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Nuclear News - 2/11/2013
PGS Nuclear News, February 11, 2013
Compiled By: Pia Ulrich

A.  North Korea
    1. Tension over N. Korea's Nuclear Test Set to Climax this Week: Official, Yonhap News Agency (2/11/2013)
    2. Pyongyang Sends Contradictory Signals About 3rd Nuke Test, Tetsuya Hakoda, The Asahi Shimbun (2/11/2013)
B.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Finnish Nuclear Reactor 'May Be Seven Years Late', AFP (2/11/2013)
    2. IAEA Reviews South Africa's Nuclear Infrastructure for Expansion, IAEA (2/8/2013)
    3. TVA Seeks Sequoyah Licence Extension, World Nuclear News (2/8/2013)
C.  Japan
    1. TEPCO Accident Causes New Problem at Fukushima, The Asahi Shimbun (2/8/2013)
    2. No Surprise: TEPCO Suspected of Lying to Government’s Fukushima Investigation Panel, Adam Westlake, The Japan Daily Press (2/7/2013)
D.  Iran
    1. Insight: Iran Nuclear Fuel Move May Avert Mid-Year Crisis, Myra MacDonald and Fredrik Dahl, Reuters (2/10/2013)
    2. Ahmadinejad Says Iran Won’t Cede to Pressure on Nuclear Work, Ladane Nasseri, Bloomberg (2/10/2013)
E.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Japan Offers Help for Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Program in Exchange for Potential Future Oil, Ida Torres, The Japan Daily Press (2/11/2013)
    2. No Rafale, Nuclear Deals During Hollande Visit, Indrani Bagchi, The Times of India (2/11/2013)
    3. IAEA Chief Reviews UAE Nuclear Project, Khaleej Times (2/8/2013)
    4. Areva Looking for a Huge Uranium Deposit in Sweden, Vladimir Basov, Mining (2/8/2013)
F.  Links of Interest
    1. China's Nuclear Project Offers Lessons for Vogtle Expansion, Rob Pavey, The Augusta Chronicle  (2/10/2013)
    2. Nuclear Power and Press Freedom, The Japan Times (2/10/2013)

A.  North Korea

Pyongyang Sends Contradictory Signals About 3rd Nuke Test
Tetsuya Hakoda
The Asahi Shimbun
(for personal use only)

North Korea is sending mixed signals about a possible third nuclear test in another attempt to keep the United States and its allies off balance.

A North Korean website on Feb. 9 carried a commentary that said Washington "had jumped to conclusions" about the third nuclear test.

The sign that Pyongyang might delay the test could be a way of trying to persuade the United States to return to the bargaining table for direct talks with North Korea.

Some analysts in Japan and South Korea now believe that Pyongyang will not immediately conduct a nuclear test.

However, South Korean government officials were not letting down their guard because of North Korea's unpredictability.

Just last December, North Korea sent signals that it was disassembling part of a rocket, leading some analysts to conclude that Pyongyang was holding off on a missile launch. However, North Korea soon thereafter launched what it called a rocket to put a satellite into orbit. It was, in fact, a long-range ballistic missile.

The Feb. 9 commentary was posted on the website Uriminzokkiri, which roughly translates as "Our people, together."

"The United States and other adversarial forces have jumped to the conclusion that a third nuclear test will be conducted and have begun calling for not only strong sanctions, but also have touched upon the need for a first strike," it said.

On Jan. 26, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued a statement that said the nation would implement an important measure, leading some to conclude that was a message for a nuclear test.

The Uriminzokkiri commentary said about the reaction to Kim's statement, "The abomination of the United States making a big scene without knowing anything about whether a nuclear test or something beyond that was involved is like the sudden change in tactics used by thieves."

Unlike statements issued by the North Korean Foreign Ministry, the Uriminzokkiri site does not often transmit important decisions made by the government, but it has in the past reported on subtle changes in policy.

The past two nuclear tests conducted by North Korea came after a resolution and a president's statement issued by the United Nations Security Council condemning the test launching of long-range ballistic missiles by Pyongyang.

The most important objective for North Korea is to improve relations with the United States to maintain its regime structure. North Korea apparently believes that the two past nuclear tests were instrumental in leading to dialogue with the United States.

At the same time, unlike past statements by the North Korean Foreign Ministry issued before the two nuclear tests, the statement issued on Jan. 23 used only indirect terminology, saying, "a retaliatory self-defense measure, including a nuclear deterrent" would be implemented.

According to sources knowledgeable about relations between the United States and South Korea, "Key Resolve," a joint military exercise involving U.S. and South Korean troops, is scheduled to begin March 11. North Korea has criticized the exercise as "war planning."

In the past, North Korea has been notified about the training exercises a month before they start.

Although South Korean officials are insisting that a similar notice be issued this time, U.S. officials are more cautious, apparently because they do not want to antagonize Pyongyang.

"While the United States is the only one capable of persuading North Korea not to conduct a nuclear test, we will never allow easy concessions to be made," said a South Korean government official.

South Korean officials are trying to gather intelligence because the possibility cannot be ruled out that informal contact is being made by the United States and North Korea.

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Tension over N. Korea's Nuclear Test Set to Climax this Week: Official
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

The timing of North Korea's possible nuclear test still remains unclear, with the tension expected to enter the most critical phase this week, a senior official in Seoul said Monday.

The official said that South Korea is keeping close tabs on the North's nuclear test site in its northeastern region, as Pyongyang is likely to carry out the test before President-elect Park Geun-hye is sworn in on Feb. 25.

After Pyongyang warned last month of a third atomic test without specifying the time, many have bet on late leader Kim Jong-il's Feb. 18 birthday or other potential dates in February considering the previous pattern of Pyongyang's decisions.

"Only North Korean leader Kim Jong-un knows the exact date of nuclear test," said the official, asking to remain anonymous.

Adding to the confusion over the prickly neighbor's intentions, a Japan-based pro-North weekly magazine, Tongil Sinbo, on Friday accused the United States and its allies of misinterpreting North Korea's pledge to implement "important measures" as a third nuclear test.

Officials in Seoul, however, played down the latest remark, saying the communist country will go ahead with the test and its timing will be politically motivated.

"There is a possibility of the North conducting a test before the current administration's term ends, considering its relationship with the incoming government," the senior official said. "The North has come too far to step back at this point. It has already finished preparations for a test and is only awaiting a political decision."

President-elect Park, who campaigned on mending ties with Pyongyang, has repeatedly urged the North to drop the test plan and warned of further isolation in case of provocations.

Although only North Korean leader Kim Jong-un knows for sure when the country plans to pull the trigger, the official said a "critical moment" could come this week, hinting at an imminent test. The official played down Tongil Sinbo's editorial as a "manipulative tactic" aimed at creating confusion in the South, saying the outlet doesn't represent the North's official position.

Last month, the U.N. Security Council toughened sanctions on the isolated country for carrying out a long-range rocket launch in December. The North has claimed the launch was intended to put a satellite into orbit, but South Korea and the U.S. denounced it as a disguised test of missile technology.

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B.  Nuclear Energy

Finnish Nuclear Reactor 'May Be Seven Years Late'
(for personal use only)

Finnish electricity company TVO said on Monday that an EPR nuclear reactor being built by Areva and Siemens may not be ready until 2016, contradicting Areva's claims that it would be completed in 2014.

"Based on the recent progress reports received from the plant supplier ... TVO is preparing for the possibility that the start of the regular electricity production of Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant unit may be postponed until the year 2016," the company said in a statement.

In August, TVO said that the reactor being built in southwestern Finland would not be ready to produce electricity in 2014, but declined to give a new completion date.

Areva president Luc Oursel told a Finnish business daily in September that the group was on track to complete the project in 2014.

TVO lacked "an adequate schedule update", but about 75 percent of the installation works had been completed, the Finnish company's project manager, Jouni Silvennoinen, said Monday.

"Although TVO is not pleased with the situation and repeated challenges with the project scheduling, the works are proceeding," he said.

Monday's announcement marked only the latest in a string of setbacks for the construction project, which began in 2005, with the reactor initially supposed to begin producing electricity in 2009.

The Finnish EPR, or European Pressurized Reactor, is an example of so-called third-generation nuclear technology developed by Areva.

It is set to have a capacity of 1,600 megawatts, and was first delayed until November 2010, then to December 2011 and then to August 2014.

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IAEA Reviews South Africa's Nuclear Infrastructure for Expansion
(for personal use only)

An IAEA team of international experts has carried out a review of South Africa's nuclear infrastructure - the first Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission to a country that is already generating nuclear power, and the first in Africa.

The team, assembled by the IAEA at South Africa's request, observed strong Government support for the country's nuclear expansion programme, noted strengths, and made recommendations for further action.

"This mission could not have come at a more important time for our country," said Nelisiwe Magubane, Director General of South Africa's Department of Energy.

"The INIR mission has strengthened the expertise and also the cooperation amongst the nuclear industry in South Africa. It has also given an opportunity to extend public engagement in preparation for the expansion of the nuclear programme."

The mission was conducted from 30 January to 8 February 2013. The IAEA has carried out eight previous INIR missions and one follow-up, all of them in "newcomer" countries that are initiating nuclear power programmes.

South Africa currently has Africa's only commercial nuclear power plant, at Koeberg in the Western Cape. Koeberg Nuclear Power Station began operating in 1984, and its two reactors generate five percent of the country's electricity. The South African government is committed to expanding its nuclear power programme, and asked the IAEA to conduct an INIR mission to review its infrastructure and identify areas for improvement.

"The mission has made a thorough review of all areas of South Africa's nuclear infrastructure," said IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano. "I warmly congratulate South Africa on this significant move to ensure a robust framework for expansion of its nuclear power programme."

INIR missions, which consist of IAEA staff and other international experts, are designed to help IAEA Member States to assess the status of their national infrastructure for the introduction or expansion of nuclear power.

The INIR team identified strengths in several areas supporting both the existing and new build programme, including regulatory self-assessment, environmental impact assessment, grid development and stakeholder involvement. It also made recommendations and suggestions to help South Africa strengthen its nuclear infrastructure as it expands its nuclear power programme.

The IAEA has developed a milestones approach and guidelines 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.

The mission was funded through a combination of support from the South African government, the Peaceful Uses Initiative, and IAEA Technical Cooperation.

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.

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TVA Seeks Sequoyah Licence Extension
World Nuclear News
(for personal use only)

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has applied to the US regulator to extend the operating life of its twin-unit Sequoyah nuclear power plant. If granted, the reactors could operate until 2040 and 2041, respectively.

The original 40-year licences for Sequoyah units 1 and 2 are due to expire in 2020 and 2021.
TVA submitted its operating licence extension applications to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on 15 January. The licence renewal process takes about 30 months andis expected to cost some $23 million, according to the utility.

TVA chief nuclear operator Preston Swafford commented, "By applying for a 20-year extension of our current operating licence now, we are affirming to the NRC that our plant is safe and in solid material condition." He added, "Extending the operating life of this nuclear plant supports TVA's vision to provide low-cost, cleaner electricity and a balanced energy portfolio."

Both Sequoyah units are 1152 MWe Westinghouse pressurized water reactors. Unit 1 began commercial operation in July 1981, while unit 2 began operating in June 1982.

So far, the NRC has renewed the operating licences of 73 of the USA's 103 nuclear power reactors. Applications for the extension of the operating lives of a further 15 reactors have been submitted.

A September 2012 court ruling requires the NRC to developed an environmental impact statement on the storing of used nuclear fuel at power plant sites for extended periods. The NRC said it might take 24 months to develop the statement. However, until this is done, the NRC cannot issue final licences to new nuclear power plants or extend existing operating licences.

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C.  Japan

TEPCO Accident Causes New Problem at Fukushima
The Asahi Shimbun
(for personal use only)

The operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has admitted dislodging broken equipment weighing 1.5 tons and sending it falling further into a pool where fragile nuclear fuel rods lie.

The debris is part of a heavy-duty hoist formerly used to move fuel assemblies within the No. 3 reactor building. The hoist collapsed into the pool after a hydrogen explosion in March 2011.

Until now, it lay only partially submerged and was believed to have done little damage to the fuel rods beneath.

But on Feb. 7, Tokyo Electric Power Co. officials said work a day earlier to shift an unrelated steel frame nearby caused "vibrations" which dislodged the hoist. It fell, disappearing beneath the water surface.

TEPCO now plans to drop a video camera into the pool to check whether the hoist has smashed fuel rods below.

Officials say 566 fuel assemblies are currently lying in the pool at the No. 3 reactor building.

They insisted there has been no significant change in radioactive concentrations measured in the pool and in the atmosphere since before the latest incident.

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No Surprise: TEPCO Suspected of Lying to Government’s Fukushima Investigation Panel
Adam Westlake
The Japan Daily Press
(for personal use only)

Accusations have been filed against Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) stating that the utility intentionally blocked a parliamentary probe from investigating a site at the disasteruck Fukushima nuclear plant. The power company stated last year that it wasn’t safe to enter the No. 1 reactor building due to it being “in complete darkness,” however evidence has been found indicating that was a lie.

Mitsuhiko Tanaka, a science journalist and former member of the Diet’s Fukushima panel, has submitted a request to both houses of parliament for an investigation into the matter. Tanaka says that in February 2012, TEPCO told the panel that a onsite inspection of the building was not possible because of sheet covering and it being pitch-dark. The investigators gave up on the inspection after TEPCO submitted video footage of the reactor building, claiming it shot before covering was installed. Tanaka’s claims, however, reveal that the video footage was filmed after the covering was put up, and that there was enough light for visibility.

The journalist says that TEPCO’s lies are equal to a serious obstruction of the panel’s investigation, and demands that the government look into the incident and conduct an immediate investigation. Ever the excuse-makers, TEPCO explains the situation as simply being an error by the individual who dated the video footage. The government should, of course, accept TEPCO’s word on the issue, as it’s not like the company has a strong record of ignoring safety requirements or covering its tracks after failures have been discovered. If only there was a way to criminally prosecute some of the individuals responsible for such actions.

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D.  Iran

Ahmadinejad Says Iran Won’t Cede to Pressure on Nuclear Work
Ladane Nasseri
(for personal use only)

World powers failed to stop Iran from becoming a country that masters nuclear knowhow, and will “never” be able to stop its technological advancement, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said at a rally in Tehran.

“No power is able to impose its will on the Iranian nation,” Ahmadinejad said during a ceremony in the capital today to mark the 34th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. “They failed to stop Iran from accessing nuclear technology. This will never happen.”

State television showed thousands of people massed at the Azadi, or Freedom, square in Tehran, where the president made his address. The state-run Press TV news channel had uninterrupted coverage of the state celebration, with images of crowds gathering in other major Iranian cities such as Isfahan, Mashhad and Tabriz.

Some demonstrators were shown holding banners that read “we will resist until the end” and “we heed your call, Oh Khamenei”, as well pictures of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, and his successor, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Local reporters in Tehran covering the event for foreign media were asked by authorities to do so from designated areas alone.

Today’s state-backed rallies follow another round of U.S. financial sanctions that came into force four days ago to push the country to curb its nuclear program, which officials maintain is solely civilian. Last week, Khamenei rejected an approach by Vice President Joe Biden to hold direct talks over the issue. Khamenei said negotiations while the U.S. “holds a gun” to Iran “won’t solve a thing.”

Iran is to resume stalled multilateral discussions on its nuclear program with the U.S., U.K. France, Germany, Russia and China on Feb. 26 in Kazakhstan. The last round of negotiations between Iran and the group, known as P5+1, were held in Moscow in June and failed to yield results.

In his speech, Ahmadinejad enumerated areas, including industry, agriculture, energy and medicine, in which he said his country had boosted production or exports in the past three decades. The president didn’t mention the country’s economic challenges, such as a weakening currency and an inflation rate nearing 29 percent, which are partly the result of increased trade and financial sanctions from the U.S. and European Union.

Some 56 percent of Iranians say the international sanctions have hurt their livelihood a great deal, according to a Gallup survey carried out in December. Some 47 percent said the U.S. was mostly responsible for the sanctions, while 10 percent saw the Iranian government as most to blame. Some 63 percent of Iranians believe the nation should continue developing its nuclear program even with the sanctions, Gallup said.

Ahmadinejad, who’s leaving office in August, also alluded to his worsening dispute with parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani. The president said there were “issues” that he wanted to share with Iranians. “Because I don’t want to turn bitter the sweetness of the revolution’s anniversary, and for our dear leader, I will do so at a further date,” he said in comments aired live on state television.
Khamenei on Feb. 7 reiterated his order that the ruling elite end public bickering ahead of the June presidential election.

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Insight: Iran Nuclear Fuel Move May Avert Mid-Year Crisis
Myra MacDonald and Fredrik Dahl
(for personal use only)

Iran appears to have resumed converting small amounts of its higher-grade enriched uranium into reactor fuel, diplomats say, a process which if expanded could buy time for negotiations between Washington and Tehran on its disputed nuclear program.

The possibility of Iran converting enriched uranium into fuel - slowing a growth in stockpiles of material that could be used to make weapons - is one of the few ways in which the nuclear dispute could avoid hitting a crisis by the summer.

Tehran could otherwise have amassed sufficient stock by June to hit a "red line" set by Israel after which it has indicated it could attack to prevent Iran acquiring enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon. Yet few expect progress in talks until after the Iranian presidential election in June - a formula for a potentially explosive clash of timetables.

Diplomats accredited to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna told Reuters that Iran had apparently resumed converting into fuel small amounts of higher-grade enriched uranium - thereby reducing the amount potentially available for nuclear weapons - though they had few details and one told Reuters that "very, very little had been done" so far.

A fuller picture is unlikely until a new IAEA report on Iran's nuclear activity, due by late February. But the question is crucial in determining the size of its stockpiles and how close these are to Israel's red line. "We will all be doing the mathematics soon," said one diplomat.

In September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would not let Iran acquire enough material for a bomb; enriching uranium raises the less than one percent of fissile isotope U-235 found in mined metal to higher concentrations: about 4 percent for reactor fuel, up to 90 percent for a bomb.

While scientists differ about how much uranium is needed to have the ability quickly to make a bomb, analysts say the Israeli figure is believed to be 240 kg of uranium enriched to 20 percent; at that concentration, the material is nine tenths of the way to the weapons-grade of about 90 percent, since most of the unwanted isotopes have been separated out by then.

"Israeli officials, in private, widely use the 240kg figure," said Shashank Joshi, a Research Fellow at Britain's Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). "The figure is so specific and so widely used that they must understand the implications of drawing this red line: that Iran is free to produce anything up to that amount, but that producing any more would force Israel to choose between humiliation or war."

Iran averted a potential crisis last year by converting around 100 kg of its 20-percent enriched uranium into fuel - prompting some analysts to believe it was deliberately keeping below the threshold for potential weapons-grade material set by Israel, while still advancing its nuclear technology. It is not believed to have enriched uranium beyond 20-percent.

Iran, a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, denies seeking nuclear weapons, saying its aim is electric power and some higher-grade enriched uranium for medical purposes. It says non-signatory Israel, assumed to have nuclear arms, is a threat.

Last year's fuel conversion only slowed Iran's accumulation of 20 percent enriched uranium and was stopped. As it continues to produce fresh supplies - diplomats believe it is adding 14 to 15 kg a month - stockpiles are rising quickly and they calculate Iran will hit the Israeli red line by May or June, unless it again expands fuel conversions or slows its rate of enrichment.

It is here that the complex calculations of nuclear experts and international diplomacy collide.

The Iranian nuclear program is controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - who last week publicly rebuffed U.S. overtures for direct talks. While he is not facing voters himself, he is seen as unlikely to want to make any concessions until he has a firmer grip on the warring factions vying for power beneath him after the presidential election in June.

"I think, until we get a clearer sense of how that plays out, that the Iranians are going to be basically in a holding pattern," said Shannon Kile, a nuclear proliferation expert at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday Iran would not negotiate under pressure but would talk if others stopped "pointing the gun". At odds with Khamenei, Ahmadinejad will step down in June but appears to maneuvering to maintain influence.

At the same time, there appears to be a growing recognition among world powers that using economic sanctions to force Tehran to curb its nuclear program are unlikely to succeed without a broader political dialogue between the United States and Iran to ease acrimony dating back to the 1979 Iranian revolution.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden repeated an offer for direct talks at a conference in Munich early this month.

Negotiations with Tehran are currently run jointly by the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany - known as the P5+1. These are expected to make at best limited progress in a meeting with Iran due in Kazakhstan on February 26.

"It has been obvious for years that Iran would only move on this issue in the context of a direct dialogue with the U.S.," said one former senior diplomat who has negotiated with Iran.

"Before that, it will continue to be a managed exercise in futility on the part of Iran waiting for this to happen, while mastering the technology in the process."

Taking the two together, the shifting diplomatic approach and advancing Iranian engineering, there would be a short window of time after June for any U.S.-Iran talks to produce results.

After that, the progress of Iran's technology could hit new Western red lines, including reaching a perceived "breakout" capacity, where it could move from the ability to make a weapon to actually building a bomb fast enough to avoid detection.

How then, is Israel's red line to be postponed enough to allow time for diplomacy in the second half of the year?

Iran has shown no sign of slowing down the rate at which it enriches uranium to 20 percent in a plant at Fordow, diplomats say, though, perhaps significantly, it has not so far put into operation some new machinery - two cascades of inter-connected centrifuges which could have rapidly expanded that program.

Based on data reported by the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear agency, Iran will hit Netanyahu's red line in May or June unless it converts more of its stockpiles into fuel, or slows enrichment.

An alternative scenario would be for Israel to blur the definition of its red line, given enough reassurance that its key ally the United States would be ready to stop Iran gaining nuclear weapons through diplomatic or military means.

Having lost seats in a parliamentary election last month at which many voters indicated they did not fully share his anxiety about Iran, Netanyahu may also be ready to bide his time.

With U.S. President Barack Obama due to visit Israel in March on a trip Netanyahu says will focus on Iran, Syria and the Palestinians, there are tentative signs Israel might give some space to the United States to pursue its diplomacy - though not necessarily on the issue of highly enriched uranium stockpiles.

"It is notable that, recently, there have been no new assassinations of Iranian scientists, no prominent covert action or explosions, and broad Israeli restraint on statements of military intent," said Joshi at RUSI in London, referring to a widely assumed covert campaign against Iran's nuclear program.

"They are conceding U.S. leadership on this issue - whether by choice or American design."

Former Israeli army intelligence chief Amos Yadlin said it was in Israel's interest that Washington or the P5+1 reach an agreement with Iran. Writing in a report by the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, he said: "Such a solution is preferable to a strategy with two exclusive alternatives of ‘an Iranian bomb' or ‘the bombing of Iran'."

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E.  Nuclear Cooperation

Japan Offers Help for Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Program in Exchange for Potential Future Oil
Ida Torres
The Japan Daily Press
(for personal use only)

Japan has offered help to Saudi Arabia in building nuclear power stations to free up more crude oil for exports and to meet the its rising internal electricity demand. However, Trade Minister Toshimitsu Motegi emphasized that Japan is not seeking a supply increase at this moment.

Motegi’s visit to Saudi Arabia on the weekend was to sign an agreement that would allow Japan to make emergency requests for supplies of crude oil under extraordinary circumstances. He met with Saudi Deputy Oil Minister Abdul Aziz Bin Salman bin Abdulaziz to further the relationship between the two countries, with Japan being one of the world’s biggest crude oil importers and Saudi Arabia being one of the biggest sources of crude oil. Saudi Arabia is planning to build up to 17 gigawatts of nuclear power capacity for the next twenty years to possibly save plant builders that have not been in demand since the Fukushima disaster.

Crude oil exports from Saudi Arabia accounted for 31% of Japan’s supply, increasing by 5% from 2011 to offset the cut to Iranian exports due to sanctions by the United Nations and the USA. The international oil market has been unstable due to the embargo on Iran because of its nuclear program and the ongoing tensions in the Middle East. But OPEC heavyweight Saudi Arabia has promised to provide its customers with a sufficient oil supply. They are the only country with enough spare oil production capacity to offset any disruptions in the global oil market.

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No Rafale, Nuclear Deals During Hollande Visit
Indrani Bagchi
The Times of India
(for personal use only)

India and France will not sign a contract for nuclear reactors at Jaitapur during the forthcoming visit of French President Francois Hollande. Neither will they seal the deal for 126 Rafale fighter aircraft. But as Hollande makes India his first stop in Asia, both sides are keen to showcase a growing relationship.

The complex negotiations for the nuclear reactor deal will get a leg up during the official talks. Described as "complex", the deal has been caught in the toils of nuclear protests in India, the Indian nuclear liability law and review procedures for the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) in a post-Fukushima environment.

India and France have started a dialogue on "civilian nuclear responsibility" which is a euphemism for consultations on the liability law. While France has not expressed displeasure, it continues to have concerns and the dialogue is intended to find answers to the vexing issues of supplier liability clauses in the law. After a first meeting, the two sides are expected to have a second in the run-up to the visit. However, there is an expectation of an agreement for joint manufacture between NPCIL, Areva and Alstom.

Meanwhile, sources said the EPR has been subject to a year's review of its safety features -- China has two EPRs and Finland has one. France's Areva has reportedly carried out a few fixes and enhanced the safety features. "These have been shared at every stage with the Indian nuclear authorities," said diplomatic sources.

The Rafale deal has probably been pushed further down the year because India is cashapped. Rafale won the race for supplying 126 MMRCA to India, but during his recent visit to Paris, foreign minister Salman Khurshid said India had asked France to supply an extra 63 aircraft. The deal, under which the first 18 aircraft will be manufactured in France and the rest in India, involves an extraordinary number of related offset deals, as well as questions of technology transfer.

In his conversation with PM Manmohan Singh, Hollande is expected to talk about Mali, where French troops are fighting to oust al-Qaida from the desert. India, unexpectedly, has stepped up to be involved in the Mali campaign, contributing to upgrading the Malian army as well as contributing $100 million to the stabilization and reconstruction of the desert state.

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Areva Looking for a Huge Uranium Deposit in Sweden
Vladimir Basov
(for personal use only)

As announced to the Australian Securities Exchange on Thursday, Australian-based company Aura Energy Limited entered into a binding co-operation agreement with Areva Mines SA (Areva) regarding a potential strategic partnership for the Haggan uranium and polymetallic project in Sweden.

Under the terms of the agreement, Areva will undertake an agreed work program in relation to the Haggan Project during an initial four month period.

During the period of the co-operation agreement, Aura Energy and Areva will work in good faith to finalize a pre-feasibility study work program, and also conclude the terms of an option agreement and joint venture agreement under which Areva may acquire an interest in the project.

Dr. Bob Beeson, Aura’s managing director commented, “Key to the selection of Areva as a strategic partner for the project was Areva’s leading position in the uranium mining industry. This relationship will assist the company in the development of Haggan on which we plan to begin a pre-feasibility study by the end of 2013. Areva’s interest in the project is a strong sign of support and we look forward to establishing a productive working relationship.”

Current inferred uranium resources of the Haggan Project amounted to about 308 ktU with an average grade of 0.013% U — that makes this deposit one of the largest in the world.

On May 29, 2012, Aura Energy Ltd. announced that a revised scoping study financial model prepared by independent consultants RMDSTEM confirmed the Haggan Project is financially robust.

This project has its pros and cons. The main advantages are low mining costs with a strip ratio of only 0.75:1 and potential credits from nickel and molybdenum byproducts.

From the other side, this type of uranium deposit (in alum shale) was never mined profitably in the past because of highly complicated processing technology. The Ranstad alum shale project, the only uranium mine in Sweden, was in operation from 1959 to 1969 with total output of 215 tonnes of uranium oxide, and recognized as uneconomical.

Moreover, as a result of mining operations at Ranstad, a large territory was under threat of contamination, and high-cost restoration activities have been provided by governmental authorities.

All other attempts to develop uranium “alum shale” deposits in Sweden were stopped due to massive protests by local communities.

Thus, future plans of Aura Energy-Areva partnership regarding the Haggan Project will likely face a number of challenges — include development of feasible industrial-scale processing technology, strict environmental regulations as well as local opposition.

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IAEA Chief Reviews UAE Nuclear Project
Khaleej Times
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Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Yukiya Amano reviewed the UAE’s nucear power programme during a visit to the country recently.

The visit served as an important opportunity for the IAEA chief to see first-hand the progress made in the construction of the UAE’s first nuclear power plant at Barakah.

Amano met with Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed and discussed the ongoing cooperation between the agency and the UAE on its nuclear power programme and other areas. He provided an overview of the IAEA’s activities in supporting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, as well as nuclear non-proliferation and the situation in Iran.

During his visit to the construction site of the Barakah nuclear facility, he discussed the development of the project with Ambassador Hamad Al Kaabi, the UAE’s Permanent Representative to the IAEA, and Mohamed Al Hammadi, Chief Executive Officer of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC), as well as senior officials from ENEC and Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO).

Noting the progress achieved in the construction of the Barakah nuclear facility, Amano stressed the importance of the UAE project, as the first country in 27 years to start construction of its first nuclear power plant. He stated that the IAEA has supported the UAE programme since it was launched in 2008, and that the agency would continue to work closely in cooperation with the UAE. He said the UAE’s safe and consistent progress in the introduction of nuclear power can serve as a model for other countries considering a nuclear power programme.

Amano also emphasised that the Barakah facility’s construction is only the beginning of an extensive, long-term commitment.

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