1. HSBC in Settlement Talks Over US Money Laundering Probe
(for personal use only)
HSBC Holdings, which is under investigation by US regulators for laundering funds of sanctioned nations including Iran and Sudan, is in talks to settle the matter, two people with knowledge of the case said.
The bank, Europe’s largest by market value, made a $700mn provision in July for any US fines after a Senate Committee found it had given terrorists and drug cartels access to the US financial system. That sum might increase, chief executive officer Stuart Gulliver has said.
An HSBC settlement regulators and the Manhattan District Attorney were aiming to conclude as early as September may have been slowed when New York’s banking superintendent accused Standard Chartered of laundering $250bn for Iran. Regulators had been talking with both banks about universal accords when Benjamin Lawsky on August 6 threatened to revoke Standard Chartered’s licence. Deals with the London-based banks next month are still possible, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the investigations are confidential.
“This is an epidemic of banks wilfully, consistently violating economic sanctions,” Jimmy Gurule, a former undersecretary for enforcement at the US Treasury, said of sanctioned-nation money laundering. “It calls for more serious sanctions than a monetary fine for an individual bank that does nothing more than harm shareholders.”
HSBC’s $700mn set-aside, if paid, would constitute the largest US settlement reached over such allegations, topping the $619mn in penalties and forfeitures paid in June by ING Groep NV, the biggest Dutch financial-services company. Standard Chartered agreed on August 14 to pay $340mn to settle the New York state matter, an accord that broke a previous pattern of resolving all such US probes at once in a unified agreement.
HSBC’s credit-rating outlook was cut last week by Standard & Poor’s, which questioned whether the lender is too big to be managed effectively in the wake of money-laundering investigations. S&P reduced its outlook on HSBC’s long-term rating to negative from stable.
HSBC, Standard Chartered and other European banks have been under investigation by US regulators that include the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Federal Reserve and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
The multiyear probe into money-laundering has resulted in settlements with Lloyd’s Banking Group, ABN Amro Bank, Barclays, Credit Suisse Group and ING.
Other European banks, including Deutsche Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland Group, are cooperating with US regulators in similar investigations, according to other people familiar with the matter. Two French banks, Credit Agricole and BNP Paribas, are working with US authorities in similar probes, according to their regulatory filings.
“Here we are at bank number seven, with Standard Chartered, and no individual banker has been held criminally responsible, and that’s a shame,” said Gurule, a professor at the University of Notre Dame. “Checks and balances on banks weren’t working. Bad conduct was going on for years undetected.”
HSBC handled so-called U-turn transactions through US financial institutions that involved funds from Iran to non-US banks, altering its transaction records to obscure information about its clients, according to US Senate testimony in July.
Around 25,000 transactions with Iran worth more than $19.4bn were made with about 90% passing through the US, according to an audit by Deloitte. Senate investigators documented similar transactions with North Korea, Cuba, Sudan and Burma, which along with Iran are subject to sanctions administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control.
From 2000 to 2009, HSBC also gave its lowest risk rating to Mexico despite “overwhelming information” that it posed a high risk for drug trafficking and money laundering, Senate investigators wrote in their report.
HSBC, which declined to comment on the matter, said in its 2011 annual report that it “continues to cooperate in ongoing investigations” by the Department of Justice, the Manhattan District Attorney, the Office of Foreign Asset Control, the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency “regarding historical transactions involving Iranian parties and other parties subject to OFAC economic sanctions.”
Erin Duggan, a spokeswoman for Vance, Barbara Hagenbaugh of the Federal Reserve, David Neustadt of Lawsky’s Department of Financial Services and John Sullivan of Treasury’s OFAC unit declined to comment on the investigation.
In the prior five settlements, the banks involved agreed to pay or forfeit money under so-called deferred prosecution agreements that mandate improved compliance systems. If the agreement is followed, the banks will avoid criminal prosecution.
Aside from ING’s record payment, ABN Amro paid $500mn in 2010, London-based Barclays paid $298mn in 2010, Zurich-based Credit Suisse paid $536mn in 2009, and London-based Lloyds paid $350mn in 2009.
Some investigations don’t result in such agreements because wrongdoing isn’t found, one of the people familiar with the HSBC case said.
Paris-based BNP Paribas and Credit Agricole have both disclosed probes into potential US sanction violations in their annual reports since 2009, and added new disclosures in 2011 to indicate that outcomes would be difficult to predict.
BNP said in 2011 that following discussions with the US Department of Justice and Vance’s office, it was reviewing operations to see if it has complied with sanction rules of the Office of Foreign Assets Control.
Credit Agricole likewise said in 2011 that it was cooperating with the Manhattan District Attorney and “other American governmental authorities” who sought information about payments in US dollars involving sanctioned countries.
Credit Agricole and Credit Agricole CIB, its investment banking unit, were conducting internal reviews, the company said.
Available at: http://www.gulf-times.com/site/topics/article.asp?cu_no=2&item_no=527440&version=1&template_id=48&parent_id=28
2. Iran Opens Nonaligned Summit With Nuclear Appeals
(for personal use only)
Iran opened a world gathering of self-described nonaligned nations Sunday with a slap at the U.N. Security Council and an appeal to rid the world of nuclear weapons, even as Tehran faces Western suspicions that it is seeking its own atomic bombs.
Iran seeks to use the weeklong gathering — capped by a two-day summit of Non-Aligned Movement leaders — as a showcase of its global ties and efforts to challenge the influence of the West and its allies. Among those expected to attend include U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh, whose nation remains an important Iranian oil customer as Tehran battles Western sanctions over its nuclear program.
The 120-nation Non-Aligned Movement, a holdover from the Cold War's pull between East and West, is also seen by Iran and others as an alternative forum for current world discussions. Iran says it plans talks on a peace plan to end Syria's civil war, but no rebel factions will attend because of Tehran's close bonds with Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi opened the gathering by noting commitment to a previous goal from the nonaligned group, known as NAM, to remove the world's nuclear arsenals within 13 years. "We believe that the timetable for ultimate removal of nuclear weapons by 2025, which was proposed by NAM, will only be realized if we follow it up decisively," he told delegates.
Iran insists it does not seek nuclear weapons. The U.S. and allies suspect that Tehran's uranium enrichment could eventually lead to warhead-level material. They have imposed ever-tighter sanctions on Iran's banking and oil exports in attempt to wring concessions.
Israel has said that it would consider military options if diplomacy and economic pressures fail to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Salehi criticized Israel for remaining outside the U.N. main treaty governing the spread of nuclear technology. Israel refused to discuss the full range of its military capabilities, but it is widely believed to have a nuclear arsenal.
Iran ally North Korea has withdrawn from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun arrived in Tehran Sunday to attend the meetings.
Outside the meeting site, Iran displayed three cars damaged by bomb blasts that Iran has blamed on agents from Britain, the U.S. and Britain. At least five members of Iranian scientific community, including nuclear experts, have been killed since early 2010 as part of a suspected covert war with its main foes.
Iran and proxies, in turn, have been linked by investigators to a series of attacks and plots on Israeli targets around the world.
Salehi also complained about the perception of the "falling" clout of the U.N.'s general membership at the expense of the "rising power of the U.N. Security Council," led by permanent members U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China.
"Creating a more democratic Security Council should be considered an important part of U.N. reforms," Salehi told the gathering.
Even before the first session got under way, however, a dispute flared over Palestinian envoys. Iranian officials said a political leader of Tehran's ally Hamas has not been invited to the meeting in Tehran, contradicting Hamas claims that Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was asked to come by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Hamas later Sunday that Haniyeh has dropped plans to attend.
The decision appeared aimed at avoiding a confrontation among Palestinians that could embarrass Hamas' Iranian backers. The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had warned he would not attend if rival Haniyeh also takes part.
The militant Hamas controls Gaza, while Abbas' Western-backed administration governs parts of the West Bank. Abbas' Foreign Minister Riad Malki also plans to travel to Tehran on Monday.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hlnpDpAVZ2hioGkGLTAdKTkJ-n6w?docId=fac37a3061464e05ac154251aa4448fc
3. IAEA Gets No Deal With Iran on Bomb Research Suspicions
(for personal use only)
The U.N. nuclear watchdog and Iran failed on Friday to strike a deal aimed at allaying concerns about suspected nuclear weapons research by Tehran, a setback in efforts to resolve the stand-off diplomatically before any Israeli or U.S. military action.
A flurry of bellicose rhetoric from some Israeli politicians this month has fanned speculation that Israel might hit Iran's nuclear sites before the U.S. presidential election in November.
Tensions rose another notch on the eve of Friday's talks between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) when diplomatic sources said Iran had installed many more uranium enrichment centrifuges at its Fordow underground site.
While the new machines are not yet operating, the move reaffirmed Iranian defiance of international demands on it to suspend enrichment and may strengthen the Israeli belief that toughened sanctions and concerted diplomacy are failing to make the Islamic Republic change course.
"The discussions today were intensive but important differences remain between Iran and the U.N. that prevented agreement," Herman Nackaerts, the IAEA's chief inspector, told journalists after about seven hours of talks with an Iranian delegation in Vienna.
"At the moment we have no plans for another meeting."
Little headway appeared to have been made on the IAEA's most urgent request - access for its inspectors to the Parchin military site where the agency believes Iran has done explosives tests relevant for developing a nuclear weapons capability.
Iran's ambassador to the Vienna-based IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said that "undoubtedly some progress" was made but that differences remained.
"Because it is a very complex issue ... issues related to national security of a member state are something very delicate," the veteran Iranian diplomat said.
"But I have to say that we are moving forward ... and we are going to continue this process so that we at the end of the day will have a framework agreed by both sides."
Soltanieh had said before the talks began: "Both sides are trying to bridge the gap."
The diplomatic sources who revealed the expansion of centrifuge capacity at Fordow also said satellite imagery indicated Iran had used a brightly coloured tent-like structure to cover a building at Parchin, increasing concern about a possible removal of evidence of illicit past nuclear work there.
Israel signalled its patience with diplomacy was fading.
"Only yesterday we received additional proof that Iran is continuing accelerated progress towards achieving nuclear weapons and is totally ignoring international demands," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said before the talks ended.
But in Washington, an official of President Barack Obama 's administration said the new centrifuges, while concerning, would not significantly change the amount of time Iran would need to "break out" of its treaty obligations and construct a nuclear device.
"This work ... does not build confidence in their intent and it further demonstrates their failure to fulfill their obligations," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "But, it is also not a game-changer."
Asked about the outcome of the Vienna meeting, a Western diplomat accredited to the IAEA said: "As dismal as expected."
Iran, Israel's arch-enemy and the world's No. 5 oil exporter, insists it wants nuclear energy for more electricity to serve a rapidly growing population, not nuclear weapons, and has threatened wide-ranging reprisals if attacked.
Nackaerts, the IAEA's global chief of inspections, said before the meeting that the broader goal was a deal on greater, overall inspector access to answer the U.N. watchdog's questions about possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme.
It was the first meeting between the two sides since discussions in early June petered out inconclusively, dashing previous hopes that an accord might be on the cards.
Friday's talks were separate from Tehran's negotiations with six world powers that have made little progress since resuming in April after a 15-month hiatus, but the focus on suspicions about Iran's nuclear ambitions means they are still closely linked.
Washington has said there is still time for diplomatic pressure to work in pressing Iran to curb its enrichment programme, which is the immediate priority of the six powers - the United States, Britain, Russia, China, France and Germany.
Refined uranium can fuel nuclear power plants or nuclear bombs, depending on the level of enrichment.
Iran says it seeks only civilian nuclear energy.
But its refusal to limit and open up its atomic activity to unfettered IAEA inspections that could determine whether it is purely peaceful, or not, has led to harsher punitive sanctions and louder talk about possible military action.
Western diplomats had expected no breakthrough on Friday but said Iran could offer a concession to inspectors - who want access to sites, officials and documents - in hopes of blunting their upcoming quarterly report on Iran, which is due next week.
In so doing, Iran would also seek to deflect a planned Western move to have the 35-nation IAEA board of governors, meeting next month, to formally rebuke Tehran over its failure to cooperate with the agency's inquiry.
So any Iranian concession should be treated with scepticism, one diplomat accredited to the IAEA said.
The IAEA's immediate priority remains access to Parchin, even though Western diplomats say it may now have been purged of any evidence of nuclear weapons research, possibly carried out a decade ago.
Citing satellite images, diplomats said this week that Iran has demolished some small buildings and moved earth at Parchin.
Diplomatic sources said the building believed to be housing an explosives chamber - if it is still there - had been "wrapped" with scaffolding and tarpaulin, hiding any sanitisation or other activity there from satellite cameras.
Iran says Parchin, about 30 km (20 miles) southeast of the capital Tehran, is a conventional military facility and has dismissed allegations aired about it as "ridiculous". It says a broad framework agreement for how the IAEA should conduct its inquiry is needed before possibly allowing access to Parchin.
Available at: http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/08/24/nuclear-iran-talks-idINL6E8JO25Q20120824
4. IAEA May Say 'Pointless' to Inspect Iran Nuke Site
(for personal use only)
Iran has "sanitized" to such an extent a military base where nuclear weapons research allegedly took place that the UN atomic watchdog may say next week there is now little point inspecting it, Western diplomats told AFP.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has been pushing Iran to allow access to Parchin, most recently at a failed meeting in Vienna on Friday, where it suspects explosives testing consistent with nuclear bomb research occurred.
Iran, subject to unprecedented Western sanctions and amid heightened speculation of Israeli military action, denies seeking or ever having sought nuclear weapons but has so far blocked the IAEA's requests to see the site.
Western nations have accused Iran of bulldozing parts of the sprawling base near Tehran and the IAEA said in May that activities spotted there by satellite "could hamper the agency's ability to undertake effective verification."
On August 1 US think-tank the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) published open-source satellite images showing "what appears to be the final result of considerable sanitization and earth displacement activity."
New ISIS images Friday on its website (http://isis-online.org/) showed a building suspected of housing the explosive experiments covered in pink tarpaulin in what Western diplomats said was an attempt to hide activity from satellites.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, has called accusations of a clean-up at Parchin "a childish, ridiculous story made out of nothing."
One Western diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity on Friday that the IAEA is so frustrated that in its next quarterly report on Iran, expected next week, it may say that going to Parchin now would serve little purpose.
"I would expect language in the report saying 'you are clearly sanitizing, the satellite imagery shows that, and frankly once you let us in, you have done so much it is going to be irrelevant, academic'," the envoy said.
A second Western diplomat told AFP on Saturday that the IAEA saying something along those lines "is certainly something that would make sense, although we don't know definitively how they are going to characterise it in their report."
"We think any value of a visit to Parchin now is greatly diminished," the envoy said on condition of anonymity.
The first diplomat also said that as a result, and after Friday's fruitless meeting, Western nations might table a resolution sharply criticising Tehran at the next IAEA board of governors' meeting starting September 10.
"We are getting nowhere swiftly ... We need to make a more formal and public example of the failure of the sides to engage, which is Iran's fault," he said, adding however it was unclear whether Russia and China would support such a move.
IAEA inspectors visited Parchin twice in 2005 but want to look at it again after new information came to light.
Although analysts say other sites are more significant, the IAEA has zeroed in on Parchin because its information on the site, unlike on others, is its own and not from foreign intelligence services.
Iran has said it will allow monitors access only as part of a wider arrangement governing relations between Iran and the watchdog, which experts and diplomats say would limit to an unacceptable degree the IAEA's inspection rights.
The IAEA report next week is also expected to say that despite the pressure, Tehran is continuing to expand its programme by installing several hundred new centrifuges in its Fordo plant, dug into a mountain so difficult to bomb.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5grh-0ukhhdcHZS_KQAh_ES5FKlvw?docId=CNG.e927e0ad50eaaacb0f1358297ed2251a.1f1
Iran has installed many more uranium enrichment machines in an underground bunker, diplomatic sources said on Thursday, potentially paving the way for a significant expansion of work the West fears is ultimately aimed at making nuclear bombs.
Iran denies allegations it is seeking a nuclear weapons capability. But its refusal to curb its nuclear enrichment programme has prompted tough Western sanctions and has heightened speculation that Israel may attack its atomic sites.
In a possible sign of further Iranian defiance in the face of such pressure, several sources said Iran had put in place additional enrichment centrifuges in its Fordow facility, buried deep inside a mountain to protect it against enemy strikes.
One source suggested hundreds of machines had been installed.
In another development likely to worry the West, they said satellite imagery indicated Iran had covered a building at a military site which U.N. inspectors want to visit with a brightly-coloured, tent-like structure.
Western diplomats have said they believe Iran is cleansing the Parchin site to remove any evidence of illicit nuclear activity at a place where the U.N. nuclear watchdog suspects it has conducted tests that had a military dimension.
Covering the building in question - which is believed to house a steel chamber for explosives experiments - may allow Iran to carry out sanitisation or other work there which would not be seen via satellite pictures.
One Western envoy said that the suspected clean-up at Parchin was "intensifying" and that this made it doubtful that inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would uncover any hard evidence there, even if they were allowed to go.
"Given the extent of the clean-up, it is indeed unlikely the agency, if it ever gets access, would find anything at Parchin," the diplomat said.
There was no immediate comment from Iran's mission to the Vienna-based U.N. atomic agency. It has previously dismissed the allegations about Parchin, which it says is a conventional military facility, as "ridiculous".
The IAEA will press Iran again in talks on Friday for access to Parchin as part of its long-stalled probe into suspected nuclear weapons research in the Islamic state, even though it concedes that the alleged sanitisation would hamper its probe.
The meeting, the first since previous discussions ended in failure in June, takes place after an upsurge in rhetoric from Israeli politicians this month suggesting Israel might attack Iran ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November.
The talks are separate from Tehran's negotiations with world powers that have made little headway since they resumed in April after a 15-month hiatus, but the focus on suspicions about Iran's nuclear ambitions mean they are closely linked.
Lack of movement in both sets of talks could strengthen Israel's belief that tougher Western sanctions are failing to sway Tehran, its arch enemy, which has threatened wide-ranging reprisals if attacked.
Washington says there is still time for diplomatic pressure to work to force Iran to curb its nuclear enrichment programme, which is the immediate priority for the six powers - which also include Britain, Russia, China, France and Germany.
Yet Iran is showing no sign of backing down over what it says is its inalienable right to civilian nuclear energy and has pushed ahead with expansion of Fordow since it was launched last year.
The site, near the holy Shi'ite Muslim city of Qom, is where Iran is enriching uranium to a fissile concentration of 20 percent, activity which the West wants it to stop immediately as it brings it closer to the level required for nuclear weapons.
"Our basic understanding is that they were continuing to install," a Vienna-based diplomat said, adding the new centrifuges at the site were not yet operating.
Another diplomatic source said Iran appeared to have completed installing two more cascades - interlocked networks of 174 centrifuges each - at Fordow.
If confirmed in a new IAEA report on Iran due next week, the two alleged new cascades would be in addition to six cascades that were previously installed, of which four were refining uranium. It was unclear when Iran may launch the new machines.
Available at: http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/08/23/nuclear-iran-enrichment-idINL6E8JNLIB20120823
1. N. Korea Takes Key Step in Constructing Nuclear Reactor
(for personal use only)
North Korea has taken a pivotal step towards constructing a light-water reactor at its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon, fixing a dome atop the building. The facility could be used to produce nuclear weapons.
A new satellite image has been released of the facility which Pyongyang claims is designed for generating electricity, but some experts argue that it could be used to enrich uranium that could be used in a nuclear bomb.
“The emplacement of the dome is a significant development, although it may take several more years for the facility to be completed and brought into full operation,” Allison Puccioni from IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly, that released the image, told AP.
She added that the dome had been lying on the ground beside the building for a year. Earlier in May, satellite images showed that after months of inactivity North Korea had resumed construction of its experimental light-water reactor in Yongbyon.
This comes amid fears that Pyongyang is moving towards a new nuclear test following a failed rocket launch in April, which was interpreted by many as an attempt by North Korea to conduct a prohibited long-range missile test.
North Korea unveiled a sophisticated uranium enrichment workshop in November 2010 and vowed to bolster its nuclear capabilities, citing what it calls hostile US policies towards the country.
The communist state has already tested two nuclear bombs and has hinted that it may conduct a third test.
Available at: http://rt.com/news/dome-yongbyon-nuclear-reactor-253/
2. North Korea Could Have Fuel for 48 Nuclear Weapons by 2015
(for personal use only)
The stark warning about Pyongyang's nuclear stockpile was issued by The Institute for Science and International Security, which projected three scenarios for North Korea's atomic weapons programme.
In the best-case scenario for the next four years outlined by the researchers, North Korea will have been able to use the centrifuges at its Yongbyon nuclear plant to produce sufficient low enriched uranium for a maximum of 25 nuclear weapons.
That figure is an increase of only two warheads from its estimated nuclear arsenal at present. The 40-page report, jointly authored by David Albright, head of the Washington-based institute, and Christina Walrond, a research institute, is based on scientific and statistical data for its conclusions and offers a more worrying worst-case scenario.
"If North Korea has two centrifuge plants, however, it could produce a much larger quantity of WGU (weapons-grade uranium)," the analysts concluded. "It could have 37-48 nuclear weapons, or an increase of 25 weapons, most of which would be produced in 2015 and 2016."
To date, North Korea's research has been focused on plutonium weapons and the regime carried out nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
Those tests, along with the test firing of a nuclear-capable missile in April, triggered international condemnation and the tightening of sanctions, but Pyongyang remains defiant.
Analysts believe that North Korean scientists are now focusing their research on uranium and its potential as a weapon.
Pyongyang has a minimum of six – and potentially as many as 18 – plutonium bombs, while another recent ISIS study predicted that North Korea will complete construction of a new light-water reactor at Yongbyon in late 2013.
Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/9487574/North-Korea-could-have-fuel-for-48-nuclear-weapons-by-2015.html
1. One in Five Big Japan Firms Wants Exit From Atomic Power by 2030
Tetsushi Kajimoto and Izumi Nakagawa
(for personal use only)
About one in five big Japanese firms wants to see the share of nuclear power in the electricity supply reduced to zero by 2030, a Reuters poll showed, amid a growing anti-nuclear clamor after last year's Fukushima atomic disaster.
But underlining concerns about a rise in energy costs without atomic power, the rest of the respondents supported a continued role for nuclear energy, with the biggest group opting for a share of 15 percent.
The poll comes as Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda considers options for a medium-term energy plan while vowing to reduce reliance on atomic energy without saying by how much or when.
Energy policy has become a major headache for Noda and his Democratic Party of Japan, its ratings battered ahead of a general election likely to take place in November and give the ruling party a drubbing.
The government is considering three options for its energy portfolio: reduce nuclear power's role to zero as soon as possible, aim at 15 percent by 2030, or seek a 20-25 percent share by the same date.
The share was about 30 percent before the disaster, which forced the government to scrap a 2010 plan to boost nuclear power's share to more than half of electricity needs by 2030.
In the Reuters poll, 19 percent of big firms sought to cut nuclear power's role to zero, but 39 percent called for 15 percent by 2030, as a majority of companies brace for slower economic growth as reliance on nuclear energy declines.
One-quarter said they wanted to see a 20-25 percent share and the remainder called for even greater percentages, according to the poll of 400 big firms, taken alongside the monthly Reuters Tankan business sentiment survey. A total of 268 responded during the August 6-21 survey period.
The poll reflects to some extent the stance of Japan's major business lobby, Keidanren, which advocates the need for nuclear power out of concern that high energy costs could force firms to move overseas, costing jobs and growth.
"It's unrealistic for Japan to ditch nuclear power in 15 years or so," one rubber company said in the survey. "It should inevitably become around 15 percent while we seek alternative energy sources for overage reactors."
The poll compared with a government survey of nearly 300 people which showed almost half - by far the largest group - favored the zero option.
Meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused radiation to spew over large areas, forcing more than 160,0000 people to flee. In the following months, all of Japan's remaining reactors were shut for safety checks. Two reactors resumed operations last month.
The Reuters poll found 85 percent seeking more strict safety standards and measures for restarting the rest of the reactors which remain shut, mostly for safety checks.
To cope with increased electricity costs amid a prolonged shutdown of reactors, 69 percent said they would cut expenditure and 36 percent would seek cheaper power suppliers, according to the poll, which allowed respondents multiple choices.
Underlining conditions of prolonged deflation, 26 percent said they would pass the cost on to their customers, while 13 percent would shift operations out of Japan, according to the poll.
Since last year's disaster, 15 percent of firms have boosted in-house power generation, while 80 percent made no change in their power procurement, the poll showed.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/08/27/us-japan-nuclear-poll-idUKBRE87Q02B20120827
2. Aomori Governor Wants Japan's Spent Nuclear Fuel Plan to Continue
The Japan Times
(for personal use only)
Aomori Gov. Shingo Mimura urged the central government Wednesday to maintain the long-standing plan to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, saying the state should not act in a manner that would undermine years of cooperation with his prefecture over the issue.
The current policy aims to reprocess all spent nuclear fuel and reuse the extracted plutonium and uranium as reactor fuel. But if the government decides to end atomic power, there would be no point in pursuing fuel-recycling.
The government is on the verge of announcing a new energy mix vis-a-vis nuclear power in consideration of the triple-meltdown crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 atomic plant, proposing three options for the level of reliance on such energy by 2030: zero percent, 15 percent and 20 to 25 percent — compared with 26 percent in 2010.
In meetings with Mimura, Cabinet ministers have agreed to respect the trust Aomori established with the state to accept facilities to reprocess nuclear fuel and store radioactive waste, regardless of what energy goals the government pursues in light of the Fukushima disaster.
In a request handed to the ministers, Mimura said, "We ask the government to make clear its view about the significance of the nuclear fuel-cycle policy, based on the results of promoting it for more than 30 years."
The prefecture has cooperated because ministers have maintained in the past that the fuel-cycle policy is a "steadfast national strategy" for resource-poor Japan, the governor said, adding Aomori agreed to accept spent nuclear fuel from atomic plants nationwide with the understanding that it will be reprocessed.
National policy minister Motohisa Furukawa said he takes Mimura's request "sincerely" and hopes to maintain a relationship of trust with Aomori.
Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano vowed to stand by the government's promise of not making Aomori the final nuclear waste resting site no matter what the government concludes regarding future energy policy.
The existing fuel-cycle policy is considered in jeopardy due to various factors, including the repeated glitches at the fuel reprocessing plant in the Aomori village of Rokkasho that have prevented the start of full-scale operations nearly 20 years since its construction started. Construction costs for the facility have ballooned to more than ¥2 trillion. Add to that the widespread national public opposition to the continued use of nuclear power and to accepting, in anyone's backyard, any atomic waste for final disposal.
Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120823b6.html
3. Japan's Governing Party Seeks Restart Of Offline Nuke Reactors
(for personal use only)
Most of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors were remaining offline since last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster.
A working group of the DPJ formulated an energy policy on Wednesday that allows resumption of the idled reactors with safety checks by a new nuclear regulatory body to be launched next month. But it strictly limits reactors' life to 40 years and tries to reduce future dependence on nuclear energy as much as possible.
The draft policy also recommends measures that would make up for shortage of electricity due to idled reactors. This includes supporting companies that are importing more liquefied natural gas and encouraging the introduction of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. The working group also urged the government to increase the ratio of electricity generated by non-conventional sources to 40 percent by the early 2030s.
A consensus on the draft policy eluded as some DPJ members were opposed to the resumption of idled reactors.
Restart of two reactors at the Ohi plant in central Japan has enraged anti-nuclear citizens' groups which urged Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to scrap all of Japan's nuclear plants and evolve a new energy policy altogether abandoning nuclear power.
A dozen anti-nuclear activists met him in Tokyo on Wednesday seeking immediate stoppage of the two Ohi reactors and a ban on the restart of the offline reactors.
Noda told them that he approved restart of the Ohi plant after confirming its safety, and that he made the decision for the sake of people's lives, not to benefit certain business groups, Japanese media reported.
Available at: http://www.rttnews.com/1952735/japan-s-governing-party-seeks-restart-of-offline-nuke-reactors.aspx?type=gn&utm_source=google&utm_campaign=sitemap
4. Kazakhstan to Decide on Nuclear Power Plant in 2012
Business New Europe
(for personal use only)
Kazakhstan's government is to decide by the end of this year whether to build a nuclear power plant, according to the head of state nuclear company Kazatomprom, Vladimir Shkolnik. Construction of the plant will fill a growing energy deficit in the rapidly industrialising west of the country, but it is a controversial decision given Kazakhstan's legacy as the main Soviet nuclear testing ground.
For several years Kazatomprom has been in talks with its Russian counterpart Rosatom over plans to build a nuclear reactor in the remote western town of Aktau. The two companies have already set up a joint venture, initially to carry out a feasibility study on the construction of a VBER-300 reactor. Speaking to journalists in Astana on August 15, Shkolnik said the final decision will be the Kazakh government's, and it should be made before the end of 2012. "My opinion as an expert with more than 40 years in this industry is that Kazakhstan has the right to operate a nuclear power plant. We have no less experience than any other country in the world in the safe operation of nuclear power plants," Shkolnik said.
Although Aktau is the capital of Kazakhstan's Mangystau region, in the heart of the Caspian oil basin, the region faces an energy deficit as obsolete power plants will soon have to be decommissioned at the same time as industrial activity is increasing. Western Kazakhstan's electricity needs have risen as new industries, most centred around the oil and gas sector, are launched, and the government's 2010-14 industrialisation programme progresses. As in other parts of the country, the population is growing and becoming more affluent, so consumer demand is also increasing.
Kazakhstan has abundant oil and gas, but Astana prefers to use these for export, while investing in other forms of power generation for domestic use. The Ekibastuz power plants near the northern coal basin are being expanded, and a new thermal power plant will be built at Balkhash to serve the south and centre of the country, but the country's main coal deposits are thousands of kilometres from the western oil towns.
The country's previous experience of nuclear power generation was also in Aktau, where a BN-350 fast reactor was built during the Soviet era. It was used mainly for heating and desalination before it was shut down in 1999. Today, Kazakhstan has no nuclear power stations, despite being the world's largest producer of uranium. However, nuclear power generation is increasingly seen as an obvious step for Kazakhstan, which produced over 19,000 tonnes of uranium in 2011, and aims to exceed 21,000 tonnes in 2012. Shkolnik acknowledged that while Kazakhstan "could manage without nuclear power," it would be more economically viable to turn to nuclear energy than to transport coal over huge distances.
This is reflected globally, as nuclear power is enjoying a resurgence in numerous countries, despite the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011. Around 417 new reactors are either being built or are at the planning stage, according to the International Energy Agency, with countries looking to boost nuclear energy generation including China, India, Russia and South Korea.
Kazakhstan is, however, in a special situation because of its history as the main Soviet testing ground. More than 450 nuclear weapons were set off at the Semipalatinsk Polygon between 1949 and 1989. After independence, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev agreed with the leaders of the other Central Asian republics to make the region a nuclear weapon free zone. This makes the construction of a power plant a controversial decision. "I believe that society has yet to make a decision and vote – there should be a referendum, and people have to say they need or want," Shkolnik told journalists, but added that the dangers of nuclear energy can be overestimated by those who have never worked in the industry.
Progress on the nuclear power plant has been further delayed because of disputes between Russia and Kazakhstan over funding and ownership of the intellectual property rights for the reactor. Construction of the Aktau reactor was due to start in 2011, but planning was put on hold for several years, until talks resumed in 2009. Recently, Kazakhstan and Russia have increased cooperation in the civil nuclear sector, signing a new cooperation deal in June. However, the Aktau reactor is not the only option for Kazakhstan, which has also been in early stage talks with Japanese companies over the potential construction of a second reactor near Lake Balkhash.
Available at: http://www.bne.eu/story3922/Kazakhstan_to_decide_on_nuclear_power_plant_in_2012
1. Problematic Nuclear Reactor Having its Life Extended
(for personal use only)
The Nuclear Safety & Security Commission (NSSC) is drawing fire for an administrative notice that critics say is aimed at "saving" the troubled Kori No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.
At an August 23 party lawmakers' general meeting, the Democratic United Party unanimously voted through a resolution to urge reexamination of the reactor's safety. The controversy over the extension of its lifespan is growing at a time when many other first-generation power plants are nearing the end of their own 30-year design lives.
The country's first nuclear power plant, Kori No. 1 was completed in 1977. The NSSC, headed by chairman Kang Chang-sun, announced that it would be adjusting its pressurized thermal shock (PTS) temperature standard from the current 149°C to 155.6°C. Critics in the DUP and elsewhere said this was all a ploy to extend Kori No. 1's lifespan.
The pressure vessel, an external wall of steel, is the primary line of defense against a shock from an explosion within the reactor. The reason is the ductility of steel, or its ability to deform under stress. Steel is both solid and flexible, but it becomes brittle like glass because of neutron activity inside the reactor. The ductile-brittle transition temperature (DBTT), as its name suggests, refers to the temperature at which steel goes from ductile to brittle.
This means that the steel pressure vessel can become as fragile as glass even under the temperature differential from cooling water that erupts in the event of an emergency. This is the PTS temperature. A 2005 test of the Kori No. 1 reactor measured its PTS standard at 152.1°C, a level beyond the current standard.
There are two types of waterways within a reactor. One, the primary system, absorbs heat from the reactor. The water flowing in it does not flow out of the reactor, but instead transmits heat to the secondary system through nuclear fission. The water in the secondary system turns to steam, which drives the turbine. After sufficiently cooling the first system, it is discharged into the ocean as condenser effluent. This requires a high level of thermal conductivity, so the reactor includes a huge number of waterways. A 1,000-megawatt pressurized water reactor is packed with around 16,000 thin pipes.
The problem comes when cooling water is applied under high temperature and pressure conditions. Having absorbed heat from the reactor, this water travels around within the plant at a pressure of 150 atm and a temperature of 320°C. The question surrounds whether the pipes, which measure just 2.5 cm across, are capable of withstanding these levels over long periods of time.
Kori No. 1 had its steam generator replaced in 1994, just 17 years after the reactor went on line, after hundreds of defects were discovered.
Another problem is that the pipes are out of date. Korean Federation For Environmental Movement post-nuclear energy bureau chief Yang-Lee Won-yeong explained, "If there is a rupture in the pipes the coolant travels through, huge amounts of coolant could escape due to the high pressure."
"This kind of danger is higher for Kori No. 1 than for other reactors because it's such an old plant," Yang-Lee added.
The international environmental group Greenpeace has long expressed concerns about Kori's location. At present, around 3.41 million people live within a 30 km radius, the area that would be directly impacted by radiation in the event of an accident.
According to Greenpeace, only South Korea and Taiwan have nuclear power plants set up in such heavily populated areas. The group warned that an accident in either would be far more dangerous than the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster in Japan last year. Its argument is that there is no reason to leave such a potential risk nearby a heavily populated city like Busan.
Democratic United Party lawmaker Park Hong-keun pointed to the discovery of fault zones in South Gyeongsang province as evidence that the area was not safe from earthquakes. "A single nuclear power plant has 1,170 km of pipes and 1,700 km of electrical lines," he said. "The idea that such intricate devices can be safe from earthquakes and other external shocks is a myth."
Available at: http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/548688.html
Officials at the nation’s nuclear power plant Uljin-1 have yet to find out what caused the plant to shut down suddenly on Thursday.
The Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Corp. reported on Thursday evening that the nuclear unit’s reactor and power-generating turbine suddenly ceased operation at around 6:41 p.m. for unknown reasons.
Capable of providing 950,000 kilowatts of electric power, the nuclear unit is currently undergoing an inspection by experts dispatched from the International Atomic Energy Agency and Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety, company officials said.
They said that the incident would not affect the safety of the plant itself or cause leakage of radioactive substances.
The outcome of the inquiry into the cause of the breakdown will not come immediately, said an official of the state-run power company.
A similar case was reported on Aug. 19 when Sinwolseong-1 nuclear plant stopped operation due to failure in control bars that adjust the reactor’s input.
Available at: http://view.koreaherald.com/kh/view.php?ud=20120824000711&cpv=0
A report on Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority (AERB) tabled in the Parliament on Thursday, by Comptroller and Auditor General stated "AERB did not have the authority for framing or revising the rules relating to nuclear and radiation safety". CAG in its audit of AERB delved on the issue of "effectiveness of its role as the nuclear regulator of India" and looked into different aspects to measure that.
Reacting to the developments, Karuna Raina - Greenpeace Campaigner said:"The report clearly points out gaping holes in the effectiveness of the regulator. The report has come out with multiple damning revelations. The auditor revealed that even though AERB is the nuclear regulator yet it does not have any authority even to revise the rules relating to nuclear safety, let alone frame more stringent rules."
The report also stated there was no legislative framework in India for decommissioning of nuclear power plants and AERB did not have any mandate except prescribing of codes, guides and safety manuals on decommissioning.
The auditor also pointed the lack of legislative framework around de-comission of nuclear reactors in India even though some reactors have stopped and due to lack of policy framework on decommissioning, nothing is moving forward.
Available at: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-08-23/mumbai/33340804_1_nuclear-regulator-aerb-nuclear-reactors
4. Plutonium Originating from Tepco’s Reactors Found in 10 Locations
The Japan Daily Press
(for personal use only)
Around ten locations across Fukushima have reported the detection of Plutonium origination from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Four municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture have reported their findings to the Science Ministry.
The town of Namie recorded the highest reading of 11 becquerels of plutonium-238 per square meter. The figures detected are about 1.4 times more plutonium than that originated from fallout from nuclear weapons tests abroad. The only silver lining at the moment is that the Ministry says that the discovery poses no health hazard.
Okuma town, the village of Iitate (32 km from the plant) and the city of Minamisoma are the other municipalities where the Plutonium was discovered. The quantities involved are very small and hence they pose no threat, however no plutonium was found in samples from areas 45 km or farther from the plant. These findings were from samples taken across 62 locations within 100 km of the affected plant. A similar investigation was conducted last year in September and it covered an area 80 km from the plant. This time around the area surveyed was expanded to the 100 km radius.
Available at: http://japandailypress.com/plutonium-originating-from-tepcos-reactors-found-in-10-locations-239938
1. Bulgaria Picks Westinghouse to Study New Nuclear Unit, Reuters, 8/27/2012
(for personal use only)
Bulgaria has relaunched its nuclear power programme, hiring Westinghouse to prepare a proposal for a third reactor at its Kozloduy site, having shelved plans to build a new plant at Belene in March after failing to attract foreign investors.
Bulgaria is one of the few European Union counties pursuing new reactor projects after last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan and Germany's move to phase out nuclear power.
Westinghouse - Japanese group Toshiba's U.S. nuclear unit - must report by March on the likely cost of a 1,000 megawatt reactor at Kozloduy, on the Danube River bordering Romania, energy minister Delyan Dobrev said on Monday.
The group beat French company Areva, which bid alone and in a tie-up with Japanese group Mitsubishi, WorleyParsons and Bulgarian Risk Engineering for the feasibility study.
Westinghouse has to prepare a plan on how to use a 1,000 megawatt reactor built by Russian firm Atomstroyexport for the Belene nuclear project at the Kozloduy site, Dobrev said.
The new project will have a variety of suppliers for the non-nuclear aspects, which should make it more interesting to investors, he said. The government plans offer up to 49 percent to foreign investors.
Bulgaria abandoned plans for a 2,000 MW nuclear plant at Belene after it failed to attract investors for the 10 billion euros ($12.5 billion) project.
Russia, contracted to build the Belene plant back in 2006, had opted to finance it. Bulgaria's centre-right government turned down that offer to allay concerns that Russia would gain control of the EU country's nuclear future.
Dobrev would not comment on the cost of the new reactor, saying the Kozloduy site already had infrastructure that should reduce the total cost.
About 32 percent of energy produced in Bulgaria comes from the 2,000 MW Kozloduy plant, and Bulgaria plans to keep nuclear energy as one of the key sources in its power mix.
Separately on Monday, Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said improving global nuclear safety after Fukushima must remain an urgent concern, despite improvements already made.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/27/bulgaria-nuclear-kozloduy-idUSL5E8JR68820120827
DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to visit the websites from which the source material originates. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of Partnership for Global Security. Partnership for Global Security takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.