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Nuclear News - 2/25/2013
PGS Nuclear News, February 25, 2013
Compiled By: Pia Ulrich


A.  Iran
    1. Powers to Offer Iran Sanctions Relief at Nuclear Talks, Justyna Pawlak and Fredrik Dahl, Reuters (2/25/2013)
    2. Iran ‘Finds’ Mass Uranium Deposits, Picks 16 New Nuclear Sites, RT (2/23/2013)
    3. Iran Appears to Advance in Construction of Arak Nuclear Plant, Fredrik Dahl, Reuters (2/22/2013)
B.  North Korea
    1. Search Is On for Clues to N.Korean Nuke Test, The Chosun Ilbo (2/25/2013)
    2. Japanese Planes Detect Xenon after North Korea Nuclear Test, Ida Torres, The Japan Daily Press (2/22/2013)
C.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Big Plans for Mini Reactors, Kim Leonard, Power Engineering (2/25/2013)
    2. ‘Two Nuclear Power Plants to Be Commissioned by 2016’, The International News (2/23/2013)
D.  Nuclear Safety & Security
    1. 6 Leaking Tanks Are Hanford Nuke Site's Latest Woe, Shannon Dininny, Associated Press (2/24/2013)
    2. Syrian Opposition Says Captures Former Nuclear Site, Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Reuters (2/24/2013)
    3. Exotic Fuel on the Move, World Nuclear News (2/22/2013)
E.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Finland's Fennovoima to Drop Areva from Reactor Talks, Reuters (2/24/2013)
F.  Links of Interest
    1. China Builds Uranium Enrichment Centrifuge, World Nuclear News (2/25/2013)
    2. Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons Safety and Security, Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, The Nation (2/23/2013)



A.  Iran

1.
Powers to Offer Iran Sanctions Relief at Nuclear Talks
Justyna Pawlak and Fredrik Dahl
Reuters
2/25/2013
(for personal use only)


Major powers will offer Iran some sanctions relief during talks in Almaty, Kazakhstan, this week if Tehran agrees to curb its nuclear program, a U.S. official said on Monday.

But the Islamic Republic could face more economic pain if it fails to address international concerns about its atomic activities, the official said ahead of the February 26-27 meeting in the central Asian state, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"There will be continued sanctions enforcement ... there are other areas where pressure can be put," the official said, on the eve of the first round of negotiations between Iran and six world powers in eight months.

A spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who leads the talks with Iran on behalf of the powers, said Tehran should understand that there was an "urgent need to make concrete and tangible progress" in Kazakhstan.

Both Russia and the United States stressed there was not an unlimited amount of time to resolve a dispute that has raised fears of a new war in the Middle East.

"The window for a diplomatic solution simply cannot by definition remain open forever. But it is open today. It is open now," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a news conference in London. "There is still time but there is only time if Iran makes the decision to come to the table and negotiate in good faith."

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said there was "no more time to waste", Interfax news agency quoted him as saying in Almaty.

The immediate priority for the powers - the United States, Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France - is to convince Iran to halt its higher-grade enrichment, which is a relatively short technical step away from potential atom bomb material.

Iran, which has taken steps over the last year to expand its uranium enrichment activities in defiance of international demands to scale it back, wants a relaxation of increasingly harsh sanctions hurting its lifeline oil exports.

Western officials say the Almaty meeting is unlikely to produce any major breakthrough, in part because Iran's presidential election in June may make it difficult for it to make significant concessions before then for domestic reasons.

But they say they hope that Iran will take their proposals seriously and engage in negotiations to try to find a diplomatic settlement.

"No one is expecting to walk out of here with a deal but ... confidence building measures are important," one senior Western official said.

The stakes are high: Israel, assumed to be the Middle East's only nuclear-armed arsenal, has strongly hinted at possible military action to prevent its old foe from obtaining such arms. Iran has threatened to retaliate if attacked.

The U.S. official said the powers' updated offer to Iran - a modified version of one rejected by Iran in the unsuccessful talks last year - would take into account its recent nuclear advances but also take "some steps in the sanctions arena".

This would be aimed at addressing some of Iran's concerns, the official said, while making clear it would not meet Tehran's demand of an easing of all punitive steps against it.

"We think ... there will be some additional sanctions relief" in the powers' revised proposal," the official said, without giving details.

Western diplomats have told Reuters the six countries will offer to ease sanctions on trade in gold and precious metals if Iran closes its Fordow underground uranium enrichment plant.

Iran has indicated, however, that this will not be enough.

Tehran denies Western allegations it is seeking to develop the capability to make nuclear bombs, saying its program is entirely peaceful. It wants the powers to recognize what it sees as its right to refine uranium for peaceful purposes.

The U.S. official said the powers hoped that the Almaty meeting would lead to follow-up talks soon.

"We are ready to step up the pace of our meetings and our discussions," the official said, adding the United States would also be prepared to hold bilateral talks with Tehran if it was serious about it.

Ashton's spokesman, Michael Mann, said the updated offer to Iran was "balanced and a fair basis" for constructive talks.

Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/25/us-iran-nuclear-us-idUSBRE91O0J120130225



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2.
Iran ‘Finds’ Mass Uranium Deposits, Picks 16 New Nuclear Sites
RT
2/23/2013
(for personal use only)


Iran has decided on 16 locations to build new nuclear power plants in a drive to boost the country’s electricity output over the next 15 years. Tehran also announced the discovery of substantial uranium deposits to fuel the country’s nuclear program.

Experts from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) chose the 16 sites across the country for their resistance to military airstrikes and earthquakes, among other factors, Tehran's State TV said Saturday.

Iran currently has one operational nuclear power plant, located outside the southern coastal city of Bushehr. The head of the AEOI said in December another plant is slated for construction next to the Bushehr plant.

The expansion plan comes on the back of the discovery of new uranium resources “in southern coastal areas” that will place the country’s reserves at 4,400 tons – nearly a threefold increase over previous estimates.

There has been no independent confirmation of the finds, and Western experts had previously thought Iran was potentially close to exhausting its supply of raw uranium based on the number of existing mines.

The announcement comes on the back of a recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report which said the Islamic Republic had begun installing advanced centrifuges at the country’s main uranium enrichment plant near the central town of Natanz.

Iran told the UN nuclear watchdog last month that it intended to install the more powerful machines, which are four times more productive than its existing centrifuges.

Western powers fear the new machines may enable Iran to ramp up its accumulation of material necessary to bolster its nuclear weapons capability. Iran says it is refining uranium only for peaceful energy purposes.

On Thursday US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the installation of the centrifuges would be “a further escalation and a continuing violation of Iran’s (UN) obligations.”

On Saturday Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said the Islamic Republic would neither go beyond its obligations or accept any conditions curtailing its rights under the non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

"Iran has fulfilled its NPT obligations as an active and committed member, therefore [it] should gain all of its rights," Jalili said in an address to Iranian nuclear industry officials, ISNA news agency cites him as saying.

"The Iranian nation will defend its rights including its nuclear rights ... Iranian people do not accept to be treated as an exception in the world," Jalili, who is also secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, continued.

Jalili’s comments come in the run up to a meeting between Iran and six world powers – China, France, Russia, the UK, the US and Germany – in Kazakhstan on Tuesday.

Diplomats say the so called P5+1 are poised to offer Iran some relief from their UN Security Council and unilateral Western sanctions at the talks in Kazakhstan on Tuesday if Tehran agrees to halt production of highly-enriched uranium.

France on Thursday confirmed that a "substantial" new offer would be presented to Iran during the talks next week.

The talks will be the first since three rounds of meetings in Moscow ended failed to bear fruit in June.

Available at: http://rt.com/news/Iran-new-nuclear-plants-338/



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3.
Iran Appears to Advance in Construction of Arak Nuclear Plant
Fredrik Dahl
Reuters
2/22/2013
(for personal use only)


Iran appears to be advancing in its construction of a research reactor Western experts say could offer the Islamic state a second way of producing material for a nuclear bomb, if it decided to embark on such a course, a U.N. report showed.

Iran has almost completed installation of cooling and moderator circuit piping in the heavy water plant near the town of Arak, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a confidential report issued to member states late on Thursday.

Nuclear analysts say this type of reactor could yield plutonium for nuclear arms if the spent fuel is reprocessed, something Iran has said it has no intention of doing. Iran has said it "does not have reprocessing activities", the IAEA said.

In its previous report on Iran, in November, the Vienna-based U.N. agency said installation work at Arak was continuing, without giving any indication of how far advanced it was.

Iran rejects Western allegations it seeks to develop a capability to assemble nuclear weapons, saying its atomic program is entirely peaceful and that the Arak reactor will produce isotopes for medical and agricultural use.

Iran says it plans to begin operating the facility in the first quarter of 2014, the IAEA said. Tehran last year postponed the planned start-up from the third quarter of 2013, a target that Western experts said always had seemed unrealistic.

The Arms Control Association, a Washington-based research and advocacy group, said late last year that it was questionable whether Iran would be able to meet the new target date as well, in view of "significant delays and impeded access to necessary materials" because of international sanctions imposed on Iran.

Western worries about Iran are focused largely on uranium enrichment plants at Natanz and Fordow, as such material refined to a high level can provide the fissile core of an atomic bomb. But experts say Arak may also be a proliferation issue.

The Arak facility is a "growing source of concern", said Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the non-proliferation and disarmament program of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a London-based think-tank.

Israel, believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear-armed state, sees Iran's nuclear program as a serious danger and has threatened to attack its atomic sites if diplomacy and sanctions fail to resolve the decade-old dispute.

If it does, the nuclear sites at Natanz, Fordow and Arak in central Iran are likely to be targets. Fitzpatrick said it could be Arak that triggers a conflict because attacking it after it is launched could cause an environmental disaster.

Thursday's quarterly IAEA report showed Iran expanding its uranium enrichment program in defiance of tightening Western sanctions, installing advanced centrifuge machines at its main enrichment plant near the town of Natanz.

The report, issued just a few days before six world powers and Iran are due to resume negotiations after an eight-month hiatus, underlined the tough task facing the West in seeking to pressure Tehran to curb its nuclear activities.

Cliff Kupchan, Middle East director at the Eurasia consultancy, said Iran had adopted a defiant policy of pressing ahead with its nuclear program, despite harsh sanctions.

"As a result, Israel and the U.S. Congress will press a receptive U.S. administration to move forward with new and even harsher sanctions," he said in a research note.

Enriched uranium can fuel nuclear power plants, Iran's stated aim, but also provide the explosive core of a nuclear weapon if refined much further. Making plutonium from spent fuel is a second way of obtaining potential bomb material.

The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), a U.S. think-tank, noted that Iran planned to use a medical research reactor in Tehran, known as TRR, to test fuel for Arak.

"The TRR is now more than a medical isotope production reactor, Iran's stated use for the reactor, and is necessary for the operation" of Arak, it said in a report.

If operated optimally, the heavy-water plant could produce about nine kilograms (20 pounds) of plutonium a year, or enough for about two nuclear bombs annually, ISIS has said previously.

"Before it could use any of the plutonium in a nuclear weapon, however, it would first have to separate the plutonium from the irradiated fuel," it added on its website.

Iran has repeatedly declared it has no plans to reprocess the spent fuel. But, "similarly sized reactors ostensibly built for research" have been used by India, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan to make plutonium for weapons, Fitzpatrick said.

Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/22/us-iran-nuclear-arak-idUSBRE91L0GQ20130222


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B.  North Korea

1.
Search Is On for Clues to N.Korean Nuke Test
The Chosun Ilbo
2/25/2013
(for personal use only)


South Korea, the U.S. and Japan are desperately trying to get hold of earth samples from near North Korea's nuclear test site since other efforts to assess its recent nuclear test have fallen flat.

Agents from the three countries are apparently hustling on the North Korea-China border to get their hands on a piece of clod from Punggye-ri, North Hamgyong Province, where the regime conducted a third nuclear test two weeks ago.

On Friday, Chinese security forces were still maintaining tight control in the border cities of Yanji and Tumen 10 days after the nuclear test.

"Rumors are rife that South Korean, U.S., and Japanese intelligence agencies have recruited North Korean defectors or ethnic Koreans in China to get earth samples from Punggye-ri," a North Korean source in Yanji said.

The source added security in the border region has been doubled since the nuclear test, with plainclothesmen deployed at bus terminals.

After the previous nuclear test in 2009, it was also widely rumored that a defector brought earth samples from Punggye-ri and handed them over to South Korean and U.S. intelligence agents, the source said.

South Korea, the U.S. and Japan have managed to detect no radioactivity in the atmosphere that would allow them to assess the strength and nature of the North Korean nuclear device, apparently because the test tunnel was tightly sealed.

An intelligence source said, "Earth samples from the area would provide important clues about the nature of its latest nuclear test."

It is unclear whether the North used plutonium or enriched uranium for the bomb. The regime used plutonium for the two prior nuclear tests but boasted this time that it succeeded in conducting a "high-level" test, suggesting to some observers that uranium was used.

But earth samples will be hard to come by. Defectors who fled the North in January said the nuclear test site is surrounded by electric wire fences and a moat 3 m wide and about 2 m deep, so no one can even think of going near it.

Chinese people in the border region said the device must have been more powerful than the previous ones. A 43-year-old resident of Yanji said, "We didn't feel any vibration during the last couple of nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, but this time the apartment buildings shook." He said that is why Chinese people are angry with North Korea and have in some cases taken to the streets to protest.

A 37-year-old taxi driver in Yanji said the fear is that Mt. Baekdu on the border, a dormant volcano, could have been affected by the blast.

Mt. Baekdu sits about 240 km from Punggye-ri. Radiation from the nuclear test could have contaminated the underground soil and water and could cause a serious environment problem in a decade or two.

Available at: http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2013/02/25/2013022501040.html


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2.
Japanese Planes Detect Xenon after North Korea Nuclear Test
Ida Torres
The Japan Daily Press
2/22/2013
(for personal use only)


Japanese planes detected trace amounts of xenon-133 during flights over Japan a day after North Korea carried out its third nuclear test last week, the science ministry revealed on Thursday. Xenon-133 is commonly released into the air as a byproduct of an atomic explosion and also from nuclear power plants and medical institutions.

Traces of the radioactive materials were measured at 1.9 millibecquerels per cubic meter of air. These numbers came from samples collected at an altitude of 300 meters off the coast of Aichi Prefecture in central Japan. This marks the first time Japan has detected xenon-133 since it strengthened radiation monitoring in response to the test on February 12.

Ministry officials could not confirm whether the xenon was connected in any way to North Korea’s underground test. South Korean maritime ships and air force planes equipped with detection devices were deployed after the blast to try to collect any traces of radioactive fallout. But Seoul experts said on February 14 that they had been unable to detect any. The global community is very much eager to discover whether North Korea used highly enriched uranium for its latest test rather than from their plutonium program, as with the tests in 2006 and 2009. An enriched uranium program would give North Korea a new and more efficient way to produce bomb-making material.

Available at: http://japandailypress.com/japanese-planes-detect-xenon-after-north-korea-nuclear-test-2223898


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C.  Nuclear Energy

1.
Big Plans for Mini Reactors
Kim Leonard
Power Engineering
2/25/2013
(for personal use only)


The future of nuclear power may be in smaller reactors that could boost a power plant's output or provide enough electricity to run a factory.

Westinghouse Electric Co., Babcock & Wilcox Co. and federal energy officials are anticipating a market for what is known as a small modular reactor, or SMR.

Cranberry-based Westinghouse has eight full-size AP1000 reactors under construction worldwide, and its experience "will speed the Westinghouse SMR to market with less cost and better economics," said Kate Jackson, chief technology officer and senior vice president of research and technology.

The capsule-like, 225-megawatt mini-reactor design borrows heavily from the AP1000, with safety systems that use gravity rather than access to power if the plant malfunctions. Control rods inside the reactor unlatch and drop when a problem is detected, shutting down the nuclear reaction, for example.

Some other safety advantages: Water sits above the core, to provide cooling in an emergency. And the unit sits below grade, lessening damage potential from above-ground disruptions.

Westinghouse, which built the nation's first nuclear plant in 1957 in Shippingport, is working with scientists at the University of Missouri at Columbia and Missouri University of Science and Technology to build a small reactor at electric utility Ameren Missouri's Callaway Energy Center.

That plant, south of Fulton, Mo., has a generating capacity of 1,290 megawatts. A small Westinghouse reactor could turn out enough power for 45,000 homes.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is preparing for nuclear energy companies' applications to roll in for small reactor designs as early as this year, spokesman Neil Sheehan said. NRC staff talked with Westinghouse in June and July about safety and plant design, and "will continue with limited meetings with Westinghouse as resources allow," he said.

Babcock & Wilcox, which is partnering with the Tennessee Valley Authority and engineering firm Bechtel, won initial federal approval in November for money to develop, license and commercialize an SMR.

A second reactor proposal will be chosen for funding, the Department of Energy said, but it hasn't specified when. Costs to develop Babcock & Wilcox's mPower plant over five years have not been specified; the government would pay half.

Energy officials propose spending $452 million on smaller reactor designs.

"My sense is that DOE is looking for a project that, on commercial terms, will be able to succeed," said Edwin Lyman, senior scientist with the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists, and Babcock & Wilcox, through its alliance with the Tennessee authority, potentially could build a plant to supply DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory near Knoxville.

Still, caution is key and the new plants aren't necessarily safer just because they're smaller, he said.

"Even if on paper they look safe, there is no operating experience," Lyman said, adding that the organization doesn't think the government should subsidize nuclear power.

Current nuclear projects are behind schedule, he said, and low-cost natural gas is eating into the profits of nuclear plants.

But Jackson said any fossil-fueled plants are vulnerable to market prices; historically, natural gas prices have swung up and down.

"Electric energy providers must look decades into the future" when planning generating plants, which typically last more than 50 years, she said.

Available at: http://www.power-eng.com/news/2013/02/25/big-plans-for-mini-reactors.html


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2.
‘Two Nuclear Power Plants to Be Commissioned by 2016’
The International News
2/23/2013
(for personal use only)


Two nuclear power plants, 340MW each, are under construction at Chashma and are expected to be commissioned by 2016, with Chinese assistance.

Construction of these power plants became possible after a long-standing agreement, while three other nuclear power plants already commissioned in the country are performing well. According to official sources, a major chunk of the PAEC budget has been allocated to two nuclear power plants, adding PAEC envisages production of 8,800MW by the year 2030 through nuclear power reactors.

“An amount of Rs34.6 billion has been set aside for ChashmaNuclear Power Plants, C3 and C4. The total cost of these two projects is Rs190 billion which will be partially funded by a Rs136 billion Chinese loan.”

The government has so far spent Rs62.4 billion on the megaproject having a 660MW generation capacity. With Rs34.6 billion additional spending, the government will be able to complete almost half of the work by June 2013, the official said.

According to an official in the Ministry of Science and Technology, the government is harmonising the efforts made in the energy sector by different ministries, departments and research centres by creating an “Energy Council” with heads of relevant organisations.

The council will be entrusted to advise on priority areas for Research and Development (R&D) and management of resources and to fill the gaps.Acquisition of technology for building nuclear power reactors through R&D, as well as transfer of technology agreements is also under consideration, he said.

Available at: http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-13-21158-Two-nuclear-power-plants-to-be-commissioned-by-2016


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D.  Nuclear Safety & Security

1.
6 Leaking Tanks Are Hanford Nuke Site's Latest Woe
Shannon Dininny
Associated Press
2/24/2013
(for personal use only)


Federal and state officials say six underground tanks holding a brew of radioactive and toxic waste are leaking at the country's most contaminated nuclear site in south-central Washington, raising concerns about delays for emptying the aging tanks.

The leaking materials at Hanford Nuclear Reservation pose no immediate risk to public safety or the environment because it would take perhaps years for the chemicals to reach groundwater, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday.

But the news has renewed discussion over delays for emptying the tanks, which were installed decades ago and are long past their intended 20-year life span.

"None of these tanks would be acceptable for use today. They are all beyond their design life. None of them should be in service," said Tom Carpenter of Hanford Challenge, a Hanford watchdog group. "And yet, they're holding two-thirds of the nation's high-level nuclear waste."

Just last week, state officials announced that one of Hanford's 177 tanks was leaking 150 to 300 gallons a year, posing a risk to groundwater and rivers. So far, nearby monitoring wells haven't detected higher radioactivity levels.

Inslee then traveled to Washington, D.C., to discuss the problem with federal officials, learning in meetings Friday that six tanks are leaking.

The declining waste levels in the six tanks were missed because only a narrow band of measurements was evaluated, rather than a wider band that would have shown the levels changing over time, Inslee said.

"It's like if you're trying to determine if climate change is happening, only looking at the data for today," he said. "Perhaps human error, the protocol did not call for it. But that's not the most important thing at the moment. The important thing now is to find and address the leakers."

Department of Energy spokeswoman Lindsey Geisler said there was no immediate health risk and that federal officials would work with Washington state to address the matter.

Regardless, Sen. Ron Wyden, the new chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, will ask the Government Accountability Office to investigate Hanford's tank monitoring and maintenance program, said his spokesman, Tom Towslee.

The federal government built the Hanford facility at the height of World War II as part of the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. The remote site produced plutonium for the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, and continued supporting the nation's nuclear weapons arsenal for years.

Today, it is the most contaminated nuclear site in the country, still surrounded by sagebrush but with Washington's Tri-Cities of Richland, Kennewick and Pasco several miles downriver.

Several years ago, workers at Hanford completed two of three projects deemed urgent risks to the public and the environment, removing all weapons-grade plutonium from the site and emptying leaky pools that held spent nuclear fuel just 400 yards from the river.

But successes at the site often are overshadowed by delays, budget overruns and technological challenges. Nowhere have those challenges been more apparent than in Hanford's central plateau, home to the site's third most urgent project: emptying the tanks.

Hanford's tanks hold some 53 million gallons of highly radioactive waste — enough to fill dozens of Olympic-size swimming pools — and many of those tanks are known to have leaked in the past. An estimated 1 million gallons of radioactive liquid has already leaked there.

The cornerstone of emptying the tanks is a treatment plant that will convert the waste into glasslike logs for safe, secure storage. The plant, last estimated to cost more than $12.3 billion, is billions of dollars over budget and behind schedule. It isn't expected to begin operating until at least 2019.

Washington state is imposing a "zero-tolerance" policy on radioactive waste leaking into the soil, Inslee said. So given those delays and the apparent deterioration of some of the tanks, the federal government will have to show that there is adequate storage for the waste in the meantime, he said.

"We are not convinced of this," he said. "There will be a robust exchange of information in the coming weeks to get to the bottom of this."

Inslee and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, both Democrats, have championed building additional tanks to ensure safe storage of the waste until the plant is completed.

Wyden, D-Ore., toured the site earlier this week. He said he shares the governors' concerns about the integrity of the tanks but he wants more scientific information to determine it's the correct way to spend scarce money.

Wyden noted the nation's most contaminated nuclear site — and the challenges associated with ridding it of its toxic legacy — will be a subject of upcoming hearings and a higher priority in Washington, D.C.

The federal government already spends $2 billion each year on Hanford cleanup — one-third of its entire budget for nuclear cleanup nationally. The Energy Department has said it expects funding levels to remain the same for the foreseeable future, but a new Energy Department report released this week calls for annual budgets of as much as $3.5 billion during some years of the cleanup effort.

There are legal, moral and ethical considerations to cleaning up the Hanford site at the national level, Inslee said, adding that he will continue to insist that the Energy Department completely clean up the site.

Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5i1oNq2yRwFXh6mBsheHH5pA13MXg?docId=92d750c730fb4a4f80a82810fc5c7655


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2.
Syrian Opposition Says Captures Former Nuclear Site
Khaled Yacoub Oweis
Reuters
2/24/2013
(for personal use only)


Syrian rebels have captured the site of a suspected nuclear reactor near the Euphrates river which Israeli warplanes destroyed six years ago, opposition sources in eastern Syria said on Sunday.

Al-Kubar site, around 60 km (35 miles) west of the city of Deir al-Zor, became a focus of international attention when Israel raided it in 2007. The United States said the complex was a North Korean-designed nuclear reactor geared to making weapons-grade plutonium.

Omar Abu Laila a spokesman for the Eastern Joint Command of the Free Syrian Army said the only building rebels found at the site was a hangar containing at least one Scud missile.

"It appears that the site was turned into a Scud launch base. Whatever structures it had have been buried," he said, adding that three army helicopters airlifted the last loyalist troops before opposition fighters overran the area on Friday.

The Syrian military, which razed the site after the Israeli raid, said the complex was a regular military facility but refused to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency unrestrained access, after the agency said the complex could have been a nuclear site.

The U.N. investigation appears to have died down since the national revolt against Preident Bashar al-Assad broke out in 2011, with the armed opposition increasingly capturing military sites in rural areas and on the edges of cities.

U.N. inspectors examined the site in June 2008 but Syrian authorities has barred them access since.

Abu Laila said Scuds appear to have been fired from Kubar at rebel-held areas in the province of Homs to the west.

The complex, he said, had command and control links with loyalist troops in the city of Deir al-Zor, where Assad's forces have been on the retreat and are now based mainly in and around the airport in the south of the city.

Footage showed fighters inspecting the site and one large missile inside a hangar. One fighter pointed to what he said were explosives placed under the missile to destroy it before attacking forces got to it.

Abu Hamza, a commander in the Jafaar al-Tayyar brigade, said in a YouTube video taken at Kubar that various rebel groups, including the al Qaeda linked al-Nusra front, took part the operation and that U.N. inspectors were welcome to come and survey the site.

In the last few months, opposition fighters have captured large swathes of the province of Deir al-Zor, a Sunni Muslim desert oil producing region that borders Iraq, including most of a highway along Euphrates leading to Kubar.

The province is far from the Assad's main military supply bases on the coast and in Damascus. Long-time alliances between Assad, who belongs to the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Islam, and Sunni tribes in Deir al-Zor have also largely collapsed since the revolt.

But Assad's forces remain entrenched in the south of the city of Deir al-Zor and armed convoys guarded by helicopters still reach the city from the city of Palmyra to the southwest, according to opposition sources.

Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/24/us-syria-crisis-nuclear-idUSBRE91N0A420130224


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3.
Exotic Fuel on the Move
World Nuclear News
2/22/2013
(for personal use only)


The UK's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has decided to transfer remaining stocks of nuclear fuels from the Dounreay site to Sellafield. The move will enable Dounreay's security status to be significantly downgraded.

The fuel in question is from UK nuclear research programs spanning more than four decades. Referred to as 'exotic', the fuels which contain plutonium and high-enriched uranium are potentially recyclable and are therefore not classified as waste, but require enhanced security. Around 100 tonnes of irradiated and unirradiated fuel is currently stored at Dounreay in facilities that are reaching the end of their design lives. Some 26 tonnes of this is classified as exotic.

The fuel includes around 13 tonnes of unirradiated plutonium fuels containing a total of 2 tonnes of plutonium, in the form of powders, metal coupons, pellets and pins; one tonne of unirradiated high-enriched uranium fuels in the form of oxide powders, pellets, uranium metals and alloys; and about 12 tonnes of irradiated fuel from the Prototype Fast Reactor, which operated at Dounreay from 1959 to 1977.

The NDA has been exploring two options: keeping the fuel in storage at Dounreay, in the northernmost part of Scotland, requiring the construction of new facilities and maintenance of the site's high-security status; or transferring it to the Sellafield complex in north-west England, where a larger inventory of high-security material is already stored and managed. This would enable the Dounreay exotics to be co-managed with other very similar materials, while offering security advantages, the NDA notes.

After considering the views of stakeholders and regulators, the NDA announced the choice of transfer to Sellafield as its preferred option. The material will be transferred from Dounreay to Sellafield by rail or sea, depending on the type of material being transported, with 30-40 journeys expected to take place over a period of around six years. Assuming final approvals are granted, the first transport is expected to take place around 2014-2015. Safety case and planning approvals required to implement the strategy will be executed by Sellafield and Dounreay.

The unirradiated fuels will require pre-treatment before transportation, while the irradiated fuels require special handling and transport arrangements. Dounreay will retain the highest level of security categorisation until all of the exotics have been removed from the site, after which its security status can be downgraded.

Site licensee Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL) welcomed the announcement. Alex Anderson, deputy project director for fuels and waste at Dounreay, said the decision would enable the company to refine its site closure plans."We will now work with Sellafield Sites Ltd and the NDA's own transport companies to plan and implement this decision, obtain the necessary regulatory approvals and remove the last of the nuclear fuel from the site. The safety and security of this material will be paramount throughout," Anderson promised.

The NDA has already embarked on a strategy to minimise the number of sites where such legacy materials are stored, and transportation of non-exotic Dounreay nuclear fuel to Sellafield began in December 2012.

Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/WR-Exotic_fuel_on_the_move-2202137.html


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E.  Nuclear Cooperation

1.
Finland's Fennovoima to Drop Areva from Reactor Talks
Reuters
2/24/2013
(for personal use only)


French nuclear group Areva (AREVA.PA) said it expects to be dropped from talks to supply its high-power reactor for Fennovoima as the Finnish consortium has changed its plans following the exit of its main shareholder.

The move, unconfirmed by Fennovoima, would leave Japan's Toshiba in negotiations to supply a large reactor for the site in Pyhajoki, in northern Finland.

A spokeswoman for Areva Finland said on Sunday Fennovoima had started to look at other options after its biggest shareholder, German utility E.ON, last year decided to exit the project, estimated to cost 4 to 6 billion euros ($5.3-7.9 billion).
Fennovoima's remaining owners, some 60 Finnish companies, have said they would take on E.ON's 34 percent stake, but there are still concerns over the project's financing and know-how.

Fennovoima, which was due to choose between Areva and Toshiba this year, has asked Areva to hold talks on a smaller reactor, however, the Areva Finland spokeswoman said.

"We've understood that they are continuing talks (about a large reactor) with only one potential supplier now, but we would continue negotiations about smaller-sized reactors," she told Reuters.

It was not clear what type of reactor that would be as Areva currently only builds one model, the 1,600 megawatt European Pressurized Reactor, one of the world's biggest reactors.

Areva does offer a smaller reactor, the 1,100 megawatt ATMEA reactor, in a joint venture with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, but that model has not been sold anywhere.

A Fennovoima spokeswoman said the consortium would make an announcement on Monday.

A French industrial source told Reuters in Paris that Fennovoima will announce the closure of the tender process and will start discussions with Toshiba about a high-power reactor.

The proposed Pyhajoki plant is the first reactor site to be announced after the Fukushima disaster in Japan and is aimed at providing cheap energy to Fennovoima consortium shareholders including stainless steel maker Outokumpu, retailer Kesko and units of Swedish metals firm Boliden. Production is due to start in the 2020s.

On Saturday, Rosatom said Fennovoima had also contacted the Russian state-owned company about supplying a reactor.

"The situation is not clear, with the exit of E.ON, the announcement of talks with Toshiba but also with the Russians," a spokesman for Areva France told Reuters.

Areva, with German partner Siemens, is already building a 1,600 megawatt nuclear reactor in Finland for another utility group, Teollisuuden Voima, on Olkiluoto island, some 230 km northwest of Helsinki.

The EPR that Areva is building on the Olkiluoto 3 site is years behind schedule and billions over budget and Areva and TVO are in dispute about who is to blame.

Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/24/us-areva-fennovoima-idUSBRE91N04Y20130224



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F.  Links of Interest

1.
China Builds Uranium Enrichment Centrifuge
World Nuclear News
2/25/2013
(for personal use only)
http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/ENF-China_builds_uranium_enrichment_centri..


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2.
Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons Safety and Security
Zafar Nawaz Jaspal
The Nation
2/23/2013
(for personal use only)
http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/column..


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