU) compared to 26,473MU produced last year-an increase of about 23%.
NPCIL chairman S K Jain, in an official release, said, "The turnover of the company has increased to Rs 7,500 crore compared to Rs 6,000 crore last year. Among the nuclear plants, Tarapur Atomic Power Station unit-3 (TAPS-3) achieved a remarkable feat of a continuous operation for 522 days. It joined the fleet of 10 nuclear power reactors, which operated continuously for more than a year. Safety continued to be accorded highest priority in all the nuclear power reactors, and there were no incidents even while achieving the excellent operational performance."
After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the company conducted safety review of the existing operating nuclear power reactors and the reactors under construction and claimed that the reactors were safe from extreme natural events like earthquake and tsunami.
"The achieved target included production from unit 1 of the Kudankulam plant. But unfortunately, the protests derailed our plans. But due to better performance of the other plants, we were able to meet the target," S A Bharadwaj, director NPCIL, told TOI.
The NPCIL has planned to launch projects with power generation capacity of 17,000MW in the current five year plan (2012-2017) by setting up 10 pressurised water reactors of 700MW each and 10 light water reactors of 1,000MW each based on international cooperation.
Available at: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-04-05/india/31293721_1_kudankulam-plant-reactors-npcil
Indian Navy is all set to operate five nuclear submarines by the end of this decade, including two leased from Russia and three built indigenously.
India is considering a proposal to induct another nuclear submarine built in Russia and has plans of indigenously building two more Arihant Class underwater vessels to guard its maritime boundaries, Defence Minister AK Antony said.
The Navy yesterday formally commissioned the Akula-II Class INS Chakra in Vishakhapatnam and is set to launch the INS Arihant for sea trials soon.
On India's plans to expand its nuclear submarine fleet, Antony said the government was considering a proposal in this regard and the country can afford to buy another such vessel.
"There is a proposal...Cost is not necessary. India can afford it... In the next few years, the Navy will get more submarines," the Defence Minister said at the commissioning of INS Chakra.
The Navy which currently operates more than 10 conventional diesel-electric submarines of the Kilo and HDW Class, has plans of inducting a dozen more in the next decade.
Already six Scorpene submarines are being constructed at Mazagon Dockyards in Mumbai in collaboration with French DCNS and six more are planned to be built under the Project-75 India.
Terming its relation with India as "privileged strategic partnership", Russian Ambassador Alexander M Kadakin had said, that "Russia can give everything India needs".
Russia is also helping India in building three follow-on Talwar class guided missile frigates of which two are expected to be inducted this year.
Available at: http://zeenews.india.com/news/nation/navy-to-operate-5-n-subs-by-end-of-decade_768432.html
With less than four months to go until bids are due in the tender to expand the Temelín nuclear power plant, competition is heating up, and bidding companies are battling not only to stand out as the most qualified and cheapest, but also the most Czech-friendly, by bringing local companies on board. At the same time, officials are hinting at an even more ambitious nuclear future.
Among those vying for the lucrative contract to construct two additional reactors at the Temelín plant are the U.S. company Westinghouse, France's Areva and the consortium of Czech Škoda JS and the Russian firms Gidropress and Atomstroyexport.
Though all bidders have recently signed memoranda of understanding for future cooperation with Czech suppliers in an effort to make their bid more attractive to government officials, Industry and Trade Minister Martin Kuba said at an energy forum in Prague in late March that the international companies competing for the Temelín project need to do more to partner with Czech firms on projects abroad.
"We want them to express clearly that they consider Czech companies serious partners and want to cooperate with them also on other projects outside the country," Kuba said.
As the ministry has been demanding more of bidders, majority state-owned energy company ČEZ also chimed in late in March to suggest the government should provide electricity price guarantees to maintain investor interest.
Daniel Beneš, CEO of ČEZ, said the completion of Temelín remains a priority for the company, but current electricity prices do not provide enough motivation for building new power plants.
Beneš cited a system of guaranteeing prices used in the United Kingdom, whereby the state compensates the electricity provider for the difference between the fixed and market prices, and if fixed prices were higher than the market price, the company would pay the difference to the state.
"I prefer the same model used in the United Kingdom, but it will depend on the discussion led between the state and the regulator," Beneš said.
With the price of the two new units estimated at around 150 billion Kč ($8 billion/6 billion euros), it's no surprise that ČEZ wants to be reassured of the profitability of the venture, but Thomas Epron, chief representative of French bidder Areva, says the nature of nuclear energy necessitates a more long-term view of prices.
"Nuclear is an industry that is really over the long term," Epron said. "It doesn't make sense to assess nuclear investments based on today's energy prices, because the construction period is quite long, so the business case might change between now and when it is completed."
The estimated completion date for the expansion of Temelín is between 2023 and 2025, and Epron said although there is no way to predict what electricity prices will be so far in the future, by looking at historical data, the lasting trend is for energy prices is an increase.
The current government is also thinking ahead about the energy future of the country and has promised a holistic energy strategy by the middle of this year. Kuba and energy regulators are pushing for even more investments in nuclear, recommending nuclear sources provide up to 50 percent of domestic electricity consumption.
Kuba has even suggested a second nuclear plant at Dukovany in Moravia should also be expanded and hinted at the eventual construction of a third nuclear site.
"The energy system has to be stabilized, and domestic sources have to be used to the greatest possible extent. The state's energy strategy must be sustainable for our economy," Kuba said.
As concerned parties debate price guarantees for Temelín, renewable energy incentives have been slashed in recent months and renewable energy advocates complain of being sidelined in the process of drafting the new energy strategy.
"We were not completely satisfied with the way the members were chosen for the committee drafting the energy strategy - most members are connected to nuclear, coal or gas," said Miroslav Pech, energy campaigner with Hnutí Duha, Friends of the Earth Czech Republic. "The country is part of the world energy context and eventually they will have to react to what is going on globally."
There are 165 nuclear reactors in Europe, and additional reactors are planned or under construction in France, the United Kingdom, Romania, Slovakia, Poland and Finland, according to the World Nuclear Association. Bulgaria, however, recently scrapped plans for two 1,000 megawatt reactors after they failed to attract serious foreign investors in the past three years following Germany's RWE pulling out because of funding concerns. Atomstroyexport, one of the Russian companies in the consortium bidding on Temelín, had been contracted to construct the reactors.
A winner for the Temelín tender should be announced in 2013.
Available at: http://www.praguepost.com/business/12706-temelin-nuclear-tender-deadline-looms.html
Concerned over nuclear power plants located in south India, the Sri Lankan government plans to raise the issue before the International Atomic Energy Agency ( IAEA).
According to Sri Lankan minister for Power and Energy Champika Ranawaka, the issue would be raised at the next International Atomic Energy Agency confabulation scheduled in September, Xinhua reported on Sunday.
Sri Lankan is concerned over the impact a nuclear disaster in one of the plants located in southern India could have on Sri Lanka, he said.
Talking to reporters, Ranawaka said that his ministry has already raised the issue with India and called for talks on reaching a disaster mitigating process in the event of a disaster in one of the nuclear plants on the south Indian coast.
Sri Lanka is seeking an agreement with India on nuclear disaster management and India had responded positively, he said.
In the event of a nuclear disaster in India, the Sri Lankan authorities feel their northern town of Mannar will be the hardest hit.
Sri Lanka's power and energy ministry is currently conducting a survey of the coast of Mannar as well as Jaffna also in the north to identify the areas to conduct radiation tests, the minister said.
Sri Lanka wants to be prepared for a nuclear disaster following the incidents in Japan last year where a nuclear plant was damaged as a result of an earthquake and a tsunami.
Available at: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/sri-lanka-concerned-over-indian-n-plants/articleshow/12584320.cms
2. Japan Sets New Safety Standards for Nuclear Plants
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Japan is setting stricter, clearer safety guidelines for nuclear power plants to ease public concern about restarting reactors idled after the disasters a year ago.
Facing a national power crunch, the government is anxious to restart two reactors in Fukui, western Japan, before the last operating reactor of the 54 in the country goes offline in May.
But the public strongly opposes nuclear energy since the meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant, and local leaders are reluctant to approve restarting any of the reactors.
The guidelines announced Friday are more extensive than computer-simulated "stress tests" designed to estimate how reactors would cope in the event of a major earthquake and tsunami like what overwhelmed Fukushima Dai-ichi last year. Unlike in France and other countries where stress tests are meant to find weaknesses or suspend a facility, Japan tried to use them as a safety guarantee. Many people questioned the objectivity of the tests, though two reactors passed them.
If utilities meet the new guidelines, authorities hope the public will be convinced the reactors are safe, including the two in Ohi, Fukui prefecture, that have finished regular safety checks and the stress tests and are ready to restart.
Economy and Trade Minister Yukio Edano called the guidelines "easy to understand" criteria that aim to set higher standards for natural disasters, but do not factor in terrorist attacks, airplane accidents and other emergencies.
The guidelines, based on 30 recommendations adopted last month by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, require nuclear power plants to install filtered vents that could reduce radiation leaks in case of an accident, as well as a device to prevent hydrogen explosions. About 13 of the recommendations -- the most crucial measures needed to secure cooling functions and prevent meltdowns as in Fukushima -- were implemented, but the rest were not. The guidelines did not set deadlines for the steps to be finished.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said the government can order utilities to restart reactors regardless of local opposition, because obtaining residents' consent is not legally required.
The officials will make a final decision based on NISA's evaluation and the reactors' operator Kansai Electric Power Co.'s safety implementation plans.
Critics and officials in cities and towns near Fukui are requesting explanations for the hastily-published guidelines.
"Why rush? It's too soon to decide. I think they should gain understanding from the public first," said Yukiko Kada, governor of Shiga prefecture bordering Fukui.
Toru Hashimoto, the outspoken mayor of Osaka -- a top shareholder of Kansai Electric -- criticized the government for compiling the new guideline just in two days.
All but one of Japan's 54 reactors have been shut down for inspections, required every 13 months. None have been restarted since the March 11, 2011, tsunami set off meltdowns in three reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.
The nation's last operational reactor, on the northern island of Hokkaido, goes off line in early May. If none of the reactors are restarted, Japan could face power shortages this summer. Before the crisis, Japan depended on nuclear power for one-third of its electricity.
To make up for the shortfall, Japan has expanded production at conventional gas- and oil-fired plants. Noda has promised to reduce Japan's reliance on nuclear power over time and plans to lay out a new energy policy by the summer, but his government faces pressure from big businesses to quickly get reactors back on line and maintain nuclear power to keep the economy afloat.
Fukui, home to 13 reactors clustered in four complexes along the Sea of Japan coast, is called Japan's nuclear alley.
Available at: http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-04/D9TVFVLO1.htm
3. No more Water Leak at Penly 2 Nuclear Reactor - EDF
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France's EDF said on Friday that there was no more water leak at the pump of the Penly 2 nuclear reactor in northwestern France and that the cooling sytem was back to normal.
"Since 0200 GMT, there is no more leak at the pump's joint" EDF said in a statement, adding the incident had had no impact on the environment. Late on Thursday, EDF had said that two small fires that broke out at Penly had been put out by its fire service.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/06/edf-idUSL6E8F60220120406
About 12 tons of water contaminated with radioactive strontium are feared to have leaked from the Fukushima No. 1 plant into the Pacific Ocean, Tepco said Thursday. The leak occurred when a pipe broke off from a joint while the water was being filtered for cesium, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.
The system doesn't remove strontium, and most of the water apparently entered the sea via a drainage route, Tepco added.
The water contained 16.7 becquerels of cesium per cu. centimeter and tests are under way to determine how much strontium was in it, Tepco said. Naturally occurring strontium is absorbed by the body like calcium. Its radioactive isotope is believed to cause bone cancer and leukemia.
Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120406a5.html
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