1. Iran, EU Agree to Talk Again on Nuclear Dispute
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Chief negotiators for the EU and Iran agreed on Thursday to hold more talks about Tehran's nuclear work, but the European Union gave no sign progress was imminent in the decade-long dispute.
Six world powers, represented by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, have sought to persuade Iran to scale back its nuclear programme through intensifying economic sanctions and diplomacy.
They have failed to reach a breakthrough in three rounds of talks since April. But neither side has been willing to break off talks because of concerns, in part, that this could lead to a new war in the Middle East if Israel attacked its arch-foe.
Any deals are likely to be struck only during political talks between Iran and the six - the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain. But the sides had been unable to decide when, or whether, to meet since diplomacy hit an impasse in June.
"I ... have explored diplomatic ways to resolve international concerns about Iran's nuclear programme," Ashton said in a statement after a phone conversation with Iran's chief negotiator Saeed Jalili.
"I impressed the need for Iran now to address the issues we have raised in order to build confidence. I proposed, and Dr Jalili agreed, that we talk again after further reflection at the end of the month."
Since political talks reached an impasse in June in Moscow, experts from the two sides have held technical discussions aiming to clarify aspects of Iran's nuclear work, which the world powers fear aims at producing weapons. However, the technical talks have produced scant results, diplomats say.
Tehran says its programme serves peaceful purposes only.
At the core of the discussions are Iranian efforts to enrich uranium to 20 percent fissile purity, an advance that would bring it close to acquiring weapons-grade material.
World powers demanded during this year's talks that Tehran abandon such production, ship stockpiles out of the country and close an underground facility where high-grade enrichment takes place. Tehran has refused to meet the demands unless economic sanctions are lifted.
Political tensions have been rising in the meantime, with Israel warning visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday that time was running out for a peaceful settlement to the nuclear dispute with Iran.
Sanctions pressure increased this week when the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly passed a new package of sanctions against Iran that aims to punish banks, insurance companies and shippers that help Tehran sell its oil.
That followed an EU embargo on Iranian crude put in place at the start of July.
Both sides appear to believe that maintaining low-level diplomacy over the nuclear standoff will make their opponent more amenable to compromise over time, while reducing the risk of attack by Israel, believed to be the only nuclear power in the Middle East.
Iran may believe, observers say, that Washington might be more open to compromise over sanctions if President Barack Obama is re-elected in November.
"Neither side wants these talks to completely fail. The Iranians want to take a crack at a re-elected Obama," said Cliff Kupchan, a Middle East analyst at consultancy Eurasia Group.
"Secondly, there is hope that this massive revenue haemorrhage caused by EU oil sanctions is just going to get worse and Iran will be more conciliatory at the negotiation table."
Available at: http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/08/02/iran-nuclear-talks-eu-idINL6E8J2BLE20120802
1. North Korea Threatens Harder Line in Nuclear Talks
Voice of America
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A senior North Korean official says Pyongyang intends to harden its opposition to international pressure against its nuclear weapons program.
Choi Sun Hee, a deputy director of North Korea's Foreign Ministry, sent a rare note by e-mail to VOA's Korean Service Thursday, following three days of informal talks between North Korean diplomats and an unofficial American delegation.
Choi said she led the North Korean team at the talks in Singapore this week. She says, as a result of the talks, her government has no choice but to re-examine the nuclear issue due to Washington's “firm hostile policies” toward it. Says, unless there is a change on the U.S., “The prospect of denuclearization” by North Korea is very remote.
The note said, “If the U.S. sincerely engages in dialogue and withdraws its hostile policies – not through words but through action – to resolve the nuclear issue and improve the relations between the two sides, we will be willing to work to resolve the issues.”
A U.S. State Department spokeswoman confirmed there were unofficial talks in Singapore this week between North Korean and American groups, but said there was no U.S. government involvement in the meetings. She told VOA that as a matter of long-standing policy, “the United States is committed to the maintenance of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and has no hostile intent toward” North Korea.
Available at: http://blogs.voanews.com/breaking-news/2012/08/03/north-korea-threatens-harder-line-in-nuclear-talks/
The No. 3 reactor at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear power plant has returned to commercial operation, the company said.
This occurred Friday after the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency finished its final check on the reactor in Fukui Prefecture, capping the regulatory inspection that began in March last year.
The 1.18-million-kilowatt reactor is the first to resume commercial operation among the nation's 50 nuclear reactors, all of which were halted due to safety concerns posed by the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
The Oi No. 3 reactor was restarted on July 1 and it began generating and transmitting power on July 5. The plant's No. 4 reactor, restarted on July 18, is expected to come back to commercial operation on Aug. 16 or later.
Available at: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120804003333.htm
Ocean waters off the coast of several Japanese prefectures was found to have radioactive cesium that likely came from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, the government said.
“Even if taken internally, the radiation levels detected are not a risk to human health,” said Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, according to the Mainichi newspaper.
The agency said the survey was carried out last year and said elevated levels of the radioactive element were found in waters off Niigata, Shizuoka, and Iwate prefectures. The survey is done each year near nuclear plants in Japan.
Around 9.1 millibecquerels of radioactive cesium was found in water off Shizuoka Prefecture near the Hamaoka nuclear plant and officials found two becquerels per kilogram in a type of fish in the area.
Radioactive cesium is a human-created isotope that is produced during nuclear fission and has a half-life of around 30 years, making it highly toxic for humans.
In a recent report from Vancouver’s Straight.com, irradiated fish from Japan likely caused by the Fukushima disaster are worrying experts.
Tim Takaro, an associate professor with Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University in the health sciences department, told Straight that he suggests finding “another source for fish” if it is coming from that area. “There are way too many questions and not enough answers to say everything is fine,” Takaro added in the report, which was published in mid-July. “There is a need for monitoring. There isn’t any question in my mind about that. Takaro is a member of Canadian antinuclear group Physicians for Global Survival.
Available at: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/world/radioactive-cesium-found-in-waters-off-japan-275202.html
3. Worker at Fukushima Plant 'Forgot' to Wear Dosimeter
The Asahi Shimbun
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An employee of a TEPCO subcontractor worked at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on Aug. 3 without wearing a personal dosimeter as required, The Asahi Shimbun has learned.
The finding comes on the heels of an earlier revelation by The Asahi Shimbun in July that some subcontractor workers were told to shield their dosimeters with lead plates to falsify their readings of radiation levels at the Fukushima plant in December. Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant operator, had said it will take measures to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents.
The worker in question is a man in his 20s working for a second-tier subcontractor. He did piping work on the southwest side of the No. 4 reactor building, a task that TEPCO had assigned to Tokyo Energy and Systems Inc., a TEPCO group company.
The man joined the task team on Aug. 3 and worked from around 7 a.m. until slightly past 11 a.m. on that day, according to officials at both TEPCO and Tokyo Energy and Systems.
All workers are supposed to borrow dosimeters from TEPCO before starting work, but the first-tier subcontractor for Tokyo Energy and Systems only borrowed enough dosimeters for its own employees, not those of the second-tier subcontractor.
The man in question came up when the day's work was over and said he had worked without wearing a dosimeter.
"I was absent-minded because I haven't had enough sleep, and I forgot to borrow a dosimeter," the officials quoted the man as explaining.
According to Shinji Shiina, head of the general affairs division at Tokyo Energy and Systems, the worker in question has worked at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant since June this year. His accumulated radiation dosage level was approaching an in-house limit, so Tokyo Energy and Systems had told him he will no longer be allowed to work at the Fukushima plant from around Aug. 10, Shiina said.
Junichi Matsumoto, acting general director of TEPCO's Nuclear Power and Plant Siting Division, admitted during a news conference on Aug. 3 that there was a loophole in the safety management system. He said the latest revelation constituted a "serious problem" and said there had been similar instances in the past.
The number of past cases has yet to be established, Matsumoto said.
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare plans to look into the case to investigate any loopholes in the safety management system.
Available at: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201208040044
Things are going on smoothly and the loading of enriched uranium fuel into the first reactor at Kudankulam is expected to begin by the middle of this month.
This was stated by Chairman and Managing Director of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) K.C. Purohit.
“Our inspection [of the reactor pressure vessel] is almost complete,” he said from Mumbai. “We will submit our observations and reports to a committee of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and load the fuel based on its decision.”
“The day is not far off” for the fuel assemblies to be loaded into the reactor pressure vessel and it would begin by mid-August.
The vessel is the heart of the reactor that will house 163 fuel assemblies. Each assembly is 4.57 metres long, comprising fuel bundles. The two Russian reactors at Kudankulam, which will use light water as both coolant and moderator, willgenerate 1,000-MW each. Russia will supply fuel for the lifetime of the reactors. It has supplied all equipment such as the RPV, steam generators, turbines and core catcher for thereactors, while the NPCIL built the two units. The first unit is expected to reach criticality by September-end.
Mr. Purohit took over as NPCIL chief on June 25, 2012.
He was earlier Director (Projects) in the NPCIL and worked as both Project Director and Station Director of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project.
Available at: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article3718638.ece
Viet Nam will rely on the latest advances in technology to ensure that its first nuclear power plant meets the highest possible safety standards, said deputy minister of Science and Technology Le Dinh Tien at a conference to improve communication about nuclear power yesterday.
The plant, which is currently being built in central Ninh Thuan Province, will be hundreds of times safer than the world's first reactors, which were built in the 1950s.
In 1996, the country started to prepare for the plant's development. The project was approved three years ago.
So far, Viet Nam has issued about 80 official documents covering nuclear power regulations and safety standards.
"Viet Nam is improving its legal framework relating to nuclear safety and security and boosting our capacity to develop in this field," he said.
Notably, in 2010, the Government approved VND3 trillion (US$143 million) for a project to develop human resources in the nuclear sector.
Deputy head of Nuclear Energy Department Hoang Anh Tuan said that high quality human resources would be a decisive factor in the success of nuclear power development.
The country's significant investment in technology and staff training demonstrates Viet Nam's consistent commitment to developing nuclear power, he said.
According to the World Nuclear Association, after the Fukushima accident, some countries such as Germany and Belgium announced they would give up nuclear power, while other countries including South Korea, Iran, and Belarus continued to rely on the energy source.
Deputy minister Tien said that with the country's increasing power demand, nuclear power is indispensable. While other clean sources of energy like wind and solar power have huge potential, they cannot yet provide enough energy for the whole country.
About 30 countries and territories worldwide have nuclear power plants with 433 nuclear reactors, making up 17 per cent of total world power supply. This helps ensure the world's energy security, he said.
According to the Master Plan for National Power Development, which covers the 2011-20 period with a vision to 2030 and has been approved by the Prime Minister, the first two units in Ninh Thuan will be put into operation in 2020 and are expected to generate 2,000 MW per year. By 2050, Viet Nam hopes to generate enough nuclear power to account for 20-25 per cent of its energy consumption.
Available at: http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/Industries/228286/officials-say-nuclear-plant-will-be-safest.html
3. EnBW Chooses Fast Tear-Down Method for Nuclear Plants
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EnBW, Germany's No.3 utility, has chosen the process of direct dismantling for its nuclear power plants in Neckarwestheim and Philippsburg, the fastest option to decommission plants after Germany decided to exit nuclear power.
"We are taking note of our responsibility and not putting the issue of decommissioning work off any longer," said Joerg Michels, chairman of EnBW Kernkraft, which operates the group's nuclear power stations.
"With direct decommissioning, we are achieving clarity for the public, employees and our business partners."
Dismantling a nuclear plant until it has completely vanished can take several decades, depending on which technique is used, and Germany's nuclear-sceptic public has put pressure on its utilities to quickly decommission its plants following the decision to abandon nuclear power by 2022.
So-called nuclear entombment aims to seal off some radioactive material for decades to let radiation levels fall, making the process of dismantling easier at a later stage.
Using this technique, the process of fully decommissioning a plant can take more than 40 years, much longer than the process of direct dismantling, which usually takes about 10-12 years.
The four operators of nuclear plants in Germany - E.ON , RWE, EnBW and Vattenfall - have made a total of more than 30 billion euros ($37 billion) in provisions for the dismantling of the plants and the disposal of nuclear waste.
Germany's No.2 utility RWE estimates that dismantling its two reactors at Biblis will cost 1.5 billion euros, excluding storage costs for the nuclear waste.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/02/enbw-nuclearpower-dismantling-idUSL6E8J2FF120120802
1. Seoul Restarts Aged Nuclear Reactor Despite Safety Concerns
Yonhap News Agency
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The government decided Monday to restart an aged nuclear reactor that recently underwent months-long scrutiny over its safety, amid looming signs of a power shortage due to a record heat wave.
Operation of the Reactor-1 at Gori Nuclear Power Plant in Busan was resumed earlier in the day with the reactor expected to reach its full generation capacity on Friday, according to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy.
"We are relieved the Gori reactor was restarted," Knowledge Economy Minister Hong Suk-woo told a press briefing.
The 578-megawatt reactor, located some 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul, was manually shut down on March 12 after the Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. belatedly reported a major safety breach during a regular maintenance check the previous month, when the reactor, along with its backup generator, temporarily lost power.
The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission approved a restart of the reactor early last month after a near four-month safety inspection, during which an experts team from the International Atomic Energy Agency also took a non-mandatory look at the reactor and confirmed its safety.
However, the reactor had remained shut down amid widespread public concerns over safety of the reactor whose initial 30-year lifespan ran out but was extended by 10 years in 2008.
"Despite the approval from the safety commission, the government delayed the restart of the reactor for over a month, considering concerns held by residents from near the Gori plant," the minister said.
"I believe there is no problem with the (reactor's) safety. From the beginning, it was a matter of how safe people felt."
The sudden restart of the reactor that could supply nearly 0.5 percent of total electricity consumption in South Korea was apparently prompted, at least in part, by the possibility of a power shortage during the hot summer season, though the minister said the decision was not made in haste.
The country's electricity reserve levels fell below 2 million kilowatts on Monday, far below the 4 million kilowatt level that is considered safe.
"We are not restarting the reactor in haste. If we wanted to restart it quickly, we would've done so a month ago," Hong said.
South Korea currently has 23 operational reactors, supplying about 30 percent of its total electricity consumption.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/business/2012/08/06/20/0501000000AEN20120806004000320F.HTML
2. Judge Releases Nun who Broke into U.S. Nuclear Bomb Facility
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A U.S. magistrate judge on Friday ordered the release pending trial of an 82-year-old nun and another anti-nuclear activist charged with breaching security fences at one of the most sensitive U.S. nuclear facilities, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where weapons-grade uranium is kept.
The security failure was an embarrassment for the National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, the Energy Department branch that operates U.S. nuclear weapons plants, and for the international security firm G4S, which owns WSI Oak Ridge, the contractor responsible for protecting the facility.
G4S was also at the center of a dispute over security at the London Olympic Games.
Officials said the facility was shut down on Wednesday at least until next week after peace activists Megan Rice, 82, Michael Walli, 63, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, cut through perimeter fences to reach the outer wall of a building where highly enriched uranium, a key nuclear bomb component, is stored.
The activists painted slogans and threw what they said was human blood on the wall of the facility, one of numerous buildings in the facility known by the code name Y-12 that it was given during World War Two, officials said.
At a hearing in Knoxville, Tennessee on Friday, assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Kirby argued that all three should remain in custody. "This is a crime of violence," Kirby said.
But U.S. Magistrate Judge C. Clifford Shirley ruled the threat of violence was low and decided to release Rice, who according to her attorney has a thyroid and heart condition and has not been receiving her medication. The judge also released Walli. Both were given travel and other restrictions, and will stay at a private residence in Knoxville while court proceedings continue, according to defense attorneys.
Boertje-Obed waived his right to a defense attorney and will remain in detention.
All three defendants appeared in grey, striped prison clothes with orange plastic shoes, handcuffs, and leg manacles. Rice appeared frail and was suffering from hypothermia, according to her attorney, Francis Lloyd, Jr., who draped his coat over her. Court was recessed to allow time to find a space heater and a blanket for Rice.
While moving between the perimeter fences, the activists triggered sensors that alerted security personnel. But officials conceded the intruders were still able to reach the building's walls before security personnel got to them.
Officials said that the storage building itself, which was built after the September 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington, was designed with modern security features and that its contents were not compromised.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/04/us-usa-security-nuclear-idUSBRE87300K20120804
Russian officials are shutting down Reactor No. 1 at the 38-year-old Sosnovy Bor nuclear power plant, located south of St Petersburg.
Finland's Swedish-language daily Hufvudstadsbladet reported on Thursday that the Finnish Radiation Safety Authority STUK was informed of the move on Tuesday, and has expressed satisfaction with the decision.
"On Tuesday we heard that the oldest reactor is being shut down and will remain closed indefinitely. We are very pleased about this," Heikki Reponen told the newspaper. He heads STUK's unit focusing on neighbouring area cooperation with Russia.
Officials decided to close the reactor because of swelling and cracking of the graphite it used as a moderator.
According to Reponen, STUK has been monitoring the situation at Sosnovy Bor carefully since the graphite problem was identified at the end of last year.
"The rapid changes in the graphite came as a surprise to us," says Reponen. He adds that STUK is also pleased with the openness on the issue from Russian officials.
Sosnovy Bor, which has four reactors, is one of Russia's three remaining graphite nuclear power plants like the one in Chernobyl that suffered a meltdown in 1986. Two similar reactors in Lithuania were closed in 2004 and 2009.
Rosenergoatom, the energy utility that runs Sosnovy Bor, has estimated the lifespan of a graphite reactor at between 40 and 45 years. Reactor No. 1 was built in 1974.
A new reactor of a different type is under construction near St Petersburg.
Available at: http://yle.fi/uutiset/finnish_officials_welcome_russian_nuke_shutdown/6239763
1. Manmohan Singh Seeks Legal Opinion on Russia Wanting Nuclear Liability Immunity
News Track India
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Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has sought legal opinion on Russia's demand to exempt upcoming Kudankulam nuclear plants 3 and 4 from Nuclear Liability Law, Minister of State (MoS) at Prime Minister's Office (PMO), V Narayanasamy, said here on Saturday.
Russia has sought immunity from the law- which stipulates that the operator will have to pay a compensation of rupees 15,000 crore in case of any problem- arguing that these units are extensions of the old project that pre-dates the rule.
The Nuclear Power Corporation of India officials were in talks with Russian government on the issue, Narayanasamy revealed.
Interacting with reporters here, Narayanasamy said, "When it comes to the question of the supplier's liability, the state government is raising some queries. The Prime Minister has sent the papers for getting the legal opinion. It was in the media also. As soon as the legal opinion comes, we will decide. The negotiations are going on between the Nuclear Power Corporation of India officials and Russian government over that issue."
Established as a joint collaboration between India and Russia, the Kudankulam nuclear power project envisaged to build two 1,000 MW VVER type reactors by the end of last year.
Twenty-four years in the making, the Russian-built plant was supposed to be switched on last year, but protesters surrounded it and prevented work after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.
Available at: http://www.newstrackindia.com/newsdetails/2012/08/04/204-Manmohan-Singh-seeks-legal-opinion-on-Russia-wanting-Nuclear-Liability-immunity-.html
Candu Energy has signed an agreement with three China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) subsidiaries to expand their cooperation in the development of thorium and recycled uranium as alternative fuels for new Candu reactors.
The Canadian company has agreed with the Third Qinshan Nuclear Power Company, China North Nuclear Fuel Corporation and the Nuclear Power Institute of China to expand their joint project to demonstrate the use of fuel bundles containing recovered uranium from used fuel at CNNC's existing Candu pressurized heavy-water reactors at the Qinshan plant in Zhejiang province.
The agreement, which will run for two years, is expected to result in a detailed conceptual design of the Advanced Fuel Candu Reactor (AFCR), which Candu describes as "a further evolution of the successful Candu 6 and Generation III Enhanced Candu 6, which is optimized for use of recycled uranium and thorium fuel."
Candu's senior vice president of marketing and business development Ala Alizadeh said, "At the completion of the agreement, we expect to have the basis of a pre-project agreement for two AFCR units in China, including site allocation and the definition of the licensing basis."
The agreement, Candu said, marks the third phase of cooperation that started in 2008 between Canada and China to demonstrate not only the use of recovered uranium but also thorium in Candu reactors. In November 2008, the four partners announced that they would jointly develop the technology for the use of uranium recovered from used nuclear fuel from other Chinese reactors for use at Qinshan 3 and 4. The partners signed a further agreement July 2009 to jointly develop and demonstrate the use of thorium fuel and to study the commercial and technical feasibility of its full-scale use in Candu units.
In March 2010, the partners reported that fuel bundles containing recovered uranium from used fuel had been inserted into Qinshan Phase III unit 1 at the start of a one-year trial. Candu said that those tests demonstrated the feasibility of using natural uranium equivalent (NUE) fuel, composed of recycled uranium and depleted uranium. Two 728 MWe Candu 6 units are in operation at the Qinshan Phase III plant. "The parties are now working on a project to convert the Qinshan Candu reactor units to full core use of NUE fuel by 2014," Candu said.
Frank Yee, Candu's chief nuclear engineer, commented, "China has abundant thorium resources, and can use recycled uranium in the most efficient and cost effective manner in our commercially proven reactor designs with minimal changes."
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/ENF-Candu_expands_cooperation_with_China-0308124.html
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