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Nuclear News - 2/19/2013
PGS Nuclear News, February 19, 2013
Compiled By: Pia Ulrich

A.  North Korea
    1. North Korea Threatens South with "Final Destruction", Tom Miles, Reuters (2/19/2013)
    2. 'US Nuke Umbrella Not Enough', Chung Min-uck, The Korea Times (2/19/2013)
    3. EU Tightens Sanctions against N. Korea after Nuclear Test, AFP (2/18/2013)
B.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Rosatom Announces Tender to Construct Spent Nuclear Fuel Processing Center in Krasnoyarsk Territory, Russia Beyond the Headlines (2/18/2013)
    2. Nuclear Power: Ministers Offer Reactor Deal until 2050, Juliette Jowit, The Guardian (2/18/2013)
    3. Vogtle is Progressing but Nuclear Revival is Not, Kristi E. Swartz, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (2/17/2013)
C.  Japan
    1. NRA: Higashidori Nuclear Power Plant Built Near an Active Fault Line, Ida Torres, The Japan Daily Press (2/19/2013)
    2. Power Industry Boss: Proposed Reform Threatens Nuclear Power Generation, Kentaro Uechi, The Asahi Shimbun (2/16/2013)
    3. NRA to Inspect Fukushima Reactor after TEPCO was Found Lying, Cherrie Lou Billones, The Japan Daily Press (2/15/2013)
D.  Nuclear Safety & Security
    1. ‘No Immediate Risk’: Nuclear Waste Tank Leaking in Washington, RT (2/17/2013)
    2. Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant Shuts Down Unit 2 Reactor, PennEnergy (2/15/2013)
E.  Iran
    1. Iran Says Can Ease Nuclear Fears if Rights Recognized, Ladane Nasseri, Bloomberg Businessweek (2/19/2013)
    2. Pakistan Reaches Out to Iran on Energy, Security, Sharon Behn, Voice of America (2/19/2013)
    3. Iran Sought Nuclear Parts in China: Report, AFP (2/15/2013)
F.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Japan to Help Kazakhstan Develop Nuclear Power Plants, The Asahi Shimbun (2/19/2013)
    2. India, Britain to Boost Trade, Discuss Civil Nuclear Cooperation, New Indian Express (2/19/2013)
    3. Progress Made on Nunn-Lugar Replacement, Foreign Ministry Says, Ezekiel Pfeifer, The Moscow Times (2/18/2013)
    4. Making Concrete Plans- Experts Discuss NPP Infrastructure Development, IAEA (2/18/2013)
    5. Trust Our Nuclear Technology: French President to India, Deccan Herald  (2/15/2013)
G.  Links of Interest
    1. NNSA, Japan Atomic Energy Agency Mark 25 Years of Nonproliferation Partnership, NNSA (2/15/2013)

A.  North Korea

'US Nuke Umbrella Not Enough'
Chung Min-uck
The Korea Times
(for personal use only)

Rep. Chung Mong-joon, a senior ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker, said Tuesday the U.S. nuclear umbrella falls short of reliable protection, calling for South Korea to acquire nuclear weapons.

Chung’s call triggered criticism by two U.S. nuclear experts — Robert Galluci, President William Clinton’s special envoy on the North’s nuclear program and Gary Samore, President Barack Obama’s arms control coordinator.

“Some say that the U.S. nuclear umbrella is a torn umbrella. If so, we need to repair it,” said Rep. Chung in an opening speech during the Nuclear Forum 2013 hosted by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

He reminded the audience of his call for nuclear armament during a National Assembly speech two years ago. “Then, I proposed the re-introduction of tactical nuclear weapons because the threat of a counter-nuclear force is the only thing that will discourage North Korea from developing its nuclear arsenal.”

He acknowledged that the ROK-U.S. alliance has been one of the most successful military partnerships but said “it has been an abject failure” when it comes to the North Korea nuclear issue.

U.S. nuclear weapons in South Korea were voluntarily withdrawn in 1991 shortly before the inter-Korean Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in 1992.

He explained that the advantage of bringing them back is that Seoul will not be in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) since the nuclear weapons would be from Washington. “We would simply be restoring the pre-1992 condition,” he added.

The ex-Saenuri Party chairman further went on to claim that Seoul needs to develop its own nuclear weapons saying, “Some say the only way to solve the North Korean nuclear problem is for the nation to follow the India-Pakistan example, or the case of Israel,” which means to go nuclear and, concurrently, maintain strong political ties with the U.S.

Gallucci, who successfully came up with the Washington-Pyongyang framework on freezing North Korea’s nuclear activities in 1994, and Gary Samore, executive director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, opposed it.

“I don’t think there is any weakness in the ROK-U.S. alliance,” said Gallucci when asked about the South Korean lawmaker’s view. “I myself cannot find any reason to re-introduce U.S. nuclear weapons in the region. It would be inconsistent with the general direction of the administration of the U.S. to move away from relying on nuclear weapons to achieve security objectives. Moreover, I think there is virtually no advantage for the military in basing nuclear weapons on Korean soil.”

“South Korea can be confident with the United States military alliance as it includes a nuclear umbrella, a U.S. commitment to use nuclear weapons to defend South Korea. Everyone including North Korea believes that commitment is really strong,” said Samore.

He said Seoul can legitimately request Washington to station nuclear weapons inside South Korea but there was no military need to since the United States can deploy nuclear weapons to the Korean Peninsula anytime.

“The only value of re-introducing nuclear weapons would be political assurance. If there was a consensus in South Korea, it is something for the South Korean government to appeal to the U.S.”

The two nations are currently in ongoing talks to revise their bilateral atomic energy agreement.

The nuclear accord is set to expire in 2014 and the two nations have been in talks to amend it since 2010.

The accord bans Seoul from enriching uranium or reprocessing spent fuel. The government has been requesting an amendment to this citing the “peaceful use of nuclear energy.”

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North Korea Threatens South with "Final Destruction"
Tom Miles
(for personal use only)

North Korea threatened South Korea with "final destruction" during a debate at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament on Tuesday, saying it could take further steps after a nuclear test last week.

"As the saying goes, a new-born puppy knows no fear of a tiger. South Korea's erratic behavior would only herald its final destruction," North Korean diplomat Jon Yong Ryong told the meeting.

Jon's comments drew quick criticism from other nations, including South Korea, France, Germany and Britain, whose ambassador Joanne Adamson said such language was "completely inappropriate" and the discussion with North Korea was heading in the wrong direction.

"It cannot be allowed that we have expressions which refer to the possible destruction of U.N. member states," she said.

Spanish Ambassador Javier Gil Catalina said the comment left him stupefied and appeared to be a breach of international law.

"In the 30 years of my career I've never heard anything like it and it seems to me that we are not speaking about something that is even admissible, we are speaking about a threat of the use of force that is prohibited by Article 2.4 of the United Nations charter," Catalina said.

Since the North tested a nuclear bomb last week in defiance of U.N. resolutions, its southern neighbor has warned it could strike the isolated state if it believed an attack was imminent.

Pyongyang said the aim of the test was to bolster its defenses given the hostility of the United States, which has led a push to impose sanctions on North Korea.

"Our current nuclear test is the primary countermeasure taken by the DPRK in which it exercised its maximum self-restraint," said the North Korean diplomat Jon.

"If the U.S. takes a hostile approach toward the DPRK to the last, rendering the situation complicated, it (North Korea) will be left with no option but to take the second and third stronger steps in succession," he said, without indicating what that might entail.

North Korea has already told key ally China that it is prepared to stage one or two more tests this year to force the United States into diplomatic talks, a source with direct knowledge of the message told Reuters last week.

U.S. Ambassador Laura Kennedy said she found North Korea's threat on Tuesday profoundly disturbing and later tweeted that it was "offensive".

Poland's representative suggested North Korea's participation in the U.N. forum should be limited.

Impoverished and malnourished North Korea is one of the most heavily sanctioned states in the world.

It is still technically at war with South Korea after a 1950-53 civil war ended in a mere truce.

Washington and its allies are believed to be pushing to tighten the noose around North Korea's financial transactions in a bid to starve its leadership of funding.

Jon said last week's test was an act of self-defense against nuclear blackmail by the United States, which wanted to block North Korea's economic development and its fundamental rights.

"It is the disposition and firm will of the army and people of the DPRK to counter high-handed policy with tough-fist policy and to react to pressure and sanctions with an all-out counter-action," he said.

Jon said the United States had conducted most of the nuclear tests and satellite launches in history, and he described its pursuit of U.N. Security Council resolutions against North Korea as "a breach of international law and the height of double standards".

Neither Russia nor China, which are veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council, spoke at Tuesday's meeting in Geneva.

Before its nuclear test, North Korea was already facing growing diplomatic pressure at the United Nations.

The U.N. Human Rights Council is widely expected to order an inquiry next month into its leaders' responsibilities for crimes against humanity.

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EU Tightens Sanctions against N. Korea after Nuclear Test
(for personal use only)

The European Union agreed a raft of new sanctions on Monday against North Korea in retaliation for the country's nuclear test last week which it condemned again in the strongest possible terms.

The measures range from additional financial sanctions to travel bans and asset freezes against individuals and are intended to bolster the international regime against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, a statement said.

The number of people subject to a travel ban and asset freeze was put at 26 while the number of entities targetted was 33, it said, without giving the specific increase in either category.

Among other steps, the EU banned the export and import of certain types of aluminium which Pyongyang could use in its ballistic missile systems while trade in North Korean bonds was also barred.

Trade in gold, precious metals and diamonds with North Korean public bodies was halted along with delivery of new banknotes and coinage to the North Korean central bank.

North Korean banks will not be allowed to open new branches in the EU or establish joint ventures with European financial institutions which in turn will be barred from opening offices and subsidiaries in the isolated country.

Ministers said in the statement they were determined to "consider further restrictive measures in consultation with key partners."

"It is a tough package that aims to mark our opposition to the nuclear test" conducted by Pyonyang on February 12, said a senior EU diplomat who asked not to be named.

The UN Security Council on January 22 ordered increased sanctions against North Korea, adding its state space agency, a bank, four trading companies and four individuals to an existing UN sanctions list.

A separate EU statement reiterated the EU's condemnation of the test "in the strongest terms," as violating North Korea's international obligations under UN resolutions, passed after previous nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, and ballistic missile launches.

The increased risk posed by the test "warrants further robust and effective measures by the international community aimed at preventing (Pyongyang) from pursuing its nuclear and ballistic (missile) programmes."

At the same time, the EU called on North Korea to "re-engage constructively with the international community" so as to help resolve tensions, it said.

EU figures show trade with North Korea to have been almost minimal over the past several years, with the isolated country depending heavily on its giant neighbour China to help support its struggling economy.

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B.  Nuclear Energy

Nuclear Power: Ministers Offer Reactor Deal until 2050
Juliette Jowit
The Guardian
(for personal use only)

The government is launching a last-ditch attempt to sign up energy companies to build new nuclear power stations by proposing to sign contracts guaranteeing subsidies for up to 40 years.

The coalition agreement reached between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in 2010 promised that nuclear power stations would be built only if the industry got no public subsidy, but costly overruns for new reactors overseas and the exit of several major utilities from the UK programme, most recently Centrica, have driven ministers and officials to backtrack on that pledge and accept they will have to provide financial support.

The Guardian has learned that ministers, intent on keeping the guaranteed wholesale cost of each unit of energy below the politically crucial figure of £100 per megawatt hour, are proposing to extend contracts from the 20 years originally envisaged to at least 30 and possibly as long as 40 years.

"To build the full 16GW (gigawatt) at the same price would cost £250bn over 40-year contracts, and over 30-year contracts £150bn," said Tom Burke, a founding director of the environmental campaign group E3G.

Industry sources believe the likely agreed price for the first project in the pipeline to be contracted on this timescale – two 1.6 GW reactors to be built at Hinkley Point in Somerset by the energy company EDF – will be below £100, though not by a large margin. That price, however, is more than double the market price for electricity, and higher than all but the most expensive government forecasts for the future.

"It makes a huge difference if it's 30, 35 or 40 years," said one industry source with knowledge of the negotiations.

Whitehall sources said they were confident that although the cost of the new reactor would be very high, that will start to fall with subsequent projects, and could fall as low as £55-56 a unit later in the programme. The Liberal Democrat MP for Cheltenham, Martin Horwood, commenting on the threat to extend contracts to 40 years, said: "Over that timescale it's ludicrous because we should really see renewables come into their own: there's no justification for subsidising nuclear like that."

At the same time some MPs are concerned that the energy bill, which is being scrutinised by MPs, would allow future governments to give nuclear power stations more money if it was needed, without telling parliament.

Suspicion about the clauses in the bill enabling future financial support have been fuelled by industry claims in recent weeks. Vincent de Rivas, chief executive of EDF, told MPs that he wanted the government to guarantee buying all the possible output from the new nuclear plants, not just what was needed.

Horwood said he supported most of the bill and the funding mechanism being used, but would be tabling amendments over the financial support being extended to a much older technology like nuclear power – a technology that Lib Dems have traditionally opposed.

MPs are also angry about the government's changing rhetoric on subsidies. Since the 2010 promise there would be "no public subsidy", ministers have modified it to say no "unfair" subsidies – wording intended to cover support for a range of technology. This month the energy secretary, Ed Davey, admitted to MPs the funding mechanism could differ between technologies and even individual projects.

Under the proposed funding system, called contracts for difference, companies such as EDF that build and operate nuclear reactors would be guaranteed a minimum "strike" price for the energy they generate.

If the market price falls below this strike price, the difference will be made up by a surcharge on customer bills; if the market price rises higher then the generator will have to refund the difference. "This is Jesuitical Casuistry," said Paul Flynn, a Labour MP and long time anti-nuclear campaigner. "He [Davey] is saying there will be a subsidy. Perhaps an enormous subsidy. But you, parliament and the public, will not know what it is until it is too late to change."

Burke, who is visiting professor at Imperial and University colleges in London, calculated that at just below £100 a unit, if the market price stabilised at £50 – which is below the lowest government forecast market price of £59 in 2030 – EDF would receive £50bn in support from the government over four decades for Hinkley.

The government argues that despite the problems getting new nuclear plants built it is essential to keep nuclear power alongside renewable energy and new gas plants to keep prices lower and help reduce the risk of over-relying on one technology. Long term the government hopes to build up to 16GW of new nuclear power to help diversify the energy sources, also including renewable energy and new gas power, to keep prices down and make the UK more resilient to supply problems with one technology.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change said in a statement: "No commitment has been made on commercial terms or a strike price. Ongoing discussions are focused on finding a fair, affordable deal, which represents value for money for consumers. Any agreement reached will be laid before parliament, and will include details of the strike price."

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Rosatom Announces Tender to Construct Spent Nuclear Fuel Processing Center in Krasnoyarsk Territory
Russia Beyond the Headlines
(for personal use only)

The Russian State Nuclear Energy Company (Rosatom) has announced a tender to construct a pilot demonstration center to process spent nuclear fuel in the Krasnoyarsk territory, according to the state procurements website.

Applications to participate in the tender are being taken until March 18, and the results will be announced on March 22.

The price limit for the contract to build the first start-up complex of the pilot demonstration center is about 5 billion rubles (about $166 million).

Construction and installation work should be complete by December 10, 2015. The winner of the tender will allocate 1.18 billion rubles this year, 1.67 billion rubles next year and 2.12 billion rubles in 2015 for the project.

The construction site for the future pilot demonstration center is at Federal State Unitary Enterprise Mining and Chemical Plant in Zheleznogorsk, which is 55 kilometers from Krasnoyarsk.

The center's key task will be to test processing technology for spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants built under Russian projects, as well as to draft recommendations on the use of this technology. The center will derive uranium and plutonium from this spent nuclear fuel and reuse these materials to generate heat and electricity.

For the first phase, fuel assemblies with VVER-1000 reactors (so far, 31 such reactors have been built in the world) will be used to process the spent nuclear fuel.

The pilot demonstration center will process 250 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel per year. It should reach design capacity in 2017.

Mining and Chemical Plant is a part of Rosatom that transports and stores spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants, produces electrodes and rigging units for aluminum smelters, produces medications and other products for civilian use.

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Vogtle is Progressing but Nuclear Revival is Not
Kristi E. Swartz
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
(for personal use only)

When major construction started at Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion project near Augusta a year ago, all eyes were on what was supposed to be the rebirth of the nuclear industry after more than a generation without new plants.

The stakes were high for Georgia Power and its parent, Atlanta-based Southern Co., which became responsible for showing the nation that the nuclear industry could build two reactors without major technical problems, delays or cost overruns. Consumers already were on the hook, paying for Georgia Power’s $6.1 billion portion of the project through a fee on their monthly utility bills.

The $14 billion Vogtle expansion in Waynesboro — one of the largest economic development initiatives in state history — is behind schedule, and the nuclear revival hasn’t worked out the way the industry had hoped. Ample supplies of cheap natural gas and the sluggish economy are enemies No. 1 and 2. Widespread extraction of natural gas is making it the fuel of choice for utilities, which have little demand for new power plants in a weak economy.

And last August, seven months after granting Southern and SCANA, a South Carolina energy company, licenses to build from scratch the nation’s first nuclear reactors in 30 years, federal safety regulators put a moratorium on future nuclear projects until a long-term waste storage plan was developed.

For now, utilities store the high-level spent radioactive fuel at their nuclear plants. But the government is under pressure to find a permanent solution for the fuel rods, which are so hot that they must be cooled in water before being moved to hardened casks made from massive steel and concrete. The unexpected roadblock from the federal government left the nuclear industry in limbo and has kept the focus solely on Georgia and its neighboring state.

“I can remember a few years ago with people thinking this is the beginning of a nuclear renaissance,” said Chuck Eaton, chairman of the Georgia Public Service Commission. “All the eyes of the country are on it.” The PSC was one of several agencies that had to approve Vogtle’s expansion. The panel reviews the project’s cost and schedule every six months.

Though Southern Co. officials point to progress that has been made on the Vogtle project, there has been no shortage of controversies. Scheduling delays, lawsuits and looming cost increases colored Vogtle’s first year. An independent project watchdog has signaled contractor delays in building modules — parts of the reactor built elsewhere and then assembled at Vogtle’s construction site.

Those delays — over site preparation and initial construction work — have triggered a $900 million lawsuit by Georgia Power and the municipal and cooperative utilities building Vogtle against the project’s two major contractors.

The contractors have filed a countersuit.

The lawsuits are two of four between the parties, and the suits are a sign of an escalating fight over who pays for cost increases. Georgia Power said it is not responsible for those delays or costs, which total $425 million for the utility, but consumers could wind up paying if the utility loses the lawsuit or settles. The PSC would have to approve any costs before they are passed on to customers.

The additional money would be on top of the $6.1 billion customers started paying in 2011. Part of that amount covers the financial costs until the reactors start producing power — currently scheduled for 2016 and 2017 though delays may push back the schedule as much as a year. The rest will pay for the project’s construction costs.

Georgia Power in August said delays have made Vogtle’s cost rise to $6.2 billion, but the utility has not asked to collect any additional money from customers.

However, critics worry that might change. “We’re seeing a lot of red flags,” said Liz Coyle, deputy director for Georgia Watch, a consumer rights group. “It’s the little guy in Georgia that will feel all of the pain.”

A misalignment between a platform and a rail car temporarily stranded a 300-ton reactor steam vessel in December. The incident alarmed consumer activists, who already had been filling Georgia PSC meeting rooms and holding demonstrations to stop Vogtle because of safety and financial reasons.

Project skeptics feared a repeat of the past where the first two reactors at Vogtle, finished in the 1980s, ran over budget by $8 billion and took 16 years to build.

“Southern has said everything is safe, and it’s not going to impact the schedule of the project, but if history is any indication, we know that’s not true, so we’re skeptical at best,” said Courtney Hanson, spokeswoman for the grass-roots group Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions, which promotes peace and environmental justice.

Analysts say Southern has done a good job of handling unexpected issues with the Vogtle expansion.
“Things coming up that weren’t anticipated is par for the course with a project as huge and as unprecedented in size and scope,” said Paul Patterson, a utilities analyst with Glenrock Associates. “It’s too early to draw any conclusions on how the rest of the project is going to proceed.”

From the point of view of Southern and Georgia Power, the past year has been a success: Construction is more than one-third complete, and the workforce is building up to 5,000. One of the containment vessels — a shell that encases the nuclear reactor — is finished.

“Construction of the plant is progressing beautifully,” said Tom Fanning, Southern’s president and chief executive officer. “We’re moving forward on this very important project, and I’m hopeful that we’ll build more.”

Analysts say Southern was able to shepherd Vogtle’s plans through a protracted regulatory process because of the company’s size and financial stability. The gigantic energy company also had cushions from Georgia Power customers, in the form of the nuclear fee on their monthly bill, and from taxpayers, who are underwriting a total of $8.3 billion in federal loans for the project.

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded those loan guarantees to the Vogtle project in 2010, but Southern officials continue to negotiate the terms. Company executives include the federal loan guarantees as part of the long-term economic benefits for customers. But customers won’t pay any more for the project should Southern’s negotiations with the DOE fall though, the company said.

In South Carolina, SCANA’s nuclear project faces similar challenges. Consumers are paying for the project’s costs as they are spent and then approved by South Carolina utility regulators.

“We believe the project is going as reasonably as can be expected,” said Dukes Scott, executive director of the South Carolina Public Service Commission’s regulatory staff. “I don’t think it’s reasonable to not have some schedule updates and some budget issues.”

The project in Jenkinsville, S.C., northwest of Columbia, is using the same reactor design and contractors as Georgia Power. Executives from SCANA and Georgia Power talk regularly, and officials from SCANA echo Scott’s statements.

“With a project of this scale, it is not unusual to have some schedule challenges along the way for a variety of reasons,” the company said.

It’s likely Vogtle and SCANA’s V.C. Summer projects will start producing electricity before any more nuclear reactors get off the ground. For Georgia Power, the timing is critical as the utility continues its shift away from coal to comply with federal environmental rules.

The utility wants to close more than 15 coal- and oil-fired units and said it will have enough electricity to power the grid in large part because of Vogtle. Georgia Power also will buy electricity from independent power producers.

Utilities, including Georgia Power, don’t have to build major power plants as frequently because there are not enough new homes, businesses and commercial buildings that need the electricity. Still, industry officials say natural gas cannot be the sole way to power the nation going forward.

“Any nuclear renaissance in the United States probably depends on our success at Vogtle,” said Georgia utility regulator Tim Echols.

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C.  Japan

NRA: Higashidori Nuclear Power Plant Built Near an Active Fault Line
Ida Torres
The Japan Daily Press
(for personal use only)

A Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) panel report revealed that there is a high possibility that the Higashidori Nuclear Power Plant in Aomori Prefecture is built near a series of active faults. The fault line lies just 200 meters away from one of the plant’s reactor building at its nearest point.

The conclusion reached by the expert investigative panel is likely to put pressure on the plant’s operator, Tohoku Electric Power Co., to reassess the earthquake resistance of plant buildings and possibly reinforce them. While the faults in question do not run directly beneath the complex’s reactor building, the assessment indicates that the reactor unit may have to remain offline for a period of time the plant’s quake resistance reassessment. Nuclear plant operators are banned from building reactors and atomic power output facilities directly above active faults. It is quite possible that some of these faults were not detected upon initial probes, or failed to identify them as active at the time plants were built.

Officials of Tohoku Electric, who were also at the discussions, said the company will indeed conduct additional geological surveys, taking into account the results of the panel’s investigations. The officials though have maintained their argument that there are no active faults on the plant’s premises. Executive Vice President Takeo Umeda said one of the major purposes of the additional surveys is to “properly explain that there are no activities” in the faults.

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Power Industry Boss: Proposed Reform Threatens Nuclear Power Generation
Kentaro Uechi
The Asahi Shimbun
(for personal use only)

Proposed sweeping reforms of the electric power industry would deprive utilities of so much revenue that they would be incapable of operating nuclear facilities they own now or plan to in the future.

That warning was issued Feb. 15 by Makoto Yagi, head of the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan. He is also president of Kansai Electric Power Co.

Yagi was referring to a proposal compiled Feb. 8 by a panel of experts with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry that was described as “the most sweeping reform of the electric power industry in postwar years.”

The panel recommended as part of key elements of the reform that power transmission and distribution be separated from regional utilities within five to seven years so that these operations are undertaken by their subsidiaries.

The idea is to allow suppliers of renewable energies to have fair access to power transmission and distribution networks owned by the utilities.

Under the existing setup, utilities have monopolized power generation and transmission, as well as distribution, stifling competition. Many new suppliers found themselves at a great disadvantage in trying to find customers.

In response, Yagi raised doubts about the soundness of the proposed overhaul of the industry.

“It has yet to be ascertained if a stable supply of inexpensive electricity will be secured,” he said. “The proposed reform will not necessarily benefit our customers.”

He and many utility executives fear the proposed reform would result in a sharp drop in profits, which would make it harder for them to finance the operation of nuclear power plants.

Nuclear power stations are costly to maintain and building new facilities represents a huge investment for a utility.

Yagi also called for restarts of reactors which have been idled since the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 plant nearly two years ago.

“Nuclear plants should be utilized to provide a stable and inexpensive power supply,” he said.

Many utilities have sought government approval to raise electricity rates, saying imports of fossil fuels to reactivate thermal power plants are hitting their bottom lines.

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NRA to Inspect Fukushima Reactor after TEPCO was Found Lying
Cherrie Lou Billones
The Japan Daily Press
(for personal use only)

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) will conduct an on-site inspection of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant after its operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), is believed to have lied in order avoid an investigation by a parliamentary panel in 2012. This plan was announced by NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka at a press conference on Wednesday, February 13. Unfortunately, no specific date has been given.

It was recently discovered that TEPCO seemed to have misled the panel in February last year after it said that it was impossible to conduct an on-site inspection at the time due to a sheet covering that resulted in a pitch black interior. New developments arose saying that this was not true and that despite the presence of a covering, the lighting was adequate to conduct an inspection. However, Tanaka noted that there is a “need to conduct an inspection while looking at a decline in the radiation levels inside the reactor building.”

The only time frame he gave for the inspection was that it will be done “in the not-so-distant future.” Tanaka said that it was too early to say a specific date because of the high radiation levels on the fourth floor, where isolation condensers are located. TEPCO President Naomi Hirose, for the company’s part, gave assurance at a House of Representatives Budget Committee session on February 12 that the company will cooperate during the on-site inspection.

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D.  Nuclear Safety & Security

‘No Immediate Risk’: Nuclear Waste Tank Leaking in Washington
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One of the most contaminated waste sites in America is leaking nuclear waste according to US officials. The Hanford Nuclear Reservation stores material from the production of atomic weapons, in tanks which have outlived their 20-year lifespan.

The nuclear leak is the first confirmed case of this type since the federal government’s introduction of a security program in 2005 to dispose of content from exposed single-shell tanks.

On Friday, the US Department of Energy announced that one of Hanford ‘s 177 radioactive waste tanks is disposing up to 300 gallons per year. The leaks have come from Tank T-111, built between 1943 and 1944, now holding some 447,000 gallons of highly radioactive slurry left from plutonium production of nuclear arms.

“The tank was classified as an assumed leaker in 1979,” said the DOE. “In February, 1995, interim stabilization was completed for this tank. In order to achieve interim stabilization, the pumpable liquids were removed in accordance with agreements with the State of Washington.”

The governor of the state was outraged by the announcement.

"I am alarmed about this on many levels," Washington’s governor Jay Inslee said at a news conference. "This raises concerns, not only about the existing leak … but also concerning the integrity of the other single shell tanks of this age."

Other tanks on the site are now been examined and currently there is “no immediate public health risk,” the governor said.

Established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project in the nuclear race, Hanford became the site of the first full-scale plutonium reactor in the world. Atomic material produced there was used in the Nagasaki bomb in 1945.

An estimated 1 million gallons of waste, leaked from the site over 70 years, threatens the local environment of the Columbia River.

“We will not tolerate any leaks of this material to the environment,” Inslee said.

The US Department of Energy is trying to deal with the problem by transferring the waste from 149 potentially unsafe single wall tanks to 28 double-wall units, but space is running out. More than 60 of the tanks are thought to have leaked over time. Erection of an estimated $12 billion plant is running behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. The plant is designed to turn radioactive waste into glass logs through a vitrification process.

People on the ground in Hanford constantly bring up the safety issues, "We're out of time, obviously. These tanks are starting to fail now," said Tom Carpenter of the Hanford watchdog group Hanford Challenge. "We've got a problem. This is big."

Washington State has signed an agreement with the first Bush Administration under which the federal government commits to clean up its radioactive mess. Inslee said that federal government needs to come up with funding to deal with the leaking tank.

But planned sequestration in two weeks’ time might cut spending in all federal agencies, unless stopped by the Congress, Inslee noted, which could result in layoffs at Hanford, and “could conceivably stop the remediation effort at some of these tanks.”

The combination of the deteriorating state of the storage units and sequestration are a recipe for “perfect a radioactive storm,” said Inslee.

According to the Seattle Times, around 10 percent of the 586-square-mile facility is contaminated.
Materials including tritium, chromium nitrate and strontium-90 have penetrated the river, according to the state Department of Ecology. But no unsafe levels have been found in farm crops in the region according to the department.

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Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant Shuts Down Unit 2 Reactor
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Entergy has reported (NYSE: ETR) control room operators at its Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, N.Y., have safely shut down the center’s Unit 2 reactor following indication of fluctuating water levels inside the plant's steam generators.

Workers were testing a valve associated with the equipment when the pumps, which are located on the non-nuclear side of the plant, stopped operating. An investigation into the cause of the shutdown is continuing.

There was no release of radioactivity and no threat to the safety of workers or the public. All equipment performed as designed in response to the shutdown.

The Indian Point Energy Center is home to two operating nuclear power plants, Unit 2 and Unit 3, which generate approximately 2,000 megawatts of electricity for homes, business and public facilities in New York City and Westchester County.

Unit 2 had been online for 252 continuous days prior to Wednesday's shut down. Unit 3 is currently operating at full power and has been online for 104 continuous days.

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E.  Iran

Iran Says Can Ease Nuclear Fears if Rights Recognized
Ladane Nasseri
Bloomberg Businessweek
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Iran can ease western states’ concern over its nuclear activities if they fully recognize its right to operate a civilian nuclear program, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, days before international talks in Kazakhstan.

If the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Russia, China “recognize our full rights for peaceful nuclear energy, this will show their goodwill,” Mehmanparast said at a press conference in Tehran today that was aired by Iranian state television. “As for us, we will offer ways to remove concerns” that Iran’s nuclear program may have a military dimension.

“Proper measures” can be taken by both sides, though each step taken needs to be “equal and proportionate,” Mehmanparast said.

Iran is resuming stalled multilateral negotiations on its nuclear work with the group known as P5+1 on Feb. 26 in Kazakhstan. The last round of talks between Iran and world powers were held in Moscow in June and failed to yield results. World powers asked the Islamic Republic to suspend production of 20 percent enriched uranium while Iran pressed for relief from financial and trade sanctions imposed because of its nuclear program.

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Pakistan Reaches Out to Iran on Energy, Security
Sharon Behn
Voice of America
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Pakistan is reaching out to its neighbor, Iran, for cooperation on energy and security, despite ongoing international attempts to isolate Tehran for its nuclear program. The latest talks between the two countries on a proposed gas pipeline that could aggravate Pakistani ties with the United States.

In recent days, officials in Islamabad have had talks with their Tehran counterparts on the construction of a $1.5 billion gas pipeline from Iran that would help ease acute energy shortages in Pakistan. This week, Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik has also signed a security deal between the two countries to tighten security along their borders.

The agreements point to closer relations at a time when the United States and the international community have imposed stringent economic sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear program

Iran says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful. But, the West fears Iran is building nuclear weapon capability.

The international sanctions affect companies doing business with Tehran, U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Rian Harris said. "We have made it clear to all of our interlocutors around the world that it is in their interests to avoid activities that may be prohibited by U.N. sanctions or sanctionable under U.S. law," he said.

Harris said the United States believes there are alternative long-term energy solutions for Pakistan, such as a planned pipeline through Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. She pointed out that Washington is funding large-scale hydropower and thermal energy projects in Pakistan to help meet the chronic shortages.

The Iran-Pakistan pipeline has been under discussion for a decade, but the past weeks have seen delegations from Tehran arriving in Islamabad to finalize the deal. Local media reports say the negotiations are still stalled about gas prices and the financing of Pakistan's section of the line.

Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a political science professor at Lahore University, says that Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari's efforts to complete the deal with Iran have more to do with election year politics than energy solutions.

The government, which is facing elections in the coming months, has come under heavy criticism for its inability to end crippling energy shortages around the country. There are questions about whether Iran can guarantee supplies and fixed prices, said Rais, but also concerns about the political cost of such a deal.

"How the Pakistani economy, which depends on International Monetary Fund and United States assistance, and also from European countries, how then is Pakistan going to cope with that? Therefore, this decision is very much controversial," he added.

Rais said Pakistan's political and business power brokers have no desire to estrange the international community in favor of Iran.

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Iran Sought Nuclear Parts in China: Report
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Iran tried to smuggle thousands of specialized magnets through China for its centrifuges, in an effort to speed its path to reaching nuclear weapons capability, according to a new US report.

The report, by a renowned American nuclear scientist, said the operation highlighted the importance of China as a transit point for Iran's nuclear program, and called for sanctions against any Chinese firms involved.

The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) report said an Iranian front company used a Chinese commercial website to try to acquire 100,000 ring-shaped magnets, which it is banned from importing under United Nations sanctions, in late 2011.

Two magnets were needed for each of 50,000 first-generation centrifuges used to enrich uranium at Iran's nuclear plants, in a process that Western powers say is designed to build nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies. The ISIS report by US scientist David Albright suggested that the operation meant that Iran was trying to "greatly expand" its number of first-generation centrifuges even as it builds more advanced machines.

"China needs to do more to show that it is a responsible member of the global economy," the report said. "In particular, it should crack down on the efforts of Iranian smuggling networks."

The ISIS said it could not establish whether Iran found a Chinese supplier willing to provide the ring magnets.

The Washington Post, which first reported the ISIS report, quoted a European diplomat with access to intelligence as saying Iran was positioning itself to make swift progress on its nuclear program.

"Each step forward makes the situation potentially more dangerous," the unnamed diplomat was quoted as saying.

The White House would not comment explicitly on the ISIS report but said that it was aware of Iran's "aggressive" efforts to avert UN sanctions.

"The unprecedented international sanctions put in place against Iran are not only designed to crystallize the choice for the Iranian regime regarding its nuclear program, but also to deter and disrupt Iranian procurement of components to support its nuclear program," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

The report will raise new concerns about the extent of progress in Iran's nuclear program, despite international sanctions, which will be at the top of the agenda when President Barack Obama visits Israel next month.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Iran was now closer to crossing the "red line" after which it would be able to build a nuclear weapon but had not yet reached that stage.

It will also raise the stakes for the latest round of talks between world powers and Tehran, due to take place in two weeks.

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F.  Nuclear Cooperation

India, Britain to Boost Trade, Discuss Civil Nuclear Cooperation
New Indian Express
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India and Britain Tuesday decided to launch negotiations on a civil nuclear agreement and boost trade as visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held wide-ranging talks on a wide gamut of issues, including regional and global issues.

Cameron, who is here on a three-day visit at the head of the biggest ever 100-member delegation, and Manmohan Singh held talks in the morning after the British prime minister arrived from Mumbai in the morning.

Manmohan Singh said: "I thanked Prime Minister Cameron for the UK's support for India's full membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and other multilateral export control regimes. We have also decided to commence negotiations on a bilateral Civil Nuclear Agreement."'

He also sought Cameron's support for ensuring early conclusion of "a fair, balanced and forward looking broad-based India-EU Trade and Investment Agreement, which will open new opportunities for trade and investment between our two countries".

Cameron emphasized that their bilateral relations has "all the potential of growth" in the decades ahead. "It is a strong partnership that we want to build together.. we are on track to double our trade to 23 billion pounds by 2015," he said, and added that Britain is looking to open British trade offices all over India. "We want to open a pan India network of British trade offices by 2017,"

Cameron also said he was "excited to examine" with India business prospects around the Bangalore-Mumbai industrial corridor.

On the EU-India FTA, he said they would do "what extra we can to make the deal"

He also elaborated on the steps Britain is taking to boost trade, including reducing barriers to investment. Britain is bringing in same-day visa service and re-writing rules of sharing technology. Both sides have a new collaboration on cyber security.

Both sides also agreed to further intensify cooperation in fighting terrorism and also discussed issues in our immediate neighbourhood, including Iran and West Asia.

They also emphasized on the need for a "stable and secure Pakistan, which is at peace with itself and its neighbours and has eradicated the threat that terrorism poses.. and that must include to bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 attacks.. and we will work together to that end," Cameron said.

Afghanistan also figured in the talks, with Britain saying that "it will not abandon Afghanistan" and will continue to support Kabul even after the troops have left. Britain will work to bring long term economic security and development to Afghanistan to prevent it becoming a haven for terrorists.

They also discussed Sri Lanka and the need for "free and fair elections" in Maldives, where the former president Mohamed Nasheed has been staying in the Indian High Commission in Male since Feb 13.

Both sides also discussed Myanmar and Iran.

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Japan to Help Kazakhstan Develop Nuclear Power Plants
The Asahi Shimbun
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Japan Atomic Power Co. and a Marubeni Corp. affiliate signed an agreement Feb. 18 with Kazakhstan to assist in the development of nuclear power plants in the Central Asian nation.

Japanese company representatives and officials of the National Nuclear Center, a research institute under Kazakhstan’s nuclear power agency, sealed the deal in Tokyo during a meeting on economic cooperation among governments and businesses from both nations.

With hopes to eventually export nuclear plants to Kazakhstan, the Japanese side agreed to offer cooperation in such areas as locational surveys and personnel training to Kazakhstan, which plans to construct nuclear plants in the 2020s.

All of three domestic nuclear reactors operated by Japan Atomic Power have been offline mainly due to the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011.

Of them, the No. 1 reactor of the Tsuruga nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture is more than 40 years old. The No. 2 Tsuruga reactor will likely be decommissioned due to an active fault that is thought to run directly under the reactor building.

As the nuclear power operator has hit a road block domestically, it is seeking new business opportunities abroad.

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Progress Made on Nunn-Lugar Replacement, Foreign Ministry Says
Ezekiel Pfeifer
The Moscow Times
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Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said progress has been made with the United States in talks on a deal to replace the Nunn-Lugar weapons reduction program, which is set to expire in June, a news report said Friday.

The U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control, Rose Gottemoeller, traveled to Moscow last week for negotiations on the issue, and Ryabkov said that while there were no "breakthroughs," the two sides were "moving forward."

"We haven't reached the final station, when everyone must exit the cars, sit at the table, take each others' hands and sign something," he told Kommersant.

Under the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, created by the 1992 Nunn-Lugar Act, the U.S. government has paid defense contractors to secure and dismantle weapons of mass destruction and their infrastructure in the former Soviet Union.

Moscow announced in October that it would not prolong the program, saying it was outdated in its current form and reduces Russia to aid recipient status.

Gottemoeller concluded a four-day trip to Moscow on Friday dedicated to talks on nonproliferation and arms reduction. The visit was shrouded in secrecy, with the U.S. Embassy refusing to comment on it Wednesday except to say the assistant secretary would make no public appearances.

According to one Russian official, less headway was achieved during talks on a deal for bilateral nuclear arms reductions that the U.S. is seeking because of disagreements over a U.S. missile defense shield in Eastern Europe.

"For us, the missile defense is a fundamental issue. Without an agreement in that area, Russia will not agree to further cuts," an unidentified Foreign Ministry official told Kommersant.

Ryabkov said Friday that the talks with Gottemoeller touched on the missile shield, which Moscow fears could eventually neutralize Russia's nuclear deterrent, and that Russia had not changed its position on the issue.

But negotiations on it "absolutely will continue," he said in an interview with Interfax.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Thursday that Russia had not received any American proposals regarding further nuclear arms reductions. The White House reportedly wants to cut deployed nuclear weapons to about 1,000, down from the current target of 1,550 by 2018 stipulated in the New START treaty, which went into effect in February 2011.

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Making Concrete Plans- Experts Discuss NPP Infrastructure Development
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About 100 nuclear policymakers and senior managers met at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, 11-14 February, to discuss nuclear power infrastructure development, with a particular focus on countries starting nuclear programmes and their specific needs.

The four-day Technical Meeting on Topical Issues of Infrastructure Development: Nuclear Power Project Development in Emerging Nuclear Power States served as a forum for sharing experiences especially regarding the management of nuclear power projects.

"The Agency is committed to supporting Member States with both existing and new nuclear power programmes," said Alexander Bychkov, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy, in his opening speech on 11 February 2013. "We offer a set of integrated services."

"The Agency has been focused on helping new owner-operators become knowledgeable customers. This is important since these organizations will have the primary responsibility for safety," he added. "Interesting themes have emerged about the partnership that forms between the vendor and the new owner. An effective cooperation between the regulatory bodies is equally important."

Participants discussed siting, feasibility studies, licensing, contracting, construction and stakeholder involvement. The meeting was also aimed at supporting the development of knowledgeable owner-operator organizations, as well as independent, competent regulatory bodies. Many of the sessions addressed the needs of countries introducing nuclear power in this particular area, as they move into Phase 2 of the Agency's Milestones approach, which ends with inviting bids for the first nuclear power plant.

In addition, experiences with using IAEA review services such as the Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR), Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS), Emergency Preparedness Review (EPREV), International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS), International State System of Accounting for and Control of Nuclear Material Advisory Service (ISSAS) were shared.

The Technical Meeting also covered nuclear safety. Participants examined case studies, good practices and lessons learned during the process of implementing a nuclear power programme, and heard panel discussions on future trends.

Attendees, mostly from countries preparing to build their first nuclear power plants, were policymakers and senior managers engaged in the implementation of national nuclear power programmes and projects, senior managers developing national strategies, future owner/operator organizations and nuclear regulators.

Since 2006, the IAEA has organized an annual Technical Meeting (TM) on Topical Issues of Infrastructure Development aimed at providing a platform for exchanging best practices in developing the required infrastructure and identifying the main issues that need to be considered when introducing nuclear power.

Previous meetings focused on knowledgeable decision-making and awareness building, infrastructure development and the implications of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.

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Trust Our Nuclear Technology: French President to India
Deccan Herald
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French President Francois Hollande Friday urged India "to trust" his country's nuclear technology and extended France's support to the Indian nuclear power generation programme.

Hollande stressed the need for cleaner technologies and highlighted issues of global warming and green house emissions at a summit hosted by business organisations like CII, FICCI and Assocham here Friday evening.

France is helping India construct two nuclear power reactors at the proposed 9,900 MW Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project in Ratnagiri, 400 km south of Mumbai. The project has been facing stiff resistance from locals, NGOs, anti-nuclear groups and some political parties.

Admitting that global warming and greenhouse emissions pose a challenge, Hollande said: "We can have great joint ambitions on values of democracy and liberation on this issue. We are seeking partnership not just at a contract level but even higher than that."

Saying that technology liberates man, Hollande said it was up to "you to decide what is the best" and assured that France would work within the best possible framework and environment.

Earlier Friday, Hollande met Maharashtra Governor K. Sankaranarayanan, Industry Minister Narayan Rane, Tourism Minister Chhagan Bhujbal and Protocol Minister Suresh Shetty and stressed the importance of nuclear energy.

"France is keen to increase cooperation with Maharashtra in diverse areas like infrastructure development, water transport, agriculture products," Hollande said.

Hollande also invited Indian filmmakers to shoot in France and said: "Indian films will bring happiness to the people of France."

The French president arrived Mumbai Friday afternoon. He also visited the Lafarge laboratory in Andheri.

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G.  Links of Interest

NNSA, Japan Atomic Energy Agency Mark 25 Years of Nonproliferation Partnership
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