1. Iran Denies Explosion at Underground Uranium Facility
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Iran has denied media reports of a major explosion at one of its most sensitive uranium enrichment sites, describing them as Western propaganda designed to influence upcoming nuclear negotiations.
Reuters has been unable to verify reports since Friday of an explosion early last week at the underground Fordow bunker, near the religious city of Qom, that some Israeli and Western media have said caused significant damage.
"The false news of an explosion at Fordow is Western propaganda ahead of nuclear negotiations to influence their process and outcome," state news agency IRNA quoted the deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Saeed Shamseddin Bar Broudi, as saying late on Sunday.
Iran's ISNA news agency quoted military commander Massoud Jazayeri as saying: "I deny an explosion at the Fordow site."
In late 2011 the plant at Fordow began producing uranium enriched to 20 percent fissile purity, compared with the 3.5 percent level needed for nuclear energy plants. Several U.N. Security Council resolutions have ordered Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment.
Speculation of an explosion at Fordow followed an Iranian news agency report that global powers and Tehran could resume talks on Iran's disputed nuclear programme on Monday and Tuesday. The European Union, the lead negotiator on the nuclear talks, said there was no such agreement.
Diplomats in Vienna, where the United Nations' nuclear agency is based, said on Monday they had no knowledge of any incident at Fordow but were looking into the reports. One Western diplomat said he did not believe them to be correct.
The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which regularly inspects Iranian nuclear sites including Fordow, had no immediate comment.
Iran has accused Israel and the United States of trying to sabotage its nuclear programme, which the West suspects hides an attempt to develop atom bomb capability. The Islamic republic says its atomic programme is entirely peaceful.
Tehran has accused Israel and the United States of being behind cyber attacks on its nuclear programme and the assassination of its nuclear scientists.
Washington has denied any role in the killings, while Israel has declined to comment. No government has taken responsibility for the Stuxnet computer virus that destroyed centrifuges at Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment facility in 2010, but it has been widely reported to have been a U.S.-Israeli project.
Israel, believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear-armed state, has hinted at possible military action against Iran if sanctions and diplomacy fail to resolve the decade-old dispute.
Israeli Civil Defence Minister Avi Dichter told Israel's Army Radio he could not say anything about the reported Fordow blast "beyond what I heard in the media."
He added: "Any explosion in Iran which does not harm people but, rather, harms assets, is a blessing."
Western governments say the higher-grade enrichment at Fordow is a significant step towards weapons-grade material, even though it is below the 90 percent level required for nuclear bombs.
The Islamic state says it is producing 20 percent uranium to make fuel for a research reactor in Tehran that produces medical isotopes.
Wrangling over dates and location have delayed resumption of talks between global powers and Iran, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday both sides should "stop behaving like little children" and start work.
Three rounds of talks last year between Iran and the six powers - Russia, the United States, China, Britain, France and Germany - produced no breakthrough, increasing speculation Israel could attack Iranian nuclear installations.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/28/iran-nuclear-idUSL5N0AX3OX20130128
World powers have asked Iran to hold a new round of talks over its nuclear work in February, while expressing disappointment over Tehran's reluctance to schedule negotiations.
A spokesman for the EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Monday Iran had not agreed to her proposal, issued on behalf the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, to meet at the end of January.
"Iran did not accept our offer to go to Istanbul on Jan. 28 and 29 and so we have offered new dates in February," Michael Mann told a news briefing in Brussels.
"We have continued to offer dates since December. We are disappointed the Iranians have not yet agreed," he said.
The next round of discussions had originally been slated for January but progress has been beset by wrangling between the two sides.
Iranian officials deny they are to blame for the delays and say Western countries are responsible for waiting until after the U.S. presidential election in November, which resulted in lost opportunities.
"We have always said that we are ready to negotiate until a result is reached and we have never broken off discussions," state news agency IRNA quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as saying on Monday.
The six counties, known collectively as P5+1, met Iranian negotiators in three rounds of talks last year but made no breakthrough.
Iran has refused to halt all uranium enrichment and demanded relief from international economic sanctions before it takes any steps. But it has previously suggested it may be willing to halt higher-grade enrichment - a central concern - if its needs are met and its right to enrich is formally recognised.
Ashton is overseeing diplomatic contacts on behalf of the powers hoping to persuade Tehran to scale back its nuclear work. The six powers are concerned Iran is seeking to reach the capability to build nuclear weapons, but Tehran denies that.
Mann said, however, that Iranian negotiators have put up new conditions for resuming negotiations but that EU powers were concerned that might be a delaying tactic.
Salehi has suggested holding the next round of talks in Cairo but that the P5+1 wanted to meet elsewhere. He also said Sweden, Kazakhstan and Switzerland have offered to host the talks.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/28/iran-nuclear-eu-idUSL5N0AX6UI20130128
1. Bulgarian Vote for Nuclear Plant Challenges Government
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Roughly 60 percent voted for a 2,000-megawatt plant at Belene on the Danube River, while 40 percent opposed it, Gallup International and Alpha Research exit polls showed. Turnout was about 20 percent.
The country's first referendum since the fall of communism, showed that Borisov's policy has alienated many voters in the European Union's poorest country and complicated his campaign for a July election, analysts said.
Exit polls put the turnout between 20.2 and 21.8 percent, well below the required 60 percent to make the vote binding.
But under the voting rules, if more than 20 percent of eligible voters took part and more than half of them voted in favour, the issue will be sent to parliament, where Borisov's GERB party has a working majority, for a final decision.
Borisov said that if the turnout is enough for Belene to go before parliament, GERB will reject the project again.
"The result clearly puts pressure on the government. The low turnout however indicates there are no clear winners and we will be facing a serious stalemate after the July election," said Kiril Avramov, political analyst with New Bulgarian University.
Borisov, struggling to revive the economy, cancelled the construction of Belene in March saying the Balkan country could not afford estimated costs of more than 10 billion euros (8.6 billion pounds), and after failing to attract Western investors.
Bulgaria's allies in Brussels and Washington also opposed the project, fearing it would deepen the country's economic and political dependence on Russia - Moscow had offered to finance the plant which would have been built by its Atomstroyexport.
But many hoped it would rein in electricity prices, create jobs and help make Bulgaria an energy hub for southeast Europe.
While the economy has emerged from a deep recession, it is growing only slowly and many voters are frustrated that Bulgaria still trails other former communist members of the European Union, with wealth per capita less than half the bloc's average.
Analysts said the vote in favour of Belene comes as a blow to Borisov, who has made little progress in his promises to root out corruption since he came to power in 2009.
Unpopular austerity measures imposed by the ruling centre-right GERB party have already narrowed its lead over opposition Socialists, who called for the referendum, ahead of parliamentary elections in July.
Speaking to reporters after casting a ballot, Borisov played down the link between support for the plant and the July elections, stressing that the low turnout showed Bulgarians were not interested in the issue.
"I want to thank (Socialist Party leader Sergei) Stanishev. By organising this referendum he put a final cross on the Belene project," he said.
The result of the referendum, which asked if a new nuclear power plant should be built and not about the use of nuclear power in general, can only be valid if 4.35 million out of 6.9 million eligible voters take part.
Bulgaria has an operational 2,000 megawatt nuclear power plant at Kozloduy and has hired U.S. firm Westinghouse to draw up plans to add another 1,000 MW unit at the site.
Belene was also opposed by environmentalists, who said it would be built near an earthquake-prone area, and by rights groups who said the high-cost project would encourage graft.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/01/27/uk-bulgaria-nuclear-referendum-idUKBRE90Q08Z20130127
2. France Prepares Fund to Support Smaller Nuclear Firms
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The French government plans to unveil a fund to support small and mid-size businesses in the country's nuclear industry, a spokeswoman for the industry ministry said on Saturday, confirming a report in Le Monde newspaper.
The government also plans to set up an association bringing together French nuclear players in addition to the 123 million-euro ($166 million) fund, which will be designed to take stakes in companies, bolster their capital and facilitate tie-ups, the spokeswoman said.
It will be financed by major groups such as utility EDF (EDF.PA), nuclear reactor maker Areva (AREVA.PA) and engineering firm Alstom (ALSO.PA), as well as France's FSI strategic investment fund.
While the proportions are yet to be determined, Le Monde reported that the FSI would provide "a large third" of the sum.
The moves will be decided at a meeting of the French nuclear industry strategic committee on Tuesday, attended by Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg and Ecology Minister Delphine Batho.
The industry ministry spokeswoman said it wants to show support for a sector that employs 200,000 people in France and which will likely hire 110,000 workers by 2020.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/26/us-france-nuclear-idUSBRE90P0IM20130126
3. Oettinger Underlines Importance of Pioneering Nuclear Power Project
Power Engineering International
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Progress was made on the development of the world’s largest experimental nuclear fusion project in France this week, with the civil engineering contract (worth $400m) being awarded for the buildings on the site.
A Vinci Construction-led consortium of seven companies is the choice for this aspect of the development.
If the $17.3bn project is successful the developers behind the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) say that it can produce three to four times more power than conventional nuclear.
A fusion reaction, according to ITER, happens by fusing atoms together, as against conventional nuclear power where energy is created by splitting atoms.
Overall, Europe is funding the lion's share (45 per cent) of the ITER experiment, with the rest of the funding coming from China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation and the USA.
"At this time when the urgency to transform our energy system has been overshadowed by the financial crisis it is important that we keep steadfast in funding projects like ITER," said E.U. Commissioner for Energy, Gunther Oettinger, at the Cadarache facility. "This project is at the forefront of energy technology research in the world, giving a long term view towards the decarbonisation of our energy supply.”
Available at: http://www.powerengineeringint.com/articles/2013/01/Oettinger-underlines-importance-of-pioneering-nuclear-power-project.html
The first batch of sodium coolant has been added to a forthcoming fast reactor at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant in Russia. The new unit is slated for start-up next year.
Beloyarsk 4 is a BN-800 fast neutron reactor designed by OKBM Afrikantov which will use liquid sodium to transfer heat from the reactor core to a water system that drives a steam turbine and generator. Another smaller fast reactor unit already generates power at the site and similar BN-series units are planned for China as part of a cooperation project with Russia.
An 18.5 tonne batch of the metal was accepted at the power plant site late last year. Having been transported in solid form, it was warmed up to a liquid state and transferred into a storage tank within Beloyarsk 4's reactor system. A total of 2000 tonnes will be needed for the reactor to begin operation, which is expected in 2014.
The sodium was supplied by MSSA Metaux Speciaux of France, which started producing 'nuclear grade' sodium in the 1960s. It supplied sodium to France's Superphenix fast reactor as well as Japan's Monju unit.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN_Sodium_coolant_arrives_at_fast_reactor_2401131.html
1. N. Korea Renews Threat to Carry Out Nuclear Test
Yonhap News Agency
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North Korea on Saturday renewed its threat to carry out a third nuclear test in defiance of new United Nations sanctions against its Dec. 12 rocket launch.
"A nuclear test is the demand of the people and no other choice can be made," the North's main newspaper, Rodong Shinmun, said in a commentary. "It is the people's demand that there should be something even greater than a nuclear test," said the newspaper, the mouthpiece of the North's ruling Workers' Party.
The renewed threat comes only days after the communist country vowed to abandon all denuclearization efforts on the Korean Peninsula and conduct a nuclear test in response to the expanded U.N. sanctions.
The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution Tuesday calling for stronger sanctions against North Korea for its Dec. 12 launch of a long-range rocket that violated existing U.N. resolutions.
The resolution passed unanimously by the 15-member council is the fifth to be slapped on the North for its rocket and nuclear programs since May 1993. It calls for the tightening of existing sanctions, such as imposing travel bans on four individuals and freezing assets belonging to North Korea's space agency, a bank and four trading companies accused of engaging in arms shipments. It also banned technology developments and the transfer of money that supports such operations.
"The U.N. Security Council gave us no other choice," the commentary said. "We have no choice but to go to the very end."
South Korea. the U.S., and other nations have been closely monitoring any moves at the North's known nuclear testing grounds and speculate that the communist state is technically ready to go ahead with its third atomic test.
On Friday, a U.S. research institute said recent satellite imagery show North Korea is almost ready to carry out its threat to conduct a nuclear test.
According to 38 North, an analysis program of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, the Punggye-ri test site in the North's northeastern coastal region appears to be in a state of readiness that would allow the North to move forward with a test once Pyongyang's leadership gives the order.
The site is where the country conducted its first and second underground nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2013/01/26/69/0301000000AEN20130126001300320F.HTML
2. North Korea Threatens War with South over UN Sanctions
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North Korea threatened to attack rival South Korea if Seoul joined a new round of tightened U.N. sanctions, as Washington unveiled more of its own economic restrictions following Pyongyang's rocket launch last month.
In a third straight day of fiery rhetoric, the North directed its verbal onslaught at its neighbour on Friday, saying: "'Sanctions' mean a war and a declaration of war against us."
The reclusive North this week declared a boycott of all dialogue aimed at ending its nuclear programme and vowed to conduct more rocket and nuclear tests after the U.N. Security Council censured it for a December long-range missile launch.
"If the puppet group of traitors takes a direct part in the U.N. 'sanctions,' the DPRK will take strong physical counter-measures against it," the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said, referring to the South.
The committee is the North's front for dealings with the South. The North's official name is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Speaking in Beijing, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies said he found North Korea's rhetoric "troubling and counterproductive," and that he and his Chinese counterparts had agreed a new nuclear test would be harmful.
"We will judge North Korea by its actions, not its words. These types of inflammatory statements by North Korea do nothing to contribute to peace and stability on the peninsula," he said.
"What North Korea has done through its actions, in particular through the launch on December 12 of a rocket in contravention of Security Council resolutions, is they have made it that much more difficult to contemplate getting back to a diplomatic process."
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland urged North Korea's young leader Kim Jong-un to choose a different path, rather than "continue to waste what little money the country has on missile technologies and things while his people go hungry."
The U.N. Security Council unanimously condemned North Korea's December rocket launch on Tuesday and expanded existing U.N. sanctions.
On Thursday, the United States slapped economic sanctions on two North Korean bank officials and a Hong Kong trading company that it accused of supporting Pyongyang's proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The company, Leader (Hong Kong) International Trading Ltd, was separately blacklisted by the United Nations on Wednesday.
Seoul has said it will look at whether there are any further sanctions that it can implement alongside the United States, but said the focus for now is to follow Security Council resolutions.
The resolution said the council "deplores the violations" by North Korea of its previous resolutions, which banned Pyongyang from conducting further ballistic missile and nuclear tests and from importing materials and technology for those programmes. It does not impose new sanctions on Pyongyang.
The United States had wanted to punish North Korea for the rocket launch with a Security Council resolution that imposed entirely new sanctions against Pyongyang, but Beijing rejected that option. China agreed to U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang after North Korea's 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.
Nuland declined to speculate whether the United States thinks the U.N. steps would change North Korea's behavior.
"What's been important to us is strong unity among the six-party talks countries; strong unity in the region about a positive course forward; and the fact that there will be consequences if they keep making bad choices," she said.
Long-dormant six-nation talks brought together the United States, China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas in negotiations to try to induce Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear arms quest in exchange for economic aid and diplomatic normalization.
North Korea's rhetoric this week amounted to some of the angriest outbursts against the outside world coming under the leadership of Kim Jong-un, who took over after the death of his father Kim Jong-il in late 2011.
On Thursday, the North said it would carry out further rocket launches and a nuclear test, directing its ire at the United States, a country it called its "sworn enemy".
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the comments were worrying.
"We are very concerned with North Korea's continuing provocative behavior," he said at a Pentagon news conference.
"We are fully prepared ... to deal with any kind of provocation from the North Koreans. But I hope in the end that they determine that it is better to make a choice to become part of the international family."
North Korea is not believed to have the technology to deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting the continental United States, although its December launch showed it had the capacity to deliver a rocket that could travel 10,000 km (6,200 miles), potentially putting San Francisco in range, according to an intelligence assessment by South Korea.
South Korea and others who have been closely observing activities at the North's known nuclear test grounds believe Pyongyang is technically ready to go ahead with its third atomic test and awaiting the political decision of its leader.
The North's committee also declared on Friday that a landmark agreement it signed with the South in 1992 on eliminating nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula was invalid, repeating its long-standing accusation that Seoul was colluding with Washington.
The foreign ministry of China, the North's sole remaining major diplomatic and economic benefactor, repeated its call for calm on the Korean peninsula at its daily briefing earlier on Friday.
"The current situation on the Korea peninsula is complicated and sensitive," spokesman Hong Lei said.
"We hope all relevant parties can see the big picture, maintain calm and restraint, further maintain contact and dialogue, and improve relations, while not taking actions to further complicate and escalate the situation," Hong said.
But unusually prickly comments in Chinese state media on Friday hinted at Beijing's exasperation.
"It seems that North Korea does not appreciate China's efforts," said the Global Times in an editorial, a sister publication of the official People's Daily.
"Just let North Korea be 'angry' ... China hopes for a stable peninsula, but it's not the end of the world if there's trouble there. This should be the baseline of China's position."
Available at: http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/01/25/korea-north-war-idINDEE90O03D20130125
1. Japan Could Shut Down World’s Largest Nuclear Power Plant over Active Fault Threat, Cherrie Lou Billones
Cherrie Lou Billones
The Japan Daily Press
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With the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) planning to redefine the meaning of ‘active fault’, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the same operator of the disastericken Fukushima nuclear power plant, might lose another of its plants. The Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power plant could be permanently closed should the NRA decide that an active fault is one that has moved anytime in the last 400,000 years. Currently, the year limit is set at 120,000 to 130,000.
A couple of faults, known as alpha and beta, run directly under TEPCO’s No. 1 reactor at the largest nuclear power plant. It insists that neither fault lines moved for 120,000 to 240,000 years. Geological experts are not convinced. TEPCO has since then conducted another study to determine the date of the fault line movements, and results are set to be released next month. In the mean time, an NRA official said, “The new guidelines will be put into effect in July, and then we will re-evaluate the safety of each of Japan’s nuclear plants.”
In the new guidelines, vents that can filter out radioactive gases must be installed, mobile back-up electrical generators are to be readied, and there should be a set of criteria for use in evacuating areas around the power plants. It will also be mandatory that back-up control rooms be placed far away from reactor buildings to reduce the risk of plant workers irradiated when an emergency occurs. In order to be protected from potential terrorist attacks, protective barriers will also be required.
Available at: http://japandailypress.com/japan-could-shut-down-worlds-largest-nuclear-power-plant-over-active-fault-threat-2822279
2. Tepco Plans to Dump ‘Cleaned’ Fukushima No. 1 Water
The Japan Times
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Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to dump contaminated water from its crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean after removing radioactive substances to reduce contamination to legally permissible levels.
Tepco said Thursday the measure is necessary because the utility fears it will eventually run out of capacity to store radioactive water that continues to accumulate at the plant due to water being injected to help cool the three reactors that experienced core meltdowns in March 2011.
Despite the plan, the utility acknowledged it needs the approval of local governments and other parties before it actually discharges the water into the ocean. “Nothing specific has been decided at this moment,” one Tepco official said.
Water that has been used to cool the damaged reactors is recycled and used as coolant after radioactive levels in it have been lowered in a water-processing facility. But the total amount of contaminated water is increasing because the existing water flow allows an influx of about 400 tons of groundwater a day.
Tepco is increasing the number of storage tanks to deal with the situation, but warns they will eventually reach full capacity.
As a key step in the water release, Tepco will operate a new facility that can remove about different 60 types of radioactive substances, more than the existing water processing facility that has mainly worked to reduce the concentration of cesium. But as the new facility is not capable of removing radioactive tritium, an official said Tepco will consider diluting the processed water before releasing it to the sea.
Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/01/25/national/tepco-plans-to-dump-cleaned-fukushima-no-1-water/#.UQac5KI4uJB
1. France Boosts Security in Niger Nuclear Site for Fear of Mali War Backlash
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France is deploying special forces and more equipment to Niger to improve security of the French nuclear company Areva, fearing a backlash in reprisal for French-led war in Mali, a report says.
Over 70 percent of French electricity comes from nuclear reactors while much of the uranium used for fuel is extracted in Niger by Areva whose production sites are located in the towns of Arlit and Imouraren in the African country, south of Algeria, French magazine Le Point reported.
The deployment came after the January 16 deadly hostage-taking incident when a group of gunmen stormed a gas plant near Algeria’s border with Libya, kidnapping dozens of foreigners and a group of Algerian workers.
The attackers, reportedly linked to the fighters in neighboring Mali, said they had carried out the attack in retaliation for the French-led war in Mali.
France launched the war on January 11, under the pretext of halting the advance of the fighters who control the north of Mali. The United States, Canada, Britain, Belgium, Germany, and Denmark have said they would support the French war in Mali.
Meanwhile, the French-led war in Mali has forced Paris to increase security at home. The police and army presence, according to the magazine, has risen at government buildings, famous tourist sites, and subway and railway stations.
Security has also been increased around French President Francois Hollande who came to power in May 2012. In addition, armed French soldiers are reported to patrol inside the metro, ride trains and watch main streets like the Champs-Elysees.
Presently, France has over 2,100 forces in Mali while its Western allies have provided Paris with logistical support.
France has also received intelligence and logistic support from the United States.
The Economic Community of West African States has also pledged to throw their support behind France by sending some 5,800 soldiers to Mali.
Some political analysts believe that Mali’s abandoned natural resources, including gold and uranium reserves, could be one of the reasons behind the French war.
Available at: http://www.presstv.com/detail/2013/01/26/285581/france-deploys-special-forces-to-niger/
2. NNSA to Conduct Radiation Assessment over New Orleans
Government Security News
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National nuclear security agency helicopters are set to conduct aerial measurements of background radiation in the New Orleans, LA, area in the coming days.
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said on Jan. 24 that it will be flying a helicopter over portions of the Louisiana city between Jan. 25 and Jan. 29, 2013 to measure naturally-occurring radiation in the area.
The NNSA said its Remote Sensing Laboratory (RSL) Aerial Measuring System (AMS) out of Joint Base Andrews near Washington, DC, will perform the assessment for local law enforcement in New Orleans.
NNSA officials said the radiation assessment will cover approximately 30 square miles. The agency said it would use a helicopter equipped with remote gamma radiation sensing technology to complete the assessment. The helicopter will fly in a grid pattern over the areas, 200 feet (or higher) above the ground surface, at a speed of approximately 80 miles per hour, it said, only during daylight hours. The agency said the assessment would take about four days to complete.
The measurement of naturally occurring radiation to establish baseline levels is a normal part of security and emergency preparedness.
The assessment is one of many the agency has been conducting in the past few months. It regularly notifies the public of the upcoming flights to ensure citizens who see the low-flying aircraft aren’t alarmed.
It conducted a similar assessment in Washington, D.C., between Dec. 27 and Jan. 11 and Dec. 26. The agency has conducted similar overflights in other cities, including Baltimore and San Francisco, earlier in 2012.
Available at: http://www.gsnmagazine.com/node/28332?c=cbrne_detection
The European Parliament's energy committee has approved a draft resolution recommending the speedy implementation of lessons learned from stress tests conducted at the European Union's (EU's) nuclear power reactors.
The Industry, Research and Energy Committee (ITRE), chaired by Amalia Sartori, approved the resolution by 48 votes in favour, 5 against and 7 abstentions.
"This resolution must serve as a basis for the ongoing preparation for the Nuclear Safety Directive, and I believe it is a very good basis."
Members of the European Parliament are set to debate nuclear safety in plenary on 6 February and will vote on the draft resolution the following day.
The resolution says that nuclear operators should cover the costs of the recommended safety upgradesat all of the EU's 131 power reactors. The total cost of these upgrades is estimated at some €25 billion ($34 billion), averaging about €190 million ($256 million) per reactor. The committee also called for new proposals on nuclear insurance and liability to be put forward by the end of 2013.
"This resolution must serve as a basis for the ongoing preparation for the Nuclear Safety Directive, and I believe it is a very good basis," said Sartori.
She noted, "Nuclear energy is an important reality in the present EU mix and our firm support for this stress test exercise shows how crucial the European Parliament considers the combination between safety and energy security." Sartori added, "I am sure that all EU member states will take concrete actions to promote the findings of the tests and will promptly adapt to the highest applicable level of standards."
The stress test program was ordered by the European Union in response to the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident. It comprised safety assessments carried out by nuclear operators, which were then reviewed by national regulators. The resulting reports then underwent a peer review process. The finalised reports were endorsed by the independent European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) in April 2012.
Following a review of the stress test results, the European Commission announced in October 2012 - several days after a leaked copy of a draft version of the report had received widespread coverage in European news media - that safety is generally good at Europe's nuclear power plants, although nearly all need to make some improvements. Presenting its conclusions, Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger described the situation at Europe's plants as "generally satisfactory."
Although the tests did not show that any European nuclear power plant should be shut down for safety reasons, they identified a number of plant-specific technical improvements. Areas highlighted for attention at a number of reactors include tightening the application of standards for earthquake and flooding risk calculations, the installation or improvement of on-site seismic instruments, the installation of containment filtered venting systems at those reactors that do not already have them, the storage of equipment needed in the event of severe accident in "places protected even in the event of general devastation" and the availability of a backup emergency control room should an accident render the main control room unusable.
The Commission also reviewed the existing European legal framework for nuclear safety and said it would present a revision of the current nuclear safety directive in early 2013, focusing on safety requirements, the role and powers of nuclear regulatory authorities, transparency and monitoring. It intends to report on the implementation of the stress test recommendations by member states in June 2014, in partnership with national regulators.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-Resolution_on_EU_stress_test_lessons-2501134.html
4. Nuclear Enrichment Plant Closes over Safety Fears
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One of the buildings at the Aldermaston plant AWE, which provides and maintains the warheads for Trident on behalf of the Ministry of Defence, has been closed after corrosion was discovered in its structural steelwork.
The building should be capable of withstanding "extreme weather and seismic events" as it enriches uranium components for Trident nuclear warheads and fuel for nuclear-powered submarines, according to the Guardian.
But serious problems with the structure were found during a routine inspection.
The MoD has insisted it was has a contingency plan but if the plant is closed for a long period Britain may have to turn to the US for materials to ensure there are no disruptions to Trident, it is said.
A spokesperson said: “There has been no impact on any of our submarine programmes as a result of the Improvement Notice issued to AWE.
“A regular inspection showed signs of corrosion in a steel column and AWE is now working to inspect the whole building, assess the extent of the problem and consider how best to rectify it.
“Routine operations at the building have been suspended as a precaution.”
The government's safety watchdog, the Office for Nuclear Regulation, have ordered that the Berkshire plant carry out repairs by the end of the year.
The problem was first detected eight months ago and ONR found that AWE had failed to follow the rules, “resulting in challenge to its nuclear safety functions”.
A report, to be released next month, is expected to say that the plant remained safe to enter, but AWE could not give necessary reassurances that it could withstand foreseeable "exceptional challenges”.
The building in question is believed to be the A45 building which has already been identified as “ageing” and will be replaced within the next three years.
No definite date could be given for when the plant will re-open.
Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/9825517/Nuclear-enrichment-plant-closes-over-safety-fears.html
Areva will provide an EPR plant simulator for experimental use at the Center for Advanced Engineering and Research (CAER) in Virginia.
The configurable control room facility will be used for human-machine interface and human factors studies, said Areva. It will facilitate training in and investigation of digital instrumentation and control systems, cyber security and operation of a nuclear power plant at CAER's Center for Safe and Secure Nuclear Energy. The result will be technical input for regulatory guidance in a range of applications, including control room design, digital technologies and human performance measures.
The EPR simulator consists of four operator stations, each able to accommodate up to ten monitors, which CAER will be able to configure for various experiments. The four operator stations can be used as part of an integrated control room environment or separately for individual studies.
CAER executive director Bob Bailey commented: "The simulator provided by Areva under this agreement will now enable us to perform critical experiements in the US in areas such as alarm systems, control room design, design navigation and development of human performance."
Separately, Babcock & Wilcox is building an Integrated System Test facility at CAER to support licensing activities for its mPower small, modular reactor design. The facility is not far from B&W's headquarters in Lynchburg.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-EPR_simulator_for_US_research_centre-2501135.html
2. IAEA Reviews Vietnam's Progress in Nuclear Power Development
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A team of international experts, who reviewed Vietnam's programme for introducing nuclear power, found that it enjoyed strong government support. The experts also recognized the significant progress achieved, including the active preparation for the construction of the Ninh Thuan Nuclear Power Project. The experts, assembled at Vietnam's request by the IAEA, conducted an Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission in Vietnam from 5 to 14 December 2012.
"The IAEA INIR Mission's recommendations and suggestions are valuable to Vietnam as a newcomer in nuclear power. We will study and report those recommendations and suggestions to the Government as well as to the National Assembly," said Nghiem Vu Khai, Vice Minister of Vietnam's Ministry of Science and Technology.
INIR missions are designed to assist IAEA Member States to assess the status of their national infrastructure for the introduction of nuclear power. The INIR mission team consists of IAEA staff and international experts.
The IAEA has developed guidelines and milestones to help countries work in a systematic way towards the introduction of nuclear power and ensure that the infrastructure required for the safe, responsible and sustainable use of nuclear technology is developed and implemented. There are three programme phases of development; the completion of each of these phases is marked by a specific "milestone" at which the progress of the development effort can be assessed. The INIR mission reinforces continual improvement in the planning process, identifying gaps, focusing resources in national action plans, and contributing to confidence building by reviewing the infrastructure status at or near a Milestone.
"The INIR mission team made recommendations and suggestions to assist the national authorities in developing the infrastructure necessary to implement the nuclear power programme," said Jong Kyun Park, Director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Power and INIR Mission team leader. "We also recognised that Vietnam has a clear understanding of the issues it has to address."
Vietnam began considering nuclear power in the 1980s, and the government approved the Ninh Thuan Nuclear Power Projects in 2009. Vietnam concluded an Intergovernmental Agreement with Russia in 2010 and an Intergovernmental Arrangement with Japan in 2011, for the construction of nuclear power plants at different sites in Ninh Thuan province. The Ninh Thuan Nuclear Power Project is meant to provide electricity to meet Vietnam's projected energy needs.
The December 2012 INIR Mission to Vietnam is the eighth IAEA INIR Mission, and follows the initial INIR Mission to Vietnam, conducted in 2009. The 2012 Vietnam INIR Mission was conducted under an IAEA Technical Cooperation project.
Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) Missions provide IAEA Member State representatives with an opportunity to have in-depth discussions with international experts about experiences and best practices in different countries. In developing its recommendations, the INIR team takes into account the comments made by the relevant national Organizations. Implementation of any of the team's recommendations is at the discretion of the Member State requesting the mission. The results of the INIR mission are expected to help the Member State to develop an action plan to fill any gaps, which in turn will help the development of the national nuclear infrastructure.
The INIR missions review the 19 infrastructure issues identified in the Agency's publication Milestones in the Development of a National Infrastructure for Nuclear Power.
Available at: http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/2013/vietnamnp.html
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