1. All Threats "Dwarfed" by Iran Nuclear Work - Israel PM
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that most threats to Israel's security were "dwarfed" by the prospect of Iran obtaining nuclear weaponry, which local media reports charged Tehran had stepped up its efforts to achieve.
The comments at a weekly cabinet meeting and the front-page reports in the liberal Haaretz, a frequent Netanyahu critic, and in the conservative, pro-government Israel Hayom came as Israeli debate intensified about whether to go to war against Iran - and soon - over its disputed atomic projects.
The debate seemed to defy appeals by U.S. President Barack Obama, seeking re-election in November, to allow more time for international diplomacy. Tehran says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful and has threatened wide-ranging reprisals if attacked.
In comments also broadcast live by Israeli media, Netanyahu said that "all the threats currently being directed against the Israeli home front are dwarfed by another threat, different in scope, different in substance."
"Therefore I say again, that Iran must not be permitted to obtain nuclear weapons," Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu also said Israel was "investing billions in home-front defence," and holding emergency drills, alluding to a military exercise being held this week in cities across Israel to test a text message warning system against missile strikes.
Israel's central bank has also drilled "big crisis" scenarios such as war with Iran, the bank's governor, Stanley Fischer, told an Israeli television station at the weekend.
The cabinet adopted rules on Sunday intended to streamline decision-making, such as by setting deadlines for permitting ministers to change their minds about votes, though Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser insisted these changes were not expressly meant for "any particular type of decision."
Citing an unnamed senior Israeli official, the Haaretz daily said a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) compiled by the Obama administration included a "last-minute update" about significant Iranian progress in the development of a nuclear warhead "far beyond the scope known" to U.N. inspectors.
The Israel Hayom daily reported NIE findings that Iran had "boosted efforts" to advance its nuclear programme, including work to develop ballistic missile warheads, and said U.S. and Israeli assessments largely tallied on this intelligence.
Neither newspaper provided direct quotes or detailed evidence. For Haaretz, it was the second report since Thursday purporting to draw on a new NIE.
Washington has not commented on whether such an NIE exists. But its officials say the U.S. intelligence assessment remains that the Islamic Republic is undecided on whether to build a bomb and is years away from any such nuclear capability.
Widely reputed to have the region's sole atomic arsenal, the Jewish state sees a nuclear-armed Iran as a mortal threat and has long threatened to attack its arch-foe preemptively.
The war talk is meant, partly, to stiffen sanctions on Tehran by conflict-wary world powers. Some commentators have speculated Netanyahu is bluffing.
Others see a bid to win over those in the Israeli cabinet, military and public who oppose resorting to force now given the big tactical and strategic risks involved.
Some Israeli leaders criticised the debate as too high-profile, fearing the public exposure could damage Israeli security interests. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz called it "reckless" to discuss the issue so openly in the media.
Visiting Israel this month, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta met unusually vocal dissent from Netanyahu over international Iran strategy. The allies have generally sought to play down their differences on the matter.
Available at: http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/08/12/iran-nuclear-israel-usa-idINL6E8JC18D20120812
2. U.S. Denies Consensus with Israel on Iran Nuclear Threat
Inter Press Service
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Tensions rose Thursday between the Barack Obama administration and the Israeli government when a leading Israeli official claimed to have knowledge of U.S. intelligence that portrays Iran as a more immediate threat than Washington has been saying.
Israel has been urging the United States to take a more aggressive stance with Iran, while President Obama has maintained that sanctions and diplomacy must be given more time to work.
But Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak touched off a controversy with the United States Thursday when he told Israel Radio that a new U.S. report “being passed around senior offices… comes very close to our own estimate… as opposed to earlier American estimates.
“It transforms the Iranian situation to an even more urgent one and it is even less likely that we will know every development in time on the Iranian nuclear programme,” he said.
The Obama administration did not respond immediately, but later in the day a spokesman for the National Security Council stated that, “We believe that there is time and space to continue to pursue a diplomatic path, backed by growing international pressure on the Iranian government. We continue to assess that Iran is not on the verge of achieving a nuclear weapon.”
However, U.S. officials would not comment on whether there was a new intelligence assessment on Iran.
The issue of a possible military strike on Iran has become an increasingly heated topic in the United States as the presidential election in November draws closer and the campaigns move into higher gear.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney visited Israel last month with the message that he would be a stronger supporter of Israel’s security than President Obama, pointing specifically at the Iranian threat.
For his part, Obama recently sent high-level officials to confer with Israeli leaders, signed a bill authorising additional security sales to Israel, and repeatedly assured the Israelis that he would not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
In this atmosphere, a new U.S. intelligence assessment which says, in Barak’s words “…that Iran has made surprising, significant progress toward military nuclear capability,” could significantly increase pressure on the Obama administration to take military action against Iran. Barak’s statement is a dramatic and unusual step in international diplomacy.
In 2007, the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran shook up the George W. Bush administration by stating that Iran had halted its pursuit of a nuclear weapon. In 2011, a new NIE reaffirmed that assessment.
An update to this part of the NIE is rumoured to have been completed, but the exact contents of the report are unknown.
However, back in January, James Clapper, U.S. director of national intelligence, testified before the Congress, saying: “We assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons, in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”
John R. Schindler, professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, wrote on his blog that, “(There are) a few possibilities. Barak and his government are playing one huge head-fake with Obama, whom they openly dislike, even though he just dumped more money on Israel.
“Or, they have seen (the update to the NIE) – how, exactly, this former counterspy wonders – and are diming out DC in a very tough game of hardball. Regardless, the rules of the spy game are clear and have been since Moses was a boy. When intelligence services share information, as they do every day, you don’t pass it to third parties without clearance. Ever. And if you do, eventually you will get burned and nobody will want to play marbles with you.”
Both Israeli and U.S. officials have repeatedly stated that they share intelligence with each other on Iran.
According to several sources with contacts in the U.S. administration, there was considerable anger in Washington over Barak’s statements. It is also unclear what Barak was referring to when he said that a new assessment “comes very close to our own estimate”.
Reports from Washington and Israel have repeatedly stated that Israeli and U.S. intelligence assessments on Iran’s nuclear abilities and research have been closely in tune all along.
However, in recent weeks, reports from Israel have indicated sharp divisions between the heads of the Israeli government, including Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Israeli military and intelligence community. There is also sharp disagreement within Netanyahu’s government over whether or not to pursue a military strike on Iran.
The leading Israeli daily Yediot Ahoronot reported Friday that Barak had gathered the top military leaders on two separate occasions to rally them behind an Iran strike and met fierce opposition both times.
On Aug. 1, Prime Minister Netanyahu, responding to numerous questions about opposition to an Iran strike on the parts of the Army chief of staff and the head of the intelligence agency, Mossad, did not deny such opposition, but merely said that, “In the Israeli democracy, the one to decide is the ministerial level, and the one to carry out the decision is the military. I haven’t made up my mind yet.”
The reported similarity between U.S. and Israeli intelligence suggests that any gap between Barak’s view and that of the U.S. is similar to the gap between the top Israeli leadership and their own military and intelligence assessments and recommendations.
Available at: http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/08/u-s-denies-consensus-with-israel-on-iran-nuclear-threat/
3. U.S. Regulators Irate at NY Action Against Standard Chartered
Carrick Mollenkamp and Emily Flitter and Karen Freifeld
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The U.S. Treasury Department and Federal Reserve were blindsided and angered by the decision of a New York banking regulator to launch an explosive attack on Standard Chartered Plc over $250 billion in alleged money laundering transactions tied to Iran, sources familiar with the situation said.
By going it alone through the order he issued on Monday, the head of the recently created New York State Department of Financial Services, Benjamin Lawsky, also complicates talks between the Treasury and London-based Standard Chartered to settle claims over the transactions, several of the sources said.
His action, which included releasing embarrassing communications and details of the bank's alleged defiance of U.S. sanctions, is rewriting the playbook on how foreign banks settle cases involving the processing of shadowy funds tied to sanctioned countries. In the past, such cases have usually been settled through negotiated settlements with public shaming kept to a minimum.
In his order, Lawsky said the bank's dealings exposed the U.S. banking system to terrorists, drug traffickers and corrupt states.
But the upset expressed by some federal officials, who were given virtually no notice of the action, may provide ammunition for Standard Chartered to portray the allegations as coming from a relatively new and over-zealous regulator.
Given the content of the order, which described Standard Chartered as a "rogue institution" that "schemed" with the Iranian government and hid from law enforcement officials some 60,000 secret transactions over nearly 10 years, the bank may need to come up with a strong defense.
Lawsky did not respond to several requests for comment on Tuesday.
A Fed spokesperson said that it had been working closely with various prosecutorial offices on matters involving Iran and other sanctioned entities but could not comment on ongoing investigations.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that the government takes alleged violations of sanctions "extremely seriously" and the Treasury remains in close contact with federal and state authorities on the matter. Treasury declined to add to that comment.
New York's attack on the bank's integrity and especially its threat to revoke its state banking license wiped $17 billion off the bank's market value on Tuesday.
Shares in Standard Chartered fell 16.4 percent to 12.28 pounds Tuesday, after earlier touching a three-year low of 10.92 pounds. The stock has fallen 24 percent since news emerged of the New York action on Monday.
The loss of a New York banking license - effectively a permit to conduct transactions worth hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars - could be a death knell for a global bank like Standard Chartered.
The 160-year-old bank said it has been in talks with U.S. authorities over its Iran transactions since early 2010 and stressed that the sudden accusations by New York came as a shock.
In a statement Monday, the bank said it was "engaged in ongoing discussions with the relevant U.S. agencies. Resolution of such matters normally proceeds through a coordinated approach by such agencies. The Group was therefore surprised to receive the order from (the New York bank regulator) given that discussions with the agencies were ongoing."
Lawsky's move also undercut the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which has held enforcing economic sanctions against Iran as its top goal. The surprise left the office's leader, David Cohen, the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, scrambling to come up with a response, sources said.
The New York regulator's action may also cause problems for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York overseas branches of foreign-owned banks located in New York, and as president of the New York Fed from 2003 to 2009, Geithner would have had ultimate responsibility for regulating Standard Chartered during the period when much of the alleged money laundering took place.
Geithner has come under fire from Congress for the New York Fed's failure to stop banks from manipulating a key benchmark interest rate, Libor.
Standard Chartered, which sought the advice of one of New York's top law firms, had hoped that coming clean and turning over internal records to federal regulators would yield a settlement, some other sources said.
Those records also were turned over to the New York's bank regulator which last year was combined with an insurance agency to create the new financial watchdog headed by Lawsky, a former prosecutor and aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Lawsky's aim, according to the sources, was to cast more sunlight on a bank's alleged transgressions. Lawsky's agency, these people said, wasn't interested in a quiet pact of the sort reached by federal authorities in recent years.
In 2010, for example, Barclays Plc paid $298 million in a settlement with regulators including the Treasury Department's sanctions regulator and the Manhattan district attorney's office. The bank, in settlement documents, said it cooperated in the probe.
Barclays, like Standard Chartered, was advised by Sullivan & Cromwell, known as the go-to New York law firm for banks facing regulatory scrutiny. The Barclays settlement, while receiving news coverage, was a fairly bland document that listed Barclays transactions but few insider details, such as emails.
Other banks, including Credit Suisse Group and ING Bank NV, have settled in much the same way with U.S. regulators.
One area of sharp disagreement between the bank and Lawsky is just how much in illicit funds is involved in the case.
Standard Chartered put the value of Iran-related transactions that did not comply with regulations at less than $14 million, against the New York regulator's estimate of $250 billion.
Lawsky said Standard Chartered moved money through its New York branch on behalf of Iranian financial clients, including the Central Bank of Iran and state-owned Bank Saderat and Bank Melli, that were subject to U.S. sanctions. The transactions generated hundreds of millions of dollars in fees, Lawsky said.
Monday's order alleged that Standard Chartered removed codes on money transfers and altered message fields, inserting phrases such as "NO NAME GIVEN" to hide the nature of the transactions.
At the center of concern were alleged "U-Turn" transactions, involving money moved for Iranian clients among banks in Britain and the Middle East and cleared through Standard Chartered's New York branch, but which neither started nor ended in Iran.
Such transactions were permissible until November 2008, when the Treasury Department prohibited them on concerns that they were being used to evade sanctions, and that Iran was using banks to fund nuclear and missile development programs.
The New York order also alleged that even as some banks exited the U-Turn transactions, Standard Chartered hustled to "take the abandoned market share."
As part of a review the bank sought to give to regulators, Standard Chartered hired Promontory Financial Group, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm run by Eugene Ludwig, who served as the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency from 1993 to 1998.
Promontory was hired to review Standard Chartered's transactions tied to Iran. Standard Chartered's internal review ultimately led to bank settling on the figure of less than $14 million for improper transactions.
Lawsky's agency also received the Standard Chartered internal review, according to people familiar with the situation. But the new regulator had little interest in a settlement that didn't yield embarrassing details about Standard Chartered's activities, these people said.
Earlier this year, representatives of the bank met with Lawsky's office to argue that the illicit transactions were a technical violation, according to one source. Lawsky's investigators weren't convinced, this person said.
The bank, which must appear before the New York regulator on August 15, on Monday called Lawsky's interpretation of the U-turn exemption "incorrect as a matter of law."
Standard Chartered Chief Executive Peter Sands scrambled back from vacation to help the bank plan a defense and limit damage to its reputation.
The broadside against Standard Chartered has touched a nerve in the UK, where some investors and at least one lawmaker, have even alleged it might be part of a plot by U.S. authorities to undermine London as a banking center.
Standard Chartered is the third British bank to be ensnared in U.S. law enforcement probes in recent weeks. Barclays agreed to pay $453 million to settle U.S. and British probes that it rigged a global lending benchmark in June.
A month later, a U.S. Senate panel issued a scathing report that criticized HSBC's efforts to police suspect transactions, including Mexican drug traffickers.
"I think it's a concerted effort that's been organized at the top of the U.S. government. I think this is Washington trying to win a commercial battle to have trading from London shifted to New York," said John Mann, a member of parliament's finance committee who also called for a parliamentary inquiry.
Mann, from the center-left Labor party, has become a public scourge of London bankers' greed and immorality during the financial crisis. But he told Reuters he saw "anti-British bias" behind "disproportionate publicity that's given to British banking problems as opposed to American banking problems".
A British executive at an institution which ranks among the top 25 shareholders in Standard Chartered saw, like Mann, a politically motivated move by U.S. officials irked by the major role London plays in the global financial industry, attracted big investments from major U.S. banks like JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.
"Are we starting to see an anti-London bias in U.S. regulatory activities?" the executive asked. "Oh yes. Is there any subtle form of banking sector protectionism going on? Yes."
Standard Chartered has hired two prominent law firms -- Sullivan & Cromwell in New York and Slaughter and May in London - to represent it in its dealings with various U.S. authorities over transactions linked to Iran.
Among the Sullivan & Cromwell partners working for Standard Chartered is Rodgin Cohen, one of the best-known U.S. corporate lawyers, a person familiar with the matter said.
Sullivan & Cromwell has represented other non-U.S. banks probed for allegedly ignoring U.S. sanctions against countries.
The United States imposed economic sanctions on Iran in 1979. Until November 2008 U.S. banks could process some transactions for Iranian banks or individuals provided they were initiated offshore by non-Iranian foreign banks and were on the way to other non-Iranian foreign banks. Such transactions were known as "U-turns."
David Proctor, who worked for Standard Chartered from 1999 until 2006 and who oversaw the Iran business briefly in 2006 when he was CEO in the United Arab Emirates, said the rules on dealing with Iran were unclear.
"At the time (May 2006), ... the key question was to try and understand exactly what counted as a U-turn transaction," he said.
Proctor, who now provides advice for banks with BAS Consulting in Singapore, added that Standard Chartered now has to help clear up what actually happened. "Banks these days don't have a choice," he said. "You have to be transparent."
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/10/us-standardchartered-iran-idUSBRE87911820120810
1. German Power Supplier Overcomes Nuclear Phase-Out Dent
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German utility company E.ON has left behind an unprofitable 2011 caused by the country's nuclear phase-out and high gas prices. But this year, the power supplier has logged huge profits in the first half.
German power supplier E.ON reported on Monday sound profits for the first half of the current year, after being deeply in the red toward the end of 2011.
The largest German utility company boasted a year-on-year rise in net profit for the first six months of 2012 to total 3.1 billion euros ($3.8 billion). Revenues soared by 23 percent over the same period to reach 65.4 billion euros.
"The positive results show that we've successfully tackled the new challenges on the energy market," Chief Executive Johannes Teyssen said in a statement.
The solid earnings this year are in no small way a result of a better deal on long-term and cheaper gas supplies with Russia's Gazprom.
"The renegotiated gas supply deal alone meant a 1.2-billion-euro profit for the company," Teyssen maintained, adding that higher gas prices last year had prompted many former clients to turn their backs on the firm.
E.ON said it had also overcome one-off losses incurred by the government's final decision to completely phase out nuclear energy in Germany. As a result, the power supplier was forced to shut down its profitable Isar 1 and Unterweser nuclear power plants.
Available at: http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,16162446,00.html
2. Nuclear Power Plant in UK to Continue Operations for Additional Two Years
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Magnox Ltd. on August 8 said it has received approval from the Office for Nuclear Regulation, with support from the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), to transfer fuel between the two reactors at the Wylfa Power Station enabling electricity generation to continue until September 2014, almost four years beyond its original closure date.
Following several reviews, the site has been permitted to continue using one reactor, transferring partially used fuel from Reactor 2 to Reactor 1. Reactor 1 generates about 455 MW.
Inter-Reactor Fuel Transfer (IRX) has already been used at the Oldbury site, which closed in February, and has now been successfully tested at Wylfa. Wylfa was originally planned to shut down in December 2010. Reactor 2 was shut down in April because of limited fuel stocks, following the final shipment of Magnox fuel – which is no longer manufactured - to the site in 2011.
Wylfa is the only Magnox site still generating electricity, following the closure of Oldbury Power Station. The Wylfa plant has been generating electricity since 1971.
Available at: http://www.power-eng.com/articles/2012/08/nuclear-power-plant-in-uk-to-continue-operations-for-additional-two-years.html
The chief of Belgium's nuclear power regulatory agency says he's "skeptical" the Doel-3 reactor near Antwerp can ever be re-started.
Willy De Roovere, director of the country's Federal Agency for Nuclear Control, told the Belgian public broadcaster RTBF Friday that anomalies found in the tank holding the reactor's nuclear core could be cracks, in which case the plant would face imminent decommissioning.
Asked if he thought the reactor -- closed Thursday after an inspection -- could eventually be put back into the service, De Roovere answered, "I am quite skeptical at the moment."
Electrabel's Doel-3 unit, located 15 miles north of Antwerp, was ordered shut after a scheduled ultrasound inspection of the steel reactor vessel uncovered "several anomalies."
Regulators said it will remain down until at least the end of August, with more tests being conducted in the meantime. Additional reactors in Belgium will also be tested for the problem, they said.
The agency said there was no danger to the public from the situation at the 30-year-old, 1,003-megawatt nuclear plant, which uses a tank forged in the 1970s by Rotterdam Dry Dock Company of the Netherlands.
Electrabel is a subsidiary of France's GDF Suez.
"This event has no impact whatsoever on the well-being or health of the employees, the local residents, or the surrounding area," the company said in a statement.
"Following due analysis, the authorities agreed that for the time being the incident should be classified as a level 1 occurrence on the International Nuclear Event Scale, which ranges from level 1 (anomaly) to level 7 (major accident) and is intended to promote open communication about occurrences at nuclear facilities around the world."
The Doel-3 unit was scheduled for decommissioning in 2022 as part of Belgium's decision to phase out its seven nuclear reactors of 2025. The country relies on them for about half of its power generating needs.
De Roovere said if cracks are discovered, it would be up to Electrabel to prove the tank is reusable, which, he added, would be a tall task.
"There is still a chance to prove I'm wrong," he told the Belgian broadcaster. "The operator always has the opportunity to prove the signs may not exceed a certain limit, and are acceptable."
Belgian transmission system operator Elia told the Financial Times the loss of the 1,003-megawatt power plant could lead to severe energy shortages in the country.
"The sudden closure of the plant could seriously affect energy security in the country during peak hours of the winter period ... that's around 6 p.m. on a cold winter day," Elia manager Lise Mulpas told the newspaper.
Belgian officials said they believed there are 21 nuclear reactors with the same type of vessels worldwide and will consult with the relevant regulators of those countries to give them the necessary information.
Among the nuclear power plants known to also have similar Rotterdam Dry Dock reactor vessels are four in Virginia operated by Dominion Resources, Platt's business news service reported.
Company spokesman Richard Zuercher said the utility was aware of the Belgium situation but had not yet been notified by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Available at: http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Resources/2012/08/13/Belgium-nuke-re-start-seen-as-unlikely/UPI-20161344853800/
Although the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami wrecked the Fukushima No. 1 plant in Fukushima Prefecture, the younger Onagawa plant in neighboring in Miyagi was "remarkably undamaged" by the violent temblor and tsunami and safely shut down, experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency said Friday.
Given a quake of this magnitude, "we would have expected the plant to have more damage, and that was not the case," Sujit Samaddar, who led the 19-member team, told reporters in Tokyo, wrapping up their two-week on-site probe.
From its visual investigation, the IAEA team did not find any signs that cooling pipes or other critical equipment were damaged or caused coolant loss at the 28-year-old plant, said Samaddar, who heads the IAEA International Seismic Safety Centre.
The IAEA team arrived last month to see how the magnitude 9.0 temblor on March 11, 2011, affected the Onagawa plant, which runs three reactors on the Pacific coast about 120 km north of the 40-year-old Fukushima plant.
Whether the quake itself damaged the pipes and cooling systems at Fukushima No. 1, which was swamped by tsunami and suffered three meltdowns, has been hotly debated since a Diet-appointed investigative panel suggested that possibility over denials by Tokyo Electric Power Co.
Samaddar stressed that while his team did not find any trace of such damage, its investigation didn't cover everything in great detail. He said the team only conducted visual checks — of samples of equipment — because time was limited.
Asked what the main differences are between Tepco's Fukushima plant and Tohoku Electric Co.'s Onagawa plant, Samaddar said various factors and data need to be scrutinized and that it will take time to find an answer.
The killer earthquake registered as a weak 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale to 7 at Onagawa, which saw tsunami reach about 13 meters high.
Samaddar said there was minor damage from the quake, including cracks in the turbine buildings, but that none of it would have led to a nuclear calamity like Fukushima.
The team investigated structural elements of the plant and the systems safeguarding the reactors, and held interviews with some of the engineers.
The data and experience collected from the investigation will be added to the IAEA's database to improve safety at nuclear power plants worldwide.
Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120811a4.html
3. Monju, Mihama Nuke Plant Sites Must Be Checked for Active Faults: Panel
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An expert panel to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) has demanded that the sites of the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor and the Mihama nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture be checked for active fault lines.
The move comes as part of NISA's survey of nuclear power plants across the country for active faults beneath the facilities. Following a call by the expert panel on Aug. 10, NISA is set to consider whether to order such on-site surveys for the Monju reactor run by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), and the Mihama nuclear plant operated by Kansai Electric Power Co.
An active fault line called the Shiraki-Nyu fault runs some 500 meters west of the Monju reactor and about 1 kilometer east of the Mihama reactors. Experts have previously pointed to the possibility that the crush zones -- areas of rock composed of stone fragments produced by seismic activity -- on the nuclear complexes' premises could shift in conjunction with the fault. If these crush zones have moved within the past 120,000 to 130,000 years, they are recognized as active, but JAEA and Kansai Electric have denied there have been any shifts in that timeframe.
Experts have called for on-site investigations citing lack of evidence in the operators' assertions and a need for a forum for debate while examining the actual sites.
Experts have also pointed to insufficient grounds for declaring Kansai Electric's Takahama nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture safe, but NISA is mulling its response as there is no active fault running nearby.
The panel reviewed 10 additional nuclear plants operated by seven power companies on Aug. 10, completing the review of all 18 nuclear facilities across the country.
While NISA denied there are active faults running under Chugoku Electric Power Co.'s Shimane nuclear plant in Shimane Prefecture and Chubu Electric Power Co.'s Hamaoka nuclear plant in Shizuoka Prefecture, the agency said, "There is a need to examine the possibility that the earth (under those facilities) could shift when earthquakes occur in distant areas."
NISA will ask the operators of the two facilities to examine to what degree the ground would shift and what effect that would have.
Meanwhile, NISA approved reports filed by the operators of five nuclear plants stating there are "no active faults" running beneath them: the Genkai nuclear plant in Saga Prefecture and the Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, both operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co.; Shikoku Electric Power Co.'s Ikata nuclear plant in Ehime Prefecture; Japan Atomic Power Co.'s Tokai No. 2 Power Station in Ibaraki Prefecture; and Tohoku Electric Power Co.'s Onagawa nuclear plant in Miyagi Prefecture.
NISA's review of potential active faults underneath nuclear plants started in July, after suspicions emerged that Japan Atomic Power Co.'s Tsuruga plant in Fukui Prefecture may be sitting on an active fault line. In its previous meetings, the expert panel has pointed out that Hokuriku Electric Power Co.'s Shika nuclear plant in Ishikawa Prefecture is very likely located on top of an active fault line.
Since the central government does not allow nuclear reactor buildings to be built on active faults, reactors may face decommissioning if such faults are confirmed beneath them.
Available at: http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20120811p2a00m0na009000c.html
1. Bangladesh-Russia Nuclear Power Plant Deal Finalised
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Bangladesh and Russia have finalised the financing agreement for Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant. A delegation led by the Economic Adviser went to Moscow on Aug 4 and negotiated with acting Russian Finance Minister to finalise the deal.
The team included State Minister for Science and Technology Yeafesh Osman, Board of Investment Executive Chairman SA Samad and representatives from ministries of finance, foreign and law, ERD, Planning Commission and Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission.
Under the deal Bangladesh would borrow $500 million for the technical study with an interest rate of not less than 4 per cent from Russia.
The $500 million would be spent in the next two years for technical study, which would determine how much money would be needed to develop the plant, sources said.
Russia would provide necessary fund for constructing the plant
The government is going to build two nuclear plants with capacity of 1000-megawatt each at Rooppur with latest ‘third generation’ technology from Russia where five-layer security measures would be installed, according to officials.
It takes about $1.5 billion to $2 billion to set up 1000-megawatt (MW) power plant depending on security features and technology standards.
Bangladesh signed the final cooperation agreement with Rosatom of Russian Federation to build the plant in November last year.
Under the cooperation agreement, the Russian government would provide all necessary support and infrastructure development to build the plant and supply necessary fuel to run the plant and also take back the spent fuel.
Available at: http://energybangla.com/2012/08/13/2275.html#.UCkdlfaPWNg
NNSA’s Offices of Counterterrorism Policy and Cooperation and Global Threat Reduction and the FBI today announced the completion of the Bearcat Thunder counterterrorism table-top exercise at the University of Cincinnati (UC), the 100th exercise of its kind. The exercise is part of NNSA’s Silent Thunder table-top series, which is aimed at giving federal, state and local officials, first responders and law enforcement critical, hands-on experience in responding to a terrorist attack involving radiological materials.
NNSA began the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Counterterrorism Exercise Program in 1999. It has grown to include both domestic Department of Energy facilities and private sector locations such as hospitals and universities. The exercises have been carried out primarily within the United States, but have included foreign participants as well. In a first for the Silent Thunder series, an official from the International Atomic Energy Agency observed the Bearcat Thunder exercise.
“The President has stated that the greatest threat to global security is the danger of nuclear terrorism,” said Deputy Undersecretary and Associate Administrator for NNSA’s Office of Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation Steven Aoki. “The Silent Thunder exercise program, developed and conducted in partnership by NNSA and the FBI, directly addresses this threat. We recognize that reducing the risk of radiological or nuclear terrorism requires a whole-of-community approach that brings together officials and responders from the federal, state, local and facility levels.”
To date, NNSA and the FBI have conducted Silent Thunder exercises in 22 states and the District of Columbia, with plans to reach additional states in the future.
Today’s Bearcat Thunder exercise played out a fictitious scenario with terrorists infiltrating a research facility and attempting to seize control of a high-activity radiological source that, in principle, could be used in radiological dispersal devices, commonly referred to as dirty bombs. The participating officials worked cooperatively to assess and respond to simulated facility alarms and then manage the crisis as if it were actually happening. The goal of these exercises is to provide first-hand crisis management experience, facilitate coordination between multiple agencies and improve both security and emergency response methods. Exercises take place in select locations across the country with facilities that house nuclear or high-activity radioactive materials.
“From the University of Cincinnati’s perspective, this exercise allowed us to achieve a number of goals,” said UC Assistant Police Chief Jeff Corcoran. “We were able to evaluate the school’s procedures and tactical decision making, exercise our mutual aid and unified command structure, improve communication and interoperability between UC Police and surrounding jurisdictions and evaluate our emergency alert system and evacuation planning. Overall, this was an excellent experience that provided enormous benefit to the University’s preparedness.”
The exercise series is jointly organized and funded by NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), NNSA’s Office of Counterterrorism Policy and Cooperation, and the FBI. The federal agencies participating in Bearcat Thunder were joined by authorities representing the state, county and municipal agencies including the Cincinnati Fire Department, Cincinnati Police, Cincinnati Department of Public Health, Greater Cincinnati Health Council, Red Cross Disaster Services, Hamilton County Radiation Task Force, Ohio Department of Health, Ohio Department of Public Safety, Greater Cincinnati HazMat Team, Hamilton County Department of Health, Christ Hospital, St. Luke Hospital, UC and University Hospital.
NNSA’s GTRI, in coordination with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Department of Homeland Security, installs voluntary security upgrades at hospitals and other civilian sites housing high-activity radiological sources that are commonly used in medical procedures and other commercial activities. Preceding the Bearcat Thunder exercise, the University of Cincinnati instituted these GTRI radiological security improvements. These security upgrades further reduce the potential for theft or misuse of radiological materials that could be used in a dirty bomb. These voluntary upgrades are in addition to increased security enhancements required by NRC and NRC agreement states since 2006.
Started in 1999, NNSA’s Office of Counterterrorism Policy and Cooperation’s WMD Counterterrorism Exercise Program took on an expanded role following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. Since the program began, over 8,700 international, federal, state and local officials have participated in 100 different exercises. To promote full participation by state and local officials, Silent Thunder exercises are unclassified and utilize open source information for scenario development and are conducted in a no-fault environment.
Available at: http://nnsa.energy.gov/mediaroom/pressreleases/bearcatexercise080912
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