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Nuclear News - 7/2/2012
PGS Nuclear News, July 2, 2012
Compiled By: Pia Ulrich

A.  Iran
    1. U.S. Praises EU Embargo of Iranian Oil, Presses Tehran, Reuters (7/1/2012)
    2. Iran Says Nations Not Serious About Nuclear Talks, Michael Astor, Associated Press (6/30/2012)
B.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Japan Restarts First Reactor Since Fukushima Crisis, Reuters (7/1/2012)
    2. Japan Presents 3 Energy Policy Options for Debate, Risa Maeda, Reuters (6/29/2012)
    3. Japanese Protesters Fill Streets as Nuclear Re-Start Looms, Aaron Sheldrick, Reuters (6/29/2012)
    4. Nigeria's Nuclear Power Is for Peaceful Purposes - Jonathan, Ben Agande, All Africa (6/28/2012)
C.  Nuclear Safety & Security
    1. IAEA sees Belarus Progress on Nuclear Plant Plan, Reuters (7/2/2012)
    2. Nuclear Watchdog Proposes Rapid Reaction Force to Prevent French Fukushima, RFI (7/1/2012)
    3. Sri Lanka to Establish Early Warning System to Defect Nuclear Disasters, Xinhua News Agency (6/29/2012)
    4. Leak at Rajasthan N-Plant, Two Exposed, Kalyan Ray, Deccan Herald  (6/29/2012)
    5. China to Lead Talks on Nuclear Definitions , Arshad Mohammed, Reuters (6/29/2012)
    6. Seismologists Warn Japan Against Nuclear Restart, Reuters (6/28/2012)
D.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Czech Nuclear Tender Seen Pivotal After Fukushima, Jan Lopatka, Reuters (6/29/2012)
    2. India, South Korea to Enhance Nuclear Ties, IANS (6/29/2012)
E.  Links of Interest
    1. Report Sheds Light on North Korean Nuclear Program, Voice of America (7/2/2012)
    2. US Senate Confirms Top Nuclear Power Regulator, Reuters (6/29/2012)
    3. Nuclear Security Pacts Adoption Bill Wins House Approval, Global Security Newswire (6/29/2012)

A.  Iran

U.S. Praises EU Embargo of Iranian Oil, Presses Tehran
(for personal use only)

The White House praised the European Union for prohibiting Iranian crude oil imports into the 27-nation-bloc on Sunday and said Tehran had an opportunity in talks this week to make progress on international concerns about its nuclear program.

"The United States welcomes the European Union's prohibition of all Iranian crude oil imports and other sanctions on Iran's oil industry, which go into full effect today," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.

"This collective decision of the 27 countries of the European Union represents a substantial additional commitment on the part of our European allies and partners to seek a peaceful resolution that addresses the international community's concerns about Iran's nuclear program."

Carney said the EU move was an "essential part" of diplomatic efforts in dealing with Iran.
"Iran has an opportunity to pursue substantive negotiations, beginning with expert level talks this week in Istanbul, and must take concrete steps toward a comprehensive resolution of the international community's concerns with Iran's nuclear activities," he said.

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Iran Says Nations Not Serious About Nuclear Talks
Michael Astor
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

Iran's ambassador to the U.N. said Friday some of the parties to talks on his country's nuclear program are not serious enough to find a solution to the impasse.

Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee said recent sanctions against Iran by the U.S. and some European countries indicate that they are not willing to engage in meaningful dialogue for political reasons, which could lead to another standoff in talks.

"It is clear to us that some members of the 5+1 for whatever reasons, obviously political reasons are not forthcoming and serious enough for finding a solution. If the talks do not proceed as it should be, we are going to have another standoff in the talks," he said referring to the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany.

"Therefore, we can say we are at a critical point in our talks," he said.

The West suspects that Iran intends to produce nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear development program is peaceful.

The United States recently required international banks to stop processing petroleum transaction with Tehran or face U.S. penalties — although the U.S. did grant a waiver to several countries on this point.

European penalties coming into effect next week will further raise the economic pressure.
Iran's oil exports are down about 40 percent, while its currency has fallen sharply as a result of sanctions.

Saying the talks were "at a critical point," Khazaee denied the sanctions would have much impact on Iran and said that the West merely was isolating an important player in the region.

"Iranians have learned how to deal with pressure in the past, in our history, everybody knows that the Iranian nation do(es) not accept any pressure or sanctions. Sanctions may be intended to harm the Iranian nation but they will not bring Iranian to their knees to accept illegitimate, I should say, expectations from the other side," Khazaee said.

He said the main sticking point was the issue of Iran's right to enrich uranium, which he
said was permitted under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

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B.  Nuclear Energy

Japan Restarts First Reactor Since Fukushima Crisis
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Kansai Electric Power Co on Sunday restarted the 1,180-megawatt No. 3 unit at its Ohi atomic plant, the utility said, Japan's first nuclear reactor to come back online since the Fukushima crisis, despite public safety concerns.

The government on June 16 approved the restart of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Ohi plant to avert a potential summer power crunch, sparking street protests in cities around Japan.

The No.4 unit will resume operations later this month.

Opinion polls have shown around 70 percent of Japanese voters want the country to ditch nuclear power in the long term.

On Sunday, about 100 protesters with more than a dozen vehicles blocked a road near the Ohi plant, part of a group of about 650 who had rallied against the restarts, although a Kansai Electric spokesman said the protest did not affect the restart.

Kyodo news agency reported that a vice cabinet minister sent to watch the operation was forced to arrive by boat.

In Tokyo, some 7,000 protesters marched through downtown streets chanting their opposition and calling for an end to the use of nuclear power, public broadcaster NHK reported.

All the country's nuclear reactors were shut down for maintenance and then underwent safety checks to see if they could withstand an earthquake and tsunami similar to the disaster that overwhelmed Tokyo Electric Power's Fukushima Daiichi plant last year, causing the worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.

Before the Fukushima crisis, Japan relied on nuclear power for about 30 percent of its electricity and was the world's third-biggest user after the United States and France.

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Japan Presents 3 Energy Policy Options for Debate
Risa Maeda
(for personal use only)

The Japanese government presented three options for a new energy policy on Friday and opened them to public debate before selecting one in August that will shift the world's third-biggest economy away from nuclear power toward renewable energy.

Last year's Fukushima crisis prompted Japan to scrap a 2010 plan to raise the share of nuclear energy to over 50 percent of its power generation by 2030. With public confidence in the safety of nuclear power generation still in tatters, the nuclear component ranges from zero to 20-25 percent in the three options, down from about 30 percent before the disaster.

The 2010 plan aimed to ensure energy security, lower energy costs and achieving an ambitious greenhouse gas target Tokyo pledged in global climate talks. An additional goal now is to reduce its reliance on nuclear power in the medium to long term, while bolstering safety.

"All of the three options are compliant to the goals we now have - lower reliance on nuclear power, lower reliance on fossil fuels and lower carbon dioxide emissions," said Motohisa Furukawa, national strategy minister. "We're presenting these scenarios as a springboard for the discussion," he said at a news conference after a group of cabinet ministers selected the options based on recommendations by advisory panels of experts.

Furukawa did not clarify how each option could affect Japan's stance on nuclear waste - whether to recycle it and where and how to store it - an issue that has become more sensitive since the Fukushima disaster. "The back-end nuclear fuel cycle policy will be decided in August, when the energy mix option is selected," Furukawa said.

The public will be able to comment on the three options in July via email, letters or hearings held at 11 sites across the country. The government will also hold an opinion poll in early August.

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Japanese Protesters Fill Streets as Nuclear Re-Start Looms
Aaron Sheldrick
(for personal use only)

More than 15,000 anti-nuclear protesters blocked streets outside the Japanese prime minister's office on Friday, beating drums and chanting slogans against the restart of reactors nearly 16 months after the world's worst nuclear disaster in 25 years.

The crowd blocked off a six-lane road and adjoining streets leading to the Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's official residence in central Tokyo. Police parked five armoured riot control buses in front of the entrance to prevent protesters entering the compound.

Several helicopters circled overhead as the sun went down on a clear, early summer evening.

The protest capped weeks of sporadic demonstrations and was the biggest gathering in central Tokyo since Noda said this month the restart of two reactors in western Japan was necessary to avoid damaging the economy.

All of the country's 50 nuclear reactors were taken off line after an earthquake and tsunami hit the Fukushima nuclear power plant on the northeast coast on March 11 last year, triggering the world's worst atomic accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

Nuclear power had previously supplied nearly 30 percent of Japan's electricity.
The first of the two Ohi reactors operated by Kansai Electric Power Co is scheduled to be reactivated on Sunday.

The crowd, including office workers, mothers with children and elderly people, chanted "oppose restarts" and "exit nuclear power".

The decision to restart the reactors as summer power-cuts loom was seen as a victory for Japan's still-powerful nuclear industry.

But Japanese people have grown wary of nuclear power since Fukushima, with surveys showing that about 70 percent want to abandon atomic energy even if not immediately.

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Nigeria's Nuclear Power Is for Peaceful Purposes - Jonathan
Ben Agande
All Africa
(for personal use only)

Against the background of international opposition to the acquisition of Nuclear energy by Iran, President Goodluck Jonathan Thursday assured the International community that

Nigeria's pursuit of nuclear technology was only for peaceful purposes.

While commissioning the Researchers' Hostel and Conference Centre of the National Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC), in Abuja, president Jonathan said "the acquisition and use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes is an important element in any nation's path towards economic, scientific and technological development.

The president who was represented by Vice President Namadi Sambo noted that "Apart from the generation of electricity, nuclear energy finds ready peaceful applications in agriculture and food security, human health and medicine, water resources management, industry and in basic and applied scientific research.

"The decision to introduce nuclear power into our energy mix was made after lengthy and meticulous process, which involved the use of analytical and planning tools with the cooperation and assistance of the International Atomic energy Agency (IAEA)."

He charged NAEC to evolve mechanisms that will ensure its safe use when eventually pointing out that NAEC must also develop and implement appropriate mechanisms to assess, national, regional and international nuclear emergency preparedness and response capabilities."

On the project that was commissioned, President Jonathan asserted that it was a critical national resource centre in the area of nuclear power educational infrastructure development, adding that "it is also an affirmation of this administration's strong belief that the frontiers of socio-economic development are within the reach of any determined and committed society driven by science and technology."

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C.  Nuclear Safety & Security

IAEA sees Belarus Progress on Nuclear Plant Plan
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Belarus has made "important progress" in preparing for the planned construction of a nuclear power plant, the United Nations atomic agency said after its team of international experts visited the former Soviet republic last week.

Belarus and Russia agreed last year to press ahead with a stalled plan to build a nuclear reactor near the eastern frontier of the European Union, where there have been many calls to abandon atomic energy after Japan's Fukushima disaster.

The plant, to be built in Belarus using Russian nuclear technology, will be located 50km (31 miles) from the capital of EU member Lithuania. Russia has promised to lend Belarus $10 billion to finance the project.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Vienna-based U.N. body, gave an upbeat assessment of preparations so far.

"Belarus has made important progress in its development of nuclear infrastructure for a nuclear power programme," the IAEA said on its website at the weekend, referring to its Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review mission to the country.

The infrastructure needed for introducing nuclear power covers a wide range of issues, including the legal and regulatory framework, safety and security standards, as well as the necessary human and financial resources.

J.K. Park, a senior IAEA official, said the agency's team made a series of recommendations for further action by Belarus authorities, including legislative steps.

Belarus has "strong expertise" in radiation protection and environmental monitoring, he added.

Japan's reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant triggered by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11 last year raised a question mark over the future of atomic energy.

Germany, Switzerland and Belgium decided to move away from nuclear power to increase their reliance on renewable energy.

An IAEA report in March, however, said that global use of nuclear energy could increase by as much as 100 percent by 2030 on the back of growth in Asia, even though groundbreakings for new reactors fell last year after Japan's crisis.

In a sign of how some countries are pressing ahead with nuclear plans, three U.S., French and Russian companies are expected to file bids on Monday to build two new units at the Czech Republic's Temelin plant.

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Nuclear Watchdog Proposes Rapid Reaction Force to Prevent French Fukushima
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France’s nuclear watchdog has ordered 10 billion euros’ worth of changes to be made to the country’s nuclear power stations to avoid a Fukushima-style disaster. It wants a rapid reaction force to be set up by the end of the year.

“A lot of people think that Fukushima is behind us, in fact it’s ahead of us,” declared Jean-Christophe Niel, the boss of the nuclear safety authority, ASN, when presenting nearly 1,000 recommendations aimed at preventing a similar tragedy in France.

Based on an audit carried out in January in the aftermath of the 2011 Japanese disaster, the ASN has ordered work on France’s 32 nuclear reactors that is likely to last several years.

Its most urgent proposal is to set up a rapid reaction force capable of sending specialised teams and equipment to the scene of an accident anywhere in the country within 24 hours. That should be up and running by the end of this year;

In the longer term, a bunker housing a command post will be built in all France’s nuclear reactors so as to keep the site running even if it is hit by earthquake or flood.

An extra emergency reserve electricity supply will also be established by the end of the year.
Nuclear operators, EDF and Areva, should be observing the new rules by 2018, the ASN says.

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China to Lead Talks on Nuclear Definitions
Arshad Mohammed
(for personal use only)

China will lead talks among the five original nuclear-armed states to define arms control terms, the group said on Friday, a first for Beijing and a step that might ultimately bring greater clarity about its nuclear arsenal and strategy.

A working group of the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China is expected to launch talks this summer on a glossary of nuclear terms, an arcane but necessary step for wider talks on disarmament.

Of the five original nuclear-weapons states within the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, China is the most secretive about its arsenal, its stockpile of fissile material and its nuclear doctrine, analysts say.

Under the treaty, which entered into force in 1970, the five committed to pursuing disarmament while the other signatories committed not to develop or acquire nuclear weapons.

Rose Gottemoeller, the acting U.S. under secretary of state arms control and international security, said the United States and Russia have a far better grasp of each other's nuclear posture than they do of China's.

China's leadership of the so-called P5 group, described in a statement issued by the five nations on Friday at the end of a three-day conference, could signal its greater interest in cooperating on these issues.

A U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity said this was the first time China had chaired such a P5 group on nuclear issues.

"It's a very good step," Gottemoeller told Reuters. "The fact that they are shouldering the responsibilities for this working group, I think, is a good sign of their interest of developing more mutual cooperation of this kind, leading to greater predictability and greater mutual confidence."

Gottemoeller stressed the group's aim was to achieve greater openness about all five countries' programs.

"(For) over 40 years with the Soviet Union and now the Russian Federation we have been talking about important issues of nuclear doctrine, strategy and then some of the technical nitty-gritty that goes into an arms control treaty," she said.

"We really have a lot of history with the Russian Federation but certainly with China, we do not have that same depth."

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association nonprofit group, said the United States has been the most transparent about its nuclear capabilities and Britain, France, Russia and especially China "have a long way to go."

"China ... has been the least forthcoming," he said. "With transparency comes greater knowledge, greater understanding and more stability, more predictable reactions (by) others."

According to Arms Control Association estimates, the United States has about 5,000 warheads, Russia 5,500, China about 240, France fewer than 300 and Britain up to 225.
Stephen Rademaker, a former senior State Department official under President George W. Bush, said the United States may hope that the talks on definitions could be a first step toward greater clarity on China's capabilities.

"The United States for a long time has tried to initiate a comprehensive dialogue with China about nuclear matters and, unfortunately, China has resisted discussing those kinds of issues in any level of detail," he said.

"I am sure that the United States hopes that as part of this ... process, the kinds of conversations that have not ... made much progress bilaterally can finally begin," he added.

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Leak at Rajasthan N-Plant, Two Exposed
Kalyan Ray
Deccan Herald
(for personal use only)

Two contract workers of the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS) at Rawatbhatta were exposed to high level of radioactivity last week, following an accidental release of tritium vapour from a pipe. However, both are safe and resumed work within days.

When contacted by Deccan Herald, RAPS officials said the workers did not wear safety masks, violating the standard operating procedures. The leak was, however, contained within the reactor building.

This is the first instance of radioactive leak in 2012 reported to the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.

The incident occurred on June 23 when RAPS-5 unit was shut down after two years, to carry out a safety modification.

Tritium vapours were released from one of the pipes exposing the two workers to high radioactive dose, much above the annual average level. “Though there were 38 people in the reactor building, in two cases radioactivity was higher than permissible limit. All are safe. There was no abnormal release of radioactivity to the environment,” said a Nuclear Power Corporation of India spokesperson.

Tritium is a component of heavy water used in nuclear power plants as coolant and moderator. Officials explained that for contract workers at RAPS, the annual upper limit of radioactivity dose is 15 milli Sievert whereas the duo received 22 milli Sievert.

The officials clarified that tritium does not stay in the body but quickly degrades and flushes out naturally within a week.

Ironically, one of the purposes of shutting down the RAPS-5 unit was to install a new pipeline for bringing in additional water in case of an emergency. It is one of the safety upgrades carried out in nuclear power plants following the Fukushima disaster. The shutting down was also part of a biennial maintenance drill.

“While other four units at RAPS are operating at full capacity, RAPS-5 will be synchronised on June 30 night for power production,” said a RAPS official. At present, India has 19 nuclear power plants with an installed capacity of 4,780 Mwe as the 20th unit, RAPS-1, is not operational. Two units of 700 Mwe each are under construction at RAPS and are scheduled to be completed by 2016.

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Sri Lanka to Establish Early Warning System to Defect Nuclear Disasters
Xinhua News Agency
(for personal use only)

Sri Lanka's Atomic Energy Authority is to set up nuclear disaster early warning system in the naval bases around the island in the wake of increasing nuclear power stations in the region, a spokesman said on Friday.

Sri Lanka's Atomic Energy Authority (AEA) jointly works with the Disaster Management Center and the navy on taking measures to establish a warning system to alert possible radiation leak, navy spokesman Kosala Warnakulasuriya said.

Following the request of AEA, International Atomic Energy Authority decided to help Sri Lanka set up seven early warning detectors and provide equipment worth 72,000 Euros, said Warnakulasuriya.

"With nuclear leakage at Fukushima in Japan last year the region felt the need for nuclear disaster warning systems. Unfortunately at that time we did not have the facility for radiation detection," Power and Energy Minister Champika Ranawaka said.

The detectors are to be set up in naval bases in capital 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.
The urge for an early warning system was also felt following Kudankulam nuclear power station in south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, 220 km away from the western coast of Sri Lanka.

In April Sri Lanka expressed concern over the nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu causing India to give assurance on the safety standards and on legal mechanism to deal with the trans-boundary liability issues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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D.  Nuclear Cooperation

Czech Nuclear Tender Seen Pivotal After Fukushima
Jan Lopatka
(for personal use only)

As several European countries retreat from nuclear power, the Czech Republic is taking a big step forward in a tender to build new reactors which some in the industry see as a pivotal test of the technology's future on the continent.

On Monday three U.S., French and Russian firms will file bids to build two units at the Temelin plant, testing the waters in central and western Europe after the economic crisis and a disaster at Japan's Fukushima plant which stirred safety fears.

The plan, managed by national electricity company CEZ , also has reverberations for energy security in a country that takes most of its oil and gas from Russia.

The government hopes the project will help kick-start an economy suffering from poor domestic demand amid the economic crisis, yet high costs pose a risk that the plan may be grounded.

"This is the heart of Europe so it is not only a Czech decision, it is sort of a reflection of what Europe thinks about nuclear after Fukushima," Alexey Kalinin, general director of Rosatom Overseas, told Reuters.

Temelin marks one of biggest tenders in Europe's energy sector and the biggest-ever deal in the Czech Republic, worth something over $10 billion, and possibly much more judging by a history of delays and cost overruns.

Rosatom's Atomstroyexport and Toshiba U.S. unit Westinghouse are angling to build the 2,200-3,200 megawatt plant that could serve as a reference in Europe for their new designs, MIR-1200 and AP1000.

France's Areva is already building new-generation EPR reactors in France and Finland.

"It is important that we begin the next wave of reactors in Europe as soon as possible. (Temelin) would certainly give European customers more confidence," said Westinghouse Regional Vice-President for Customer Relations and Sales Mike Kirst.

CEZ, a 70-percent state-owned company worth $19 billion, needs to replace some of its coal plants heavy on carbon emissions as they face likely closure after 2020.

"Developing nuclear energy is part of our long-term strategy," strategy director Pavel Cyrani told reporters.

The tender winner is to be picked next year, and the new units should be completed by 2025.

The global economic crisis has slashed demand for electricity and weakened the balance sheets of utilities, reducing their ability to finance expensive nuclear projects.

At the same time, a boom in U.S. shale gas extraction using a method called fracking has also helped push down conventional power prices.

German wholesale electricity prices have dropped from their 2008 peak at over 90 euros per megawatt hour for baseload power to less than 50.

The cost of permits to emit carbon dioxide has also crashed, removing some of the advantage nuclear power has over fossil fuel.

"There are great risks. Opposition from Austria, Germany ...and no way to predict prices of baseload power," said Jiri Gavor, partner at energy consultancy ENA.

This has led CEZ to enter discussions with the government on guarantees for minimum prices for power from the new plant, possibly along a model discuss in the UK.

CEZ is also searching for potential financial partners for the plant.

Industry and Trade Minister Martin Kuba said in March that a "strategic decision" on a nuclear power plant had to carry other than purely commercial aspects.

Gavor put it more simply: "The chance Temelin will be built is about 50-50 with state guarantees...without them, it is about 10-90."

Plant costs are hard to predict. Areva's Finland project, a 1,600-megawatt EPR reactor, has seen large overruns and delays.

The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), an agency within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), estimated in 2010 the cost of a Czech nuclear power plant at $5,858 per kilowatt.

That would put Temelin's price tag at some $13-19 billion for two units, without financing costs.

Austria is a long-time opponent of nuclear power which shares a border with the Czechs just 50 km south of Temelin where two 1,000 megawatt reactors already run. It fiercely opposes the plan.

"No one can give us an absolute guarantee of nuclear power safety. That has been shown by Chernobyl and Fukushima. An atomic cloud does not respect borders," Environment Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich said at a Temelin hearing last week.

He said Austrian citizens, who staged a string of border blockades when the first Temelin units were built over a decade ago, have filed 23,000 comments on the plan.

Experts fear Germany may also put pressure on the Czechs after they themselves decided to give up on atomic power.

German utilities E.ON and RWE put their 6,000 megawatt Horizon nuclear project in the United Kingdom up for sale. Italy has also ended nuclear power plans.

The Czechs, however, stand by their government on nuclear power. Support has dropped after Fukushima, but in a poll last week 62 percent of Czechs were still in favour of developing nuclear energy versus just 25 percent opposed.

In fact, a number of countries in eastern Europe are still forging ahead with nuclear plans. Lithuania is planning to build a 1,300-megawatt plant. Plans in Bulgaria, Romania and Poland have faced delays.

Czech industry has been lobbying hard for the project.

"There should be a 70 percent share of local sourcing," Stanislav Kazecky, the deputy chief of the Confederation of Industry, told Reuters. "It has key importance for the power engineering industry, and also for the construction business."

Russian firms, which supplied the country's six operating reactors, although the last two with Westinghouse upgrades, may have some advantage in local sourcing, Czech analysts have said, although the other bidders dispute this.

Conversely, some see a Russian winner raising concern in a country that takes most of its gas and oil from Russia, its former Communist master that in the past has halted gas and oil flow.

Kazecky dismisses that kind of danger. "This is not like oil and gas. You can swap fuel suppliers, and store fuel for years."

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India, South Korea to Enhance Nuclear Ties
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Seeking to upgrade their bilateral ties, India and South Korea Thursday decided to step up cooperation in the areas of civil nuclear energy and space, including the launch of Korean satellites by India.

The two sides also reviewed the progress and expansion of their strategic partnership during their second foreign policy and security dialogue here.

The Indian delegation was led by Sanjay Singh, secretary (east) in the external affairs ministry, while the Korean side was led by Ahn Ho-young, first vice minister in the ministry of foreign affairs and trade.

"Enhancement of cooperation in the field of science and technology was also discussed," said the external affairs ministry.

"In this context, the two sides decided to encourage enhanced engagement in civil nuclear energy cooperation as well as space activities, including the launch of Korean satellites by India," the ministry said.

They also discussed a cluster of regional and global issues, including the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

The minister of national defence and the minister of foreign affairs of Korea were likely to visit India later this year, the ministry said.

The two countries also agreed to accelerate work on upgrading their comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA) with a view to ensuring that it reflected current realities.

Bilateral trade has surged by 70 percent to $20.5 billion in 2011 since the implementation of the CEPA two years ago.

In view of the large Korean business presence in Tamil Nadu, South Korea expressed interest in opening a new consulate general in Chennai while welcoming India's decision to open a new defence attache's Office at its embassy in Seoul before the end of the year.

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E.  Links of Interest

Report Sheds Light on North Korean Nuclear Program
Voice of America
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Nuclear Security Pacts Adoption Bill Wins House Approval
Global Security Newswire
(for personal use only)

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US Senate Confirms Top Nuclear Power Regulator
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