Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov flew into Iran on Wednesday for a brief visit to discuss upcoming international talks over Tehran's disputed nuclear programme.
The trip preceded a new round of negotiations between Iran and the major powers that is to be held in Moscow next Monday and Tuesday.
In a joint news conference after meeting his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, Lavrov revealed little of what they talked about.
"The Iranian side is interested in coming up with solutions which would contribute to the settlement of the nuclear issue," he said, speaking through an official interpreter.
He reiterated Russia's opposition to unilateral sanctions imposed by Western countries that are hurting Iran's oil export-dependent economy.
Salehi said he was "optimistic" about the prospects of the Moscow negotiations, despite two unproductive rounds in Istanbul and Baghdad earlier this year.
"The direction taken by the two sides to resolve the issue is the right one," he said. "The issue is complicated and one has to have patience to make progress."
He added: "In this process, it can slow down at times, then accelerate. But we are optimistic about the final result."
Lavrov was also to meet Iran's lead negotiator, Saeed Jalili, before flying out, according to Iranian officials.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that the Iranians "are under tremendous pressure from the Russians and the Chinese to come to Moscow prepared to respond" to proposals by the world powers to alleviate the showdown over Tehran's nuclear activities.
She said: "The Russians have made it very clear that they expect the Iranians to advance the discussion in Moscow. Not just to come, listen and leave. We will know once it happens."
Moscow is the most sympathetic to Tehran among the six powers negotiating with it in the talks, although it has sided with the West in expressing fears that Iran could be pursuing the development of a nuclear weapons capability, which has raised the spectre of military strikes by the United States or Israel.
The so-called P5+1 group of nations -- comprising UN Security Council permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany -- offered a package of proposals to Iran in the last round, in Baghdad in May.
They called for Iran to halt its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, ship out its stockpile of 20-percent uranium and halt enrichment at its fortified Fordo facility.
In return, they offered nuclear cooperation, spare parts for Iran's dilapidated passenger aircraft fleet and an easing of a EU ban on tanker insurance that hinders oil sales to Asia.
Iran's negotiators rejected the package as grossly insufficient. They countered with a list of their own issues that included many non-nuclear topics such as regional security, and the demand that the P5+1 override several UN Security Council resolutions by agreeing that Iran has a "right" to uranium enrichment.
The distance between the two sides' positions almost caused the Baghdad round to collapse, but last-minute discussions managed to eke out an agreement for the Moscow round, which will take place just two weeks before an EU embargo on Iranian oil imports is due to to be fully imposed.
In the past few days, Iranian officials have softened slightly their stance by saying the issue of 20-percent enriched uranium could still be up for negotiation -- but only if the concession offered in return was of the same importance.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5i8koYOU_loq94ifY0C2mwEkRza_w?docId=CNG.d6df1ef8efbf71bc1c117f39171b17e4.311
3. Iran Begins Work On Nuclear Propulsion For Submarines, Fars Says
Ladane Nasseri and Yeganeh Salehi
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Iran is at the initial stages of designing and building nuclear-propulsion systems for submarines, a top military official told the state-run Fars news agency.
“Since we have peaceful nuclear technology, we can put on the agenda the building of engine systems for nuclear submarines,” Abbas Zamani, the Iranian navy’s deputy commander for technical affairs, was quoted as saying by Fars. “Any country has the right to use peaceful nuclear technology namely for the propulsion system of vessels.”
Iran is at loggerheads with western countries over its nuclear program, which the U.S. and its allies suspect are part of a covert attempt to develop atomic weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying its atomic program is intended for the production of electricity and says western nations are seeking to limit its technological advancement.
Iran announced in 2008 that it had started building submarines to give its military “the most advanced arms” and maintain security in the Strait of Hormuz.
“Our aim isn’t aggression but if someone attacks us we will defend ourselves,” Zamani said in today’s Fars report.
The Iranian navy has 23 submarines, including three Russian Kilo-class attack vessels, according to the International Institute for Strategic Study’s 2012 Military Balance publication. It also has 12 midget submarines, the publication says.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-12/iran-begins-work-on-nuclear-propulsion-for-submarines-fars-says.html
The United States called Monday on North Korea to end all "provocative" statements after the communist state lashed out at neighboring South Korea as it denied planning a nuclear test.
After weeks of speculation that North Korea was planning a third nuclear test, a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said Saturday that Pyongyang had no such plans "at present" but accused South Korea of trying to force the regime to do so.
"We'll judge them by their actions, rather than their words," US State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington.
"It's a good thing, obviously, that they are saying better things, but we continue to call on them to fulfill their international obligations to refrain from any provocative activity, including provocative rhetoric with regard to their neighbors," she said.
Satellite pictures have suggested that North Korea is developing its nuclear capabilities and some analysts believe that young leader Kim Jong-Un needs to prove his mettle with a military test after a rocket launch flopped in April.
North Korea fired the rocket -- in what it called an unsuccessful satellite launch -- just weeks after signing an agreement with the United States in which it pledged to freeze any missile or nuclear tests or uranium enrichment.
The United States considered the launch a veiled missile test and suspended a plan to offer food aid to the impoverished country that would have been geared toward hungry young children and pregnant women.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hoYmFxd_TQ-chW6EDV3A2Q6zQRHw?docId=CNG.d7f38a31b4d7bb63d26e770d6ae827b3.431
1. Japan Moves Closer to Restarting Nuclear Reactors
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Japan moved closer to restarting nuclear reactors for the first time since last year's earthquake and tsunami led to a nationwide shutdown after a mayor gave his support Thursday to bringing two of them back online.
All 50 of Japan's workable reactors are offline because of safety concerns or for maintenance since the March 11, 2011, disaster caused radiation leaks at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. Public opposition to nuclear power remains high, even though the government has been pressing for the restart of reactors because it says nuclear energy is crucial to Japan's economy.
Power companies have warned of looming shortages, as demand reaches its summer peak. Work to restart two reactors in the western town of Ohi, which are the first ready to resume generating power, could begin as soon as this weekend now that the mayor signed off on the plan. Once the work begins, it takes about three weeks to get a reactor operating at full capacity.
The governor of Fukui, the prefecture (state) in which Ohi is located, now has to meet with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to inform him that the local governments are willing to accept the restart plan. The prime minister has to give final approval, which Japanese media reports said will likely happen Saturday.
"We want to move ahead as quickly as possible once we receive the approval," said Takahiro Senoo, a spokesman for Kansai Electric Power Co., the utility that runs the plant. He said that if work is begun soon the plant could be up and running in time to meet the summer crunch, which is expected in mid-July or August.
Ohi Mayor Shinobu Tokioka said he approved restarting the reactors because he is concerned about possible power shortages and the impact on the local economy of keeping the plant closed.
Local consent is not legally required for restarting the reactors, but the government wants the support because of the sensitivity of the issue. The public has shown great concern that government failures, such as not sharing radiation leak data, worsened the crisis at Fukushima and could recur.
Last year's massive earthquake and tsunami caused explosions and meltdowns at the Fukushima plant. Tens of thousands of residents were evacuated because of the radiation leaks. Although the plant's operator says it has restored some stability, it could take years to decontaminate the area and decades to safely close down Fukushima's reactors.
With the high-demand summer months looming, Noda announced last week that he wants to restart Ohi's reactors as soon as possible. He also said he wants to move forward with the restart of other plants as soon as their safety is confirmed.
Before last year's crisis, Japan depended on nuclear for about one-third of its electricity and was planning to expand that further. The government is now carrying out a sweeping review of that plan.
Noda said the government has taken ample measures to ensure the two reactors in Fukui prefecture would not leak radiation if an earthquake or tsunami as severe as last year's should strike them.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gs4ZjtulcEHgNbOXP0cEakaFRiVw?docId=8ce8831972d84457ba7e7e67a1f8563b
2. New Nuclear Regulatory Body to Review 40-Yr Operation Limit: Parties,
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The ruling and opposition parties agreed Wednesday to include a 40-year limit on the operation of nuclear reactors in an envisioned bill to set Japan's new nuclear regulations, but decided to leave the possibility to review the controversial limit.
"The bill is expected to become one that seeks the new nuclear regulatory commission, after its launch, to swiftly judge (whether the 40-year limit is appropriate)," one of the lawmakers who provided a briefing about the talks between the parties said.
The ruling Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party and its ally New Komeito party have been engaging in intensive negotiations to revise a government proposal aimed at enhancing the country's nuclear regulations in the wake of last year's Fukushima Daiichi power plant disaster.
The DPJ has already decided to accept the opposition parties' idea to set up a highly independent "nuclear regulatory commission," which will replace the existing Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.
Another point of argument has been on whether to retain the prime minister's right to give instructions to related entities at times of emergency, given that former Prime Minister Naoto Kan faced criticism for what some call his "excessive" involvement in trying to contain the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima plant.
During the negotiations, the parties agreed that the right would remain in place, but would be "limited" to such cases as urging the regulatory commission to swiftly make a judgment on technical matters.
"The prime minister's right to issue instructions would not affect judgments (reached by the regulatory commission) based on technical knowledge," another lawmaker said.
Available at: http://www.power-eng.com/news/2012/06/14/new-nuclear-regulatory-body-to-review-40-yr-operation-limit-parties.html
3. Japan Announces Development of Radiation Monitoring Drones
The Japan Daily Press
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The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), have announced a project where they will jointly develop a drone to be used for measuring radiation in the environments around the disasteruck Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. After last year’s tragic earthquake and tsunami resulted in the worst nuclear meltdown since Chernobyl 25 years earlier, scientists and atomic energy authorities have had improve and invent new methods of finding and measuring radioactive contamination.
While things like remote-controlled helicopters have been used in the past, JAXA points out that they are not suitable for areas that are more remote and mountainous. Helicopters have to fly low and the operator needs to be able to maintain a line of sight. The areas around Fukushima are overgrown and dense with trees, and an unmanned drone would ideally be able to fly at higher altitudes where it can survey contaminated areas below.
Early designs of the drone reveal an aircraft measuring 2.6 meters (8.5 feet) long, and a wingspan of 4.2 meters (13.8 feet). Analysts estimate that the Fukushima nuclear disaster spread radiation as far several hundred kilometers from the power plant, and the area has only widened as contaminated materials have been scattered by wind and rain. While clean up efforts have already begun, it believed that in some areas, evacuated residents may not be able to return to their homes for 10 years or more.
Available at: http://japandailypress.com/japan-announces-development-of-radiation-monitoring-drones-134137
2. Lithuanian Nuclear Power Plant OKed, with Conditions
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The European Commission has issued a favourable opinion for the construction of the Visaginas nuclear power plant in Lithuania. However, it stressed that the plant should remain economically viable, even though two Russian-backed reactors are planned in the vicinity.
The Lithuanian Ministry of Energy stressed in a statement that Visaginas will be the first regional nuclear energy project in the EU’s Baltic region.
It involves three national energy companies in the Baltic States and strategic investors Hitachi and General Electric through their joint venture Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy Ltd.
The Commission's opinion, issued on 8 June, enables nuclear energy projects to apply for EU financing, the statement reads. It also confirms the project's aim to fulfil the country’s prime energy policy goal - energy independence by 2020.
Contacted by EurActiv, the European Commission made it clear that it would not give financial support to the production of nuclear energy in Lithuania – or elsewhere in the EU. A Commission official also said nuclear projects are not eligible as “projects of European Interest” under the trans-European energy networks (TEN-E).
However, the EU executive's positive opinion is a precondition for the project to receive loans from the European Investment Bank (EIB).
The Visaginas plant is to be built at the site of the Soviet-era Ignalina nuclear station that was shut down in 2009 (see background).
A sentence in the Commission’s opinion, however, may prove problematic. The EU executive says that Visaginas should remain economically viable "even when there will be few new nuclear power plants in the region".
Belarus is reportedly planning to build a nuclear plant with Russian technology in Astraviec, some 50 km from Vilnius. Russia is ready to finance the construction of the plant to help its cashapped neighbour, according to press reports. A general contract for building the plant is expected to be signed this month, the Belarus news media reported.
In addition, Russia recently started to build a nuclear power plant in its enclave of Kaliningrad, which also borders Lithuania. The Kaliningrad plant is seen as a counter-project to Visaginas. According to Rosatom, the Russian nuclear energy state corporation, 49% of the shares of the Kaliningrad plant will be offered to EU companies, making it the first Russian nuclear power plant with foreign participation.
Visaginas will be equipped with a Hitachi-GE Advanced Boiling Water Reactor, which is described as the only generation III nuclear reactor with an enhanced level of safety, with a net capacity of 1,340 megawatts. A concession agreement with the compnay was concluded on 30 March.
The total investment is estimated at €5 billion, with construction expected to start in 2015. Commercial operations are due to start in 2020-2022.
According to available data, the Kalingrad plant will rely on two VVER-1200 pressurised water reactors with a capacity of 1,150 MW each. The first reactor is planned to be operational by 2017 and the second one in 2018. The total price tag is expected to reach €6.8 billion.
Lithuania has repeatedly expressed security concerns over Russian plans to build nuclear power plants in its neighbourhood. Darius Semaška, an advisor to the Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė, recently said that Russian claims that it had provided answers to Vilnius were not true.
Available at: http://www.euractiv.com/energy/commission-okays-lithuania-nucle-news-513260
The nation’s state-run energy supplier Korea Electric Power Corp. will hold a resolution rally at its Seoul headquarters Friday, vowing for the safety, quality and integrity of its ongoing nuclear power plant deal with the United Arab Emirates.
About 500 executives and staff from KEPCO, Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction Co., Hyundai Engineering and Construction Co., Samsung C&T Corp. and other suppliers will be in attendance at the event, designed to stave off concerns regarding the construction, management and operations of Korean nuclear power reactors in the Middle Eastern country.
Company officials said that a resolution will be announced at the event to address what’s being cited as the main roadblocks to the successful completion in the construction of the nuclear reactors, including poor quality control, construction delays and safety issues. Korean contractors will also eventually assist in the operation and management of these reactors.
KEPCO president and chief executive officer Kim Joong-kyum is also expected to attend and give a speech at the venue.
Kim is also expected to address public concerns about possible cases of corruption regarding the construction of the plants, and outline a series of anti-corruption measures such as the formation of a multi-supervisory survelliance unit and an open competitive bidding system that will oversee the Korean-built nuclear reactors in the UAE.
Company officials said that Kim will also brief attendees on the management system of the project. According to KEPCO, priority will be given to on-site project management, and the company’s best talent, with around 30 years of experience in the nuclear reactor construction business, will be deployed to the Middle Eastern country to manage operations there. Kim is also expected to explain what his role in the project will be from the company’s main Seoul office.
KEPCO officials said Kim’s speech will also underscore the lack of accidents so far at the construction site, in Braka, the United Arab Emirates. The company marked the passing of the 1,000th accident-free hour on April 25.
Employees from Korea Electric Power Corp. and its partners vow perfection in building a nuclear power plant with four reactors in Braka, the United Arab Emirates, at a ceremony in May. (KEPCO)
Meanwhile, Korea’s state-run electricity corporation held a previous resolution rally in Braka, the United Arab Emirates, on May 27. About 300 employees of KEPCO and its contractor companies, as well as KEPCO’s president and chief executive officer Kim Joong-kyum, were in attendance.
At the rally, Kim addressed safety concerns, the formation of a quality assurance team, and a need for all the workers to uphold rigorous ethical standards during all stages of the project. The KEPCO head also toured the on-site construction premises during his three-day stay, and pledged through the nuclear power plant deal with the UAE to contribute towards the development of Korea’s nuclear export industry.
The UAE, through the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp., awarded the first of the nuclear reactor contracts to a group of KEPCO-led Korean companies in 2009. The contract, inclusive of design, construction, operations and management for four 1,400-megawatt nuclear power units, was valued at around $20 billion and was viewed as a major milestone for Korea’s nuclear export industry.
The construction work for the four original reactors have a projected completion date between 2017 and 2020.
Currently, KEPCO said it plans to hold negotiations with the Middle Eastern country for additional nuclear reactor deals. The company announced in April that they will hold another round of talks for a second deal next year on the possible construction of four more reactors in the oil-rich Middle Eastern country by 2021.
Available at: http://view.koreaherald.com/kh/view.php?ud=20120614001354&cpv=0
2. 20,000 Tonnes of Uranium Found in Jordan: Joint Venture
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A joint venture between Jordan Energy Resources Incorporated and French nuclear giant Areva said on Tuesday it has discovered more than 20,000 tonnes of uranium in the Middle East kingdom.
The Jordanian French Uranium Mining Company said 12,300 tonnes of uranium had been found in central Jordan last year, and now "the overall uranium potential on the licensed 70 square-kilometre (27 square miles) area exceeds 20,000."
"These potential resources are considered strategic for Jordan since they should enhance its future nuclear fuel supply security," JFUMC said in a statement.
The joint venture said "technical and economic studies will be conducted in 2012 to assess the feasibility of a uranium extraction programme... taking into account the current and future uranium market outlook."
It would seek to identify "the best scenarios for the future mining activities in central Jordan," taking into consideration the country's economic situation and plans to build "a strategic stock for its independence along with the development of a nuclear programme".
Jordan, which imports 95 percent of its energy needs, is currently struggling to find alternatives to unstable Egyptian gas supplies, which normally cover 80 percent of the kingdom's power production.
Since 2011, the pipeline supplying gas from Egypt to both Israel and Jordan has been attacked 14 times. With desert covering 92 percent of its territory, Jordan is one of the world's 10 driest countries and wants to use atomic energy to fire desalination plants to overcome its dire water shortage.
A consortium formed by Areva and Japan's Mitsubishi is competing with Russia's Atomstroyexport to build Jordan's first nuclear plant.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ibEss03W15SedyRb5VJABwE4Ztcw?docId=CNG.b2371552eed6d000aa85ebc4c2e4bc6b.e1
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton welcomed progress in U.S. efforts to invest in India's civilian nuclear power industry but said more action is needed to translate improving ties into economic benefits.
The two governments held their annual strategic dialogue in Washington on Wednesday, seeking to boost relations that have blossomed in recent years but have yet to meet U.S. hopes for greater market access for American companies.
"It's not enough just to talk about cooperation on issues ranging from civil nuclear energy, attracting U.S. investment to India or defending human rights or promoting women's empowerment," Clinton said, alongside India's foreign minister, S.M. Krishna.
"We have to follow through so that our people, citizens of two, great pluralistic democracies, can see and feel the benefits," she said.
Krishna said India plans to invest $1 trillion in infrastructure development over the coming five years, offering enormous business opportunities for U.S. companies. He offered assurances to prospective investors that there will be "a level playing field and total transparency."
Two years ago, President Barack Obama declared that the U.S.-India relationship would be a defining partnership of the 21st century. Security cooperation and defense sales have grown rapidly, and Washington looks to New Delhi as a partner in the economic development of Afghanistan. But some analysts say the relationship is being oversold.
Clinton said two-way trade and investment has grown 40 percent since 2009 and is set to exceed $100 billion this year, but there is "a lot of room for further growth." The two sides agreed Wednesday to expedite negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty to reduce barriers.
Clinton welcomed the signing, announced Wednesday, of an agreement between Westinghouse Electric Co. and the Nuclear Power Company of India Ltd. allowing preliminary site development for future construction of nuclear power plants in western India.
Clinton said it was a significant step toward the fulfillment of a 2008 India-U.S. civil nuclear agreement. That landmark pact, negotiating by the administration of President George W. Bush, allowed India access to technology from international suppliers it had been denied since it conducted its first nuclear test explosion in 1974.
Krishna said it should "put at rest" confusion surrounding the agreement.
"I'm glad that nuclear commerce is now beginning to expand itself," he said at a news conference, expressing hopes that more Indian and U.S. companies would become involved in the months ahead.
Clinton said she looked forward to additional deals with other American companies, including General Electric. But she said there was still a lot of work to be done to address the implications of Indian nuclear liability legislation that effectively has blocked U.S. suppliers from capitalizing on the agreement.
Scott Shaw, a spokesman for Westinghouse, said by email those issues will need to be addressed before signing any final agreements for the project in India's Gujurat state.
The Obama administration has invested considerable diplomatic capital in promoting ties with India, but New Delhi has struggled to deliver on the kinds of economic changes that Washington wants. In November, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government backtracked on plans to allow foreign investment by such companies as Wal-Mart in its supermarket — or "multibrand" — retail sector after it ran into domestic opposition.
Another area of intense commercial interest to the U.S. is India's defense sector, with sales exceeding $8 billion in the past five years, reflecting growing ties between the two militaries. Clinton said the U.S. was convinced that in the future, it can conduct with India joint research, development and co-production of defense systems.
One obstacle to improving ties was lifted ahead of the Washington session when the U.S. on Monday dropped the threat of penalties against India for its large yet declining oil imports from Iran. That is one of various diplomatic issues on which the U.S. and India have not always seen eye to eye, despite their shared strategic interests in areas such as fighting Islamic militancy and managing the rise of China.
Clinton said India understands the importance of denying Iran a nuclear weapon, and credited New Delhi's efforts to diversify its sources of crude oil to rely less on Iran.
Krishna welcomed the U.S. decision as consistent with the growing strategic partnership between the U.S. and India, but he told The Associated Press that Iran will continue to remain an important source of oil to India. He also said Prime Minister Singh was considering visiting Iran in August for a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement.
The U.S. increasingly looks to India as a partner in developing Afghanistan, where New Delhi has provided some $2 billion in assistance. Washington also wants India to play a more active role in training Afghan security forces as the U.S. and its NATO allies plan to withdraw combat forces by 2014. Krishna said India is willing to help if Afghanistan requests it.
India has sought reassurance that the U.S. and its allies will retain a substantial presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014 because of concerns for that country's stability as Western forces withdraw after a decade of fighting the Taliban and al-Qaida.
"Any perception of lack of will on the part of the international community to deal firmly with terrorist groups will risk Afghanistan sliding back to being a safe haven for terrorist and extremist groups that threaten the region and beyond," Krishna said. He stressed the necessity to deal with "terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens" beyond Afghanistan's borders — a reference to India's archrival, Pakistan.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jsrb3pJd4TGsLwLCh9QBmQvmQ20w?docId=bf9cfe30d1d247b59d7c6cb19d581b8d
4. Westinghouse Signs MoU for Building N-Plants in India
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US firm Westinghouse Electric and the NPCIL today signed a preliminary pact for an Early Works Agreement (EWA) for installation of the first 1,000 MW American nuclear reactors in India under the historic 2008 Indo-US civil nuclear deal.
The announcement of the signing of the MoU, which represents a significant milestone towards the realisation of the Indo-US nuclear deal, coincided with the third Indo-US Strategic Dialogue headed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna.
The MoU with the Nuclear Power Company of India Limited (NPCIL) related to negotiating an EWA supporting future construction of 1,000 MW nuclear power reactors at the Mithivirdi site in Bhavnagar district in Gujarat. The EWA will include preliminary licensing and site development work.
"This(MoU) is a significant step towards fulfillment of our landmark civil nuclear cooperation agreement," Hillary said at a joint news conference with Krishna. Referring to the signing of the MoU, Clinton, however, said there is still lot of work to be done including understanding the implications of the civil nuclear liability law. US nuclear companies have voiced reservations at some provisions of the liability legislation.
Clinton said the MoU committed both sides to work towards the preliminary licensing and site development work needed to begin construction of new reactors in Gujarat.
"This agreement is an important step which will allow Westinghouse and NPCIL to continue the work necessary for keeping the Mithivirdi project moving forward," said Gary Urquhart, vice president and managing director of Westinghouse India.
NPCIL has already initiated pre-project activities in Mithivirdhi with ground breaking planned in the current year or early next year. The technical negotiations between Westinghouse and NPCIL got a major boost when the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission certified early this year the US firm's latest version of the AP-1000 reactor, the same reactor which the company has proposed to set up in Gujarat.
The Department of Atomic Energy had sought a specific safety approval from US nuclear regulators on the AP-1000 series after the Fukushima incident.
The AP-1000 nuclear power plant is licensed in both the US And China, and is recognized as the safest, most advanced Generation III+ design.
Rather than relying on active components such as diesel generators and pumps, it relies on the natural forces of gravity, natural circulation, and compressed gases to keep the core and containment from overheating, according to a company statement.
Westinghouse Electric Company, a group company of Toshiba Corporation, is the world's pioneering nuclear energy company and a leading supplier of nuclear plant products and technologies to utilities throughout the world.
Available at: http://zeenews.india.com/news/nation/westinghouse-signs-mou-for-building-n-plants-in-india_781702.html
Korea and the International Atomic Energy Agency hold their 20th safeguards review conference in Jeju from Tuesday to Thursday and conclude a fresh cooperation agreement. The safeguards agreement is a system ensuring nuclear transparency so that all nuclear materials are used for peaceful purposes.
The IAEA already has such agreements with individual nuclear power plants or reprocessing facilities in advanced countries, but Korea will be the first entire country to sign up, the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission said on Monday.
This means the transparency and reliability of Korea's nuclear non-proliferation measures have been recognized internationally, which will work in favor of Korean exports of nuclear power plants as well as negotiations with the U.S., the commission added.
Once the agreement is signed, Korea will be subject to fewer inspections.
Since 1991, Korea and the IAEA have met annually either at IAEA headquarters in Vienna or in Korea to check safety of nuclear materials and facilities here.
Je Mu-sung, a professor of nuclear engineering at Hanyang University, said, "The cooperation treaty with the IAEA will give Korea greater momentum to export nuclear power plants and make it much easier to negotiate with the U.S. so the country can reprocess its own spent nuclear fuel."
The U.S. does not want Seoul to reprocess its own spent nuclear fuel for fear that the plutonium extracted in the process could be used to make nuclear weapons.
Available at: http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2012/06/12/2012061201076.html
The UN atomic watchdog said Wednesday "good progress" was being made in enhancing global nuclear safety, almost a year after implementing an action plan in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
The programme implemented by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last September involves fresh assessments of the world's 440 nuclear plants and emergency measures, as well as more voluntary "peer review" visits by foreign experts.
"I believe that nuclear power plants have already become safer as a result of the measures taken as outlined in the action plan on nuclear safety," said Denis Flory, the IAEA's deputy director general for nuclear safety and security. "Good progress continues to be made... but the success of this action plan in strengthening nuclear safety is dependent upon its implementation through full cooperation and participation of member states," he said in a keynote speech at a nuclear safety seminar held in Singapore.
Japan was struck on March 11, 2011 by one of the strongest earthquakes in modern times which sent a tsunami crashing into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee as radioactivity spewed into the air.
The nuclear crisis did not directly claim any lives, although more than 19,000 people were killed by the force of the tsunami in Japan's worst post-World War II disaster.
In his speech in Singapore, Flory also said the IAEA was working with countries to boost rapid response capabilities during nuclear disasters.
One of the options being explored is for national teams trained to deal with nuclear disasters to be made internationally available through the agency's Response and Assistance Network, he added.
"In an era of instant communication, the Fukushima accident demonstrated the need for a stronger role of the IAEA to meet the expectations of member states, and the public," Flory said.
Flory also cautioned countries embarking on new nuclear projects to exercise "the highest level of transparency and openness in communication" in order to allay public concerns over safety issues."
Nuclear energy remains a viable option for many countries as they consider their future energy mix," he said.
"But we must not forget that public confidence in the safety of nuclear power was badly damaged by the Fukushima Daiichi accident."
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jqz5qEHVSJni41t8hUdgCNhrMmHg?docId=CNG.261ed5a38adccc890da1f8a25b1edce7.5f1
2. Lessons from Fukushima Crisis at Nuclear Safety Seminar in Singapore
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As the effects of a disaster can cross borders, nuclear safety is important even to countries without plans to adopt nuclear energy, said Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli on Wednesday.
He was opening the first Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) Seminar on Nuclear Safety, hosted by Singapore from June 13 to 15.
The Fukushima nuclear crisis last May showed that nuclear accidents can and do happen, said Mr Masagos. Such events could have 'serious cross-border consequences' such as environmental and food contamination, disruptions to trade and travel, public anxiety, and slower economic growth, he added.
At the seminar, policymakers and experts will share their views and experiences on how to prepare for, and respond to, nuclear accidents. Representatives from Japan will also be sharing their lessons from the Fukushima accident.
Available at: http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_810467.html
3. U.N. Cash Gap May Hinder its Nuclear Role - Report
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The United Nations' nuclear agency is significantly underfunded, a think-tank said on Wednesday, warning the shortfall risked limiting its ability to identify covert atomic activity that might have a military dimension.
The report, issued by a Canadian think-tank, described the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as a "veritable bargain for international peace and security," but said the Vienna-based agency needed to be reformed and better financed.
"The Agency is significantly underfunded, considering its responsibilities and the expectations increasingly being placed on it," it said, after analysing a body best known for its troubled monitoring of Iran's atomic activities and for trying to improve reactor safety after the Fukushima disaster.
Trevor Findlay, the report's author, told Reuters he was worried the funding problem would gradually affect the agency's ability to hold countries like Iran to account.
It "will not be able to develop its capacity over time for detecting undeclared nuclear activity. That to me is the most dangerous thing," he said.
"The Agency could just do so much more and a better and smarter job if it had extra money, in almost every single programme," Findlay, a professor of Canada's Carleton University and a former Australian disarmament diplomat, added.
The case of Iran - which denies Western accusations it is secretly seeking to develop nuclear weapons - highlights the challenges the IAEA faces in investigating states that refuse to provide it with the access and cooperation it says it needs.
Like other U.N. bodies, the IAEA's budget is not growing in real terms and, as a result, it does not possess the latest technology or have adequate staffing for its role, the report said.
"Despite significant improvements to the nuclear safeguards regime, there is substantial room for improvement, especially in detecting undeclared materials, facilities and activities.
After years of crucial Agency involvement with Iran, that country is closer to acquiring nuclear weapons than ever before," it said.
The 142-page report, entitled "Unleashing the Nuclear Watchdog", was based on a two-year research project and was published by the Centre for International Governance Innovation.
It gave a largely positive assessment of the IAEA's work, but criticised its initial handling of Japan's Fukushima nuclear crisis last year, the worst accident of its kind in a quarter of a century.
"For 24 hours the IAEA said nothing publicly. It apparently saw no need for an early public assessment of the situation, an urgent meeting of member states or even a press conference," it said, adding that the agency's image had been "tarnished" by its reaction.
The IAEA and its Japanese director general, Yukiya Amano, defended the agency's performance during the crisis, saying it was forced to rely on information from Tokyo.
Japan's reactor meltdowns - triggered by a deadly earthquake and tsunami on March 11 last year - shook the world, raising questions about the safety of nuclear energy.
However, the IAEA still expects global use of nuclear energy to rise by up to 100 percent in the next two decades.
That is expected to place the agency and its inspectors under further strain, as some of the material and equipment used in a civil nuclear energy programme can - technically - also be diverted to develop nuclear weapons.
The report said the IAEA's role in nuclear safety was being enhanced after Fukushima, but remained "hobbled by member states' reluctance to commit to mandatory measures and provide adequate resources."
The bulk of funding for the IAEA - which has more than 2,300 staff and has a mandate that covers inspections as well as supporting nuclear security and peaceful use of the atom - comes from Western member states on a voluntary basis.
However, a group of industrialised, mainly European states as well as Japan have resisted budget hikes for the agency at a time when government finances are reeling from debt problems.
The United States, its biggest financier, has increased contributions since President Barack Obama took office in line with his call for IAEA funds to be doubled in four years.
The IAEA's regular budget for 2012 was 331.5 million euros.
Findlay said developing states such as China, India, Brazil and Russia should help out more since they have become wealthier.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/06/13/uk-nuclear-iaea-idUKBRE85C0HA20120613
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