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Nuclear News - 1/22/2013
PGS Nuclear News, January 22, 2013
Compiled By: Pia Ulrich

A.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Saudi-Nuclear Talks With French 'Fruitful', MENAFN (1/22/2013)
    2. India, Australia to Start Nuclear Energy Talks, Bangkok Post (1/22/2013)
    3. Areva, Toshiba Eye Nuclear Fuel Producer Urenco-Sources, Karolin Schaps and Christoph Steitz, Reuters (1/21/2013)
    4. Germany to Continue to Fund Foreign Nuclear Power, Diarmaid Williams, Power Engineering International (1/21/2013)
    5. France Says Review of China Nuclear Relations "Normal", Lucy Hornby, Reuters (1/21/2013)
B.  Nuclear Energy
    1. No Master Plan Needed for Energy Shift-German Minister, Reuters (1/22/2013)
    2. China's Nuclear Power Is About to Take Off Again, Business Insider (1/19/2013)
    3. British Regulators to Evaluate Hitachi Nuclear Reactor Design, Power Engineering (1/19/2013)
    4. Swiss to Vote on New Proposal for Phase Out, World Nuclear News (1/18/2013)
C.  Iran
    1. Iran May Use U.N. Nuclear Talks to Seek Leverage With Big Powers, Fredrik Dahl, Reuters (1/22/2013)
    2. Iran Courts Restart of Nuke Talks, But Snubs UN, Brian Murphy, Associated Press (1/20/2013)
D.  North Korea
    1. U.S., China in Deal on U.N. North Korea Rebuke; Russia to Back it, Louis Charbonneau , Reuters (1/18/2013)
E.  Japan
    1. Fish Caught Close to the Fukushima Nuclear Plant Was 2,500 Times Over the Legal Safe Radiation Limit, Rob Williams, The Independent (1/21/2013)
    2. Japan Learns Nuclear Restart Requirements, World Nuclear News (1/21/2013)
    3. Japanese Nuclear Plant Operators Charge Over 90 Million Dollars Per Year to Pay Local Authorities, Enformable (1/21/2013)
F.  Nuclear Safety & Security
    1. U. S. Nuclear Component Reaches Pakistan Via China, Narayan Lakshman, The Hindu (1/19/2013)
G.  Links of Interest
    1. Trial Operation of Rokkasho Furnace, World Nuclear News (1/21/2013)
    2. Obama’s Modest Gains in Nuclear Security Vision, Kenneth C. Brill and Kenneth N. Luongo, Politico (1/19/2013)
    3. Work Starts on First British Dry Fuel Store, World Nuclear News (1/18/2013)

A.  Nuclear Cooperation

India, Australia to Start Nuclear Energy Talks
Bangkok Post
(for personal use only)

India and Australia plan to begin civil nuclear cooperation talks in March after Canberra agreed last year to open negotiations to export uranium fuel to the energy-hungry South Asian nation.

Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid (L) shakes hands with Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Bob Carr in New Delhi on January 21, 2013. India and Australia plan to begin civil nuclear cooperation talks in March after Canberra agreed last year to open negotiations to export uranium fuel to the energy-hungry South Asian nation.

The two countries will hold the first round of talks in the Indian capital, Indian foreign minister Salman Khurshid said in a statement.

"We shall be commencing negotiations on a Civil Nuclear Energy Cooperation Agreement in March," Khurshid said after discussions with his Australian counterpart, Bob Carr, in the Indian capital.

Australia had earlier refused to sell uranium to India as it has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but reversed its stand last October as it sought to improve ties with one of Asia's third biggest economy.

"India is a key part of Australia's future," Carr said.

The two countries have said the formal negotiations could last up to two years.

New Delhi -- backed by the United States -- won a special exemption in 2008 from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which governs global nuclear trade, to allow it to buy reactors and fuel from overseas.

India, which has tense relations with its nuclear-armed neighbour Pakistan, had been subject to a global embargo since the 1970s when it first conducted a nuclear weapons test.

New Delhi has sought to forge close ties with a host of countries with deposits of uranium, including Mongolia, Tajikistan and Canada.

India is heavily dependent on coal and produces less than three percent of its energy from its existing atomic plants. The government hopes to raise the figure to 25 percent by 2050.

Although Australia does not use nuclear power itself, it is the world's third-ranking uranium producer and holds an estimated 23 percent of the world's reserves.

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Saudi-Nuclear Talks With French 'Fruitful'
(for personal use only)

French Minister of Industry Arnaud Montebourg said his two-day visit to Riyadh and the talks with Saudi officials on the peaceful use of nuclear energy have been fruitful.

France called for the establishment of a joint investment fund with the Kingdom to achieve industrial projects and exchange of technology.

The minister had aimed to enhance cooperation in the fields of domestic nuclear industry.

The volume of French trade exchange with the Kingdom in 2011 amounted to SR 43 billion. The value of Saudi exports to France reached SR 25 billion, and the value of Saudi imports was SR 18 billion.

He also said that his visit to the Kingdom would be followed by the visit of French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

In 2011, an agreement between France and Saudi Arabia was signed to offer atomic know-how and training for local staff in the Kingdom.

Montebourg announced that during his visit, a 400 million (SR 1,500 million) contract was signed with the Arab Satellite Communications Organization (Arabsat) to launch the sixth generation satellite.

The new satellite Badr-7 will be co-located at Arabsat's exclusive Hot Spot 26E with Arabsat's other Badr satellites. Badr-7 will provide large satellite capacities for television broadcasting, telecommunications and information exchange services.

The consortium of Astrium and Thales Alenia Space will manufacture Badr-7. Arianespace will launch the satellite. The new satellite will cover the Middle East, Africa, Asia and parts of Europe.

Saudi Arabia is considering building 17 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2032, says King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE) on its website.

"Saudi Arabia will only deploy the most advanced and thoroughly tested technologies, paying maximum attention to safety, security and safeguards of the highest international standards," KA-CARE said on its website.

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Areva, Toshiba Eye Nuclear Fuel Producer Urenco-Sources
Karolin Schaps and Christoph Steitz
(for personal use only)

France's Areva and Japan's Toshiba Corp are considering bids for nuclear fuel producer Urenco, but British, German and Dutch authorities disagree over what to do with the ultra-secret firm, industry sources said.

Britain is keen to sell its 33 percent stake, and German utilities RWE and E.ON are talking to potential buyers over their combined 33 percent, but the Dutch government is not considering a sale.

Analysts estimate that the Buckinghamshire, UK-based uranium enrichment firm is worth 2.5 billion to 3.6 billion euros, but some of the sellers are hoping for as much as 12 billion euros.

Both Areva and Toshiba, which owns U.S. reactor vendor Westinghouse, declined to comment.

Any transaction would require an agreement between the three governments due to the firm's unique corporate structure. It was set up by the 1971 Treaty of Almelo, which governs technology transfers and the company's ownership.

An industry source close to the situation said that there has been a lot of discussion among Urenco shareholders, but given their different motivations and the complications of the treaty, it is very well possible that nothing will happen this year.

A spokesman for the UK's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said on Monday that Britain was considering a sale of its Urenco stake and that the government was discussing its options with Urenco's other shareholders but that no formal position had been taken yet.

He declined to comment on indications of interest the government had received from any bidders.

A spokeswoman for the Dutch ministry for economic affairs said that German utilities RWE and E.ON are seeking to sell their Urenco stakes and are talking to potential buyers but added that the Dutch government is not considering a sale of its 33 percent stake.

E.ON and RWE declined to comment.

Despite the apparent disagreement between shareholders, several sources said there was already strong interest in Urenco.

Urenco, which had 2011 sales of 1.3 billion euros and net income of 359 million, is the second-largest of four major nuclear fuel producers, behind Russia's Tenex but ahead of U.S. firm USEC Inc and Areva, according to World Nuclear Association data.

French nuclear reactor builder Areva is keen to buy into Urenco and has appointed Nomura to advise it, an industry source close to the deal said.

The source said that Areva had expressed an interest but not yet made a bid or any substantive approach, given that the process has not formally opened.

Areva already has a joint venture with Urenco and uses its uranium centrifuge technology at its new Georges Besse II plant in Tricastin, southern France. The French company has closed an older plant, which used the gaseous diffusion technology to enrich uranium and which previously supplied a quarter of the world's reactors with fuel.

A stake in Urenco would give Areva greater control over the centrifuge technology and wider market access.

Toshiba is also weighing a bid for Urenco, according to the Sunday Times.

A stake in Urenco would have a powerful logic for Toshiba, and could push it to pay top dollar, sector specialists said.

Unlike Areva, which is a one-stop shop for reactors, nuclear fuel and waste recycling services, Westinghouse focuses mainly on reactors, and that weakens its hand in public tenders, in which provision of fuel is an advantage.

"Westinghouse absolutely wants to be able to provide services across the entire nuclear cycle," a French nuclear industry veteran said.

A financial markets source close to the discussions said that private equity houses KKR and CVC were also interested in striking a deal for Urenco.

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France Says Review of China Nuclear Relations "Normal"
Lucy Hornby
(for personal use only)

China was a regular process and was "normal".

At the end of December, Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said France was investigating a nuclear partnership deal between EDF and Chinese nuclear utility China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation Holding (CGNPC).

That investigation is looking into why the deal initially excluded French nuclear reactor maker Areva and at the extent to which French strategic interests could be at risk.

Bricq, who was in China paying the second visit to the country by a French minister this month, said it was not surprising for a team that has been out of power for 10 years to undergo a "regular process to set strategy."

President Francois Hollande's socialist party won the 2012 presidential election after a decade of conservative rule.

On Tuesday, Bricq will visit two next-generation EPR reactors being built by French utility EDF and by CGNPC in Taishan, Guangdong province.

She said construction is proceeding at a good pace and that if all continues smoothly, the reactors could be operational in 2014.

"This will provide the world with a window on this technology," Bricq said.

The EPR reactors, designed by Areva, are the latest in commercial reactor design and none is in operation so far.

Areva is building one in Finland and EDF one in France but both are years behind schedule and billions over budget. France's nuclear export drive has been hurt by the lack of a working model.

"It is best to have a working reactor as we pursue other potential contracts," Bricq said.

Bricq played down concerns about Chinese irritation over the French investigation, as Moscovici did during his visit to Beijing two weeks ago.

"The important thing is to continue the Sino-French cooperation," Bricq told reporters in Beijing.

Bricq said her Chinese counterpart, Commerce Minister Chen Deming, had not expressed any undue concern about the review.

Asked about an EDF-CGNPC project to build a new type of 1000 megawatt reactor for the Chinese market, smaller than Areva's 1600 megawatt EPR, Bricq said that it was important to first complete the two Taishan plants.

"We can't go too fast...The first priority is to finish this project," she said.

Bricq met Chen to discuss agricultural products standards and industrial issues also including aviation cooperation.

She is also preparing for Hollande to visit China this spring, possibly in April.

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Germany to Continue to Fund Foreign Nuclear Power
Diarmaid Williams
Power Engineering International
(for personal use only)

The German news magazine, Der Spiegel, reported this week that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government will continue to use public money to guarantee the construction of nuclear power stations in other countries, despite a programme to shut down nuclear power plants in Germany itself.

The government is set to ignore a unanimous vote by the Bundestag’s (parliament’s) Committee for Sustainable Development to stop financial backing for foreign nuclear energy projects.

Chairman of the committee, Andreas Jung, from Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, said it was "a gross contradiction that we are pushing forwards with the change in energy generation while supporting atomic energy abroad."

Despite Mr Jung’s protestations, the committee is set to receive a letter from Economy Minister Philipp Rosler, rejecting such a strategy, according to Der Spiegel on Sunday.

The change in energy policy only applies to domestic production, the letter says. The government considers it a "sovereign decision of other states to choose a different construction for their own energy policy."

The government is currently promoting its policy with the slogan, "High time that something changed", while Environment Minister Peter Almaier has been talking of establishing an international club of countries stepping away from nuclear energy.

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B.  Nuclear Energy

No Master Plan Needed for Energy Shift-German Minister
(for personal use only)

No master plan is needed for Germany's titanic effort to exit nuclear power by 2022, while taking a step-by-step approach will be more useful, Economy Minister Philipp Roesler said on Tuesday.

Companies and investors have called for a full blueprint on how Germany, Europe's biggest economy, aims to accomplish the shift away from nuclear to alternative energy sources, a decision taken after Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.

The costs of the energy shift, estimated at a staggering 550 billion euros ($732 billion), in particular have led potential investors to ask for advanced regulation to better evaluate their risks.

"A plan drawn up today until 2022 will not work. Those planned economies that are not functioning have five-year plans, and to draw up a 10-year plan would be presumptuous," Roesler said at the annual Handelsblatt Energy conference.

Roesler said that all measures needed to be intertwined, pointing to laws to promote renewable energy and network expansion, but he favoured a step-by-step approach to maintain flexibility.

He confirmed that the government aims to present a wide-ranging review of the renewable energy act, which through its lavish subsidies has made Germany the world's No.1 solar market but is now burdening consumers with higher power bills.

"Renewables were a niche sector when the law was created. But now we're no longer talking about a niche," said Roesler, who spoke with confidence following a state election on Sunday in which his pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) party fared better than expected.

The total bill for supporting renewable energy rose to 20 billion euros in 2012 from 17.1 billion in 2011, with solar power costing over half the total while accounting for less than 5 percent of the country's energy mix.

"You need to create a more efficient law to boost renewables," Roesler said.

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British Regulators to Evaluate Hitachi Nuclear Reactor Design
Power Engineering
(for personal use only)

Horizon Nuclear Power intends to use the new nuclear reactor design by Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy at the new nuclear power plants proposed to be constructed at Wylfa in Anglesey, and Oldbury in Gloucestershire.

The regulators noted that they will now start the preparatory work with Hitachi-GE and the Department of Energy and Climate Change about the timescales and resources involved in assessing the new design.

The regulators said they have a received a formal request from the Energy Minister John Hayes to start GDA work on a new nuclear reactor for the UK.

UK Energy Minister John Hayes stated, "Generic Design Assessment is now an established feature of our regulatory regime, and, as I told the House in December after the completion of the GDA process for the AREVA European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR), it has shown itself to be an excellent process for rigorous and transparent nuclear regulation."

Hayes remarked that the British government welcomes all such investment, referring to Hitachi's purchase of Horizon Nuclear Power in October 2012.

"However, the nuclear industry in the UK is rightly subject to a regulatory regime to ensure safety, security and mitigation of any potential environmental detriment," Hayes added.

In December 2012, the regulators had concluded a generic design assessment for the UK EPR nuclear reactor by French nuclear company Areva and British energy supplier EDF Energy.

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China's Nuclear Power Is About to Take Off Again
Business Insider
(for personal use only)

China wants more nuclear plants than anyone else. Will it build them safely?

Earlier this month work began at a big construction site in Shandong province, south-east of Beijing. In a country overflowing with infrastructure projects, that seems unremarkable. Except the workers are restarting construction of a nuclear plant using a radical new design developed by Beijing’s Tsinghua University. This showcase of "indigenous innovation" is the clearest signal yet that China’s nuclear power is about to take off again.

Before 2011 China’s leaders were dead keen on it, hoping to raise nuclear’s share of the country’s electricity mix from less than 2%. They saw it as central to energy and climate strategy, and a future export platform. Official plans called for expanding from just 10 gigawatts of capacity in 2010 to as much as 200 gigawatts by 2030.

Then came Japan’s Fukushima disaster. China prudently put a halt to nuclear licensing and construction, including at Shandong, pending a full safety review. As this process stretched on and on, critics of nuclear power dared hope. Perhaps the leadership, unwilling to risk a nasty accident, would end the programme? Some greens dreamed that subsidies would be redirected to solar and wind technologies.

Nowhere is the nuclear dilemma as tricky as in China. Nuclear plants are costly to build and difficult to run safely. But they also promise reliable power with no air pollution or greenhouse gases. That is tantalising in a country addicted to coal: even with its ambitious plans, less than a tenth of China’s generating capacity would come from nuclear power.

In the end, China’s leadership went for nuclear. In October the State Council gave long-awaited approval for projects to proceed. That means more are now under way in China than in any country (see chart). The sheer number raises worries about safety. After all, Chinese remember all too well a horrific crash in 2011 on their high-speed railway. To blame was too much zeal for indigenous innovation (as opposed to tested international designs), too much corruption, and too little attention paid to safety. A mad dash to nuclear power could repeat those mistakes.

In fairness, it seems officials took the safety review seriously. The restarted nuclear programme will unfurl more slowly than had originally been planned, with a less ambitious target (only 130-140 gigawatts of installed capacity now seem likely by 2030). The officials have cancelled projects located in inland regions prone to earthquakes and short of water, and are increasing training for operators and funding for regulators.

What is more, officials are insisting that newly licensed plants adhere to higher "generation three" standards. Many current plants are of an older design that requires electric pumps for cooling; notoriously, these failed at Fukushima after the tsunami. Newer plants, for example those made by America’s Westinghouse and France’s Areva, have "passive" safety features, such as gravity-driven cooling, that should work even during power cuts.

The Shandong showpiece aside, industry experts hope China will now favour imported over homemade technology, at least until the local engineers can prove the safety of their designs. That may be a blow to native pride, but it is probably good news for foreign vendors--as well as for ordinary Chinese.

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Swiss to Vote on New Proposal for Phase Out
World Nuclear News
(for personal use only)

A Green-led initiative to phase out the use of nuclear energy in Switzerland by 2029 has secured enough support for a national referendum on the issue to be held. A date for the vote has yet to be announced.

The Swiss Federal Chancellery announced that the initiative, filed on 16 November 2012, has now formally ended. It said that it had validated 107,533 of the 108,227 signatures submitted, noting that this exceeds the 100,000 needed for an initiative to be put to a referendum.

Switzerland's federal government has already decided to phase out the five nuclear reactors which generate 40% of the country's electricity by not replacing them with new nuclear capacity at the end of their anticipated working lives. The decision came in response to the March 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi and would effectively see all of Switzerland's nuclear power plants shut by 2035. However, legislation to formalise that phase-out decision is still outstanding, as is an energy policy that accommodates the loss of capacity.

The initiative for an earlier phase out was put forward by an alliance of environmental groups, political parties, anti-nuclear organisations and trade unions including the Green Party and Greenpeace Switzerland. It seeks to impose a statutory limit of 45 years on the operating lives of the country's nuclear power plants and a ban on new construction, which would result in Swiss nuclear power being phased out slightly earler than the government plan, in 2029.

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C.  Iran

Iran May Use U.N. Nuclear Talks to Seek Leverage With Big Powers
Fredrik Dahl
(for personal use only)

Iran may be holding back from working with a U.N. investigation into its nuclear program to use it as a bargaining chip in pursuit of significant sanctions relief or other concessions in broader negotiations with world powers.

That could explain why United Nations nuclear inspectors once again returned empty-handed after talks last week in Tehran, where they tried to overcome obstacles to a long-stalled inquiry into suspected atomic bomb research by Iran.

Iran has suggested at various times in the past that it would expect a "kind of reward" for cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a Western official said, making clear he saw no rationale for this.

If this is Tehran's thinking, a year-long effort by the IAEA to unblock its investigation looks unlikely to succeed as long as separate diplomacy between the six major powers and Tehran remains deadlocked.

"They don't want to offer substantive cooperation," one Western diplomat said after the IAEA's latest stab on January 16-17 at coaxing the Islamic Republic into starting to address questions about its atomic activities.

Another envoy in Vienna, where the U.N. agency is based, described the IAEA's roller-coaster negotiations with Iran as a "well-practiced dance" by Tehran of "two steps backwards, one step forward."

The failure to achieve a breakthrough in the most recent of a series of largely fruitless meetings between the IAEA and Iran marked another setback for diplomatic efforts to resolve the stand-off and head off the threat of a new Middle East war.

Both Iran and the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia say they want to resume talks after a seven-month hiatus. But the two sides' priorities diverge: the powers want to curb Iranian nuclear work of potential use in developing atomic weapons, while Iran wants sanctions scrapped and their "rights" to enrich uranium formally recognized.

They have yet to announce a date and venue and as delays continue, Iran is amassing more nuclear material that could be turned into bomb fuel if refined further. Israel has threatened military action to foil any nuclear weapons capability in Iran.

The powers, known as the P5+1 as they group the five permanent, veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council along with Germany, want peaceful guarantees on Iran's enrichment program and Iranian transparency toward the IAEA.

Iran, which says it seeks only peaceful nuclear energy from enrichment, is keen above all for the West to remove sanctions expanded last year to block its economically vital oil exports.

"Tehran apparently is seeking to withhold cooperation with the IAEA in order to increase leverage vis-a-vis the P5+1," said Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association, a U.S.-based research and advocacy group.

The IAEA, whose mandate is to forestall the spread of nuclear weapons, has been trying for a year to negotiate a framework agreement with Iran giving its inspectors access to sites, officials and documents for their investigation.

After the previous meeting in mid-December, the IAEA said progress had been made and that it expected to seal the deal in this month's session. But after the two days of talks last week it said "important differences" remained.

A new round of IAEA-Iran discussions has been scheduled for February 13, which may allow for the global powers and Tehran to meet first to try and make headway in the wider dispute.

"Iran might think that if it grants access now, it may be in a weaker position to demand sanctions relief in a few week's time," said Shashank Joshi, a senior fellow and Middle East specialist at the Royal United Services Institute.

But the Western official said he saw no willingness among the powers "to pay any kind of reward" to Iran if it allowed the IAEA to resume its inquiry: "We think that is separate and it is in Iran's own interest to cooperate with the IAEA."

The powers and Iran last met in June, when Tehran rejected demands to halt its higher-grade enrichment and close an underground nuclear plant in exchange for limited sanctions relief, such as an end to a ban on imports of aviation spare parts, as well as civilian nuclear cooperation.

"Iran has always linked the IAEA and the P5+1 talks," Cliff Kupchan at political risk consultancy Eurasia Group said.

"They don't like what's on offer from the Western nations in the main talks, so they're holding all their chits, including ones relevant to the IAEA, for the main talks."

Hossein Mousavian, a former Iranian nuclear negotiator, said Iran and the powers should agree in their next meeting a "package consisting of all major requirements" of both sides.

"This should include technical demands of the IAEA and also address Iranian demands for recognition of its rights for enrichment and lifting sanctions. If so, then the IAEA would be able to have a successful visit to Tehran," he said.

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Iran Courts Restart of Nuke Talks, But Snubs UN
Brian Murphy
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

Iran has floated specific dates for reopening talks with the U.S. and other world powers about its nuclear program. At the same time, Tehran has left U.N. nuclear inspectors empty-handed when it comes to addressing Western suspicions that it's conducting tests related to nuclear weapons.

Iran's split personality over creating space for possible nuclear concessions has complicated calculations by Washington and allies on whether to head back into negotiations more than six months after the last round ended in stalemate. But it also offers insight into Tehran's strategy as Western sanctions press harder on the economy, experts say.

Iranian leaders know the only route to ease the economic pressures — and possibly undercut threats of military action by Israel — is through potential deal-making with six world powers — the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany.

Making grand gestures to the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, would likely bring praise from the West, but it is unlikely to roll back sanctions, which have so far reduced Iran's critical oil exports by 45 percent.

"Tehran ... sees any cooperation with the IAEA as a potential bargaining chip that is better reserved for the talks that really matter," said Suzanne Maloney, an Iranian affairs expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "The Iranians want a payout and the IAEA cannot deliver that."

Iran has proposed restarting talks as early as next month. But while Iran's desire to revive dialogue with the world powers suggests an acknowledgment that the sanctions have taken a bite out of its economy, there still are no clear signals on whether it means a greater willingness to make concessions.

Three rounds of talks last year made no headway on the West's main demand: That Iran halt its highest-level uranium enrichment.

Washington and others worry this level of nuclear fuel, at 20 percent enrichment, could be turned into warhead-grade material much faster than the 3.5 percent enriched uranium needed for Iran's lone energy-producing reactor.

Iran insists it does not seek nuclear arms — repeatedly citing a 2005 edict by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that called atomic weapons a violation of Islamic tenets — and says it only wants reactors for electricity and medical research.

For Iranian negotiators, the only workable compromise is seen as part of a reciprocal pact: The easing of Western sanctions in return for promises to trim uranium enrichment. So far, however, the U.S. and its allies have given no indication of favoring such a deal. Instead, they have moved to further tighten the economic squeeze and isolate Iran.

Iranian envoys appear to favor getting the dialogue restarted to at least keep channels open with Washington. That could also gain support from the Obama administration, which favors diplomatic efforts to end the nuclear standoff. Critics, including Israel's Prime Benjamin Netanyahu, contend Iran is only seeking to drag out negotiations while it expands its stockpile of enriched uranium.

"Iran's leaders are adopting a grand-bargain strategy," said Mehrzad Boroujerdi, a Syracuse University professor who follows Iranian affairs. "They don't want to get bogged down with the IAEA and see the only way to get what they want — meaning getting some sanctions off their back — is through the world power talks."

But Iran's cold shoulder to U.N. envoys could further weaken Western interest in reopening talks, leading to another dead end.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Friday that the U.S. was disappointed that "once again" Iran and the IAEA failed to agree on allowing inspectors to visit a military site, known as Parchin, where the U.N. agency suspects Iran might have carried out nuclear weapon trigger tests.

The agency has visited Parchin twice — the last time in 2005. But at the time, it did not have access to satellite imagery and new intelligence presumably supplied by the United States, Israel and other IAEA member states. Iran says it wants assurances from the IAEA that the Parchin file will be closed for good if it allows another tour of Parchin and nothing is detected.

Herman Nackaerts, who headed the IAEA team, said the two sides would meet again on Feb. 12 in the Iranian capital. That's after Iran's proposed timeframe to restart talks with the world powers talks. The official IRNA news agency reported that envoys were working on an early February resumption.

There has been no official response from Washington or the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, but reopening talks that quickly appears difficult without even an agreement on where they would be held.

Iranian authorities, meantime, have been increasingly candid about the blows from sanctions, including plans for an austerity budget in March that will include new and highly unpopular taxes. Last week, the head of parliament's budget committee, Gholam Reza Kateb, said Iran's revenues from oil and gas exports have dropped by 45 percent.

The country's currency also has fallen by more than 40 percent since last year.

On Saturday, Iran's IAEA delegate, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, repeated Tehran's insistence that it will never fully halt uranium enrichment, which is permitted under the U.N. nuclear proliferation accords signed by Iran and most other nations.

"Khamenei now has material imperatives as well as some political space to negotiate," said the analyst Maloney. "But any deal must satisfy the hardline base that remains deeply distrustful of the international community and confident in Iran's capacity to withstand hardship."

Another political twist for Iran could be the elections in June to pick a successor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has been significantly weakened by attempts to challenge the authority of Khamenei and the ruling clerics.

Ahmadinejad's opponents might want to postpone any kind of serious nuclear negotiations with the West until after the elections to avoid giving his administration a higher profile in its final months. At the same time, hardline factions also could be wary of making any kind of major concessions to the West before the vote, which is expected to bring a Khamenei loyalist to office.

"There could be a tendency now to stick to the old, radical approach for now," said Rasool Nafisi, an Iranian affairs analyst at Strayer University in Virginia. "They don't want to be the ones who blink first in the showdowns with the West."

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D.  North Korea

U.S., China in Deal on U.N. North Korea Rebuke; Russia to Back it
Louis Charbonneau
(for personal use only)

The United States and China have struck a tentative deal on a draft U.N. Security Council resolution condemning North Korea for its December rocket launch, U.N. diplomats said on Friday, and Russia predicted it would be approved by the council.

The resolution would not impose new sanctions, but would call for expanding existing U.N. sanctions measures against Pyongyang, the envoys said on condition of anonymity. They added that China's support for the move would be a significant diplomatic blow to Pyongyang.

The 15-nation council could adopt the compromise resolution next week, they said.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin confirmed the diplomats' comments in remarks quoted by the Russian state-run RIA Novosti news agency, saying that adoption was likely early next week.

"I expect we will support it," RIA quoted Churkin as saying. "I don't expect that the U.N. Security Council members will have any serious problems (with the resolution)."

"Our position is that the North Korean rocket launch is a violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution, so the council should react," he said.

South Korean Ambassador Kim Sook told reporters that the draft might take a few days to reach the council.

The United States had wanted to punish North Korea with a U.N. Security Council resolution that imposed new sanctions against Pyongyang, but Beijing rejected that option.

Beijing had wanted the council to merely issue a statement calling for the council's North Korea sanctions committee to expand the existing U.N. blacklists, diplomats said.

The tentative deal, they said, was that Washington would forgo the idea of immediate new sanctions, while Beijing would accept the idea of a resolution instead of a statement, which makes the rebuke more forceful.

Assuming the North Korea sanctions committee agrees to expand existing measures, the resolution will ultimately lead to more stringent sanctions against Pyongyang.

"It might not be much but the Chinese move is significant," a council diplomat said. "The prospect of a (new) nuclear test might have been a game changer (for China)."

After North Korea's April 2012 rocket launch, the council passed a so-called "presidential statement" that condemned the move and urged the North Korea sanctions committee to tighten the existing U.N. sanctions regime.

The sanctions committee then blacklisted additional North Korean firms and broadened a list of items Pyongyang was banned from importing.

Washington was determined not to use the same formula as last year, so it insisted that the council adopt a resolution, not a presidential statement as China had wanted.

China is the North's only major diplomatic ally, though it agreed to U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang in the wake of North Korea's 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.

North Korea is already banned under Security Council resolutions from developing nuclear and missile technology but has been working steadily on its nuclear test site, possibly in preparation for a third nuclear test, satellite images show.

December's successful long-range rocket launch, the first to put a satellite in orbit, was a coup for North Korea's young leader Kim Jong-un.

It raised tensions in East Asia at the same time as Japan and South Korea elected new leaders. Washington wants them to mend relations after a dispute over an island claimed by both countries.

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E.  Japan

Fish Caught Close to the Fukushima Nuclear Plant Was 2,500 Times Over the Legal Safe Radiation Limit
Rob Williams
The Independent
(for personal use only)

A murasoi fish, caught close the the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, is over 2,500 times the legal safe radiation limit for seafood, the plant's operator Tokyo Electric has revealed.

The murasoi fish, which is comparable to a rockfish, was found in the area surrounding the now-closed power plant.

It was found to contain 254,000 becquerels per kilogram of cesium more than 2540 times the limit of 100 becquerels/kg set for seafood by the government.

A Becquerel is the basic unit of radioactivity used in the international measure of radiation units, the maximum level of radiation allowed in food for human consumption is 100 becquerels/kilogram.

According to the magazine, Science, levels of cesium in seafood in the area around Fukushima have not really decreased since 2011.

The company Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) caught the fish in the bay close to the Fukukshima Daiichi main reactor.

Samples collected last August indicate cesium levels that were 250 times what is considered safe by the Japanese government.

There is concern in the region that other fish may be feeding off the murasoi and other contaminated species.

Around 40 per cent of other bottom-dwelling fish in the area showed high levels of radiation that were 134 and 137 levels above the legal limit.

The article by Ken O. Buesseler, a leading marine chemistry expert, is once again likely to raise fears over the safety of fish caught in the area as the two year anniversary of the nuclear disaster approaches

The Japanese government has admitted that levels of contamination in the area are very high, but says that high levels of cesium were only detected in fish that are found nearest to the site of the disaster.

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Japan Learns Nuclear Restart Requirements
World Nuclear News
(for personal use only)

Tough new rules for Japanese nuclear power plants have been revealed in draft form. Among them are that power companies should be able to contain a severe accident situation for an entire week without outside help.

The draft proposals for accident prevention and mitigation came from Japan's newly established Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), which has enough independence to do its work free from governmental control and undue industrial influence. It published the proposals today, announcing a period of discussion with power companies before the end of January when it wants to begin formulating final versions for publication in July.

Meeting the demands of these rules will be essential for power companies wanting to restart nuclear reactors that have laid idle for many months. The NRA has previously said that utilities will be able to apply for inspections and approval prior to July, although it would not give its final opinion until after the final requirements had been passed into law.

Most of the draft requirements are directly inspired by the Fukushima accident and the troubles experienced by Tokyo Electric Power Company and government agencies in containing a loss of power brought on by tsunami flooding. Utilities will be required to provide alternative, possibly mobile, power supplies and multiple sources of cooling water. All reactors will also need filtered vents to allow potentially explosive hydrogen to escape safely in the event of serious core damage.

The most difficult and potentially expensive ideas are that power plants need a back-up control room and a method of injecting water to cool a molten core that has already left the reactor vessel but remains in containment. Power companies should also be capable of dealing with a severe accident situation for an entire week without outside help, which can be delayed in the case of a wider emergency such as a major natural disaster.

All but two of Japan's 50-reactor fleet remains shut down, pending regulatory change and approval from the NRA to restart. Ohi 3 and 4 are generating under special conditions to alleviate a power shortage in the congested and heavily industrialised Kansai region. Other reactors remain closed after reaching a mandatory shutdown for checks and being told plainly that approval for restart would not be given until safety requirements had been completely re-assessed.

Historically, power companies would ask the permission of local prefectural governments for approval to restart, and the outright lack of local support was one factor in the total shutdown. The last federal government said clearly that it wanted to move on from this informal condition, but it is not yet clear whether national or regional governments will have a role in granting future approvals or whether that power will lie solely with the NRA.

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Japanese Nuclear Plant Operators Charge Over 90 Million Dollars Per Year to Pay Local Authorities
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A report by NHK has shown that operators of nuclear power plants in Japan charge the public users over 90 million dollars per year, in order to cover payments made to local authorities in the areas which host the nuclear sites. Last year, the central government announced that it did not consider these charges as an expense, and that it would no longer allow utilities to charge users to cover them.

Osaka University Professor Tatsuo Hatta says utilities may be able to find other ways to compensate themselves for the payments, and is calling for further transparency.

Kansai Electric has been charging their users around 40 million dollars per year, TEPCO charges around 22 million, Kyushu charges around 10 million, Chugoku charges about 8 million, and Chubu charges about 4 million.

Government authorities are beginning to see the attempt to buy support, or silent acquiescence of communities, by hooking them on generous subsidies and pay outs, as a detriment to the sustained growth and development of these areas, as it promotes a false market and leaves local communities dependent on the additional sources of income.

“This structure of dependency makes it impossible for communities to speak out against the plants or nuclear power,” said Shuji Shimizu, a professor of public finance at Fukushima University told the New York Times after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

One Japanese resident, who ran for the office of May of Kashima spoke out against the effect that these payments have on local authorities. “They call it a nuclear power plant, but it should actually be called a political power plant,” he said. He explained how local communities and leaders use the jobs and money they receive to secure the support of key voters and industries and make them more reliant on the local leaders and the compensation from nuclear sites.

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F.  Nuclear Safety & Security

U. S. Nuclear Component Reaches Pakistan Via China
Narayan Lakshman
The Hindu
(for personal use only)

Pakistan is circumventing matters of legality and geopolitical complexities in the procurement process for nuclear components.

This may well be the conclusion reached in the case of Qiang Hu, a Chinese national who has been charged in Massachusetts with “conspiracy for violating U.S. export controls by allegedly selling thousands of pressure transducers to unnamed customers through his position of sales manager at MKS Instruments Shanghai Ltd. in China”.

Among the list of nations that use pressure transducers to measure the gas pressure inside centrifuge cascades in nuclear plants is Pakistan. The list reportedly includes Iran and possibly North Korea, but Pakistan, according to experts at the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, is among those nations that “use a considerable quantity of the equipment in their centrifuge plants and have regularly sought them through surreptitious means as used in this alleged scheme”.

That Islamabad was a likely final customer of Mr. Hu’s deceptions cannot be ruled out. According to a report published by ISIS on this case, “Hu and his co-conspirators allegedly arranged their unlawful export to unauthorised Chinese end-users or to other, unnamed country end-users”.

The report’s authors, David Albright and Andrea Stricker, told The Hindu that while recent case studies or evidence of Pakistani procurements of pressure transducers may not be available, Pakistan is “likely procuring them, assuming they don’t have enough in their centrifuge plants or haven’t made them themselves”.

With the general assumption here that illicit procurement of components is quite a common practice experts are now urging that the U.S. ought to designate China a ‘Destination of Diversion Concern’, an action that would then require companies there to apply for special licences to import controlled or sensitive U.S. goods on account of the high risk that they may be diverted to rogue nuclear powers.

Nuclear screws may indeed be tightened on China in the second Obama term as the Hu case also suggested acute embarrassment for U.S. law enforcement agencies. The Federal Bureau Investigation’s complaint in the matter, for example, cited “deception” that Mr. Hu and his co-conspirators resorted to, in order to procure export licences.

The complaint argues that they used two primary means of deception to export the pressure transducers. First, “the conspirators used licences issued to legitimate MKS business customers to export the pressure transducers to China and then caused the parts to be delivered to other end-users who were not themselves named on the export licences or authorised to receive the parts”, the FBI said, adding that the conspirators then “obtained export licences in the name of a front company and then used these fraudulently obtained licences to export the parts to China, where they were delivered to the actual end-users”.

However, MKS Instruments itself was not a target of the government’s investigation into these matters, the FBI noted, adding that Mr. Hu remained in custody and faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison, to be followed by up to three years of supervised release, and a $1 million fine.

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G.  Links of Interest

Trial Operation of Rokkasho Furnace
World Nuclear News
(for personal use only)

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Obama’s Modest Gains in Nuclear Security Vision
Kenneth C. Brill and Kenneth N. Luongo
(for personal use only)

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Work Starts on First British Dry Fuel Store
World Nuclear News
(for personal use only)

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DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to visit the websites from which the source material originates. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of Partnership for Global Security. Partnership for Global Security takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.

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