Iranian lawmakers have given the green light to design and construct atomic-powered merchant ships. The move underlines Iran’s argument that its nuclear activities are for civilian purposes, while the West suspect it of building atomic weapons.
A parliamentary committee has pushed through a bill approving the nuclear merchant ships project, reported semi-official Iranian news agency Mehr.
Mehr quoted MP Mohammad Bayatian as saying that the international sanctions placed on Iran for its alleged nuclear weapons program have forced the country to look for alternative fuel sources. As part of the sanctions many countries now refuse to sell fuel to Iran.
"Given the sanctions that enemies have imposed against our country, the bill must be enacted," Bayatian said.
Iran categorically denies Western allegations that it is developing atomic weapons and defends its right to a peaceful nuclear weapons program.
The International Atomic Energy Agency says that nuclear-powered merchant vessels are rare and uneconomical and there is some speculation as to whether Iran has the funds or resources to construct such vessels.
Nuclear-powered commercial vehicles are very rare because of high costs. There have only been four attempts to construct commercial nuclear vessels. The first one was America’s “NS Savannah” (operated 1962-1972), then German-built “Otto Hahn” (operated 1968-1979), a cargo ship that sailed some 650,000 nautical miles without any technical problems, and Japanese-made “Mutsu” (operated 1970–1992), which never actually carried any commercial cargo.
All three ships were eventually decommissioned because they were too expensive to operate and are now on display in showrooms. The only commercial ship that still operates is Russia’s Soviet-made “Sevmorput” (1988–present), currently stationed in the Arctic.
The bill follows an announcement by a senior Iranian naval official, claiming that Iran has taken the “initial steps” in designing its first nuclear-powered submarine.
Admiral Abbas Zamini told Iranian news agency Fars that the first stages of designing a nuclear propulsion system were underway. Zamini said such advances were necessary in order to carry out long-distance missions.
"All countries have the right to use peaceful nuclear technology, including for the propulsion system of its vessels," he stressed.
Western nations have voiced fears that Iran may be using the construction of nuclear submarines as a pretext to produce enriched weapons-grade uranium. Many US military submarines are powered by uranium fuel enriched to more than 90 percent, the same grade that is used in atomic bombs.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been attempting to gain access to Iranian nuclear facilities to assess the validity of allegations of atomic weapons production.
The United States, France, Russia, Germany, Britain and China have called on Iran to immediately halt any nuclear activity that could aid in the development of a nuclear bomb. They have implemented heavy financial sanctions on the Islamic Republic with a view to pressuring Iran’s government into complying.
In order to break the political stalemate "a grace period with no adverse consequences in case their full transparency with IAEA inspectors reveal past wrongdoing," said former Chief UN Nuclear Inspector Pierre Goldschmidt.
Iran seeks international recognition of its right to refine uranium and an end to the sanctions that are crippling its lucrative oil industry.
Available at: http://www.rt.com/news/iran-nuclear-ships-approves-238/
2. U.N.'s Iran Atom Probe "Hostage" to Big Power Diplomacy
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Offering immunity or an easing of the sanctions pressure may be the only way - if there is one at all - to coax Iran to end years of stonewalling a U.N. watchdog investigation into suspected nuclear weapons research in the Islamic state.
Any such initiative would likely need to come from world powers as part of a broader diplomatic thrust to defuse the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme, leaving the investigation by the U.N. atomic agency dependent on how those talks develop.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has failed in a series of high-profile rounds of discussions in the last six months to persuade Tehran to give it access to sites, officials and documents it says it needs for the long-stalled inquiry.
The roller-coaster negotiations have underlined the IAEA's limited power to make Iran cooperate with it, suggesting Tehran will do so only if it gets something in return elsewhere and fuelling Western suspicions that it is playing for time.
"It looks to me now that the IAEA-Iran track isn't going to go anywhere unless there is progress made in the talks between Iran and the powers," senior researcher Shannon Kile of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said.
Iran seems to be using its discussions with the IAEA - at times raising hopes for a deal, then dashing them - to gain leverage in its separate meetings with the powers that have made little headway since they resumed in April after a 15-month gap.
The six powers - the United States, France, Russia, Germany, Britain and China - also want Iran's full cooperation with the U.N. watchdog. But their more immediate demand is that Iran stop atomic activity that takes it closer to potential bomb material.
Tehran may also require assurances that, if it eventually does agree to give U.N. inspectors greater freedom to carry out their work, any incriminating evidence they unearth will not be used against it. Iran denies Western allegations it is seeking to develop the capability to make atom bombs.
To help break the deadlock, Iran should be given "a grace period with no adverse consequences in case their full transparency with IAEA inspectors reveal past wrongdoing," said former chief U.N. nuclear inspector Pierre Goldschmidt.
Goldschmidt, now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said this should be offered and guaranteed by the powers.
"Personally I see no problem with immunity for the past," said a senior Western diplomat, who follows the nuclear issue closely but is not involved in negotiations with Tehran.
"But it has to be verifiable. The models are South Africa and Libya. I fear Iran will not accept such true transparency," the envoy said, referring to decisions years ago by those two countries to abandon their nuclear weapons ambitions.
Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group think-tank said the relationship between Iran and the IAEA had become "hostage to the nuclear brinkmanship" of Tehran and the world powers.
The six states demand that Iran scale back its uranium enrichment programme and shut down an underground nuclear facility where it is carrying out higher-grade atomic work.
Iran seeks recognition of what it says is its legal right to refine uranium and a lifting of increasingly harsh economic sanctions now targeting its economically vital oil exports.
A bullet-point presentation of Tehran's negotiating position published by Iranian media indicated that it expects an easing of sanctions for "transparently" working with the U.N. agency.
"We are in a chicken and egg conundrum, where Iran's nuclear crisis cannot be resolved without the IAEA giving Iran a clean slate, but that will not happen until the crisis is resolved," Vaez said.
SIPRI's Kile said he believed Iran needed "something positive and tangible in return" for cooperating with the IAEA, perhaps in the area of sanctions.
The United States and its allies have ruled out offering any sanctions relief before Iran takes concrete action to ease their concerns. They have demanded that Iran halt higher-grade enrichment and close down the underground Fordow site, but without promising any significant easing of sanctions in return.
"There is another school of thought which is: Iran is simply stalling for time ... and this is basically a way of keeping the discussions going, forestalling military action and allowing their nuclear programme to advance," Kile said.
As Iran stonewalls the IAEA inquiry, Western diplomats say, satellite images show what appears to be a clean-up of a military site, Parchin, where U.N. inspectors believe Iran has carried out experiments relevant for developing nuclear weapons.
"Iran's ongoing activities at the Parchin site continue to raise concerns about efforts to destroy evidence of possible nuclear weapons-related work," a U.S. think-tank, the Institute for Science and International Security, said.
Iran has dismissed the allegations aired about Parchin, a vast military complex southeast of Tehran, as "childish" and "ridiculous", just as it rejects Western suspicions that it is seeking the capability to build nuclear bombs.
"I totally refute such accusations ... nobody can clean any nuclear contamination," Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told Reuters when asked about the clean-up allegations.
But Iran's refusal to curb nuclear work which can have both civilian and military purposes and its lack of openness with U.N. inspectors have drawn four rounds of U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions since 2006 and separate Western measures.
The West stepped up the pressure after an IAEA report last year that revealed a trove of intelligence pointing to research activities in Iran of use in developing the technologies needed to assemble nuclear weapons, should it decide to do so.
The U.N. agency wants Iran to address questions raised by the report, such as the past alleged experiments at Parchin, and began a determined effort this year to secure Tehran's cooperation - including three visits to Tehran since January.
But when the IAEA last month hoped to finalise an accord on how to conduct the probe, Iran instead proposed amendments that would have restricted the investigation, diplomats said.
"It is back to square one," one Western envoy said.
Iran has taken the IAEA "for a ride," an ambassador said, referring to a high-profile and ultimately failed trip by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano to Tehran in May, after which he voiced optimism about signing a deal with the country soon.
Iran's insistence that the IAEA not reopen lines of inquiry once they have been concluded was an important sticking point, diplomats said. Iran also wants access to intelligence documents forming the basis for the agency's investigation.
IAEA officials "went through such a disappointing and frustrating process last time that they would be loath to repeat that", another diplomat said about the prospects for more talks.
But Iran insists there will be more meetings with the IAEA.
Salehi said the drive to find an agreement was on track: "It may have stalled a little bit but it will speed up."
Available at: http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/07/15/nuclear-iran-iaea-idINDEE86E04220120715?feedType=RSS&feedName=globalCoverage2
China has reportedly demanded that North Korea pledge not to carry out a third nuclear test as a precondition to accepting the fledgling leader Kim Jong-un’s visit to Beijing.
Citing multiple sources, Japan’s daily Tokyo Shimbun reported Sunday that Beijing made the request when Kim Yong-il, the international affairs secretary of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, visited China from April 20-24.
While expressing opposition to the demand, Pyongyang tried to reach a compromise with its biggest patron and ally, saying that it would inform Beijing of its nuclear test plan far in advance, the daily said. The North took China by surprise as it gave short notice when it conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
After the North failed to launch its long-range rocket in April, speculation grew that it would carry out a third nuclear test to save face and show off its military strength to the international community.
China has long called on the North to refrain from provocative behavior as world leaders have called on Beijing to use its leverage to influence the reclusive state.
Last Thursday, the North’s Foreign Minister Park Ui-chun repeated Pyongyang’s stance that it would continue its nuclear and missile programs, stressing that his country has the sovereign right to do so.
He made the comment while attending the annual ASEAN Regional Forum in Cambodia, which was hosted by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
A Seoul government official said that he was not informed of any deal between Pyongyang and Beijing, and that making such a deal is “not understandable.”
“Of course, China may expect that North Korea would stop additional provocations including the nuclear test, should he visit China. That is diplomatic common sense,” the official told media, declining to be named.
“(In my personal view), how Kim Jong-un can hold a summit right away when he did not ever meet any high-level Beijing officials? Another factor that could affect Kim’s visit to China would be the leadership handover in China slated for October.”
China had tried to reopen the multilateral aid-for-denuclearization talks involving the Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia. The North has also called for the resumption of the talks to address its international isolation and gain economic support from outside.
The mood for dialogue emerged on Feb. 29 when Pyongyang agreed with Washington to temporarily suspend its uranium enrichment at its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon and put a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests in return for 240,000 tons of “nutritional assistance.”
The mood was broken after the North fired a long range rocket, which it claimed was aimed at putting a research satellite into orbit. Experts said that the launch was to test the Taepodong-2 missile.
The longest-range North Korean missile under development is presumed to have a range of more than 6,700 km, enough to hit parts of Alaska, but still short of reaching the U.S. mainland. The missile’s tests have so far failed.
Available at: http://view.koreaherald.com/kh/view.php?ud=20120715000336&cpv=0
2. North Korea Ready to Resume Nuclear Talks: Cambodia
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North Korea told Cambodia Saturday it was ready to rejoin six-party denuclearisation talks, Phnom Penh said, without outlining any conditions to a potential return to the negotiating table.
North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-Chun met with his Cambodian counterpart in Phnom Penh and "clearly stated that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is ready to participate in the six-party talks", Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong told reporters.
"Cambodia welcomes the positive step," he said, adding that Pak "did not talk about conditions during the meeting".
Tensions are high on the Korean peninsula after the North's failed rocket launch in April, seen by the United States and its allies as an attempted ballistic missile test.
Six-party talks involving the two Koreas, China, the US, Russia and Japan have been stalled since December 2008.
The North has repeatedly expressed a willingness to return to the forum on its nuclear disarmament but without prior conditions.
Washington and South Korea say before a resumption of discussions, the North must first show it is serious about the process, notably by shutting down a uranium enrichment programme which could be reconfigured to make bombs.
The North has been developing nuclear weapons for decades.
The United States reached a deal on February 29 this year to offer North Korea badly needed food aid in return for a freeze on nuclear and missile tests, but it rescinded the plan after the rocket launch.
Under a September 2005 deal reached during six-nation negotiations, Pyongyang agreed to dismantle its nuclear programmes in return for economic and diplomatic benefits and security guarantees. The North has staged two nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009.
The meeting between the Cambodian and North Korean foreign ministers, whose countries have close ties, came after an Asian security gathering in Phnom Penh during which North Korea said it needs atomic weaponry to deter a US nuclear threat.
It also vowed never to give up its right to launch rockets as part of what it called a peaceful space programme.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ilT4bn_H5IyKoYvhvZvAiNGe2npg?docId=CNG.6a063b326029addaf0ebabb36c1a4361.201
3. North Korea Says it Needs Weaponry to Defend Against US Nuclear Threat
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Pak Ui-Chun, North Korea's foreign minister, told a crowd at the ASEAN forum that it was Washington's aim to "eliminate the political ideology and system our people have opted for".
Mr Pak said North Korea would use its "peaceful space programme" to "explore and utilise the outer space to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes".
Mr Pak justified his claims by describing a US and South Korean military live fire exercise in which a North Korean flag is said to have been used as a target. He called this a "clear demonstration of hostile intent".
These alarming announcements came on the same day that US, Japanese and South Korean officials held a meeting in which they discussed the state of relations with North Korea and China.
Following the statements from Mr Pak, the three nations warned that "any provocation by North Korea will be met with a resolute and coordinated response from the international community".
US officials have also voiced a deep concern for the humanitarian and human rights situation in North Korea but have yet to respond to Mr Pak's calls for the 230,000 tonnes of food aid agreed in the signing of the defunct deal in February to go ahead despite the deal having been scrapped.
On February 29th officials from North Korean signed a deal with the Obama administration in which the North Korean government agreed to halt their uranium enrichment programme as well as agreeing put an end to their nuclear and missile testing in return for the food aid.
The deal – which looked like a step in the right direction for relations between the two countries – was quickly shattered in April when it became clear that a missile had been tested in North Korea.
Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/9395729/North-Korea-says-it-needs-weaponry-to-defend-against-US-nuclear-threat.html
1. Nuclear Power Plant Safety Promises Sit on Shaky Ground
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Earthquake prediction is fraught with uncertainty. Ever since the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake that crippled the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, researchers have underscored the difficulties in predicting temblors, saying there's no telling just how big an earthquake will be and maintaining that science has its limits.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda gave the go-ahead for the resumption of operations at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear plant, but both the government and power companies lack regard for this factor of uncertainty in quake prediction. They should admit that situations beyond their expectations can occur, and pour effort into devising disaster prevention measures for a major accident, such as creating evacuation plans.
Before 3.11, the government's Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion had predicted a magnitude-7.5 earthquake in the area where the Great East Japan Earthquake struck. But the devastating quake had a magnitude of 9.0 -- 180 times more powerful than this. University of Tokyo professor Robert Geller compares this to predicting light rain but getting hit by a massive typhoon.
Kazuki Koketsu, a professor in the Earthquake Research Institute at the University of Tokyo, commented that the disaster highlighted the "limits of science" in predicting major earthquakes. He pointed out the miscalculated intensity in a publication last year, and stepped down as chief examiner of a government panel discussing quake-resistance measures at nuclear power plants.
After the massive earthquake, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) started focusing more on the prospect of several faults moving in unison to trigger a huge earthquake. But Hiroyuki Fujiwara of the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention says this development alone is insufficient.
"There are many elements that influence the scale of an earthquake besides joint (fault) movement, and each of them is variable," he says. "A change of just one element can double the scale of an earthquake. There has been an unspoken agreement (among specialists) to take a hard look at just one element without subjecting the second one onwards to the same stringent tests. But presumptions made for the sake of convenience won't cut it. There are faults we don't yet know about. If we don't discuss the uncertainties, we could again overlook something."
Since September last year, Fujiwara has presented such views at hearings held by NISA, but the government's response has been lackluster.
"It leaves you feeling empty," he says.
In a collection of essays released online by the Seismological Society of Japan in May, Tohoku University professor Toru Matsuzawa points out: "There is a great danger of making mistakes when predicting types of earthquakes we have not experienced."
Uncertainties also surround tsunami predictions. Kansai University professor Yoshiaki Kawata made calculations on a theoretical tsunami hitting the lower reaches of the Yodogawa River in Osaka as a result of the next Nankai Earthquake, which seismologists expect to be around magnitude-8.4, and published the results in the March issue of Iwanami Shoten's journal "Kagaku" (Science). Altering seven factors such as the angle at which faults could move, he calculated 20,000 scenarios, and found that in 20 of them, the height of the tsunami would top eight meters. In one case, the tsunami would reach a height of 10 meters. Previously, the largest predicted wave had been 2.5 meters high.
"Each factor is governed by coincidence. Though the rate is low, large figures are conceivable. The height of levees and the like should be decided through public consensus. Measures to reduce the extent of damage when a tsunami breaks the banks of a levee are also vital," Kawata says.
Masaru Kobayashi, head of NISA's Seismic Safety Office, comments, "Views on the uncertainties associated with inland earthquakes were presented at a hearing at the end of May and are being discussed, but the timing of discussion on ocean trench earthquakes has still not been decided."
Delays have also been seen in preparations for future major disasters. Haruki Madarame, chairman of Japan's Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC), told a Diet committee investigating the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant in February, "The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and other bodies are telling us to think about disaster prevention (in the event of a major accident). Our country had stopped doing that."
In March the NSC indicated that in the event of another major nuclear power plant disaster, immediate evacuation would apply to area within "about 5 kilometers of the nuclear plant," while areas within "about 30 kilometers" of the plant would be evacuated in stages. But the exact demarcations for each plant remain unclear. My home is about 7 kilometers away from the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, but it's unclear whether the area I'm in would be subject to "immediate" or "gradual" evacuation.
Reviews of offsite centers serving as bases for government officials in the event of a nuclear accident have also faced delays. It's feared that these centers could be rendered useless in the event of another major accident because they are too close to the plants.
Against this backdrop, electric power companies have been reluctant to make preparations. In October last year, Kansai Electric Power Co. submitted the results of its "stress test," or safety evaluation, of the No. 3 reactor at its Oi nuclear plant. The first item in the evaluation is how many hours it would take for the plant's nuclear fuel to be damaged in the event of a total blackout. The power company concluded it would take "16 days" -- on the grounds that earthquakes and tsunamis were not part of its considerations. But after NISA pointed out that it was only natural to take earthquake and tsunami into consideration, the utility revised the time down to "one week." With no reinforcements, the time it would take for fuel to be damaged would drop further to just "a few days."
Other power companies submitting the results of stress tests to NISA are also eliminating earthquakes and tsunamis from their calculation on the time it would take for fuel to be damaged. But the whole reason the government imposed stress tests on nuclear power plants in the first place was because of the Fukushima nuclear crisis -- an event triggered by an earthquake disaster. The current stance of power companies casts significant doubt on whether they are seriously considering a major accident.
"They talk about the maximum possible scale of an earthquake, but if we knew that, we would have no difficulties," points out Kenji Satake of the University of Tokyo's Earthquake Research Institute.
If officials admitted the uncertainties in earthquake prediction, then surely they could no longer declare that any countermeasures are "perfect." The government and electric power companies must face this hard reality and work out the level of disaster countermeasures needed to win public understanding. ("As I see it" by Shogo Takagi, Kashiwazaki Bureau)
Available at: http://mainichi.jp/english/english/perspectives/news/20120715p2a00m0na007000c.html
2. KEPCO Announces Japan’s Second Reactor to Restart on July 18
The Japan Daily Press
(for personal use only)
Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO), the utility company responsible for managing the nuclear power plant in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, has stated that it will be restarting its second reactor since the Fukushima disaster on July 18th. The first was activated at the beginning of this month, after Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda gave his approval in mid-June. All 50 of Japan’s nuclear reactors went into suspension as a result of the nuclear crisis last march, with the last one going offline on May 5th of this year.
Amid heavy public protest, Japan’s central government has pushed ahead with its decision to return the country to the use of nuclear power. The power plant in Japan’s western Fukui Prefecture was chosen because it supplies the heavily populated Kansai region, which includes Osaka, the country’s second largest city. It was believed that without the use of nuclear power, the region would suffer from electricity shortages as high as 15% over the demanding summer months.
The second Oi reactor will be reactivated on the night of the 18th, with electricity starting to be generated on the 21st. Full-capacity operation is then expected to be reached on July 25th. KEPCO feels confident that this will greatly reduce any power supply shortages, however the utility, along with local Kansai governments, are still asking residents and business to try to reduce their electricity usage.
Available at: http://japandailypress.com/kepco-announces-japans-second-reactor-to-restart-on-july-18-126488
Abu Dhabi's environment agency has approved plans for the United Arab Emirates' first nuclear power plant, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) said on Sunday, adding that it is still awaiting a construction license.
The no objection certificate from the environmental regulator is one of several approvals needed for construction to begin on the two reactors at the Barakah nuclear power plant.
"Nuclear energy is one of the ways in which Abu Dhabi is demonstrating its commitment to the environment, as nuclear energy plants emit almost zero carbon emissions during operations," ENEC chief executive officer Mohamed Al Hammadi said.
"With four nuclear energy plants delivering electricity to the grid by 2020, we will be delivering 5,600 megawatts of low carbon electricity to the national grid," he said, adding the plants should avoid emitting about 12 million tonnes of carbon each year.
The UAE, one of the world's highest per capita emitters of the climate-warming gas, in December 2009 awarded a South Korean consortium led by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) a contract to build four nuclear reactors to meet rapidly rising demand for electricity.
Last year's Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, caused by a huge earthquake and tsunami, has prompted some countries to reconsider their atomic ambitions.
The UAE wants to reduce its dependence on imported natural gas but after applying for permission in December 2010, ENEC still does not have a construction licence from the Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation (FANR).
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/15/us-uae-nuclear-environment-idUSBRE86E08F20120715
1. Attrition Found in 15,000 Spots in Japan-Made Tubes at U.S. Reactors
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The number of incidents of abnormal attrition found in Japanese-made steam generator tubes in two reactors at the San Onofre nuclear power plant in southern California has reached around 15,000, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said in a report Thursday.
The attrition, apparently caused by wear or vibration, was found in about 3,400 out of around 39,000 tubes in four generators produced by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and installed at unit 2 and 3 reactors of the plant operated by Southern California Edison Corp.
Some of the tubes are worn in more than one spot, the commission said.
"Mechanical wear was observed at various locations along the tube lengths, similar to what has been observed in comparable steam generators at other plants," the report says.
"The wear observed at the retainer bars (bars that are unique to steam generators fabricated by Mitsubishi) was not expected. The severity of one of the wear indications at a retainer bar was significant enough...to warrant in-situ pressure testing. This pressure test confirmed the structural integrity of this tube."
Earlier, nuclear regulators indicated that design flaws might have resulted in the abnormal attrition. Antinuclear groups are intensifying their call for the continued shutdown of the plant, which came to a halt following a radiation leak in January.
Available at: http://www.power-eng.com/news/2012/07/14/attrition-found-in-15-000-spots-in-japan-made-tubes-at-u-s-reactors.html
2. U.S. Indicts Iranian, Chinese for Nuclear Export Plot
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A federal grand jury has indicted two men, one from Iran and the other from China, on charges of conspiring to send materials from the United States to Iran for the purpose of enriching uranium, the U.S. Justice Department said on Friday.
Using a Chinese company as a go-between to avoid trade sanctions, the men tried for three years to obtain U.S. materials, such as highength steel, that could be used in an Iranian nuclear program, the department said.
Iranian citizen Parviz Khaki was arrested in May in the Philippines, while the other man, Zongcheng Yi of China, remains at large, the department said.
The two men succeeded in illegally exporting lathes and nickel-alloy wire from the United States to China and then to Iran around June 2009, according to the indictment filed by the Justice Department.
It said the men purchased the materials from U.S. companies without divulging the ultimate destination. They also did not have export licenses required for shipments to countries such as Iran that are under U.S. sanctions.
Other attempts to obtain materials failed, the indictment says.
Khaki allegedly began talking with an undercover U.S. federal agent in 2009, including in e-mails in which he tried to acquire radioactive source material. The e-mails continued into 2011, the indictment says.
Lisa Monaco, assistant attorney general for national security, said the indictment "sheds light on the reach of Iran's illegal procurement networks and the importance of keeping U.S. nuclear-related materials from being exploited by Iran."
"Iranian procurement networks continue to target U.S. and Western companies for technology acquisition by using fraud, front companies and middlemen in nations around the globe," Monaco said in a statement.
The 24-page indictment was handed up by a grand jury in Washington on Thursday and released on Friday. It does not name the U.S. companies that Khaki and Yi allegedly approached.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/13/us-iran-uranium-indictments-idUSBRE86C0ZA20120713
An international nuclear security expert has warned that South Africa's nuclear facilities are a "cause for concern".
His warning comes in the wake of a third security breach at the Pelindaba nuclear research centre - a top national security keypoint - in seven years.
The centre, west of Pretoria, was used by the apartheid government to research and build nuclear weapons in the 1970s. It is now used to manufacture medical isotopes.
The other nuclear facility, Koeberg power station, is in Western Cape.
According to the international Nuclear Threat Initiative, Pelindaba contains 600kg of weapons-grade uranium, which is sufficient to build 20 nuclear bombs.
The government nuclear agency and regulator have been reluctant to speak about the security breach for over three months now.
However, Micah Zenko, a nuclear security researcher at the Council on Foreign Relations, in the US, has warned the reasons for the breach were irrelevant.
"Even if it is common criminality, there should be concern, especially as the facility has [weapons-grade uranium]. Though the level of sophistication of breaking into a facility by common criminals, and the breaking into a vault and removing [the uranium] by sophisticated criminals, is very different, it is incredibly problematic. The international community should be very concerned," he said.
The latest breach is one of four to have occurred at two of South Africa's nuclear facilities in the past decade, according to the National Nuclear Regulator.
But the regulator has downplayed the latest incident, insisting that it was not overly concerned.
According to a Business Day report this week, the breach occurred on April 28. The Nuclear Energy Corporation of SA reported it to the "relevant" government department nine days later and to the regulator on June 1.
The breach was five years after Pelindaba's emergency control manager, Anton Gerber, was shot after spotting four men stealing a laptop computer in the control room.
The gunmen, described by Nuclear Energy Corporation CEO Rob Adams as "technically sophisticated common criminals", were able to bypass Pelindaba's 10000V perimeter fence and move around the premises undetected for 45 minutes before shooting Gerber and escaping. No one was arrested.
In 2005, another laptop was stolen but, again, no one was arrested.
Police spokesman Captain Dennis Adriao said the break-in and theft took place at a students' residence next to the centre .
He declined to comment on the 2007 incident, saying it was "in the interest of national security as the facility is a national key point".
The Nuclear Energy Corporation, which operates Pelindaba, and the regulator refused to explain the threat assessments of South Africa's nuclear facilities.
Neither would reveal the security measures put in place, the nature of the latest breach, the outcome of the 2007 investigation or whether highly enriched uranium was being stored at Pelindaba.
But Zenko said the incidents at Pelindaba should be investigated.
He said it was troubling that the regulator declined to characterise break-ins and say what it was doing to prevent future breaches.
Zenko said that though regulators tended to minimise problems at nuclear facilities, it was imperative that parliament and the Presidencyinvestigate.
"Even though the [weapons-grade uranium] at Pelindaba is 'locked down', the number of breaches suggests vigilance is needed," he said.
Regulator spokesman Gino Moonsamy said South Africa's nuclear facilities had a "high level of security". He added there had been a "few security incidents" at Koeberg and Pelindaba.
"These have not exceeded four and are not severe. Due to adequate physical protection, no nuclear or radioactive material was accessed, lost or stolen," he said.
Asked about the outcome of the 2007 Pelindaba security breach investigation, Moonsamy declined to comment "due to the sensitive nature of nuclear security".
He said the regulator was not "unduly concerned" about safeguarding nuclear sites.
Van Zyl de Villiers, the Nuclear Energy Corporation's strategy and performance group executive, said the latest incident was an unsuccessful security breach.
"No security systems were disarmed, no shootings occurred and no arrests were made."
Asked why the investigation started so late, De Villiers said: "The issue of deadlines is subject to mutual engagements between the regulator and the operator. The regulator is satisfied with a comprehensive response."
He said a report had been submitted to the regulator with recommendations on preventing similar incidents.
He refused to reveal what happened in the latest incident or whether there were new measures to stop breaches, saying that would be equivalent to revealing the corporation's security plans.
Available at: http://www.timeslive.co.za/thetimes/2012/07/12/security-breached
4. Honeywell Assessing Upgrades To Metropolis Nuclear Conversion Plant
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Diversified manufacturer Honeywell International Inc. (HON: News ) said Wednesday it is evaluating upgrades to its Metropolis Works nuclear conversion facility.
This follows a recent U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC inspection that focused on preparedness for extreme natural disasters.
According to Honeywell, the NRC inspection was part of a comprehensive assessment it is conducting of all U.S. nuclear-related facilities in the wake of last year's Fukushima disaster in Japan.
Prior to Fukushima, Honeywell initiated an Integrated Safety Analysis as part of its licensing process, and identified upgrades to the facility to withstand major seismic events.
In May, the Metropolis Works facility received a clean bill of health when the NRC confirmed as part of its License and Performance Review that the plant was operating safely.
After a meeting with the NRC today, Honeywell has committed not to restart production at the facility, which has been undergoing annual maintenance since May, until reaching agreement with the Commission on the necessary upgrade projects and timing.
The timeline for the restarting of operations and the nature and timing of the upgrades has not been determined, and will be addressed in the discussions with the Commission, the company said.
Honeywell further said it does not anticipate that any suspension of operations or the cost of plant upgrades will have a negative impact on its previously issued earnings per share guidance range for 2012.
Completion of upgrades to the Metropolis Works facility could take approximately 12 to 15 months. The full-time workforce could be reduced by about 50 percent during this time period. The plant normally employs 332 employees when in full production. Hourly and salaried employees would both be affected. The plant would also reduce the number of contractors.
First opened in 1958, Honeywell Metropolis Works provides services to convert uranium oxide to uranium hexafluoride. This product is then further processed by other service providers into fuel for civilian nuclear powerplants.
Available at: http://www.rttnews.com/1921115/honeywell-assessing-upgrades-to-metropolis-nuclear-conversion-plant.aspx?type=qf&utm_source=google&utm_campaign=sitemap
A series of title swaps has seen the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) take ownership of four tonnes of German plutonium. The commercial deal will enhance international nuclear security as well as earning revenue, the UK government says.
The four tonnes of plutonium is in storage in the UK and came from used fuel from power reactors sent to the UK for reprocessing by German utilities. Under the deal, an equivalent amount of plutonium will be made available in France for manufacture into mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for use in German nuclear power reactors. In this way, the need for the UK to physically transport plutonium to France is removed, with clear benefits from a nuclear security point of view: separated plutonium offers a nuclear proliferation risk, and its transport is a sensitive issue and with significant security obligations.
The UK has long provided reprocessing services to overseas nuclear utilities. The separated materials remain the property of the overseas owner, and high-level wastes plus the separated plutonium and uranium are formally required to be returned to that country. Plutonium would normally be converted into mixed oxide (MOX) reactor fuel before being returned.
Some of the German plutonium in storage in the UK had been subject to contracts for manufacture into MOX fuel in the Sellafield MOX Plant (SMP), which closed last year. Most of the plant's MOX supply contracts were with Japanese utilities, and the NDA decided to close the plant after the Fukushima accident made the future of those contracts increasingly uncertain.
The arrangements have been approved by the Euratom Supply Agency and are the subject of commercial agreements between the NDA, the German utilities and Areva. In December 2011, the UK government noted the UK would be prepared to take ownership of overseas plutonium stored in the UK, subject to compliance with inter-governmental agreements and acceptable commercial arrangements. Closure of the SMP notwithstanding, the UK's preferred policy for plutonium disposal is to convert it to MOX fuel for use in nuclear reactors.
The plutonium to which the NDA has now taken title will remain in the UK and will be dealt with as part of the UK's own inventory of stored separated plutonium, most of which is held at Sellafield. That inventory, including the material covered by the latest agreement, stands at 118 tonnes. The "financial benefits" from the title transfer will exceed the long-term costs of the material's safe storage and management, according to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change.
According to a statement by UK energy minister Charles Hendry, the government agreed to the take ownership of the plutonium because the agreement offered a "commercially advantageous arrangement" while enabling the German utilities to receive MOX fuel and removing the need to transport separated plutonium. He also noted that the deal would enable MOX fuel to be provided to German utilities ahead of the country's program to shut its nuclear reactors. Policy changes introduced in Germany in reaction to the Fukushima accident of March 2011 have placed end dates on German reactor operations and therefore on their capacity to use MOX fuel.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/WR-German_plutonium_to_stay_in_UK-1307127.html
2. Areva Signs Nuclear Power Fuel Contracts in Germany
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Areva on July 12 said it has signed three contracts with the German utilities RWE and EnBW for the supply of fuel assemblies.
The first two contracts with RWE cover the manufacture and the supply of ATRIUM and HTP 3 fuel assemblies for the two-unit, 2,688 MW Gundremmingen and the single-unit, 1,400 MW Emsland nuclear power plants, until late 2015.
Areva has also signed a contract with EnBW for the manufacture and the delivery of HTP fuel assemblies for the 1,392 MW Unit 2 of the Philippsburg nuclear power plant, between 2014 and 2017. The fuel assemblies will be manufactured by Areva at its Lingen site in Germany.
Available at: http://www.power-eng.com/articles/2012/07/areva-signs-nuclear-power-fuel-contracts-in-germany.html
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