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Nuclear News - 6/5/2012
PGS Nuclear News, June 5, 2012
Compiled By: Pia Ulrich

A.  Iran
    1. Iran Urges Powers to Accept Nuclear Rights in Talks, Marcus George, Reuters (6/5/2012)
    2. IAEA, Iran to Hold Nuclear Talks on June 8, Fredrik Dahl, Reuters (6/4/2012)
    3. UN Atomic Agency Urges Iran to Sign Nuclear Deal, Sim Sim Wissgot, AFP (6/4/2012)
B.  North Korea
    1. IAEA’s Amano Says Visit To N. Korea On Nuclear Issue Is Unlikely, Sangwon Yoon, Bloomberg (6/4/2012)
    2. 'China Must Not Let N Korea Go Nuclear', Zee News (6/3/2012)
C.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Turkey Aims to Build 23 Nuclear Power Units by 2023, Xinhua News Agency (6/5/2012)
    2. Russia's Rosatom Eyes Hungary Nuclear Plant Tender-Paper, Reuters (6/5/2012)
    3. Russia Ready to Build Second Iranian Nuclear Plant in Bushehr, The Algemeiner (6/4/2012)
    4. Bangladesh Passes Nuclear Energy Regulatory Bill, AFP (6/1/2012)
    5. Russia, Belarus Initial Nuclear Power Plant Construction Deal, RIA Novosti (5/31/2012)
D.  Japan
    1. Plutonium Reprocessing Plan Raises Alarm Amid Shutdown, The Japan Times (6/4/2012)
    2. JAEC Handed Nuclear Policy Meeting Docs to Pro-Nuclear Figures at Secret Meeting, The Mainichi (6/2/2012)
E.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Ukraine Contract for International Enrichment Centre, World Nuclear News (6/1/2012)
F.  Nuclear Safety & Security
    1. IAEA to Conduct Inspection of Gori-1 Blackout, Yonhap News Agency (6/3/2012)
    2. Sri Lanka Sets Up Early Warning Systems to Detect Nuclear Disasters, Colombo Page (6/3/2012)
    3. NRC to Finalize Nuclear Safety Guidelines in August, Reuters (6/1/2012)
    4. China May Resume Nuclear Plant Approvals As Cabinet Passes Plan, Bloomberg (6/1/2012)
G.  Links of Interest
    1. Pakistan Tests Nuclear-Capable Cruise Missile, China Daily (6/5/2012)
    2. Israel Deploys Nuclear Weapons on German-Built Submarines, Der Spiegel (6/3/2012)
    3. Burma 'Has Given Up Nuclear Power Research' - Minister, BBC News (6/2/2012)
    4. Centre of Excellence for Nuclear Security to Be Opened in Medininkai, Petras Vaida, The Baltic Course (6/1/2012)

A.  Iran

Iran Urges Powers to Accept Nuclear Rights in Talks
Marcus George
(for personal use only)

An adviser to Iran's supreme leader has urged world powers to formally recognise its nuclear rights to bring about a "favourable result" at talks on its atomic programme later this month, state media reported on Tuesday.

Deflecting Iranian pressure in talks last month, Western countries declined to accord any such recognition, saying Tehran had no automatic right to enrich uranium because of its previous violations of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Iran says that under its NPT membership, it can develop a full nuclear fuel cycle for peaceful purposes including the enrichment of uranium, a process that yields fuel for power stations or bombs, depending on the level of refinement.

"I hope the P5+1 group recognises Iran's inalienable nuclear right within the framework of the NPT and refrains from sitting on the sidelines," IRNA quoted Ali Akbar Velayati, an aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as saying.

"By accepting Iran's right to use peaceful nuclear energy, the forthcoming talks in Moscow should reach a favourable result."

Khamenei - who has total command over Iran's nuclear policy - has publicly forbidden the development of nuclear weapons. Iran says it is enriching uranium only for civilian energy.

Western nations suspect that the Islamic Republic's higher-grade uranium enrichment is part of a clandestine programme to develop the material and components needed for a capacity to produce nuclear arms.

Despite Velayati's firm line, diplomats say Iranian negotiators were forthcoming at the talks in Baghdad - in contrast to previous failed negotiations - and believe Khamenei has given them a freer hand to explore a deal.

Another round of talks has been scheduled for June 18-19 in Moscow. Last week U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton indicated the meeting would be crucial because of Washington's need to see "concrete actions".

Iran has at times appeared flexible on halting higher-grade enrichment if its requirements for fuel are met.

But in recent weeks Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demanded the powers get tougher with Iran and insists it halts all enrichment. He has also reserved Israel's right to take military action against Iran if negotiations fail.

Velayati played down the possibility of Israeli military strikes: "They neither have the power nor the courage to do such a thing."

Iran is refining uranium to 20 percent of fissile purity - well above the level required to run nuclear power plants - for what it says will be fuel for a medical research reactor.

But Western officials are worried because the 20 percent level hurdles major technical barriers to reaching the 90 percent - or bomb-grade - threshold and they believe Iran is stockpiling more material than it needs for nuclear medicine.

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IAEA, Iran to Hold Nuclear Talks on June 8
Fredrik Dahl
(for personal use only)

The U.N. atomic watchdog and Iran will hold a new round of talks this week to try to reach an agreement to resume a long-stalled investigation into suspected nuclear weapons research in the Islamic Republic, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said on Monday.

Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, made a rare visit to Tehran two weeks ago and said when he returned to Vienna that he expected a framework cooperation deal to be signed soon with Iran.

Iranian officials have made clear that only once such an accord has been finalized will they grant U.N. inspectors access to the Parchin military site, where the IAEA suspects Iran may have carried out nuclear weapons development activity.

Western diplomats have voiced doubt that Iran will implement any such agreement with the Vienna-based U.N. agency, which says Tehran has stonewalled its investigation for almost four years.
They say Iran may be offering increased cooperation with the IAEA to use as a bargaining chip in its broader talks with world powers which are aimed at defusing a decade-old standoff over Tehran's nuclear program, which has seen the major oil producer subjected to increasingly tough economic sanctions.

Iran and the six powers - the United States, France, Russia, China, Germany and Britain - will meet for a third time this year in Moscow on June 18-19 after making scant progress in the dispute at the previous meeting in Baghdad last month.

"I wish to inform the board that a meeting between Iran and the agency has been scheduled for June 8 in Vienna," Amano said in a speech to the IAEA'S 35-nation governing board, according to a copy of his remarks.

"I invite Iran to sign and implement the Structured Approach document as soon as possible and to provide early access to the Parchin site," he said, referring to an agreement on how to conduct the IAEA's investigation.

Amano said he and Iran decided in his meetings in Tehran on May 21 to agree on this document.
"I was assured that agreement on the structured approach would be expedited and that the remaining differences between Iran and the Agency would not be an obstacle to reaching agreement," the veteran Japanese diplomat said.

The IAEA's immediate priority in its investigation is to visit Parchin, where inspectors believe Iran may have carried high explosives tests that could be used to develop an atomic bomb capability.

Western diplomats suspect Iran is now trying to clean the site of any incriminating evidence before possibly allowing U.N. inspectors to go there, a charge Tehran has dismissed.

Last week, a U.S. think-tank published satellite images which it said underscored suspicions that Iran is trying to destroy evidence of possible nuclear weapons-related research.

The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) posted the pictures on its website hours after the IAEA showed diplomats similar images that Western envoys said indicated a clean-up at Parchin.
Parchin, which Iran says is a conventional military complex, is at the centre of Western allegations that Iran has conducted experiments - possibly a decade ago - that could help develop nuclear bombs. Iran denies any such ambition.

Amano said Iran was not providing the necessary cooperation to enable the IAEA to give "credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities" in the country.

"I urge Iran to take steps towards the full implementation of all relevant obligations in order to establish international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program," he told the closed-door board meeting.

Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said a "new chapter" had begun between the agency and the Islamic Republic, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Soltanieh warned against technical issues being politicized.

"Certain elements are trying to distort the constructive atmosphere of cooperation between Iran and the agency through political controversy," he said, in a clear reference to Iran's Western foes.

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UN Atomic Agency Urges Iran to Sign Nuclear Deal
Sim Sim Wissgot
(for personal use only)

The head of the UN nuclear agency urged Iran on Monday to sign a deal allowing greater clarity on its disputed nuclear drive and announced that new talks with Tehran would be held this week.

At the start of a week-long meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors in Vienna, Yukiya Amano "invited" Iran to sign an agreement to give the agency access to sites, documents and people related to its nuclear programme.

This would include the Parchin military base near Tehran, where the IAEA believes suspicious explosives testing has been carried out.

"If we do not have access to the Parchin site or other people, information and sites, then... we cannot give assurance that all the activities in Iran have peaceful purposes," Amano told journalists.
"And that is not in the interest of Iran, nor the IAEA nor the international community. So what I expect is proactive cooperation from Iran and to clarify these issues through IAEA verification."

A new round of talks between the agency and Iran -- likely to involve IAEA chief inspector Herman Nackaerts and deputy director general Rafael Grossi, as well as Iran's envoy to the agency Ali Asghar Soltanieh -- would take place Friday in Vienna, he added.

After a visit to Tehran on May 21, where he met with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, Amano said Iran and the IAEA could sign an accord "quite soon."

"I was assured that an agreement... would be expedited," Amano said Monday.
"I think we need to hope that the Structured Approach agreement will be signed as soon as possible," he added, noting that differences between the parties had "narrowed."

Soltanieh meanwhile told national news agency IRNA that after Amano's visit, "a new chapter of cooperation between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the agency has started".

The IAEA has been seeking to visit Parchin for months but has been refused access by Tehran, which insists the site is of no significance to its nuclear programme so it need not allow inspections there.
In its last report, the IAEA said new satellite imagery indicated "extensive activities" at the base, which experts saw as signs of a clean-up.

These included "the use of water, demolishing buildings, removing fences and removing soils," Amano said Monday.

"We have clear concerns that these activities may hamper our future verification activities... even though we have advanced tools" to detect nuclear materials, he added.

The closed-door IAEA meeting comes amid a flurry of international talks to try to curb what the West sees as an Iranian bid to make a nuclear bomb, claims denied by Tehran which insists its atomic programme is solely for peaceful purposes.

The so-called P5+1 -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany -- revived talks with Iran in Istanbul in April and met again in May in Baghdad, although little was achieved.

Iran and the six world powers are due to meet again in Moscow on June 18-19, before an EU oil embargo against Iran comes into force on July 1.

A key source of dispute has been Iran's enrichment of uranium to 20-percent purity, bringing Tehran consistently closer to producing 90-percent enriched uranium needed to make a bomb, according to Western powers.

On Sunday, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said claims Tehran was seeking nuclear weapons were "based on a lie" and insisted that sanctions on his country were ineffective and only strengthened its resolve.

Iran has already been subjected to four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions over its nuclear activities.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Monday that Israel and the United States were discussing a new raft of sanctions if the next round of talks between world powers and Tehran fail.

"If we don't get a breakthrough in Moscow there is no question we will continue to ratchet up the pressure," US Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen, who coordinates US sanctions policy against Iran, told the paper.

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B.  North Korea

IAEA’s Amano Says Visit To N. Korea On Nuclear Issue Is Unlikely
Sangwon Yoon
(for personal use only)

The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog said a visit to North Korea to discuss its atomic program is unlikely in the near future.

“Through recent contacts with the DPRK, it has become clear that there is no immediate prospect of an Agency mission taking place,” Director-General Yukiya Amano told the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-member board of governors at a meeting yesterday in Vienna, according to an e- mailed statement. Amano referred to the country by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Jasper Kim, founder and chief executive officer of Asia-Pacific Global Research Group, talks about North Korea's third-generation dictator Kim Jong Un and the nation's failed rocket launch. North Korea won’t be bullied by its nuclear-armed enemies, Kim Jong Un said in his first public address at a military parade yesterday as South Korea warned that his regime may conduct an atomic test. Jasper Kim speaks from Seoul with Rishaad Salamat on Bloomberg Television's "On the Move Asia."

North Korea in March invited the IAEA to discuss the eventual monitoring of its uranium enrichment activities at the main Yongbyon nuclear facility, as part of a February food aid deal with the U.S. in exchange for a halt on nuclear and missile tests. The agreement fell apart after Kim Jong Un’s regime unsuccessfully fired a long-range rocket on April 13.

“The Agency has not been able to implement any safeguard measures in the DPRK for more than three years, so our knowledge of the current status of the country’s nuclear program is limited,” Amano said in the statement as the IAEA began a week- long board meeting. He urged North Korea to “fully comply” with its international obligations and cooperate with the IAEA.

The U.S., South Korea and Japan have expressed concerns that the North may conduct a nuclear test to recover from the embarrassment of the rocket failure. The totalitarian regime denied planning such a move, while satellite photos have indicated preparation activities at rocket launch and nuclear testing sites.

North Korea yesterday said its military has “strategic rockets” targeted at specific coordinates of seven South Korean media outlets for their “vicious smear campaign” against Kim Jong Un, in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

The North Korean army listed the longitude and latitude of the offices of the Chosun Ilbo, Dong-A Ilbo and Joongang Ilbo newspapers in Seoul and named four local broadcasting stations as additional possible targets.

Kim’s regime often issues threats of war, including the April 26 statement that a special action squad will turn South Korean President Lee Myung Bak and his government to “ashes.”

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'China Must Not Let N Korea Go Nuclear'
Zee News
(for personal use only)

Ties between strategic allies China and North Korea continue to show signs of strains, with the state-run media here on Sunday indicating that Beijing was joining US and other world powers in not recognising the reclusive country's move to declare itself a nuclear state.

Though there is no official announcement, China seems to be striking a firm stand against North Korea going nuclear as the official 'Global Times' came out with a stern editorial stating that "China must not let North Korea go nuclear."

North Korea recently set off a fresh controversy proclaiming itself a nuclear state in its amended Constitution. US and South Korea have dismissed the claim, saying they would not recognise Pyongyang as a nuclear power.

North Korea, which for long remained a close ally of China, seems to be asserting itself in recent times as it geared up to conduct a nuclear test much against the advise of China and also detained 29 Chinese fishermen recently. It took quite an effort on part of Beijing to get them released.

The fishermen complained that they were picked while fishing in Chinese waters and treated badly by their North Korean copters.

"It is necessary for China to criticise North Korea's latest move and oppose its intention to legalise its nuclear status," the editorial said.

"China needs to make efforts to deter North Korea from possessing nuclear capabilities, or at least openly oppose North Korea's move to attain them. The historical friendship between the two should facilitate their frank communication, rather than be a historical or ideological burden restraining China's expression of its stance," it said.

The reason why China should oppose it was that "if North Korea's possession of nuclear capabilities becomes 'legalised', Japan and South Korea will inevitably want to have nuclear capabilities too," the daily said.

"A chain reaction may then take place - Taiwan may also demand the right to nuclear arms. This will lead to the most serious crisis in China's neighbouring regions," it said.

Some analysts here say that there is a lingering suspicion in Beijing over North Korea acquiring nuclear weapons as the reclusive state is increasingly becoming unpredictable even for the Chinese.
"It is not in China's interests to be held hostage by North Korea's radical moves. Beijing should retain the freedom to clearly express its stance on issues of principle," the editorial said. "North Korea, which frequently deviates from this track, should return to the basic consensus to maintain good ties."

At the moment, "the most urgent thing is to prevent North Korea from conducting a third nuclear test, the consequences of which will be unimaginable for Northeast Asia. Besides trying to persuade North Korea, China should publicly voice its opposition at once," the editorial said.

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C.  Nuclear Energy

Russia's Rosatom Eyes Hungary Nuclear Plant Tender-Paper
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Russian state-owned nuclear company Rosatom is keen to expand Hungary's Paks nuclear power plant, including construction and financing of new power blocks, a top Rosatom official was quoted as saying in the business daily Napi Gazdasag on Tuesday.

Rosatom would be willing to fully finance the new construction, which is expected to cost about 3 trillion forints ($12.4 billion), the paper cited Rosatom Deputy Director General Kirill Komarov as saying at Atomexpo, a nuclear power trade fair in Moscow.

Hungary needs big new electric plants to augment an aging fleet of power stations and the government is expected to issue the construction tender this year for up to 3,000 megawatts (MW) in new nuclear power capacity at the Paks site.

The current plant at Paks, 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of the capital Budapest, uses four Russian-made VVER reactors for a total capacity of 2,000 MW and produces about 40 percent of the country's electricity.

Paks Chief Executive officer Istvan Hamvas told Hungarian state news agency MTI in Moscow that he expected at least five participants at the upcoming tender, including Rosatom, as well as France's Areva, Westinghouse Electric and Japanese and South Korean competitors.

Because the basic technical parameters have already been set, Hamvas said he expected Westinghouse to tout its AP 1000 reactor, Rosatom its VVER 1000 model, Areva its 1,600 MW EPR reactor, or its smaller Atmea reactor type, developed in tandem with Japan's Mitsubishi.

Westinghouse and Areva did not immediately reply to requests seeking comment.

The Paks reactors, built in the 1980s, are undergoing life span extension projects and are expected to stay operational until the 2030s.

The new nuclear blocks should come online between 2020 and 2030, increasing the country's reliance on nuclear power to 60 percent of the electricity mix.

The government last week created a committee to prepare strategic decisions for the construction headed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Rosatom, through its subsidiary TVEL, is the fuel supplier for Hungary's existing four Russian-made nuclear power blocks and has participated in their maintenance as well.

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Turkey Aims to Build 23 Nuclear Power Units by 2023
Xinhua News Agency
(for personal use only)

Turkey, determined to have its own nuclear power plant, aims to build "at least 23 nuclear units by the year 2023," said Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yildiz on Tuesday.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum held in Istanbul, the minister said the ambitious plan involves "establishing nuclear power plants in three regions of Turkey."

Yildiz went on to say "we are a country without a nuclear power plant. However, we are determined to have nuclear power plants."

He said that the number of nuclear power plants in the world exceeded 440 and that while nuclear power plants involve risks, they also offer many opportunities.

At least half of all the nuclear power plants are located in three countries, namely United States, France and Japan, he said. "We can relate a country's development to the number of nuclear power plants it operates."

"We can see that accidents as in Fukushima do not affect decisions to have and operate nuclear power plants," Yildiz noted.

The World Economic Forum on Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia kicked off here Tuesday and will last for two days.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are among the leaders attending the meeting who come from some 70 countries.

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Russia Ready to Build Second Iranian Nuclear Plant in Bushehr
The Algemeiner
(for personal use only)

Russia’s state-run nuclear company says it is ready to help Iran build a second nuclear plant within the next two years in the city of Bushehr, where Russia helped Iran construct its first civilian nuclear power plant, Iranian state media reported. The move reinforces Russia’s international support of the Islamic Republic.

Nikolai Spassky, deputy head of Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear company, said “preliminary discussions” to build the second plant have already been held, and that Rosatom will move forward if the plant can be profitable and is not forbidden by international sanctions.

As Russia seeks to support Iran’s rights to continue a civilian nuclear program, a spokesman for the Russian foreign affairs department, quoted in Iran’s Ettelaat newspaper, agreed that global sanctions would devastate Iran, and that they would have a negative effect on the relationship between Russia and Iran, as well as the relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

If the U.S. sanctions on Iran were to put the interests of Russian companies in danger, that could lead to “heavy” consequences on the Iran-Russia relationship, he said.

The spokesman noted that in 2010, when Washington imposed unilateral restrictions against some Russian companies and organizations that cooperated with Iran, the strategy backfired: “We have said many times that excessive pressure on Iran is counterproductive and will take the nuclear talks to a dead-end.”

On Monday, the U.N. nuclear agency chief announced new talks with Iran, urging it to sign a deal that would allow international monitors to investigate suspicions that Tehran has secretly worked on atomic arms. Iran continues to deny any interest in developing nuclear weapons, insisting that all of its atomic activities are under IAEA purview and are meant purely to power reactors and for medical research.

Its critics note that the Islamic Republic refuses to stop enriching uranium, which can be turned from nuclear fuel into the material needed for warheads, despite offers of reactor fuel from abroad and increasingly tough international sanctions.

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Bangladesh Passes Nuclear Energy Regulatory Bill
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Bangladesh's parliament has passed its first nuclear energy regulatory bill as the country prepares to build an atomic power plant next year using Russian technology, an official said.

Last November, the power-starved nation signed a deal with Russian state-owned nuclear agency Rosatom to build a plant which will have two 1,000 megawatt reactors at a cost of up to $2 billion each.

The parliament passed the legislation late on Thursday as "it is essential for the smooth running of the nuclear power plant", head of the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission A.S.M Firoz told AFP.

The bill will now be approved by President Zillur Rahman and become law, removing the last regulatory hurdle to allow the construction of the nuclear power plant to go ahead.

The law makes the operators of the plant liable in the case of an accident and creates a new atomic watchdog, Firoz said.

Bangladesh has selected the northwestern town of Rooppur for the nuclear plant. Construction is expected to start in late 2013 and power is forecast to start flowing in 2018.

mpoverished Bangladesh has long suffered severe power outages as demand for electricity soars on the back of a booming economy that has grown at around six percent a year since 2004.

The power crisis has worsened in recent years as the gap between demand and supply shot up to 2,000 megawatts per day, or 40 percent of daily production, due to years of under-investment.

In 2007 Bangladesh received approval from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the industry's global watchdog, to set up a nuclear power plant.

Officials said the country needed to build the plants because reserves of the country's main source of energy -- natural gas -- were fast depleting and could run out in a decade.

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Russia, Belarus Initial Nuclear Power Plant Construction Deal
RIA Novosti
(for personal use only)

Russia and Belarus have initialed a contract on the construction of a nuclear power plant in Belarus, the head of Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, said on Thursday.

“Today the contract… has been initialed. This means all details have been agreed upon,” Kiriyenko told journalists in Minsk during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official visit to Belarus.

Moscow will invest $204 million at an early stage of the plant’s construction, which will cover project work, he said.

The $10-billion plant will be built by Russia’s Atomstroyexport company, a Rosatom subsidiary. The plant will consist of two reactors with a capacity of 1,200 MW each and will boost the entire Belarusian energy system's capacity to 8,000 MW. The power station’s first unit is due to be ready in 2017 and the second in 2018.

Belarus began preparing to build a nuclear plant back in the 1980s, but the project was shelved following the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in neighboring Ukraine.

Belarusian opposition and environmental activists have raised concerns over the project, which were further fuelled by the March 2011 accident at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power station.

Russia says it employs advanced technology to ensure accident-free operations at all the power stations it builds.

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D.  Japan

Plutonium Reprocessing Plan Raises Alarm Amid Shutdown
The Japan Times
(for personal use only)

Last year's tsunami crisis left Japan's nuclear aspirations in doubt and its reactors idled, rendering its huge stockpile of plutonium useless. So, the nuclear industry's plan to produce even more this year has raised a red flag.

Nuclear industry officials say they hope to start producing half a ton of toxic plutonium within months, in addition to the more than 35 tons Japan already has stored around the world. That is even though all the reactors that might use it are either inoperable or offline while the government rethinks its gung-ho nuclear energy policy after the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 plant.

"It's crazy," said Princeton University professor Frank von Hippel, a leading authority on nonproliferation issues and a former assistant director for national security in the White House Office of Science and Technology. "There is absolutely no reason to do that."

Japan's nuclear industry produces plutonium — which is strictly regulated globally because it also is used for nuclear weapons — by reprocessing some of its spent, uranium-based fuel in a procedure that it hopes will help decrease the amount of radioactive waste that would otherwise require long-term storage.

The industry wants to step up its reprocessing output to build up reserves in anticipation of when it has a network of reactors that run on MOX, a next-generation mixed-oxide fuel that makes use of plutonium gleaned from other sources — such as old fuel or discarded warheads — and can be reused in a self-contained cycle — but that much-delayed day is still far off.

Japanese officials argue that, once those plans are in place, the reactors will draw down the stockpile and use up most of it by 2030.

"There is no excess plutonium in this country," said Koichi Imafuku, an official at the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy. "It's not just lying around without purpose."

In the meantime, the post-Fukushima review of nuclear policy is pitting a growing number of critics who want to turn away from plutonium altogether against an entrenched nuclear industry, or "village," that continues to forge ahead with it.

Other countries, including the United States, have scaled back the separation of plutonium because it is a proliferation concern and more expensive than the alternatives, including long-term storage of spent fuel.

Fuel reprocessing remains unreliable, and it is questionable whether it is a viable way of reducing the massive number of spent fuel rods, said Takeo Kikkawa, a Hitotsubashi University professor specializing in energy issues.

"Japan should abandon the program altogether," said Hideyuki Ban, codirector of the respected antinuclear Citizens' Nuclear Information Center. "Then we can also contribute to the global effort for nuclear nonproliferation."

Von Hippel stressed that only two other countries reprocess on a large scale: France and Britain, and Britain has decided to give it up. Japan's civilian-use plutonium stockpile is already the fifth-largest in the world and has enough plutonium to make about 5,000 simple nuclear warheads, although it does not manufacture them.

Because of the inherent dangers of plutonium stockpiles, government regulations require industry representatives to announce by March 31 how much plutonium they intend to produce in the year ahead and explain how they will use it.

But, for the second year in a row, the industry has failed to do so. Instead, it blames the government for failing to come up with a long-term nuclear policy after Fukushima and says it nevertheless wants to make more plutonium if it can get a reprocessing plant up and running by October.

Kimitake Yoshida, a spokesman for the Federation of Electric Power Companies, said the plutonium would be converted into MOX — a mixture of plutonium and uranium — which can be loaded back into reactors and reused in a cycle. But technical glitches, cost overruns and local opposition have kept Japan from actually putting the moving parts of that plan into action.

In the meantime, Japan's plutonium stockpile — most of which is stored in France and Britain — has swelled despite Tokyo's promise to international regulators not to produce a plutonium surplus.

Its plutonium holdings have increased fivefold from about 7 tons in 1993 to 37 tons at the end of 2010. Japan initially said the stockpile would shrink rapidly in the early 2000s as its fuel cycle kicked in, but that has not happened.

Critics argue that since no additional spent fuel is being created, and there are questions about how the plutonium will be used, this is not a good time start producing more. They also say it makes no sense for Japan to minimize its plutonium glut by calling it a "stockpile" rather than a "surplus."

"It's a simple accounting trick," said Edwin Lyman, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists. "It's laughable. And it sends the wrong signal all around the world."

Officials stress that, like other plutonium-holding nations, Japan files a yearly report detailing its stockpile with the International Atomic Energy Agency. But it has repeatedly failed to live up to its own schedules for how the plutonium, which is highly toxic when inhaled, will be used.

From 2006 until 2009, the nuclear industry said the MOX will be used in 16 to 18 conventional reactors "in or after" 2010. In fact, only two reactors used MOX that year. By the time of the earthquake and tsunami last year, the number was still just three — including one at the Fukushima plant.

In response to the delays, the industry has simply dated its plans further off into the future. It is now shooting for the end of fiscal 2015.

"There really is a credibility problem here," said Princeton's von Hippel, who also is a member of the independent International Panel on Fissile Materials.

"They keep making up these schedules which are never realized," von Hippel said. "I think the ship is sinking beneath them."

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JAEC Handed Nuclear Policy Meeting Docs to Pro-Nuclear Figures at Secret Meeting
The Mainichi
(for personal use only)

The Cabinet Office's Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) delivered a list of issues to be discussed at a JAEC panel session on a new nuclear policy to pro-nuclear members during a secret meeting in February, it has been learned.

The discovery indicates that members in favor of atomic energy wielded their influence on the panel on Japan's nuclear energy policy. Earlier it was found that pro-atomic energy officials, including those representing the electric power industry, had exercised influence on a JAEC subcommittee on the nation's nuclear fuel cycle project.

The findings have proven that JAEC lied when it denied that pro-nuclear members who gathered at 23 secret meetings exercised any influence on the meeting on Japan's new overall nuclear energy policy.

On May 25, the day after the Mainichi Shimbun reported that pro-nuclear members of JAEC held secret meetings, JAEC put up a statement on its website saying that secret meetings were held to draft materials for a subcommittee on the nuclear fuel cycle project.

JAEC Chairman Shunsuke Kondo denied that the secret meetings had anything to do with the new nuclear policy panel he chairs. "The (secret) meetings were launched to facilitate work at the subcommittee. I proposed such sessions to subcommittee chairman Tatsujiro Suzuki," Kondo told a meeting of the panel to draft a new nuclear policy outline on May 29.

The list of issues on the agenda at the Feb. 28 meeting of the panel was titled, "Human resources and technological basis in nuclear power."

Copies of the draft were delivered to the attendees of a secret meeting on Feb. 16. Among the attendees were Suzuki; JAEC member Etsuko Akiba; Kyoji Yoshino, director of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy's nuclear policy division; Masaaki Nishijo, director of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry's nuclear fuel cycle division; and dozens of people representing the electric power industry. They did not include people against nuclear energy.

The secret meeting focused on how to secure human resources in nuclear power as the number of students who want to major in atomic energy at universities has decreased since the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

One of the attendees was quoted as saying, "Those against the use of nuclear power only demand the Fukushima plant be safety decommissioned. We should emphasize that we need specialized engineers for that."

The attendees added a document describing the type of engineers who entered the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant following the accident to the list of issues on the agenda to be discussed at the new nuclear policy panel meeting on Feb. 28.

At the policy meeting, many attendees, including an anti-nuclear panel member, expressed support for human resource development in the nuclear energy field.

"Something like a 'nuclear reactor decommissioning technology university' should be set up," anti-nuclear panel member Hisa Anan, secretary-general of the National Liaison Committee of Consumer Organizations, was quoted as telling the meeting.

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E.  Nuclear Cooperation

Ukraine Contract for International Enrichment Centre
World Nuclear News
(for personal use only)

Russian-supplied fuel for Ukraine's nuclear power plants is to use uranium enriched at the International Uranium Enrichment Centre (IUEC) in Siberia, in which Ukraine holds a 10% stake. Armenia has also agreed to take a similar stake in the enrichment facility.

The IUEC has signed a contract with the Ukraine's Nuclear Fuel Holding Company, SC Nuclear Fuel, for the supply of nuclear fuel assemblies. Under the contract, Ukraine will provide natural uranium for enrichment at the IUEC. Once enriched, this uranium will then be transferred to Russian fuel fabrication company TVEL, who will produce fuel assemblies for shipment to Ukraine. The first shipment of enriched uranium to Ukraine is expected before the end of 2012.

Currently, most of the nuclear fuel requirements of Ukraine's nuclear power plants are met by TVEL - part of Russia's state atomic energy corporation Rosatom. However, enrichment services are not provided to Ukraine separately, but as part of the cost of the end-product - the fuel assemblies themselves.

Enriched uranium from IUEC is also set to be delivered to a new fuel fabrication plant being set up in Ukraine with Russia's assistance. SC Nuclear Fuel and TVEL signed an agreement for the facility's construction in late 2010. The plant - with a capacity of 400 tonnes of uranium per year - is scheduled to begin fabrication of fuel rods and assemblies in 2015. It will also begin producing fuel powders, pellets and assemblies by 2020.

The IUEC is sited at the Angarsk Electrolysis Chemical Combine in Siberia as a joint non-proliferation initiative of Russia and Kazakhstan. The centre will provide assured supplies of low-enriched uranium for power reactors to new nuclear power states and those with small nuclear programs, giving them equity in the project, but without allowing them access to the enrichment technology. The facility is under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards and was licensed by the Russian nuclear regulator, Rostechnadzor, in 2008. It will sell both enrichment services and enriched uranium product.

Ukraine - which depends primarily on Russia to provide nuclear fuel cycle services, particularly enrichment - agreed to take a stake in the IUEC in 2008. This shareholding will enable the country to purchase the enriched uranium for a more favourable price.

Russia has also created a guaranteed reserve or 'fuel bank' of low-enriched uranium (LEU) under IAEA control, which will be managed by the IUEC at Angarsk. This comprises some 123 tonnes of LEU as UF6, available to any IAEA member state in good standing which is unable to procure fuel for political reasons. This fuel bank is fully funded by Russia, held under safeguards, and the fuel will be made available to IAEA at market rates, using a formula based on spot prices.

While Russia is to maintain majority ownership of the IUEC, up until now Kazakhstan and Ukraine have been the only other nation's to participate in the initiative, both taking a 10% shareholding each. However, last week, Armenia - which has one power reactor in operation - closed a deal under which it will take a 10% stake in the IUEC at a cost of 2.6 million rubles ($77,530).

In order to become a partner in the initiative, Armenia is required to sign intergovernmental agreements with both Russia and Kazakhstan. Rosatom noted that, "For simplicity, the procedure is reduced to an exchange of diplomatic notes where the ascending state entitles an organization authorized to become an IUEC shareholder and represent interests of the newcomer country." The authorized organization is then required to buy a package of IUEC shares from Rosatom.

With Armenia now taking a shareholding, Russia now holds a 70% stake in the IUEC.

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F.  Nuclear Safety & Security

IAEA to Conduct Inspection of Gori-1 Blackout
Yonhap News Agency
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South Korea's oldest nuclear reactors at the Gori-1 nuclear plant will come under a special inspection from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) this week, the state-run Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP) said Sunday.

The KHNP said that the IAEA will conduct an expert mission on the Gori-1 reactors from June 4-11 to look into its blackout accident in February, adding the mission will be led by Miroslav Lipar, the head of the IAEA's Industrial Safety Department, and consist of eight experts from seven countries.

One of Gori's two reactors lost power for 12 minutes on Feb. 9 during a safety inspection. The power cut did not lead to any accidents, but it didn't come to light until March and regulators found that some senior engineers had covered it up for more than a month.

Since the accident, local residents and activists have persistently demanded that the superannuated reactor be closed and suspect that the upcoming IAEA inspection could be a procedural step to keep the Gori-1 reactors running.

Last week, five senior engineers at the Gori-1 nuclear power plant were indicted for allegedly attempting to cover up the February blackout.

At the time of the blackout, an emergency back-up diesel generator also failed, but the engineers did not fix it until Feb. 13 because if they had repaired the back-up generator, it would have revealed the power cut, according to prosecutors.

Also on Feb. 10, they removed nuclear fuel inside the Gori reactor, despite the failure of the emergency generator, a major wrongdoing in what prosecutors described as "total safety insensitivity" among Gori officials.

Last week, a report by the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement and the No Nukes Busan Citizen Countermeasure Commission showed that up to 900,000 people would perish and property damage would reach 628 trillion won (US$532.7 billion) if an accident similar to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster occurs at the Gori-1 plant, which is running now beyond its technological life span.

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Sri Lanka Sets Up Early Warning Systems to Detect Nuclear Disasters
Colombo Page
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Sri Lankan authorities are taking measures to establish a warning system to alert to a possible radiation leak from the nuclear plants in the Tamil Nadu state of neighboring India.

Sri Lanka's Atomic Energy Authority (AEA) is setting up eight early warning detectors along the coastal areas to detect a possible disaster after the Kudankulam nuclear power station in Tamil Nadu becomes operational, according to the AEA chairman Dr. Ranjith Wijewardena.

The recent developments in the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu's Tirunelveli district is making Sri Lanka nervous as the power plant is only 250 kilo meters from Sri Lanka's northwestern coastal town of Mannar.

Wijewardena has said that with the help of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA), the AEA will set up eight early warning detectors along the coastal areas and one in inland.

The AEA had initiated the program three years ago to set up the warning system under the radiological emergency preparedness programme.

"We will be able to warn public early about the dangers to create preparedness," he has said.

The detectors will be set up in coastal cities of Colombo in Western Province, Kalpitiya in North Western Province, Thalaimannar and Delft islet in the Northern Province, Trincomalee in the Eastern Province and in the inland city of Kandy in Central Province.

According to the Chairman, the detectors will be operated from the AEA offices after they become operational in about two months.

Sri Lanka plans to discuss the issue of safety of India's nuclear power plants at the September session of the International Atomic Energy Agency and seek the Agency's help to meet any nuclear disaster.

India has assured that the Kudankulam nuclear plant has high safety standards and India has a legal mechanism to deal with the trans-boundary liability issues.

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China May Resume Nuclear Plant Approvals As Cabinet Passes Plan
(for personal use only)

China, planning to build more nuclear reactors than any other country, approved a safety framework that may help end a ban on approving new atomic plants imposed after last year’s Fukushima disaster in Japan.

The State Council, or Cabinet, approved “in principle” the proposed plan on nuclear safety for the five-year period ending 2015 and long-term targets for 2020, the government said on its website yesterday. The report didn’t specify when approvals for new plants would resume or mention capacity goals.
The move follows a report yesterday that Japan is closer to resuming nuclear power generation after an earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant and prompted a global review of atomic energy projects. Chinese nuclear power equipment makers, including Shanghai Electric Group Co., Dongfang Electric Corp. and Harbin Electric Co., had their long- term contracts frozen after the ban.

“Now that the key barrier has been cleared, we expect new projects to be approved soon,” Patrick Dai, an analyst at Macquarie Group Ltd. in Hong Kong, said in an e-mail. Shanghai Electric, Dongfang Electric and Harbin Electric may get contracts for 5 gigawatts of capacity this year, worth more than 50 billion yuan ($7.9 billion), he said.

China, which started its first commercial nuclear plant in 1994, is building 25 reactors on the mainland and plans to add another 27, according to data from the World Nuclear Association.

The quality of the country’s nuclear industry, including reactor design, manufacturing, construction and operations, is “under control,” according to the government report. China’s nuclear safety standards match the International Atomic Energy Agency’s specifications, it said.

Some atomic plants didn’t meet new requirements for flood control and some had “weak” capabilities in evaluating and dealing with tsunami-related problems, according to the report. A few civil experimental reactors and fuel-cycle facilities fell short of new earthquake standards, it said. Corrective measures have been taken, the government said.

A nationwide inspection of China’s nuclear plants started after the Fukushima accident and lasted more than nine months, according to the report. Checks were carried out at 41 reactors that were operational or being built and three that were due to start construction, it said.

The government will seek the public’s opinion on the approved proposal on nuclear safety and development, according to the report.

The safety plan was “the key hurdle before the restart of new nuclear project approvals,” Guo Shou, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Barclays Plc, said by e-mail. “There is still no definite timeline of the actual restart, but we believe the earlier expectation of a first-half restart is still on track.”

Guo estimates the value of orders this year at 10 billion to 15 billion yuan.

Chinese power-equipment companies expect at least four new projects to go forward in 2012, though there are more to go, depending on the speed of approvals, Guo said. “Nine projects were in line to be approved in 2011 prior to the Fukushima incident,” he said.

China may have 70 gigawatts of installed nuclear power capacity and 30 gigawatts under construction by the end of the decade, Xu Yuming, the vice secretary-general of the China Nuclear Energy Association, which advises the government, said May 17. The country may have 200 gigawatts of installed capacity by 2030, he said.

Japan may approve the restart of two reactors of Kansai Electric Power Co. as early as next week, the Nikkei newspaper reported yesterday, without saying where it got the information. The government wants the units fully operational before power demand peaks in mid-July, according to the report.

Japan is without an operating nuclear reactor for the first time since May 1970, with all its atomic plants idled for maintenance or additional safety checks. Nuclear power provided 30 percent of the country’s electricity prior to the quake.

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NRC to Finalize Nuclear Safety Guidelines in August
(for personal use only)

U.S. regulators plan to finalize a set of new safety rules for operating the nation's nuclear reactors in
August, after considering public comment through July.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has drafted several guidelines to ensure proper implementation of three orders the agency issued to nuclear power plants in March, in response to lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in March last year.

Public comments on the draft interim staff guidance (ISG) will help the NRC ensure the guidance is as complete as possible," the agency said in a statement dated May 31.

The draft represents approaches made by operators of the nation's nuclear reactors to meet the requirements of the three orders before Dec. 31, 2016, the compliance deadline.

"The ISGs are not mandatory, but U.S. nuclear power plants would have to seek NRC approval if they wanted to follow a different compliance approach," the NRC said.

Nuclear regulators around the world have tightened scrutiny of reactor operations after an earthquake and tsunami damaged the Fukushima reactor.

The biggest nuclear power operators in the United States include Exelon Corp, Entergy Corp, Dominion
Resources Inc, Duke Energy, Progress Energy, NextEra Energy, Southern and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

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G.  Links of Interest

Pakistan Tests Nuclear-Capable Cruise Missile
China Daily
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Israel Deploys Nuclear Weapons on German-Built Submarines
Der Spiegel
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Burma 'Has Given Up Nuclear Power Research' - Minister
BBC News
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Centre of Excellence for Nuclear Security to Be Opened in Medininkai
Petras Vaida
The Baltic Course
(for personal use only)

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DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to visit the websites from which the source material originates. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of Partnership for Global Security. Partnership for Global Security takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.

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