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Nuclear News - 9/17/2012
PGS Nuclear News, September 17, 2012
Compiled By: Pia Ulrich

A.  Iran
    1. Iran Says Explosives Cut Power Line to Nuclear Site, Reuters (9/17/2012)
    2. U.N. Nuclear Agency Says to Hold More Talks With Iran, Reuters (9/17/2012)
    3. EU's Ashton to Meet Iran Nuclear Negotiator Tuesday, AFP (9/17/2012)
    4. Netanyahu Says Iran’s Nuclear Program Is in a ‘Red Zone', David Lerman and Silla Brush, Bloomberg (9/17/2012)
    5. U.N. Nuclear Governors Censure Iran over Atom Bomb Concerns, Fredrik Dahl, Reuters (9/13/2012)
B.  Nuclear Energy
    1. IAEA Defends Nuclear Energy Post-Fukushima, UPI (9/17/2012)
    2. Japan to Complete Reactors Despite No-Nuclear Policy, AFP (9/15/2012)
    3. Nuclear Power Champions Japan and France Turn Away, Karolin Schaps and Henning Gloystein, Reuters (9/14/2012)
    4. Westinghouse ‘Absolutely Committed’ to U.K. Nuclear Rollout, Roxana Zega, Bloomberg (9/14/2012)
C.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. IAEA to Convene 56th General Conference, RIA Novosti (9/17/2012)
D.  Nuclear Safety & Security
    1. Nuke Reactor Malfunctions, Stops Generating Electricity at Power Plant, Yonhap News Agency (9/16/2012)
    2. France to Close its Oldest Nuclear Reactor, UPI (9/14/2012)
    3. U.S.: Syria Must End Nuclear Go-Slow, Conflict No Excuse, Fredrik Dahl, Reuters (9/14/2012)
    4. Second Belgian Reactor Has Indications of Cracks, Reuters (9/13/2012)
    5. Officials Investigate Cause of Areva Fire, Tri-City Herald (9/13/2012)
E.  Links of Interest
    1. EDF Denies Seeking $2.6 Bln for Fessenheim Closure, Reuters (9/17/2012)
    2. Thorium as Uranium Replacement Studied, UPI (9/13/2012)

A.  Iran

EU's Ashton to Meet Iran Nuclear Negotiator Tuesday
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EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will meet Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in Istanbul on Tuesday as tensions mount over Tehran's disputed atomic programme, her office said.

The meeting "is part of continuing efforts to engage with Iran, led by the High Representative, and in line with the understandings reached at the negotiating round in Moscow in June", a spokeswoman said on Monday.

"While it is not a formal negotiating round, the meeting will be an opportunity to stress once again to Iran the need for an urgent and meaningful confidence building step and to show more flexibility with the proposals ... tabled in Baghdad (in May)."

Ashton talked to Jalili by phone in early August, hoping to get the negotiations back on track.

The so-called P5+1 contact group made up of Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany have asked Iran to immediately stop enriching uranium because of fears Tehran might be developing nuclear weapons.

Iran rejects the allegations, saying its nuclear programme is peaceful and for energy and development purposes only.

The EU announcement comes amid growing fears that arch-foe Israel might attack Iran's nuclear installations, potentially sparking a major conflict.

Over the weekend, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Iran was "90 percent" towards having a nuclear bomb, insisting that Western powers, led by the United States, should lay down a "red line" Tehran must not cross.

The Israeli premier said Iran was moving rapidly to complete enrichment of the uranium needed to produce a nuclear bomb. "In six months or so, they'll be 90 percent of the way there," he said.

The United States says all options against Iran, including military action, are on the table but rejects any idea of warning lines as political grandstanding which might also put it at a strategic disadvantage.

US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said over the weekend that "there's still considerable time" for Western pressure to work, although it remains the bottom line that "Iran will not have a nuclear weapon".

A diplomatic source in Istanbul said Jalili met Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday to discuss the resumption of talks with world powers over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

"Jalili wanted to come to Turkey to discuss the latest developments on the Iranian nuclear issue," the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Earlier this month, EU nations raised the threat of new international sanctions against Iran, with Germany Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle saying Iran had made no "substantial offer" so far to resolve the dispute.

The last round of EU sanctions, a damaging oil embargo, came into effect on July 1, adding to US financial sanctions aimed at shutting off Iran's oil exports, which account for half of government revenues.

Unlike the tough US measures, EU sanctions are not extra-territorial, affecting solely firms operating in Europe, or assets placed within the 27-nation bloc.

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Iran Says Explosives Cut Power Line to Nuclear Site
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Explosives were used to cut the electricity power lines to Iran's Fordow underground enrichment plant last month in an apparent attempt to sabotage Tehran's atomic advances, its nuclear energy chief said on Monday.

It was believed to be the first time Iran has mentioned the incident, which atomic energy organisation chief Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani said took place on Aug. 17.

He also told the annual member state gathering of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that "the same act" had been carried out on power lines to Iran's main enrichment plant near the central town of Natanz, without giving a date.

Abbasi-Davani made clear his view that sabotage would not be successful in slowing Iran's nuclear programme, which the West suspects is aimed at developing an atomic bomb capability but which Tehran says is purely peaceful.

He spoke a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Iran would reach the brink of being able to build a nuclear bomb in six or seven months. ID:nL5E8KG2P5]

Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear-armed state, sees Iran's atomic work as a threat to its existence and has ramped up threats to attack its arch enemy's nuclear sites.

Iran has often accused Israel and Tehran's Western enemies of being behind the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists and of trying to damage its nuclear programme in other ways, such as cyber attacks.

Abbasi-Davani said explosives had been used to cut power lines from the city of Qom to the Fordow underground uranium enrichment plant on Aug. 17. The next morning, he said, IAEA inspectors had asked for an unannounced visit to Fordow.

"Does this visit have any connection to that detonation? Who, other than the IAEA inspector, can have access to the complex in such a short time to record and report failures?" Abbasi-Davani told the gathering in Vienna.

"It should be recalled that power cut-off is one of the ways to break down centrifuge machines," he said, referring to the machines used to enrich uranium, which can have both civilian and military purposes.

He did not say whether the power had since been restored or give any other details.

Iran uses the Fordow facility to enrich uranium to a fissile concentration of 20 percent, the part of its work that most worries the West as it takes it significantly closer to the 90 percent level needed for bombs. It built the site some 80 metres below rock and soil to better protect it against enemy strikes.

Abbasi-Davani, in unusually strong language in an international forum, also accused the IAEA of a cynical approach and mismanagement and suggested that "terrorists and saboteurs" might have infiltrated it.

The IAEA has voiced growing concern about possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme and is seeking to resume a long-stalled investigation into suspected atom bomb research in the Islamic Republic.

An IAEA report last month said Iran had doubled the number of centrifuges at Fordow, further expanding its capacity to make sensitive nuclear material despite harsh Western sanctions and the threat of an Israeli attack.

Abbasi-Davani told the IAEA gathering that included senior U.S. and other Western officials: "Plotters of attack against Iran's nuclear facilities have realised, through the IAEA published reports, that they have not gained any success in this regard."

Iranian experts have devised "certain ways through which nuclear facilities remain intact under missile attacks and air raids," he said.

The United States and its allies have launched a major naval exercise in the Gulf they say shows a global will to keep oil shipping lanes open as Israel and Iran trade threats of war.

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Netanyahu Says Iran’s Nuclear Program Is in a ‘Red Zone'
David Lerman and Silla Brush
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran’s effort to develop nuclear weapons is in a “red zone,” and the U.S. must set a clear “red line” that Iran can’t cross without risking a military attack.

“They’re in the red zone,” Netanyahu said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday. “They’re in the last 20 yards. And you can’t let them cross that goal line. You can’t let them score a touchdown.”

Raising the stakes in a dispute with Washington over how quickly military action may be needed to thwart or delay Iran’s nuclear program, the prime minister said Iran is six months away from having about 90 percent of the enriched uranium that would be needed for a nuclear bomb.

“I think that you have to place that red line before them now, before it’s too late,” Netanyahu said.

Officials from the U.S. and the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna have said that Iran has stepped up its efforts to enrich uranium to about 20 percent, though there’s no evidence that it has moved to the 90 percent needed to make nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is intended only for civilian purposes. Israeli leaders have said Iran’s atomic program is for military purposes and poses a threat to Israel’s existence.

In urging a tougher stance from the Obama administration, Netanyahu likened the Iran case to President John Kennedy’s handling of the Cuban missile crisis, when a potential nuclear war was averted after the Soviet Union withdrew missiles from Cuba.

“When President Kennedy set a red line in the Cuban missile crisis, he was criticized,” Netanyahu said. “But it turns out it didn’t bring war. It actually pushed war back and probably purchased decades of peace with the Soviet Union.”

Netanyahu didn’t say explicitly what the “red line” should be when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” yesterday that “there’s still a considerable time and space” before Iran would be able to obtain a nuclear weapon.

The imposition of economic sanctions has Iran’s economy “beginning to buckle” and its oil production down by 40 percent, she said. The sanctions were designed to pressure Iran to change course on its nuclear program.

“But this is not an infinite window,” Rice said. “And we’ve made very clear that the president’s bottom line is Iran will not have a nuclear weapon.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta appeared to mock the notion of setting “red lines” in an interview with Foreign Policy last week.

Leaders of the U.S., Israel and other nations don’t have “a bunch of little red lines that determine their decisions,” Panetta said. “What they have are facts that are presented to them about what a country is up to, and then they weigh what kind of action is needed to be taken in order to deal with that situation.”

Underscoring the tension between the U.S. and Israel over Iran strategy, Panetta added, “Red lines are kind of political arguments that are used to try to put people in a corner.”

The U.S. and Israel sparred last week over how to handle Iran, with Netanyahu and President Barack Obama holding an hour- long telephone conversation about the issue.

Last week’s rift began when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a Bloomberg Radio interview Sept. 9 that the U.S. is “not setting deadlines” on negotiations with Iran. On Sept. 11, Netanyahu said on the CBS “This Morning” show that unless the U.S. and others draw a “red line” regarding Iran’s nuclear work, they will have no right to put a “red light” against possible Israeli action.

Leaders of the two countries spoke later that day by telephone, and the White House said in a statement that Obama and Netanyahu “reaffirmed that they are united in their determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Netanyahu said the next day that he has a duty to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon even when “the best of friends” disagree.

“We had a good conversation,” Netanyahu said yesterday with CNN’s “State of the Union.” “What’s guiding me, contrary to what I’ve read in the United States, is not the United States’s political calendar, it’s the Iranian nuclear calendar.”

As Iran gets closer to completing its first nuclear bomb, Netanyahu said on CNN, “The differences between us are -- and our capabilities are -- becoming less and less important, because Iran is fast approaching a point where it could disappear from our capability of stopping them.”

Arizona Senator John McCain, the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on the same program that the U.S. should make clear to Israel privately what its “red line” is on Iran’s nuclear development.

“We should in quiet negotiations say, ‘This is a line that you, Israel, can be confident that we will not let them cross and we will act with you militarily,’” McCain said.
Two veteran U.S. diplomats said the notion of setting “red lines” is impractical and too constraining.

“That’s an approach I think that probably can’t work, simply because the Iranians may be doing things already that we don’t know about,” Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said on CBS.

Haass said the U.S. should instead set a deadline for Iran that specifies “all the enrichment material they have to get rid of, the international inspections they have to accept,” to avoid the risk of military attack and get economic sanctions eased.

“The idea of putting out a public red line, in effect issuing an ultimatum, is something that no president would do,” said Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel now at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Even Netanyahu hasn’t done so, “in terms of Israel’s own actions, because it locks you in,” Indyk said.

Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for U.S. president, has sought to portray Obama as insufficiently supportive of Israel. Netanyahu, on NBC, deflected questions about the U.S. presidential race, saying Obama and Romney are “equally committed” to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu described Iran at times as a rational actor on the world stage that will respond to threats made by Israel or the U.S.

“Once the Iranians understand that there’s a line that they can’t cross, they’re not likely to cross it,” he said.

At other times, he described the Iranian regime as being driven by “an unbelievable fanaticism” that causes its leaders to “put their zealotry above their survival.”

He added, “I wouldn’t rely on their rationality.”

U.S. officials don’t all share Netanyahu’s belief that Iran’s leaders value zealotry above survival, arguing that despite their rhetoric their top priority is ensuring the survival of the Islamic Republic and continuing to export their brand of religious revolution.

That’s why the Iranians try to wipe their fingerprints off many of their terrorist attacks by using proxies such as the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah and, more recently, what they thought was a Mexican drug cartel to murder Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S., said two American officials.

Still, it isn’t safe to assume that Cold War-style deterrence would prevent a nuclear-armed Iran from attacking Israel or giving a nuclear device to terrorists. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is aware that using a nuclear weapon or attacking Israel, U.S. bases or troops, or Saudi Arabia or other Persian Gulf states would bring a devastating American or U.S.- Israeli counterattack, they said.

Yet Iran’s desire to preserve the Islamic Republic doesn’t rule out a miscalculation, mistake, or hot-headed decision -- all of which would be infinitely more dangerous if Iran obtained nuclear weapons, the U.S. officials said.

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U.N. Nuclear Agency Says to Hold More Talks With Iran
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The U.N. atomic watchdog will hold further talks with Iran aimed at clarifying concerns about its nuclear program, despite the lack of progress so far, agency chief Yukiya Amano said on Monday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is "firmly committed" to intensifying dialogue with the Islamic state, Amano told the IAEA's annual member state gathering.

He gave no date for a possible new round of talks that began in January between IAEA officials and Iran aimed at allaying concern Tehran may be developing nuclear weapons capability, a charge Iran denies. The last meeting was in August.

Iran's atomic energy chief, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, was due to address the IAEA meeting later on Monday. Abbasi-Davani was also expected to meet Amano.

The IAEA has been trying to reach a framework accord with Iran that would allow the Vienna-based U.N. agency to resume a long-stalled investigation into suspected atom bomb research in the Islamic Republic.

"We will continue negotiations with Iran on a structured approach to resolving all outstanding issues," Amano said, referring to such an accord.

"I hope we can reach agreement without further delay, to be followed by immediate implementation," he said.

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U.N. Nuclear Governors Censure Iran over Atom Bomb Concerns
Fredrik Dahl
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The 35-nation board of the U.N. nuclear watchdog censured Iran on Thursday for defying international demands to curb uranium enrichment and failing to address mounting disquiet about its suspected research into atomic bombs.

Two days after Israel ramped up threats to attack its arch-enemy Iran, the board overwhelmingly passed a resolution voicing "serious concern" about Tehran's nuclear advances but also making clear its desire for a peaceful resolution of the row.

Russia and China joined four U.S.-led Western powers in sponsoring the resolution to display big power unity on Iran.

Only Cuba voted against. Three countries, including Egypt, abstained, according to diplomats who took part in the closed-door meeting at International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna.

"The diplomatic pressure on Iran is increasing. The isolation is increasing," U.S. envoy Robert Wood said.

But Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said such resolutions were counterproductive. Iran has sallied ahead with its nuclear programme despite a series of similar resolutions since 2006 as well as harsh economic sanctions.

The difference now, though, is that the need for a diplomatic breakthrough is becoming urgent given Israel's increasingly strident demand that Iran be set a deadline to cooperate or risk the Jewish state launching air strikes that many fear could ignite a devastating Middle East war.

"It (the IAEA resolution) will only complicate the situation and jeopardize the cooperative environment which we desperately need," Soltanieh told reporters after the vote.

The resolution faults Iran for ignoring U.N. Security Council calls on it to suspend uranium enrichment - a conduit to producing fuel for nuclear power stations or bombs - and open up to investigations of signs that it seeks nuclear arms know-how.

Six world powers had tabled a resolution text on Wednesday, aiming to raise pressure on Iran to relent, a day after Israel signaled it was almost out of patience with the use of diplomacy and sanctions to try to rein in the Islamic Republic.

South Africa, like Iran a member of the Non-Aligned Movement of mostly developing nations, earlier plunged the meeting into confusion by putting forward an amendment which some Western diplomats said might have weakened the language towards Iran.

But a compromise was hammered out during a three-hour adjournment of the meeting, the diplomats said, satisfying the United States, Russia, France, China, Britain and Germany.

The amendment concerned a section of the text demanding that Iran immediately implement a yet-to-be agreed framework accord with the IAEA on how the agency should conduct its investigation into suspected nuclear explosives research in the Islamic state.

The compromise changed the original text but not as far as the South African proposal, easing Western fears that it could lower the heat on Tehran to come clean with IAEA sleuths.

The IAEA has tried in a series of high-profile meetings with Iran that began in January to agree a "Structured Approach" on how to carry out its inquiry. IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said this week that no concrete results had been achieved, calling the lack of progress "frustrating".

"Iran has not engaged seriously and without preconditions in talks aimed at restoring international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme," the 27-nation European Union said in a statement to the board.

"Iran's procrastination is unacceptable," the bloc said.

Wood, the U.S. envoy, accused Iran of "systematically demolishing" a facility at the Parchin military site that IAEA inspectors want to visit as part of their investigation.

"Iran has been taking measures that appear consistent with an effort to remove evidence of its past activities at Parchin," he told the board gathering.

Soltanieh dismissed what he called the "noise about cleaning" and "distorted information" about Parchin, a vast military complex southeast of Tehran where the IAEA suspects Iran has carried out explosives tests relevant for atom bombs.

Iran says it wants to produce electricity from enriched uranium and not bombs. Refined uranium can be used to fuel nuclear power plants. If enriched to a high degree, it can provide the explosive core for a nuclear warhead.

Israel, believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear-armed state, sees the danger of Iran developing an atom bomb as a threat to its existence and has stepped up hints of air strikes on Iranian nuclear installations.

But Benjamin Netanyahu's deputy for intelligence and atomic affairs, Dan Meridor, on Thursday publicly disagreed with the Israeli prime minister's call for Iran to be confronted with a "red line" beyond which its disputed nuclear programme would face military attack.

He called for international sanctions against Tehran to be intensified "so it understands that the price it is paying is mounting and that the only way to be rid of it is to stop the (nuclear) race, to arrive at an agreement, or an international understanding, that it is calling it quits".

Meridor, part of Netanyahu's inner security cabinet, took a more moderate view of a nuclear-armed Iran than the premier, who has likened that prospect to a second Holocaust.

"I don't want to speak in apocalyptic ... Holocaust terms," said Meridor. "I think that we are strong and we will overcome the challenges, but this is a serious challenge."

The United States, Israel's main ally, says there is still time for diplomacy and sanctions to make Iran, one of the world's largest oil exporters, change course.

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B.  Nuclear Energy

IAEA Defends Nuclear Energy Post-Fukushima
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Using nuclear technology for the production of energy remains its best peaceful application, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said from Vienna.

Amano touted the safety of nuclear power more than a year after a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan.

Japan in May shut its last operating nuclear reactor for maintenance, leaving the country without nuclear power for the first time in more than 40 years. By June, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda gave approval for the restart of the Ohi nuclear power facility despite national protests.

Eighteen months after the (Fukushima) accident, it is clear that nuclear energy will remain an important option for many countries, Amano said at during the International Atomic Energy Agency's regular meeting in Vienna.

"Our latest projections show a steady rise in the number of nuclear power plants in the world in the next 20 years."

Most of that growth would come from Asian economies, he said. Lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster, he added, would drive nuclear energy policies moving forward.

"The most important lesson that we have learned from Fukushima Daiichi is that we need a much more intense focus on nuclear safety," he said.

An 11-mile exclusion zone is in place around the plant, which suffered the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 meltdown at the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine.

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Japan to Complete Reactors Despite No-Nuclear Policy
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Japan said it would go ahead with planned work to complete three new nuclear power reactors, despite saying a day earlier it would phase out atomic power generation by 2040.

The construction of the reactors at three different plants was suspended after a massive earthquake and tsunami sparked the Fukushima nuclear crisis on March 11 last year -- the worst such accident in a generation.

"We don't intend to withdraw the permission that has already been given by the ministry," Yukio Edano, the minister of economy, trade and industry, said on Saturday as he met local administrators in Aomori, northern Japan, according to reports.

Two of the reactors are located at plants in Aomori while the third is in the western district of Shimane.
Edano added, however, that the start-up of the reactors would be subject to approval by a newly created government commission to regulate nuclear power.

On Friday, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's government adopted a new energy policy, including the nuclear phase-out, in what was widely seen as bowing to public pressure after the Fukushima disaster.

Nuclear energy has become a hot issue in Japan ahead of a snap general election expected this autumn. Protests have attracted tens of thousands of people calling for atomic power to be ditched.

The new policy calls for reactors more than 40 years old to be shut down, plans to build more nuclear reactors to be shelved and existing reactors only to be restarted if they pass standards issued by the new regulatory agency.

Japan turned off its 50 reactors in the wake of the Fukushima disaster but has restarted two of them due to the possibility of summertime power shortages.

Japanese newspapers were divided over the new energy policy.

The influential Asahi Shimbun called the nuclear phase-out "realistic", stressing that "nuclear power plants face enormous risks and electric power companies have totally lost the nation's trust".

But the mass-circulation Yomiuri Shimbun said the government should first have outlined how it intended to meet the shortfall in energy production.

"It is extremely irresponsible for the government to tout 'zero nuclear power generation' without drawing up concrete steps to secure electric power in a stable manner," it said.

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Nuclear Power Champions Japan and France Turn Away
Karolin Schaps and Henning Gloystein
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Two of nuclear power's greatest champions dealt the industry a heavy blow on Friday, with Japan deciding to phase out its plants and France confirming plans to cut its heavy reliance on the technology following concern over the Fukushima disaster.

Japan, which produced more than 10 percent of global nuclear power before it suffered last year's accident at Fukushima, joins Germany, Switzerland and Belgium in deciding to shut down nuclear plants and to spend money on renewable energy instead.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced Japan would pull out of nuclear power by the 2030s and triple the share of renewable sources to 30 percent of its energy mix.

In Paris, President Francois Hollande confirmed his campaign pledge to cut the share of nuclear power in France's energy mix to 50 percent by 2025 from 75 percent. At the same time he urged the European Union to set tough targets for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions for 2030 and 2040.

"We have an ambitious strategy," Hollande told an environment conference, calling for a 40 percent cut in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2030 and a 60 percent reduction by 2040 at the EU level, well beyond the 20 percent target set for 2020.

Greenhouse gases are emitted mainly by burning fossil fuels - nuclear power plants are not big contributors.

The International Energy Agency (IEA), which represents the energy interests of the industrialized world, said it understood the Japanese and French moves but warned of their consequences.

"While I understand those decisions and the background, one should understand the challenges in terms of climate change and rising energy costs," Fatih Birol, chief economist at Paris-based IEA said.

"Except for nuclear and renewables, we don't have many options to produce energy without emissions. If those countries believe that the gap coming from the reduction in nuclear will be 100 percent filled by renewables, they are wrong. There will be gas, coal and even oil," he added.

The decisions by Japan and France send an anti-nuclear message to countries that have been undecided.

"If you were looking at investing in an energy source at the moment, why would you invest in nuclear when you've just seen two major countries turning off their plants?" said Richard George, energy campaigner at Greenpeace.

The industry saw a renaissance over the past decade when governments worldwide stepped up efforts to reduce carbon.

The industry promotes itself as a reliable alternative to polluting fossil-fuel plants and less expensive than renewable power projects such as offshore wind farms.

"You've got to go back to the fundamentals of why nuclear is important. It's the drive towards low-carbon technology and nuclear will provide you that in large baseload amounts," David Powell, vice president of the European region at U.S.-Japanese nuclear joint venture GE Hitachi, told Reuters.

GE Hitachi is involved in major new-build projects around the world.

The Fukushima accident in March 2011, the worst such event in 25 years, revived fears of radiation contamination; billions of euros in cost overruns to build new nuclear plants in Europe have put a question mark over nuclear's cost competitiveness.

The growing anti-nuclear feeling is likely to further dent the order books of the world's major nuclear power players, such as France's Areva or Westinghouse, majority-owned by Japan's Toshiba, with forecasts for new nuclear capacity already projected to fall by 12 percent by 2020.

At a major nuclear energy conference in London this week, executives said the sector needed to redefine itself and regain the public's trust.

"I am scared by the decisions in Japan and France because these are short-term visions influenced by public pressure," said Francois Perchet, technical adviser at the World Nuclear University and formerly employed at French utility EDF.

"These people will be judged in 2080 for acting in their own interest instead of that of the planet."

As a result of the nuclear closures, Japan's fossil fuel imports surged since March 2011, helping create a record trade deficit of 2.5 trillion yen ($32.10 billion) in the first half of 2012, five times greater than the deficit a year earlier.

But some analysts say that Japan and France are well placed to deal with the results of their decisions.

"Regulators (in Japan and France) are not being irresponsible because with gas generation there is a credible alternative," Luis Uriza, of consultancy Bain & Company said.

"Japan is already one of the world's biggest gas importers and is experienced in the market, and France has many options, including imports from the North Sea, Russia, Africa and the Middle East or even to develop its own large shale gas reserves."

Uriza said export capacity improvements in the global gas sector made the political moves in Japan, France and Germany possible.

"The gas industry made a lot of progress in terms of new export capacities in the past years, so this is good news for new producers in Australia, North America, the Middle East and East Africa," he said.

Despite the Fukushima setback, some countries are pursuing nuclear energy and plan to build new reactors.

Both the U.S. and British governments plan to build several new nuclear power plants within a decade, and major emerging economies such as China and India as well as countries in the Middle East are forging plans to see nuclear as part of their future energy mix.

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Westinghouse ‘Absolutely Committed’ to U.K. Nuclear Rollout
Roxana Zega
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Westinghouse Electric Co. said it’s committed to the U.K. as the company seeks to ensure its AP1000 model is among the nation’s new generation of nuclear reactors.

“Our vision for Westinghouse is that we will be one of the main players in the U.K. for decades to come,” Michael Tynan, who heads up the local unit, told reporters yesterday at a conference in London. “We’re absolutely committed to the U.K.”

Britain, trying to replace aging plants and cut carbon dioxide emissions, is one of just three western European countries still pursuing plans for new nuclear plants following last year’s Fukushima disaster. Westinghouse, which already provides nuclear fuel to U.K. reactors, and Areva SA (AREVA) have submitted designs to the government for new reactors.

Westinghouse, which is owned by Toshiba Corp. (6502), sees “massive opportunities“ in the U.K. in the next decade, Tynan said. He declined to say whether Westinghouse is bidding for a stake in RWE AG and EON AG (EOAN)’s Horizon nuclear project, put up for sale earlier this year.

Westinghouse may join China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Corp. and Exelon (EXC) Corp. to buy a stake in Horizon, the Financial Times reported in July, without saying where it got the information. GE Hitachi may be interested in bidding as well, the report said. Areva has already confirmed it may put in a joint bid with China’s Guangdong Nuclear Power Corp.

“Horizon is likely to make a decision on which way they’re going to go in the next several months,” said Sandy Rupprecht, senior vice president for the development of the nuclear power plant business at Westinghouse. “Depending on what that selection is -- if there were to be a model in there where an AP1000 were to be chosen -- then we would likely start in earnest with re-constituting a U.K.-based team.”

Areva is working with Electricite de France SA to build a new nuclear station at Hinkley Point in southwest England, with a final investment decisions pending later this year. The Horizon reactors would come online at a later date.

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C.  Nuclear Cooperation

IAEA to Convene 56th General Conference
RIA Novosti
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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will convene its General Conference on September 17-21, the UN nuclear watchdog said on its website.

The conference will consider the IAEA’S program and activities as well as approve its budget for next year.

“High-level governmental representatives from the IAEA's 155 Member States, including several at the ministerial level, will be on hand to consider and discuss a range of topics on the peaceful development of nuclear technologies,” the watchdog said.

The agency said the topics will in particular focus on developing the IAEA's programs relating to nuclear, radiation, and waste safety; nuclear security, nuclear science, technology and applications, technical cooperation.

The participants are also expected to discuss ways to improve the safeguards system's efficiency.
The provisional agenda also includes implementation of the safeguards agreements with North Korea and Middle East countries.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano will deliver a statement to the Conference during the opening session on Monday, highlighting the international organization’s major developments, the IAEA said.

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D.  Nuclear Safety & Security

Nuke Reactor Malfunctions, Stops Generating Electricity at Power Plant
Yonhap News Agency
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A nuclear reactor at one of South Korea's nuclear power plants stopped generating power due to malfunctions on Sunday, plant operators said.

A turbine and a generator of the Wolsong 1 reactor in Gyeongju stopped at 4:51 p.m. due to the malfunction of a device that supplies exiting currents to the generator, according to an official from the state-run Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., Ltd.

The reactor located some 371 kilometers southeast of Seoul is still in operation, but cannot produce electricity, the official said.

An investigation is currently underway to confirm the exact cause of the malfunctioning.

There is no danger, however, of a radiation leak from the reactor, the official added.

The power generation will resume after the ongoing investigation finds the exact problem and the malfunctioning device is repaired, the official said.

The 678,000 kilowatt nuclear reactor went into full operation in April 1983 and government permission for the operation is due to expire in November this year. The government is conducting a screening to determine whether to extend the permission.

South Korea currently operates 23 nuclear reactors, which supply about 30 percent of its total electricity consumption.

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France to Close its Oldest Nuclear Reactor
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French President Francois Hollande has promised to close the nation's oldest nuclear reactor in 2016, a year earlier than previously announced.

"The Fessenheim plant, which is the oldest in our country, will be closed at the end of 2016 in conditions that will guarantee the supply needs of the region ... and safeguard all jobs," Hollande said at an energy conference in Paris.

Hollande, leader of the world's most nuclear-dependent country with 58 reactors, had previously pledged to close the reactor by 2017, Radio France Internationale reported Friday.

France has long been a leading international proponent of nuclear power but Holland, in a deal with the Greens before this year's parliamentary and presidential elections, pledged to reduce the country's reliance on nuclear energy from more than 75 percent of energy needs to 50 percent by 2025.

The Fessenheim plant, situated on the banks of the Rhine River, is considered vulnerable to seismic activity and flooding.

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U.S.: Syria Must End Nuclear Go-Slow, Conflict No Excuse
Fredrik Dahl
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The United States accused Syria on Friday of using the "brutal repression" of its people waging an uprising as an excuse not to address U.N. nuclear watchdog concerns about suspected past illicit nuclear activity in the Arab state.

For its part, Syria insisted at a debate of the governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency that it had agreed last year with the IAEA on how to handle the issue. This was denied on Monday by the IAEA chief in a speech to the board.

The IAEA has long sought access to a site in Syria's desert Deir al-Zor region that U.S. intelligence reports say was a nascent, North Korean-designed reactor designed to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons before Israel bombed it in 2007.

The Vienna-based watchdog has also been requesting information about three other sites that may have been linked to Deir al-Zor.

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said earlier this year that Syria had asked for understanding of its "delicate situation" in response to requests for Syrian cooperation with his inspectors' inquiry.

President Bashar al-Assad is fighting a 17-month-old revolt in which more than 27,000 people have been killed.

U.S. IAEA envoy Robert Wood said Syria's "own destabilizing actions are no justification for its refusal" to abide by its commitments under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), set up to prevent the spread of atomic weaponry.

"The Assad regime is using its brutal repression of the Syrian people as an excuse for not cooperating with the agency's investigation," he told the closed-door board governors' session, according to a copy of his speech.

Syria says Deir al-Zor was a conventional military facility but the IAEA concluded in May 2011 that it was "very likely" to have been a reactor that should have been declared to its anti-proliferation inspectors.

"Syria must allow access to all relevant locations, materials and persons, including in particular the three additional sites suspected of having a functional relationship to the clandestine Deir al-Zor," Wood said.

Syrian Ambassador Bassam Al-Sabbagh repeated his country's position that Deir al-Zor was not a nuclear reactor and said an agreement had been reached with senior IAEA officials last October on an action plan on how to clarify the matter.

According to one diplomat present, Al-Sabbagh told the board that if Syria could convince the IAEA that Deir al-Zor was a non-nuclear facility then the issue of the three other sites was "moot".

Amano, the IAEA director-general, did not respond at Friday's board session, but on Monday he told the opening day of the week-long board meeting: "I wish to make clear that no agreement was ever reached on a so-called action plan."

The veteran Japanese diplomat later told a news conference that "some options" had been discussed during the IAEA team's visit to Damascus last year but that they were rejected after a careful review by the IAEA.

"It was not sufficient because the so-called action plan is limited only to the Deir al-Zor site and Syria was not ready to discuss other locations," Amano said.

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) of mostly developing states said in a statement read out by Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh that it welcomed "Syria's resolve to continue cooperating" with the IAEA.

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Officials Investigate Cause of Areva Fire
Tri-City Herald
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The Richland Fire Department and Areva continue to investigate the cause of a small fire Friday at Areva's nuclear fuel production plant in Richland.

Fuel production was delayed for a few hours and the room where the fire was remains closed, said Areva spokeswoman Anna Markham.

The fire was in a self-enclosed air filter system associated with a piece of equipment used for cutting materials. The equipment filter circulates air in a small room within the main processing building of the plant.

Air monitoring of the room detected no abnormal radiation conditions, according to Areva.

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Second Belgian Reactor Has Indications of Cracks
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A second nuclear reactor in Belgium has indications of cracks in its core tank, the nuclear regulator said on Thursday, putting further strain on the country's energy supply as it heads into winter.

Preliminary results of tests being carried out at Tihange 2, a reactor operated by GDF Suez unit Electrabel, showed that there were indications of cracks on the core tank, Belgium's nuclear regulator FANC said in a statement.

The 1,008 megawatt reactor in the south of the country was to reopen from a scheduled shutdown in October, but that will now be delayed while experts analyse the results.

Last month, Belgium halted the 1,006 megawatt Doel 3 reactor near Antwerp after the discovery of suspected cracks in the core tank and the site will not reopen this year.

"We have found the same indications as we found at the Doel 3 power plant, and now we will analyse and constitute a file to hand over to the FANC," said a spokeswoman for Electrabel.

It means that two out of Belgium's seven nuclear reactors will be offline.

A report prepared for the Belgian government this year showed the country was at risk of electricity shortages if the three oldest reactors were taken off the grid as planned in 2015.

However, a spokeswoman for Melchior Wathelet, state secretary in charge of energy, said that Belgium would still have enough energy even without the two reactors.

"When we heard about the defaults at Doel 3 and the potential defaults at Tihange 2 we conducted simulations ... and that shows that there won't be a problem of supply," she said.

Belgium is trying to decrease its reliance on nuclear power, which accounted for 57 percent of its electricity in 2011.

In July Belgium's cabinet postponed the planned closure of one of its oldest nuclear reactors by a decade over concerns the country may not be able to generate enough alternative energy.

The component in question was built by now defunct Dutch company Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij, which also constructed parts for nuclear plants throughout Europe and in the Americas.

Beyond Belgium, Rotterdamsche Droogdok was responsible for two units in Germany that are no longer operating, two in the Netherlands, two in Spain, one in Sweden, two in Switzerland, 10 in the United States and one in Argentina, the Paris-based Nuclear Energy Agency said.

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E.  Links of Interest

EDF Denies Seeking $2.6 Bln for Fessenheim Closure
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Thorium as Uranium Replacement Studied
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