1. Iran Could Reach Key Point For Nuclear Bomb by Mid-2014: U.S. Experts
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Iran could produce enough weapon-grade uranium for one or more nuclear bombs by mid-2014, and the United States and its allies should intensify sanctions on Tehran before that point is reached, a report by a group of U.S. nonproliferation experts said.
President Barack Obama should also clearly state that the United States will take military action to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, the report said.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has expressed concern that Iran's nuclear program has a military dimension. Tehran, which says its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes, calls those allegations baseless.
The 154-page report, "U.S. Nonproliferation Strategy for the Changing Middle East," produced by five nonproliferation experts, was expected to be released on Monday.
"Based on the current trajectory of Iran's nuclear program, we estimate that Iran could reach critical capability in mid-2014," the report said.
It defined "critical capability" as the point when Iran would be able to produce enough weapon-grade uranium for one or more bombs without detection by the West.
By mid-2014, Iran would have enough time to build a secret uranium-enrichment site or significantly increase the number of centrifuges for its nuclear program, said David Albright, one of the project's co-chairs and president of the Institute for Science and International Security.
"We don't think there is any secret enrichment plant making significant secret uranium enrichment right now," he told Reuters. But there is "real worry" that Iran would build such a plant, he said.
The report recommends that the United States and its allies intensify sanctions pressure on Iran prior to that point because once Tehran acquires enough weapon-grade enriched uranium it would be "far more difficult to stop the program militarily."
The report recommends that the U.S. government should announce its intention to use sanctions to impose a "de facto international embargo on all investments in, and trade with, Iran" if Tehran does not comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions.
It also recommends sending a "crystal clear" message to Iran's leaders that U.S. military action would prevent them from succeeding in the pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
"The president should explicitly declare that he will use military force to destroy Iran's nuclear program if Iran takes additional decisive steps toward producing a bomb," the report said.
On the civil war in Syria, the report said that the U.S. government should emphasize to the opposition trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad that once it comes into power, it will have to work with the international community to destroy Assad's chemical weapons stockpile.
Failure to do so would lead to sanctions and other measures at a time when a new government would need external assistance to consolidate control and develop the economy, the report said.
It also recommended stressing to the Assad government that it should destroy the chemical weapons rather than use them and face prosecution or have them fall into the hands of its opposition.
In addition to Albright, the other project co-chairs were Mark Dubowitz, executive director of The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies; Orde Kittrie, law professor at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law; Leonard Spector, deputy director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies; and Michael Yaffe of the Near East, South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University. They were not representing their institutions in this project.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/14/us-nuclear-iran-report-idUSBRE90D0NV20130114
2. IAEA Chief Says Not Optimistic on Iran Nuclear Talks
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The U.N. nuclear agency chief said on Friday he was not optimistic about talks with Iran next week on getting access to a military base Western powers suspect has been used for atom bomb-related work.
The comments by Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), contrasted with a more upbeat assessment given by the Vienna-based U.N. agency after a meeting with Iranian officials last month.
The IAEA, whose mission it is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in the world, has been trying for a year to negotiate a so-called structured approach with Iran that would give it access to sites, officials and documents.
The IAEA's priority is to visit the Parchin military facility southeast of Tehran, where the agency suspects explosives tests relevant for nuclear weapons may have taken place, perhaps a decade ago. Tehran denies this.
"The outlook is not bright," Amano said in Tokyo, referring to the negotiations to be held in Tehran on Wednesday on the framework accord the IAEA hopes will enable it to quickly resume its stalled investigation into suspected atom bomb research.
The talks between the IAEA and Iran are separate from, but linked to, broader diplomacy by six world powers to resolve the nuclear row with Iran before it leads to a Middle East war, feared because of Israeli threats to bomb Iranian nuclear sites.
Western powers say Iran is trying to develop the capability to make atomic weapons, a charge the Islamic Republic rejects.
Both the IAEA and Tehran have said progress was achieved at the December meeting, without giving details.
However, Amano said in Japanese comments translated into English: "Talks with Iran don't proceed in a linear way. It's one step forward, two or three steps back ... So we can't say we have an optimistic outlook" for the January 16 meeting.
Western diplomats say Iran has worked for the past year to cleanse Parchin of any evidence of illicit activities, but Amano said late last year an IAEA visit would still be useful.
The IAEA said after last month's talks in Tehran it expected a deal could be completed in January and swiftly implemented.
But Western diplomats in Vienna later said stumbling blocks remained, including Iran's demand for access to intelligence documents that form part of the basis for the IAEA's concerns.
Even if a deal is reached, the diplomats said, it remained to be seen how it would be carried out. Western officials have often accused Iran of stonewalling IAEA investigations.
"An agreement is a good first step, but implementation is the most important part," one Western envoy said on Friday.
Iran's refusal to curb nuclear activity with dual civilian and military applications, and its lack of openness with the IAEA, have drawn tough Western punitive measures and a threat of pre-emptive military strikes by its arch-adversary Israel.
Analysts and diplomats say there is a window of opportunity for world powers to make a renewed diplomatic push to find a broader negotiated solution to the dispute after U.S. President Barack Obama won re-election in November.
The six powers - the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China - want Iran to scale back its uranium enrichment programme and cooperate fully with the IAEA. Iran wants the West to lift sanctions hurting its economy.
Both sides say they want to resume talks this month, but have yet to agree on a date and venue.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/11/us-nuclear-iran-iaea-idUSBRE90A0AR20130111
3. Lack of Deal With Iran on Nuclear Talks Alarms Russia
Steve Gutterman and Fredrik Dahl
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Russia voiced alarm on Friday at delays in agreeing new nuclear talks between world powers and Iran and the U.N. atomic watchdog chief said he was not optimistic ahead of his inspectors' separate visit to Tehran next week.
The comments underlined the difficult challenges facing world powers in their search for a diplomatic solution to the decade-old standoff over Iran's nuclear programme to avert the threat of a new Middle East war.
Iran, which denies Western accusations it is seeking to develop a capability to make nuclear weapons but is facing intensifying sanctions pressure, said last week it had agreed to resume negotiations in January with the six major powers.
But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Friday there was no final agreement on when or where a meeting would take place.
"This alarms us, because the pause has dragged on," the Interfax news agency quoted Ryabkov, who is the Russian negotiator, as saying. "As a nation and a member of the 'group of six', we are working actively to find a solution."
The European Union, which represents the powers, said last week that it had proposed a date to Iran but Western diplomatic sources said on Friday that Tehran had yet to respond.
One source suggested that the date the EU proposed was next Tuesday but said that was now unlikely.
"It is our understanding that Iran has not responded to the January 15 date," the diplomatic source said.
The six powers - the United States, France, Britain, China, Russia and Germany - were therefore not planning for that.
Ryabkov said he hoped the talks will take place this month.
A former Iranian nuclear negotiator said Iran was ready to meet "as soon as possible", but suggested that uncertainty in Tehran about what the other side would offer may make it reluctant to agree a new date now.
The fact that the new administration of U.S. President Barack Obama - including new defence and foreign secretaries - is not yet up and running and in a position to offer Iran a "fair package" may be another factor, Hossein Mousavian said.
The powers want Iran to scale back its uranium enrichment programme and cooperate fully with the U.N. nuclear watchdog. Iran, one of the world's largest oil producers, wants the West to lift sanctions hurting its economy.
There was no breakthrough in three meetings last year, the most recent in June, as Iran rejected a proposal to halt its higher-grade enrichment and close an underground nuclear site in exchange for reactor fuel and civil aviation parts.
If the powers "present a package a little bit modified then again the talks would fail and they would blame Iran", Mousavian, now a visiting scholar at Princeton University, told Reuters.
Some Western diplomats suggest Tehran may want to wait to set a date for the talks with the powers until after its next meeting with the watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency in Tehran next Wednesday.
The talks between the IAEA and Iran are separate from, but linked to, broader diplomacy by six world powers to resolve the nuclear row with Iran before it degenerates into war, feared because of Israeli threats to bomb Iranian nuclear sites.
IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said in Tokyo on Friday he was not optimistic about the talks on getting access to a military base Western powers suspect has been used for atom bomb-related work.
"The outlook is not bright," Amano said.
The IAEA has been trying for a year to reach a framework accord with Tehran that would enable the agency to resume its stalled investigation into suspected nuclear weapon research by the Islamic Republic.
"Talks with Iran don't proceed in a linear way," Amano said. in Japanese comments translated into English. "It's one step forward, two or three steps back ... So we can't say we have an optimistic outlook" for the January 16 meeting.
Russia has adamantly warned against attacking Iran and, while it says Tehran must cooperate and dispel concerns about its nuclear programme, officials including Ryabkov have suggested Western fears it seeks nuclear arms are overblown.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/01/11/uk-nuclear-iran-talks-idUKBRE90A0RS20130111
1. Dominion Virginia Power Still Planning for Third Reactor
Warsaw Business Journal
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Officials at Dominion Virginia Power say the company is still on track for a third nuclear reactor at its North Anna Power Station, WTOP reported.
The plan's critics are doubtful the proposed Unit 3 will be built, citing low natural gas prices, delays in the approval process and the Fukushima disaster in Japan.
Eugene Grecheck, Dominion vice president of nuclear development, acknowledged that demand for electricity has dropped due to the economy and natural gas is a more attractive fuel due to falling prices. "But in the long term, we are convinced that it is not in the company's interest, or the nation's interest, to be completely dependent on only one fuel," Grecheck said.
Available at: http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/morning_call/2013/01/dominion-virginia-power-still-planning.html
2. Indian Minister Says Areva Nuclear Deal is Close
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India and French group Areva are close to agreement on a contract for Areva to build a nuclear power station on the west coast of India, Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said in a newspaper interview on Friday.
The project is for two European pressurised reactors (EPR) at Jaitapur 400 kilometres (250 miles) south of Mumbai. The talks had reached a “very advanced stage”, the minister told the Le Figaro newspaper. “We have to settle the questions of safety raised by the tsunami in Japan and this has an effect on the unit price of energy produced,” he said. This was being studied by experts but “a final agreement is within reach,” he said. The reference to Japan concerned a disaster at Fukushima in Japan in March last year when a tsunami caused by an off-shore earthquake overwhelmed a nuclear power station built on the coastline. The flooding causing a meltdown and widespread disaster which focused attention worldwide on the safety of nuclear power stations and particularly on where they are sited.
Available at: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013%5C01%5C12%5Cstory_12-1-2013_pg14_3
France's EDF (EDF.PA) remains in the hunt for a partner to build four nuclear reactors in Britain after talks were halted with China's Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation Holding (CGNPC) GDNCP.UL, sources close to the talks said on Friday.
"They have talked. EDF and CGNPC have a relationship going back many years," one source said. But two other sources close to the discussions confirmed negotiations regarding a British partnership are no longer ongoing.
The Wall Street Journal newspaper reported on Friday that the talks had focused on the state-owned Chinese firm taking over a 20 percent stake in EDF's nuclear new build programme owned by UK firm Centrica (CNA.L).
A spokesman for Centrica said the company continued to be involved in the project.
EDF declined to comment and CGNPC was not available for immediate comment.
CGNPC and EDF along with French reactor maker Areva (AREVA.PA) signed an agreement in November to jointly develop a new type of reactor.
The French government later said it had opened an investigation into a partnership deal which EDF had signed with a Chinese nuclear utility in order to verify whether France's strategic interests were respected.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/01/11/uk-edf-china-idUKBRE90A0Y320130111
WorleyParsons is to carry out site characterisation, licensing and permitting services for Poland's first nuclear power plant, Polska Grupa Energetyczna SA (PGE) has announced.
PGE EJ1, an entity of the Polish state-owned energy group set up to build and run the plant, has awarded PLN 252 million ($81.5 million) the contract to a consortium of WorleyParsons Nuclear Services, WorleyParsons International Inc and WorleyParsons Group Inc following a public tender procedure. PGE EJ1 president Aleksander Grad described the selection of the site characterisation contractor as critical to the project's progress. "Characterisation activities ... will inform one of the most significant decisions, that is the selection of the final site for Poland's first nuclear power plant," he said.
PGE plans to install around 3000 MWe of nuclear capacity, with its first unit coming online by 2025. The site characterisation phase will include over two years of site and environmental surveys, covering a range of issues from geological conditions and the natural environment to logistics and infrastructure. Three potential sites are under consideration: Choczewo, Gaski and Zarnowiec. Work began on four Russian VVER-440 units at Zarnowiec in the 1980s, but the units were cancelled in 1990 and the components sold. No reactor vendor has yet been selected for the current project, although PGE has signed non-exclusive agreements with vendors to investigate EPR, ABWR and ESBWR technology.
In September 2012, four Polish companies - utilities PGE, Tauron Polska Energia and Enea, together with copper giant KGHM Polska Miedz - signed a letter of intent to participate in the project by buying shares in PGE EJ1. The letter was due to expire at the end of 2012, but in late December the group decided to extend it to the end of March 2013.
WorleyParsons is an Australian professional services company serving a range of sectors, including infrastructure and environment, energy and resources. It can lay claim to over fifty years of experience in providing professional engineering services to all phases of the nuclear plant life cycle. Current nuclear projects for the company include providing consultancy services during the pre-construction phase for Turkey's Akkuyu nuclear power plant.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/C-Polish_nuclear_site_contract_awarded-1001137.html
Westinghouse Electric Co. has successfully, and on schedule, installed full scope AP1000 plant reference simulators at the Sanmen and Haiyang nuclear power plants in China, according to a company press release issued Jan. 10.
The plant simulator creates a high-fidelity replica of the AP1000 control room, and “It is in this replica control room that students are trained to become plant operators, studying directly on the control consoles, control panels and displays of the AP1000 nuclear power plant control room,” the release said.
The company also said the first class of 34 AP1000 reactor operators and senior reactor operators have been successfully trained at the Sanmen site. Another 36 are expected to complete training in February 2013, while a new class at the Haiyang site are scheduled to complete training in the spring of 2013.
At present there are 10 contracts for AP 1000 reactors in place around the world—four in China and six in the U.S.—and the first unit is expected to produce electricity in China by 2014.
Available at: http://www.power-eng.com/articles/2013/january/westinghouse-announces-ap1000-nuclear-simulator-installation-success.html
1. Official Stresses Safety in Nuclear Power Development
Peoples Daily Online
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State Councilor Liu Yandong on Sunday stressed supervision and management efforts to ensure the "absolute safety" of a new nuclear power plant in east China's coastal city of Rongcheng.
Liu made the remarks during an inspection tour to the construction site of a Chinese-developed high-temperature gas-cooled reactor at Shidao Bay, the first of its kind in the country.
A key project out of the country's technological innovation efforts, the facility will become the world's first commercial fourth-generation nuclear power plant that incorporates upgraded safety features, the official said.
She called for better coordination among related government departments, enterprises, and research institutes to achieve more technological breakthroughs in the project.
Engineering, industrialization and internationalization levels of the project should be boosted in order to achieve technological progresses and support the nuclear power industry development as well, according to the official.
She said the project should be carried out in an active and steady manner to provide technological backup for promoting the development of clean energy in China.
Available at: http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90785/8090217.html
2. Nuclear Watchdog to Make Secondary Control Rooms Mandatory at Power Plants
The Asahi Shimbun
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The Nuclear Regulation Authority will require nuclear power plants to install secondary control rooms for reactor operations to guard against accidents from earthquakes, tsunami or acts of terrorism.
An NRA expert panel revealed the plan Jan. 11 in a draft outline of new safety measures.
The draft proposes obligatory "second control rooms," apart from existing central operation rooms, to enable access to remote controls to cool down nuclear reactors and vent gases.
The NRA plans to finalize the outline by the end of January and formulate a new set of safety standards for nuclear power plants in July. The new standards will be used in subsequent NRA decisions on whether idle nuclear reactors can be restarted.
The proposed secondary control rooms are part of new "safety facilities" capable of withstanding earthquakes and tsunami, which nuclear plant operators will be required to install at a distance from reactor buildings. The safety facilities will also include emergency power supply systems and cooling pumps, which will be able to help contain the spread of potential nuclear disasters.
Similar facilities are already in place at nuclear plants in Germany, Switzerland and elsewhere.
As the new facilities will need time to be installed, the NRA plans to determine a transitional exemption period and give the green light to reactor restarts if only their operators have presented plans to install the safety facilities.
The new standards will also require the utilities to have power trucks and fire engines parked and ready for emergency use at strategic places on site. Power utilities have already voluntarily stationed them at nuclear plants as part of emergency safety measures since the Fukushima nuclear disaster of March 2011.
The NRA will also press nuclear plant operators to install central anti-seismic buildings, which can withstand earthquakes and tsunami, and filtered vent equipment, which will prevent bulk releases of radioactive substances, at all nuclear plants.
Available at: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201301120044
3. Spain Arrest Network Smuggling Equipment to Iran
Kuwait News Agency
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Spanish police said Friday it arrested a network active in smuggling equipment used in the Iranian nuclear program, in a violation of UN and EU sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Two persons were arrested and their truck as well as equipment on board were seized while they were in Vizcaya town in the Basque province, the interior ministry said in a statement.
It added the truck owned by the Fluval Spain Company, based on northern Amurrio. The truck was carrying Inconel nickel-chromium alloy 625, used for its high strength, excellent fabricability, and outstanding corrosion resistance, it added.
The ministry said the equipment were being sent to Iran through middle companies in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
It added that investigations were ongoing to know if there were others involved in the smuggling, which began last March. Fluval Spain has relations with an Iranian company listed by the EU in the banned firms.
The EU has banned exports of such equipment to Iran fearing it might use it in nuclear programs.
Available at: http://www.kuna.net.kw/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=2286240&language=en
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