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Nuclear News - 6/28/2012
PGS Nuclear News, June 28, 2012
Compiled By: Pia Ulrich

A.  Iran
    1. Kazakhstan Ready to Host Future Iran-P5+1 Talks: Nazarbayev, Press TV (6/27/2012)
    2. Russia Says Iran Crucial to Success of Syria Meeting, Reuters (6/26/2012)
B.  North Korea
    1. S. Korean, Russian Envoys to Discuss N. Korea's Nuclear Programs, Yonhap News Agency (6/25/2012)
C.  Nuclear Energy
    1. UK in Talks to Burn Plutonium in Candu Reactor, i-Nuclear (6/27/2012)
    2. India Planning Thorium Reactor, Says Atomic Energy Commission Chief, The Times of India (6/27/2012)
    3. Japan Utility Shareholders Vote to Keep Nuclear Power, Yoko Kubota and Osamu Tsukimori, Reuters (6/27/2012)
    4. Belgium May Extend Some Nuclear Capacity, Tribune Says, Melissa Pozsgay, Bloomberg (6/26/2012)
    5. APEC Ministers to Promote Nuclear Energy, The Japan Times (6/26/2012)
D.  Nuclear Safety & Security
    1. Japanese Reactor Building Has Slight Tilt, SF Gate (6/26/2012)
    2. Seismologists Warn Japan Against Nuclear Restart, Reuters (6/26/2012)
    3. C. Africa Gunmen Attack French Uranium Plant: Army, Christian Panika, AFP (6/25/2012)
E.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Conversion of Four Russian Research Reactors to LEU is ‘Technically Possible’, Nuclear Engineering International (6/27/2012)
    2. Russia, U.S. Eye Deal on Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation, Xinhua News Agency (6/27/2012)
    3. West Worried by China-Pakistan Atomic Ties: Sources, Fredrik Dahl, Reuters (6/27/2012)
    4. Russia, US to Jointly Develop New Reactors, Andrei Smirnov, The Voice of Russia (6/27/2012)
    5. Russia to Help Open Kazakh Enriched Uranium Enterprise, Kulpash Konyrova, New Europe (6/26/2012)
F.  Links of Interest
    1. TEPCO Ends Its Nuclear Exports, Adam Westlake, The Japan Daily Press (6/28/2012)
    2. China Reports Milestone in Operating Nuclear Accelerator, Xinhua News Agency (6/27/2012)

A.  Iran

Kazakhstan Ready to Host Future Iran-P5+1 Talks: Nazarbayev
Press TV
(for personal use only)

As Iran and the six major world powers (P5+1) plan to continue talks at an expert level in the future, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev says Astana is ready to host negotiations between the two sides.

In a meeting with the visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi in Astana on Wednesday, Nazarbayev said Kazakhstan’s announcement of readiness to host the future talks between Iran and the P5+1 was a goodwill gesture, ISNA reported.

He expressed the country’s readiness to expand economic and trade ties with Iran given the potentials of both sides.

The president noted that Kazakhstan has taken practical measures to improve ties with Iran in all fields.

Salehi, for his part, described relations between Tehran and Astana as “good and growing” and called for strengthening cooperation in all fields.

The Iranian minister pointed to the latest regional developments, particularly the Syrian issue, and said it is an improper approach to impose a government on a country when this is a task for the people of that country.

Salehi arrived in Kazakhstan Wednesday morning to participate in the 12th meeting of the Tehran-Astana economic cooperation commission.

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Russia Says Iran Crucial to Success of Syria Meeting
(for personal use only)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday Iran's participation was crucial to the success of a meeting on the escalating conflict in Syria planned by U.N.-Arab league peace envoy Kofi Annan in Geneva this weekend.

Lavrov added that regardless of whether representatives from Iran were present, he would attend the international conference which Annan is attempting to organize on June 30 in Geneva.

"We are ready to go. Iran must be present. Otherwise the circle of participants will be incomplete and will not gather everybody who has influence on all Syrian sides," Lavrov told reporters.

"I think it (Iran) must be invited. There is an understanding (about this) among those who are most actively organizing it (the conference)," he said, on the sidelines of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Jordan.

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B.  North Korea

S. Korean, Russian Envoys to Discuss N. Korea's Nuclear Programs
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

Senior South Korean and Russian diplomats will hold one-day talks this week in Seoul to discuss possible ways to revive the long-stalled six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons programs, a Seoul official said Monday.

Russia's deputy chief envoy to the six-party talks, Grigory Logvinov, was scheduled to arrive in Seoul later Monday for a three-day visit and hold talks with South Korea's top nuclear envoy Lim Sung-nam on Tuesday, the senior official at Seoul's foreign ministry said.

"During the talks, Ambassador Logvinov and Lim plan to hold in-depth discussions about North Korea's nuclear issue and other overall matters with regard to North Korea," the official said on the condition of anonymity.

They will also discuss "the current state of the Korean Peninsula after North Korea's failed rocket launch and ways to move forward on the North's nuclear issue," the official said.

The visit by Logvinov to Seoul also coincides with the Russian government's move to write off 90 percent of North Korea's Soviet-era debt of US$11 billion.

Diplomatic efforts to resume the six-party talks, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan, were frozen in April when North Korea defiantly launched a long-range rocket.

The North's failed launch ended a possible deal with the U.S. in which Pyongyang agreed to suspend its nuclear and missile activities in return for food aid by Washington. Such conditions had been considered necessary steps to reopen the six-party talks.

The six-party talks aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear ambition have been stalled since late 2008. Pyongyang has conducted two nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009.

In Seoul, the Russian envoy is also expected to discuss an ambitious plan to build a natural-gas pipeline from Russia to South Korea via North Korea, the ministry official said.

The gas project, which has been discussed for about 20 years but never has materialized due in part to security tensions, gained momentum after late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il expressed his willingness to permit the envisioned pipeline to go through the nation during summit talks with then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in August last year.

Kim died of a heart attack last December, and his youngest son, Jong-un, took the helm of North Korea.

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C.  Nuclear Energy

India Planning Thorium Reactor, Says Atomic Energy Commission Chief
The Times of India
(for personal use only)

India is planning to establish a nuclear power plant that uses thorium as main fuel instead of uranium, which is used in conventional reactors.

"It is natural for India to go for thorium reactors given the abundance in its supply in the country. We are in the process of selecting an appropriate site for establishing one," said Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) chairman R K Sinha. Thorium is regarded cleaner fuel compared to uranium.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the first graduation ceremony of National Institute of Science Education and Research (NISER) here, Sinha said the country already has the technological know-how to use thorium. However, for large-scale use of thorium, the country will need two decades. "We have to assess the thorium-powered reactor on various aspects in the long-term before replicating similar models in bigger ways," he added.

The AEC chief described the protest against Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu as nothing unusual, and said the opposition is because the local people think it would not serve them any purpose and apprehend regarding safety of the plant. The government by undertaking neighbourhood development programme and creating awareness about the safety aspects has largely overcome the protests, he said.

Sinha said the international embargo after the 1974 nuclear test in a way helped develop almost 100 per cent indigenous technology for nuclear programmes, making India self-reliant on nuclear energy.

Speaking about country's need for quality research, Sinha said researches must be part of the university system. More research should be promoted among academic institutions.

About Indian scientists deserting country for greener pastures abroad, the AEC chief said there is no harm as such scientists gain experience in international laboratories. "Some students go abroad under peer pressure as they do not lag behind. There are also reverse brain drain. We should strive to create more quality laboratories to attract the best brains back again," he said.

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Japan Utility Shareholders Vote to Keep Nuclear Power
Yoko Kubota and Osamu Tsukimori
(for personal use only)

Shareholders of Japan's electricity companies voted on Wednesday to stick with nuclear power despite rising public opposition after the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in March last year.

The votes against abandoning nuclear power at the annual general meetings of utilities including Kansai Electric Power Co and Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), the company at the centre of last year's Fukushima disaster, come days before the country's first reactors are due to come back online.

Kansai executives sat stony faced on a podium while shareholders, including the mayor of Osaka, urged them to ditch nuclear power.

"We are facing an epochal shift in the energy supply framework," Mayor Toru Hashimoto told the meeting to applause and shouts of support from other shareholders. "I would like executives to keep that in mind and aim to build a new energy supply system."

But shareholders voted against motions that either called on the company to exit or reduce its reliance on nuclear power, a relief to executives who said keeping the company's 11 nuclear reactors shut would add 900 billion yen ($11.33 billion) in annual fuel costs.

"We are planning on streamlining, but unless we can get a substantial number of reactors restarted, sustainable and continuous operations are difficult," Kansai Electric Vice-President Shigeki Iwane told the meeting.

Kansai Electric swung to a loss of 242.3 billion yen ($3.05 billion) in the year through March as it switched to thermal fuel.

"I have said that nuclear energy is an important source of power that we will utilise," Kansai Electric President Makoto Yagi said after the meeting. "There is absolutely no plan to scrap nuclear power."

Nuclear power had supplied nearly 30 percent of Japan's electricity before last year's quake and tsunami wrecked the Fukushima plant, spewing radiation and forcing mass evacuations in the world's worst nuclear disaster since 1986.

All of the country's 50 reactors have gone offline since, risking power shortages especially in the western metropolis of Osaka and other parts of Kansai Electric's service area.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on June 16 approved the restarts of two reactors at Kansai Electric's Ohi plant to avoid power shortages that he said would damage the world's third-biggest economy. Protests outside his official residence have grown bigger by the week.

"No matter how safe it may be, it is wrong to restart the reactors when there is no plan on the final disposal of spent fuel," said Akira Kimura, 70, one of the 3,842 shareholders of Kansai Electric who attended the meeting. "I cannot trust the national government and the utilities."

With a 9.37 percent stake in Kansai Electric, Osaka's city government is the biggest shareholder of Japan's most nuclear reliant utility before the Fukushima disaster.

The mayors of nearby Kyoto and Kobe, which are also shareholders of Kansai Electric, spoke at the meeting calling on management to withdraw from nuclear power and streamline operations, a call echoed in Tokyo by the city's vice governor at Tepco's meeting.

"What is needed from now is an awareness on the part of Tepco that it must completely reform itself through transparency," Tokyo Vice Governor Naoki Inose told the meeting, reflecting public anger over plans by the company to raise electricity prices to help pay for the disaster.

Tokyo's city government holds a 2.7 percent stake in Tepco.

The vocal presence of senior city officials at the shareholder meetings reflects a departure from the past. But none of their measures was agreed at the AGMs.

Shareholders of Chubu Electric Power, Chugoku Electric Power and Shikoku Electric Power voted on Wednesday against abandoning atomic energy, while those of Tohoku Electric Power and Kyushu Electric Power rejected milder motions against nuclear power.

Tepco said 4,471 shareholders attended the meeting, which lasted five hours and 31 minutes, the second longest in the company's history. About 100 anti-nuclear protesters waved flags and called for an end to atomic power outside the venue.

Shareholders of Tepco, which reported an annual loss of 781 billion yen, voted down a proposal for the utility to shut its Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear plant, the world's biggest. They voted to approve a 1 trillion yen capital injection from the government to avert the company's collapse.

The capital injection will hand control of Tepco to the government and brings total state support for the company to at least 3.5 trillion yen since the reactor meltdowns.

"They must end the use of nuclear power and stop telling us lies," said a woman in her 50s who declined to give her name before entering the meeting.

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UK in Talks to Burn Plutonium in Candu Reactor
(for personal use only)

The UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority revealed June 27 that in addition to exploring the use of the GE Hitachi Prism fast reactor for plutonium disposition, it is also in talks with Candu Energy Inc. for burning the NDA’s plutonium stockpiles in MOX fuel in a Candu reactor to be built in the UK.

The government’s stated preferred option for disposing of the UK’s 112 tonnes of civil plutonium is to re-use the plutonium in mixed uranium-plutonium oxide (MOX) fuel for burning in light water reactors.

But in February, the NDA requested proposals for alternatives to the preferred option, and acknowledged it was engaged in talks with GE Hitachi, who was offering its Prism fast reactor for use in plutonium disposition.

The statement issued by the NDA June 27 was the first time NDA has acknowledged it was in discussions with additional parties, apart from GE Hitachi, who were offering alternatives to the government’s preferred option.

The idea of re-using the plutonium as MOX fuel in a Candu-6 reactor was included in the NDA’s 2010 credible options study, but at the time it was assumed the idea would require extensive international shipments of MOX fuel to Canada and the return of spent fuel, as there are no Candu reactors in operation in the UK.

The Canadian reactor design, which uses heavy water as a moderator, rather than light water, is in use in Canada and in India, Pakistan, Argentina, South Korea, Romania and China.

But according to the NDA’s June 27 statement, the proposal currently being discussed with Candu Energy Inc. involves “UK deployment of its Enhanced CANDU-6 reactor and associated facilities to provide a solution for Plutonium disposition.” Candu Energy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin Inc.

NDA said it had received a total of four responses to its February request for proposals seeking alternatives for plutonium disposition and that it has carried out further discussions with only two of the four – GE Hitachi and Candu.

It didn’t identify the other two proposals.

“NDA undertook initial discussions with each respondent and considered that there was merit in progressing two of the alternative proposals alongside development of reuse as MOX in Light Water Reactors.

“Further detailed discussions have taken place and NDA has subsequently engaged General Electric-Hitachi (GEH) and Candu to provide further information regarding their proposals,” NDA said.

“It is anticipated that the work on both proposals agreed at this stage will be concluded later this year. NDA will subsequently assess the information and consider how best to proceed with alternative proposals alongside the preferred option of reuse as MOX,” the NDA said.

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APEC Ministers to Promote Nuclear Energy
The Japan Times
(for personal use only)

Energy ministers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum will agree at their two-day meeting that opened Sunday in St. Petersburg, Russia, on the importance of using nuclear energy to reduce carbon dioxide emission and to meet the growing demand for energy, a draft of the joint declaration obtained by Kyodo News showed.

"The APEC region recognizes the importance of the safe and secure uses of peaceful nuclear energy, and its potential in diversifying our energy mix, meeting the growing energy demand, and in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the region despite the tragic accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station" triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the draft of the "St. Petersburg Declaration" said.

The draft showed that the declaration, to be adopted Monday, will largely reflect the views of countries promoting nuclear power plants, led by Russia and the United States, while urging Japan to share the lessons it has learned from the Fukushima crisis.

The member countries and relevant international organizations will coordinate efforts to ensure nuclear safety and deal with possible problems.

"We expect that Japan should contribute to the international approach by sharing its knowledge and experience, including information on the Fukushima No. 1 accident," the draft said, adding they "recognize the progress made by the Japanese government to bring the station to a stable condition."

Particular attention should be paid to strengthening cooperation by interested member economies of APEC and the relevant international organizations, notably the International Atomic Energy Agency, including "sharing knowledge and experience on nuclear technologies and safety at nuclear power stations and related facilities to improve nuclear safety standards, and coordinate emergency response and preparedness mechanisms," the draft said.

Noting that natural gas emits relatively small amounts of carbon dioxide, the APEC economies recognize it is important "to evaluate the production, trade potential and environmental impact of shale gas and other unconventional gas resources," according to the draft.

They will also promote steady investment in natural gas infrastructure, including liquefaction facilities, the draft said.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano will attend a plenary session on Monday.

Japan and Russia agreed Sunday that both governments will provide necessary support for a private-sector project to build a liquefied natural gas plant in Vladivostok in Russia's Far East, Japanese officials said.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano and Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak met and signed a memorandum in St. Petersburg, Russia, on the sidelines of a two-day Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum energy ministers' meeting that opened Sunday.

A Japanese consortium led by trading house Itochu Corp. has conducted feasibility studies with Russia's state-run gas firm Gazprom on the plant, which is expected to produce 10 million tons of LNG per annum.

"It is important for Japan to diversify its energy supply sources as much as possible," Edano told reporters after the meeting with his Russian counterpart.

The project is in line with Russia's strategy to transport natural gas from Sakhalin and eastern Siberia via pipelines to Vladivostok, where the gas will be turned into LNG for export to countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Belgium May Extend Some Nuclear Capacity, Tribune Says
Melissa Pozsgay
(for personal use only)

Belgium Energy Minister Melchior Wathelet has proposed to extend by 10 years half of the nuclear capacity that’s supposed to close in 2015, French daily La Tribune reported, without citing anyone. The government has promised to take a decision in coming months, the French newspaper reported.

The Belgian coalition government is split over what to do and officials at GDF Suez SA (GSZ)’s Belgian Electrabel unit weren’t commenting, the newspaper reported.

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D.  Nuclear Safety & Security

Japanese Reactor Building Has Slight Tilt
SF Gate
(for personal use only)

In this aerial photo taken from the Asahi Shimbun helicopter, cranes surround the tsunami-damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant reactors, from right, Unit 2, covered by light blue walls, Unit 3, center, and Unit 4, in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, Monday, May 28, 2012. The prime minister during Japan's nuclear crisis last year said Monday he had to use an emergency law that never anticipated major radiation leaks and lacked experts capable of giving him guidance.

A heavily damaged reactor building at the tsunamiicken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant has a slight tilt, but the tilt does not pose a risk to the integrity of the building, according to the plant's operator.

The Tokyo Electric Power Co., or Tepco, said in a report Monday to Japanese nuclear regulators that at least two of the walls of the No. 4 reactor building are bulging outward at various points and that the building is tilting. The biggest bulge measured about 1.8 inches about a third of the way up the building, the report said.

The latest findings could add to concerns over the state of the No. 4 reactor building, which houses on its upper floors a cooling pool filled with more than 1,000 spent nuclear fuel rods. Some experts say that the building - ravaged in a hydrogen explosion in the early days of the disaster in March 2011 - is not strong enough to support the fuel pool, especially if another earthquake hits the region.

Damage to the pool or loss of cooling could lead the spent fuel to overheat, releasing large amounts of radiation into the environment, the experts warn. Tepco has said it will start work to remove the spent fuel rods later this year, earlier than initially planned. However, other experts warn against removing fuel rods too hastily, which might pose its own risks.

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Seismologists Warn Japan Against Nuclear Restart
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Two prominent seismologists said on Tuesday that Japan is ignoring the safety lessons of last year's Fukushima crisis and warned against restarting two reactors next month.

Japan has approved the restart of the two reactors at the Kansai Electric Power Ohi nuclear plant, northwest of Tokyo, despite mass public opposition.

They will be the first to come back on line after all reactors were shut following a massive earthquake and tsunami last March that caused the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl at Tokyo Electric Power's Daiichi Fukushima plant.

Seismic modeling by Japan's nuclear regulator did not properly take into account active fault lines near the Ohi plant, Katsuhiko Ishibashi, a seismologist at Kobe University, told reporters.

"The stress tests and new safety guidelines for restarting nuclear power plants both allow for accidents at plants to occur," Ishibashi told reporters. "Instead of making standards more strict, they both represent a severe setback in safety standards."

Experts advising Japan's nuclear industry had underestimated the seismic threat, Mitsuhisa Watanabe, a tectonic geomorphology professor at Tokyo University, said at the same news conference.

"The expertise and neutrality of experts advising Japan's Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency are highly questionable," Watanabe said.

After an earthquake in 2007 caused radiation leaks at reactors north of Tokyo, Ishibashi said Japan was at risk of a nuclear disaster following a large earthquake, a warning that proved prescient after Fukushima.

While it is impossible to predict when earthquakes will happen, Ishibashi said on Tuesday the magnitude 9 quake last year made it more likely "devastating" earthquakes would follow.

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C. Africa Gunmen Attack French Uranium Plant: Army
Christian Panika
(for personal use only)

Rebels attacked and looted a plant operated by French nuclear giant Areva near a uranium mine in the southeast of the Central African Republic, army and French diplomatic sources said Monday.

Officials said no Areva employees were killed or wounded but one military source said one villager was killed by the gang near the Bakouma mine before Sunday's attack.

"A violent clash yesterday afternoon pitted" Central African troops against "an unidentified group of armed men attempting to launch an assault on the site of mining company Areva," a military statement said.

"The enemy did some material damage and pulled back while taking a sizeable quantity mainly of food with them," Lieutenant-Colonel Jean Ladawa said in the statement, which was read on national radio.

"For the moment, it's difficult to establish a casualty toll from the fighting. However, we sustained no losses either among personnel or the population at Bakouma," he said.

Areva in Paris confirmed an attack had taken place in Bakouma.

"Some food supplies as well as computer equipment were stolen," a spokesman said. "Nobody was threatened and nobody was wounded."

A military source in Bangui, who asked not to be named, said that the raid had claimed no victims but operations were under way "to neutralise this group of armed men, who are believed to be members of the Chadian rebel Popular Front for Recovery (FPR) led by 'General' Baba Ladde."

The FPR has been active in the Central African Republic since 2008.

Last January, the Central African army attacked FPR positions in the north, about 400 kilometres (250 miles) from Bakouma, and announced that they had contained the rebels.

"A few hours before the clash, these armed men killed a villager 25 kilometres from Bakouma. They took hostage an elder and a young man who served as their guides," the source said.

According to another anonymous official, the rebels "are not on the (Areva) site, but they are still in the Bakouma zone. They are heavily loaded (after looting) and they are trying to recruit porters."

A French diplomatic source told AFP that five French Areva staffers at the uranium mine were in contact with French authorities to find "the most suitable solution" for them.

In September 2010, seven people employed by Areva and its subcontractor Satom -- including five French nationals -- were captured by Al-Qaeda's North Africa franchise in Niger. Four of them are still held.

In November 2011, Areva delayed the launch of mining operations at Bakouma after uranium prices fell in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

About 170 people were then working at the Bakouma site but the Areva spokesman in Paris said Monday that only around 15 people had been working there recently.

With an estimated 32,000 tonnes of uranium to be mined, the site is considered important by Areva, even if it does not match the 180,000 tonnes of the giant Imouraren mine in Niger.

A 2008 peace process led to accords with most of the rebel groups in the country who have laid down their arms, but the Central African Republic remains prey to armed groups including rebels, highway robbers and poachers.

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E.  Nuclear Cooperation

Conversion of Four Russian Research Reactors to LEU is ‘Technically Possible’
Nuclear Engineering International
(for personal use only)

Work has been completed on feasibility studies for the conversion of several Russian research reactors to use low-enriched uranium fuel, the United States and the Russian Federation announced on 26 June.

This concludes the first stage of the work stipulated in the December 2010 Implementing Agreement between ROSATOM and the U.S. Department of Energy.

The studies, which focused on four Russian reactors (Argus reactor, IRT - MEPhI, OR reactor and IR-8), confirm that it is technically possible to convert the reactors to use low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel. Feasibility studies for the conversion of two additional reactors MIR.M1 (NIIAR) and IRT-T (Tomsk Polytechnic University) are due to be completed this summer.

“The analysis has shown that the conversion of Argus is possible without development of new fuel, while a new fuel design based on uranium-molybdenum alloy has to be developed to convert IRT-MIFI and IR-8. The work to design and certify this fuel is underway,” Rusatom Overseas said in a 27 June statement.

“The full conversion of one reactor, and potentially a second, is expected to be completed in 2014,” the National Nuclear Security Administration announced.

The Russian side said it has informed the U.S. side that in accordance with the plans the conversion of 1-2 research reactors may be carried out in 2014.

In addition to reactor conversion, nine out of 27 research reactors using highly enriched fuel in the Russian Federation have been shut down.

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Russia, U.S. Eye Deal on Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation
Xinhua News Agency
(for personal use only)

Moscow and Washington have completed the drafting of a new cooperation agreement on peaceful use of nuclear energy, which was likely to be signed in September, Russia's state atomic agency Rosatom said Tuesday.

After talks with U.S. Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman in Moscow, Rosatom head Sergei Kirienko said the intergovernmental agreement on scientific and technical nuclear cooperation could be signed during the general conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria.

According to Kirienko, the agreement envisages that Russian and the U.S. scientists would obtain access to nuclear research facilities in each other's country and cooperate in innovations and other related areas.

Kirienko also said the two sides would jointly develop fast- breeder nuclear reactors and low- and medium-power reactors.

In January 2011, Russia and the U.S. have already signed the Agreement for Cooperation in the Field of Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, also known as the 123 Agreement.

"Without this document, we would not have been able to implement the accords reached earlier and draft the current agreement on scientific and technical cooperation," Kirienko said.

In his part, Poneman said the two countries will also work together to promote the safety of existing reactors, improve the structure of future units, and increase the fuel efficiency.

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Russia, US to Jointly Develop New Reactors
Andrei Smirnov
The Voice of Russia
(for personal use only)

Meeting on the sidelines of the next session of the General Assembly of the International Atomic Energy Organization in Vienna this autumn, Russian and American officials will sign an agreement on bilateral cooperation in the nuclear energy sector. The announcement came from Russia’s nuclear energy tsar Sergei Kiriyenko.

Mr Sergei Novikov is the chief spokesman for Kiriyenko. He was speaking for The Voice of Russia:

"In accordance with the upcoming agreement, Russia and the US will be exchanging classified knowhow and sending each other’s personnel to some of the most sensitive nuclear sites in each of the two countries. The purpose is to develop small nuclear reactors, push forward the fast breeder technology and explore completely new physical principles of generating nuclear energy. Importantly, the agreement will also contain clauses on protecting each other’s intellectual property rights as the mutually developed technologies are commercialized."

The two countries will also take measures to make sure that their nuclear materials do not fall into the wrong hands:

"Russia and the US will continue to repatriate their highly-enriched uranium from third countries. Russia has already removed all Russian-produced material of this kind from research reactors in Ukraine. Similar work on research reactors in Vietnam and Uzbekistan is under way. The Americans are to remove their highly-enriched uranium from Mexico."

The Russian-American uranium repatriation programme applies to a total of 14 countries.

Russia and the US are already delivering on a recent agreement on converting the research reactors built in their nuclear client countries from burning highly enriched uranium to burning low enriched uranium. Russia alone has started to convert as many as six reactors.

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West Worried by China-Pakistan Atomic Ties: Sources
Fredrik Dahl
(for personal use only)

Western states pressured China at closed-door talks last week to address concerns about its plans to expand a nuclear power plant in Pakistan and provide more information, but were rebuffed, two diplomatic sources said on Wednesday.

Beijing's atomic relations with Islamabad have caused unease in Washington, Delhi and other capitals due to Pakistan's history of spreading nuclear arms technology and fears about the integrity of international non proliferation rules.

"A number of countries asked questions and expressed concerns," said one official, speaking about the annual plenary session of the 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), held on June 21-22 in the U.S. city of Seattle.

But China showed no sign of reconsidering its position on building two more reactors at the Chashma nuclear power complex in Pakistan's Punjab region, the official and another source said, a stance Beijing also took when the issue was raised in last year's NSG talks in the Dutch city of Noordwijk.

As its ties with the United States have suffered, Pakistan has been trying to move closer to Asian powerhouse China, which has welcomed Islamabad's overtures.

The two-day meeting also debated the issue of India's possible membership in the NSG, a consensus-based cartel that seeks to ensure nuclear exports are not used for military purposes by agreeing rules for such trade, the sources said.

In 2010, the United States announced backing for India's membership - a step that would make it the only country outside the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in the group - but Pakistan has warned against allowing its rival to join.

"If India were to apply now, there would be quite a detailed discussion on non proliferation-related issues before a decision is taken," one of the sources said, suggesting there were differences of opinion within the NSG.

A statement by the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration confirmed that the NSG's relationship with India was discussed, but did not mention the China-Pakistan issue.

"Participating governments called on all states to exercise vigilance and make best efforts to ensure that none of their exports of goods or technologies contribute to nuclear weapons programs," it said on its website.

Close relations between China and Pakistan reflect a long-standing shared wariness of their common neighbor, India, and a desire to counter U.S. influence across the region.

Analysts say China agreed to expand Chashma to match a 2008 nuclear energy deal between India and the United States.

Washington and other governments have said China should seek approval for the planned reactors from the NSG. But China argues that the construction of two additional units at Chashma was part of a bilateral deal sealed before it joined the NSG in 2004. China also supplied the facility's first two reactors.

European Union members of the NSG delivered a joint statement about the issue in Seattle, the two sources said. The U.S. delegation also "posed a question," one of them said.

"China basically reiterated that it comes under the grandfather clause," one source said, referring to Beijing's argument that the agreement was struck before it joined the nuclear suppliers' forum.

To receive nuclear exports, nations that are not one of the five officially recognized atomic weapons states must usually place their nuclear activities under the safeguards of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, NSG rules say.

When the United States sealed a nuclear supply deal with India in 2008 that China and others found questionable because Delhi - like Islamabad - is outside the NPT, Washington won a waiver from that rule after contentious negotiations.

Pakistan wants a similar civilian nuclear agreement with the United States to help meet its growing energy needs.

But Washington is reluctant, largely because a Pakistani nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, admitted in 2004 to transferring nuclear secrets to North Korea, Iran and Iraq.

Pakistan tested nuclear devices in 1998, soon after India, and both nations refuse to join the NPT, which would oblige them to scrap nuclear weapons.

Nuclear analyst Mark Hibbs said there had been an erosion of the principle that recipients of nuclear exports must put all their atomic activities under IAEA safeguards.

"First by Russia a decade ago in its trade with India, then in the U.S.-sponsored India deal, and now by China's trade with Pakistan," Hibbs, of the Carnegie Endowment think-tank, said.

"Since the late 1990s we have seen a weakening of milestone non proliferation commitments by big powerful countries."

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Russia to Help Open Kazakh Enriched Uranium Enterprise
Kulpash Konyrova
New Europe
(for personal use only)

Earlier, Russia and Kazakhstan signed a comprehensive programme for co-operation in the nuclear industry, which is now being successfully realised. Uranium minefields have already been created in Kazakhstan and they are operating based on modern technologies.

"Now we have reached production volume of 4,000 tonnes of uranium per year. And soon, the level of production will reach 6,000 tonnes of uranium per year. In other words, we and our Kazakh partners are ahead of the implementation schedule of our joint programme," the head of Posatom, Segey Kiriyenko, told Kazakh and Russian journalists.

According to him as a part of the programme Kazakh-Russian joint ventures have been created and are already operating in Kazakhstan, citing Yuronionvam, majority share of which is owned by Rosatom, as an example.

"I appreciate the leadership of Kazakhstan for the timely accepted decisions on the establishment of this enterprise. Thus, they supported the process of integration between our countries," Kiriyenko said.

In turn, the Kazakh specialists are also involved in joint projects that are carried out in Russia. “Originally we intended to create a commercial centre for uranium enrichment. Now we are actively working on its creation,” Kiriyenko said. "Our task is to reach a certain level of five million separative work units (it is a countable quantity in terms of uranium enrichment)," he recalled.

Originally, it was supposed to establish this centre in Angarsk, but the Kazakh side expressed their wish that it would be interesting for them to create such a centre at the Russian plant in Novouralsk, which is more modern, more powerful and more promising.

The Russian side agreed with the desire of Kazakh partners. The preparatory work lasted about a year. And on 28 May, the Kazakh side told that they had accepted all our conditions. Then, on 5 June, a working group approved the entire financial model of the project.

"I think that next year we will have a physical production, in other words, Kazakhstan will receive as well the enriched uranium on our co-production," Kiriyenko said.

In addition, he said, that within the framework of the integrated programme for co-operation between Kazakhstan and Russia there is a project of potential construction of nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan. But when and where the plant will be built in Kazakhstan is a question to the leadership of the energy sector of this country.

For the Russian side, it is important that new nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan would be a fully functional and modern enterprise. Its future capacity depends on the results of the analysis of energy requirements of Kazakhstan.

It is known that during a recent visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Astana, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said that it is decided that the establishment of nuclear power plants are to be implemented in partnership with Russia. "We are waiting for a response from the power industry of Kazakhstan on two issues: the necessary volume of the energy capacity and where such a station is required. The project which we can offer will fundamentally depend on these issues. Previously we have worked out with Kazatomprom a version of the innovative tank with the capacity of 300 MW, Vbr300," Kiriyenko said.

According to him, Russia is ready to present an innovative tank. It is successfully used in submarines, and it was tested for reliability. "Once we, jointly with Kazakhstan, are able to implement this project, we will be able to sell it to third countries," the head of Rosatom said.

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F.  Links of Interest

TEPCO Ends Its Nuclear Exports
Adam Westlake
The Japan Daily Press
(for personal use only)

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China Reports Milestone in Operating Nuclear Accelerator
Xinhua News Agency
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