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Nuclear News - 2/4/2013
PGS Nuclear News, February 4, 2013
Compiled By: Pia Ulrich

A.  Iran
    1. Iran's Nuclear Advance May Be No Empty Boast: Expert, Fredrik Dahl, Reuters (2/4/2013)
    2. Iran's Salehi Says U.S. is Changing Approach to Tehran, Stephen Brown, Reuters (2/4/2013)
B.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Self-Developed Nuclear Reactor Ready for Export, Wei Tian, Peoples Daily Online  (2/2/2013)
    2. Five Designs Compete for Next Olkiluoto Build, World Nuclear News (2/1/2013)
    3. Dominion CEO Says Virginia Power Plants on Schedule, on Budget, Scott Disavino, Reuters (1/31/2013)
C.  North Korea
    1. S. Korea Expands Efforts Against Possible North Nuclear Test, Sangwon Yoon and Cynthia Kim, Bloomberg (2/4/2013)
    2. N. Korea Covers Nuclear Site to Evade Monitoring: Source, Kim Eun-jung, Yonhap News Agency (2/1/2013)
D.  Japan
    1. Prosecutors Grill Nuclear Safety Chief over Fukushima, The Japan Times (2/4/2013)
    2. Japan: Official Leaked Nuclear Report, UPI (2/2/2013)
    3. Japan Atomic Safety Rules May Keep Reactors Closed for Years, Tsuyoshi Inajima and Yuji Okada, Bloomberg Businessweek (1/31/2013)
E.  Nuclear Safety & Security
    1. U.K.’s Cleanup of Sellafield Nuclear Site Too Slow, Panel Says, Craig Stirling, Bloomberg (2/3/2013)
    2. Nuclear Reactors in India Secure, Abhinav Malhotra, The Times of India (2/3/2013)
    3. US and Russia in Nuclear Weapons Talks, The Voice of Russia (2/2/2013)
F.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Niger Wants to Renegotiate Areva Partnership Terms, Mining Weekly (2/4/2013)
    2. Belarus, Russia Sign Nuclear Security Cooperation Agreement, Energy Tribune (2/4/2013)
    3. China, Argentina Extend Nuclear Cooperation, World Nuclear News (2/4/2013)
G.  Links of Interest
    1. Are Mini-Reactors The Future Of Nuclear Power?, Ben Bradford, NPR (2/4/2014)
    2. Can Natural Gas Push Nuclear Out of Energy Market?, The Energy Collective (2/3/2013)
    3. Audit Report - The National Nuclear Security Administration's Weapons Dismantlement and Disposition Program, Department of Energy (1/31/2013)

A.  Iran

Iran's Nuclear Advance May Be No Empty Boast: Expert
Fredrik Dahl
(for personal use only)

Iran could be able to make thousands of next-generation uranium enrichment machines, according to a former chief U.N. inspector, adding credibility to Tehran's claims of technical advances in its disputed nuclear program.

As Iran and world powers prepare to resume talks aimed at easing a dispute that has raised fears of a new Middle East war [ID:nL5N0B32SJ], Tehran announced late last month it planned to install the new machines at its main enrichment plant.

The move underlined Iran's defiance of international demands to scale back the uranium enrichment which Tehran says is for civilian purposes but which could also potentially be used to make material for atom bombs.

Olli Heinonen, until 2010 a deputy director general of the U.N. nuclear agency, said Iran had started purchasing special materials needed for manufacturing new centrifuges years ago when the sanctions on the country were not as strict as now.

It was not clear how many of the upgraded centrifuges Iran aimed to put in place at its enrichment Natanz plant, which is designed for tens of thousands of machines. But the wording of a note by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to member states last week implied it could be as many as 3,000.

"There are reasons to believe that it (Iran) can manufacture those 3,000 IR-2s," Heinonen told Reuters in an email at the weekend, referring to a centrifuge which is estimated to refine uranium several times faster than those Iran operates today.

Iran has for years been trying to develop centrifuges more advanced than the erratic 1970s IR-1 model it now uses. But their introduction for full-scale production has been delayed by technical hurdles, experts and diplomats say.

They say U.N. and Western sanctions have limited Iran's access to special steel, carbon fiber and other components needed to make sophisticated centrifuges in larger numbers.

Iran, which denies Western allegations of a nuclear weapons agenda, says it is able to manufacture them domestically.

A Western diplomat in Vienna said he believed the IR-2 may be less dependent on imports than other enrichment machines.

If Iran has mastered the more modern model, it "could dash to a bomb considerably more quickly," said Cliff Kupchan, Middle East director at political risk consultancy Eurasia Group.

"Yet key questions remain about Iran's actual capability, Kupchan said in an analysis. "Tehran virtually always overstates its nuclear and military achievements."

Heinonen, a senior fellow at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, said it was unclear to what extent Iran could make the various materials needed for the new model and how much it must find abroad.

But, the veteran Finnish proliferation expert added, "Iran started to acquire them already around 2002 and 2003 when the sanctions and export controls were not yet that effective."

The new machines would also require additional manufacturing equipment, as well as other items such as valves and frequency converters which are also hard to obtain in big quantities.

"However, Iran has been able to get or manufacture itself such gear for about 15,000 IR-1s," Heinonen said.

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Iran's Salehi Says U.S. is Changing Approach to Tehran
Stephen Brown
(for personal use only)

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Monday he saw U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden's offer this weekend of bilateral dialogue between their two countries as a sign of a change in approach to Tehran by Washington.

Iran is embroiled in a long stand-off with big powers over its nuclear program. Tehran insists its atomic activity is for peaceful energy only while the United States and other powers suspect it of seeking the capability to build a nuclear weapon.

"As I have said yesterday, I am optimistic, I feel this new administration is really this time seeking to at least divert from its previous traditional approach vis-a-vis my country," Salehi told the German Council on Foreign Relations.

Salehi, who attended the Munich Security Conference at the weekend where Biden made the offer, said in Berlin that it was still very difficult for Tehran and Washington - more than 30 years after they severed relations - to trust each other.

"How do we trust again this new gesture?" he said.

Salehi said he hoped Barack Obama would keep what he said was a promise by the U.S. president to "walk away from wars ... and approaches that bring destruction, killings, bloodshed". He did not elaborate.

Negotiations between Iran and Russia, China, the United States, Britain, France and Germany over Tehran's nuclear activities have been deadlocked since a meeting last June.

European Union officials have accused Iran of dragging its feet in weeks of haggling over the date and venue for new talks.

"I think it is about time both sides really get into engagement because confrontation certainly is not the way," Salehi said in Berlin, referring to the United States.

"And another thing: this issue of the nuclear file is becoming boring," added Salehi, a physicist by training who once headed the Iranian atomic energy agency and represented his country at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The European Union said this weekend it had proposed talks in the week of February 24 which could take place in Kazakhstan. Salehi called this "good news" - but the EU said Iran has not yet accepted.

Speaking on a visit to London, Iranian former nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian said the nuclear deadlock would not be solved without a meaningful parallel dialogue between Tehran and Washington.

"I believe they should start immediately. They should put all issues on the table. They should start with issues of common interest like Afghanistan in order to create a positive momentum," he said after a speech at the Chatham House think tank.

Mousavian seemed less upbeat on the prospect of success at the Kazakhstan round of talks, citing U.N. sanctions imposed on Iran to pressure it to curb its nuclear program. "As far as they (the West) are going to keep the main sanctions, they should not expect Iran to respond with concessions," he said.

In Berlin, Salehi faced tough questioning about Iranian support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a civil war in which about 60,000 people have died.

Iran and Russia, Assad's main backers, met the Syrian opposition leader this weekend but Tehran appeared to remain convinced that Assad must not be ejected from power.

Salehi denied Iran was sending solders to help Assad, saying: "The army of Syria is big enough, they do not need fighters from outside."

Iran was only sending economic assistance, food and fuel, said the minister, adding that the Damascus government and opposition should sit down, agree a ceasefire and call free elections in which he said Assad should be free to take part.

About 100 Iranian opposition members protested outside the Berlin venue where Salehi spoke and one managed to sneak in among the diplomats, interrupting the minister with shouts of "He's a murderer!"

Salehi was asked by an Israeli newspaper correspondent if he would visit the Holocaust monument in Berlin to 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis, and what he thought of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's repeated denials that the Holocaust took place.

"Any holocaust is a human tragedy," Salehi replied, refusing to be drawn deeper on the subject.

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B.  Nuclear Energy

Self-Developed Nuclear Reactor Ready for Export
Wei Tian
Peoples Daily Online
(for personal use only)

China's self-developed nuclear reactor, known as the CAP1400, will be ready for export this year, an executive from State Nuclear Power Technology Corp said on Friday.

The design of CAP1400 is based on the AP1000 reactor made by Westinghouse Electric Co. The AP1000 is known for its third-generation nuclear technology, with higher unit efficiency than older models and an optimized layout.

China owns the intellectual property rights for the CAP1400, making it possible to export the reactor.

"The technology is under evaluation by the National Energy Bureau, and a demonstration project can be built by the end of 2013 at the earliest," said Gu Jun, president of State Nuclear Power, during a press conference in Beijing on Friday.

"Exploration of the global market for the CAP1400 will start in 2013," Gu added.

Ma Lu, vice-president of State Nuclear Power, said conditions would be mature for the technology to be exported once it gets the green light from authorities.

As market exploration will be done in cooperation with Westinghouse, the company can take the lead in the effort as it has established its advantage in the industrial chain. "But in some markets, such as South Africa, we hope that State Nuclear Power can take the initiative and promote the CAP1400," Ma said.

Jack Allen, president of Westinghouse Asia, said that a continuous partnership with State Nuclear Power is an important step to achieve mutual success.

On Tuesday, the top of the containment vessel was installed on the world's first AP1000 unit, unit 1 of the Sanmen Nuclear Power Plant in Zhejiang, marking the end of general construction works of the unit's nuclear island.

The unit is expected to be the world's first AP1000 reactor to begin operations, as soon as in 2014. All four AP1000 units in China are scheduled to be operational by 2016.

The construction of the units — two at Sanmen and two at Haiyang in Shandong province — was authorized by Westinghouse and its partner, the Shaw Group, in September 2007.

In addition to the four AP1000 reactors under construction in China, four more will also be built in the United States: two at the Vogtle site in Georgia and two at the V.C. Summer site in South Carolina.

Westinghouse and State Nuclear Power reached an agreement in 2008 to work on the development of the CAP1400 reactor, followed by a more advanced design, the CAP1700.

In December 2009, a joint venture was set up between State Nuclear Power and China Huaneng Group to build a CAP1400 reactor near Rongcheng, Shandong province. Construction is expected to start in 2013, and the reactor will start operations in 2017.

Wang Binghua, chairman of State Nuclear Power, said at the press conference on Friday that initial research on the CAP1700 will also kick off this year.

Some experts have expressed concerns over the prospects for exports of CAP1400 reactors.

Lin Boqiang, head of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, said the CAP1400 is far less recognized in the global market than the AP1000.

"While the global demand for nuclear energy remains sluggish after the Fukushima nuclear crisis in Japan, why would anyone choose new technology over an already established brand?"

Lin said that although China owns the intellectual rights for the CAP1400 — in return for opening up the domestic market to Westinghouse's AP1000 — the core technology might still be in the hands of the US company, thus Westinghouse will be able to take a share of the profits even if the CAP1400 does get overseas contracts.

According to Gu, about 90 percent of the localization of the AP1000 technology has been completed, and large parts can be completely made in Chinese factories.

"Still, China needs to build 20 to 30 CAP1400 units for its domestic market before the brand can establish its global image," Lin said.

The nation's long-term development target for nuclear power plants has shrunk compared to the one in place before the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

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Five Designs Compete for Next Olkiluoto Build
World Nuclear News
(for personal use only)

All invited bidders have submitted proposals for a new reactor at the Olkiluoto power plant, said owner TVO. The competition is between Areva, GE-Hitachi, KHNP, Mitsubishi and Toshiba.

The head of Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO), Jarmo Tanhua, said he was "contented with the dedication with which the suppliers have carried out various technical studies to ensure the plants they offer fulfil our strict requirements related to safety, constructability and reliable operation."

The company asked for nuclear units to generate 1450-1750 MWe and received submissions regarding Areva's EPR, GE-Hitachi's ESBWR, South Korea's APR1400 via a KHNP consortium, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' APWR and Toshiba's ABWR.

Next will come a competitive review process involving about 150 TVO's staff, who will assess the investment costs and different delivery methods, said Janne Mokka, who is in charge of the Olkiluoto 4 project (dubbed OL4).

TVO already operates two ABB-supplied boiling water reactors reactors from the late 1970s as well as a wind turbine at the Olkiluoto power plant on Finland's west coast. An Areva EPR unit remains under construction having suffered considerable delays. The company said it plans to submit an application to government to build the fouth unit in mid-2015, in keeping with the schedule it published around one year ago when soliciting bids.

In 2008 an environmental impact assessment by TVO concluded that a fourth reactor would have a positive effect on the local economy without causing danger to the public. Permanent residents in the area showed 55% support for expanding the power plant.

The same year, TVO applied for a government decision in principle to construct a light water reactor as the fourth unit at Olkiluoto. The government made favorable decision on that in May 2010 and parliament voted in favour a few months later.

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Dominion CEO Says Virginia Power Plants on Schedule, on Budget
Scott Disavino
(for personal use only)

"In 2012, we completed several major capital projects ... and made significant progress ... to advance the next round of projects which should sustain our growth plan through the rest of the decade," Tom Farrell, Dominion CEO, said on the company's fourth quarter earnings call.

He said construction of the 1,329-megawatt (MW) Warren County three-on-one combined cycle natural gas plant began in March of 2012. Three-on-one means three combustion turbines and one steam turbine.

All of the major components have been delivered for Warren County and two of the three combustion turbines have been installed on their foundations, Farrell said.

The $1.1 billion Warren County project, located near Front Royal, Virginia, about 70 miles west of Washington, DC, is "on time and on budget" and expected to enter service in late 2014, Farrell said.

At Brunswick County, Farrell said Dominion was also making "considerable progress" on the development of another three-on-one combined cycle gas plant, similar in size and design to Warren County.

He said the company has procured the gas and steam turbines, the agreements with the gas transportation supplier have been signed, and permitting for Brunswick County is under way.

He said Dominion executed the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for Brunswick County with Fluor Corp in July, and issued a limited notice to proceed.

Farrell said state utility regulators set a hearing date for the Brunswick County project for April 24, and a decision is expected sometime this summer.

Commercial operation of the Brunswick County plant is scheduled for 2016.

Dominion started the conversion of the 63-MW Altavista, 63-MW Southampton, and 63-MW Hopewell power stations from coal to biomass in 2012, and Farrell said all three are progressing on schedule.

He said the three biomass projects are expected to reach commercial operations on budget by the end of this year.

Dominion in August filed with the state for the proposed conversion of the 71-MW Unit 3 and 156-MW Unit 4 at Bremo from coal to natural gas.

Farrell said if the Bremo project is approved, it is expected to begin commercial operations in 2014.

As for its merchant fleet, Dominion in 2012 shut the 515-MW State Line coal plant in Indiana in March and sold it in June.

Dominion also sold the 744-MW Salem Harbor coal and oil-fired plant in Massachusetts in June.

Farrell also said the sale process for the 1,545-MW Brayton Point coal and oil plant in Massachusetts, 1,158-MW Kincaid coal plant in Illinois and the company's 50 percent interest in the 1,350-MW Elwood gas plant in Illinois is on track and should be complete by mid-year.

Farrell said Dominion would shut the 566-MW Kewaunee nuclear power plant in Wisconsin later this year as previously announced after the company was unable to find a buyer for the plant.

Dominion said previously it would shut Kewaunee as cheap natural gas from record shale production pressured power prices to decade lows across much of the country, among other things.

Finally, with the 2,103-MW Millstone nuclear plant in Connecticut, the company's CFO Mark McGettrick said since the last earnings call Dominion has increased its hedge positions from 80 percent to 82 percent for 2013, from 40 percent to 59 percent for 2014, and from 24 percent to 37 percent for 2015.

McGettrick said the company's sensitivity to a $5 move in New England power prices in 2013 is only about $0.02 per share.

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C.  North Korea

S. Korea Expands Efforts Against Possible North Nuclear Test
Sangwon Yoon and Cynthia Kim
(for personal use only)

South Korea increased its diplomatic and military efforts against a possible North Korean nuclear weapons test as the totalitarian state showed signs of moving forward with its preparations.

Arrangements for a test are “nearly complete” at the Punggye-ri nuclear site, about 370 kilometers (230 miles) northeast of Pyongyang, South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min Seok told reporters today in Seoul. The North last week covered the entrance to a tunnel at the site, where atomic devices were twice detonated in 2006 and 2009, to evade satellite monitoring, according to Yonhap News.

Signs of a possible test come as the international community increases pressure on North Korea to deter it from conducting a third atomic experiment. The United Nations Security Council last month strengthened sanctions against Kim Jong Un’s regime in a move supported by China, North Korea’s biggest benefactor.

The potential nuclear test helped send South Korean defense stocks soaring today, while the benchmark Kospi index fell 0.2 percent. Naval ship equipment maker Speco Co. (013810) rose by the daily limit of 15 percent, electronic warfare equipment maker Victek Co. (065450) gained 13.5 percent and armored vehicle manufacturer Firstec Co. (010820) added 9.7 percent.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung Hwan spoke with new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday on the phone and vowed to “firmly” deal with a North Korean nuclear weapons test and other provocations, the Foreign Ministry said today in a statement on its website.

The South’s chief nuclear negotiator Lim Sung Nam left for Beijing yesterday for a three-day visit to discuss the latest developments in North Korea with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei, according to the Foreign Ministry.

“We are concentrating our efforts on China, which is the only country that has the power to persuade the North,” Foreign Minister Kim told lawmakers today in Seoul.

The U.S. and South Korea today began joint naval exercises in waters east of the Korean peninsula. The USS San Francisco, a nuclear submarine, docked at South Korea’s southeastern naval base in Jinhae on Jan. 31 ahead of the four-day anti-submarine training, according to the Pacific Command.

The exercise comes a day after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with commanding officers of his navy, air force and the anti-air force and strategic rocket force, and called for stronger military and defense capabilities, the official Korean Central News Agency said.

Kim made an “important concluding speech” as a guideline to strengthening the North’s 1.7 millionong army, KCNA said, without further elaborating.

Another statement from KCNA yesterday said North Korea will carry out “merciless retaliation” against those opposed to the regime, repeating language used when the foreign ministry accused the U.S. of a double standard. The U.S. would face the “toughest retaliation” for criticizing North Korea’s rocket launch while supporting one by South Korea, the foreign ministry said on Feb. 2 in a statement carried by KCNA.

The UN Security Council on Jan. 22 tightened sanctions against North Korea after the nation launched a rocket in December. North Korea’s National Defense Commission threatened to conduct a nuclear test “of higher level” in response, according to a statement carried by KCNA on Jan. 24.

The UN agency that detects and reports on nuclear-weapon explosions is prepared to verify a successful North Korean atomic explosion the day it occurs, Annika Thunborg, a spokeswoman for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, told journalists on Jan. 29.

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N. Korea Covers Nuclear Site to Evade Monitoring: Source
Kim Eun-jung
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

North Korea has covered the entrance to one of the tunnels at an underground nuclear site in an apparent effort to avoid satellite monitoring as the communist nation makes final preparations for an imminent nuclear test, intelligence sources said Friday.

The latest move comes as South Korea and the United States are mobilizing intelligence assets, including spy satellites, to detect early signs of a third atomic test in Punggye-ri in the North's northeastern tip. The sprawling nuclear test site in mountainous terrain has three known tunnel entrances and multiple support buildings.

"Analysis showed a camouflage net looking like a roof was placed on the tunnel entrance," a source said, requesting anonymity, as he is not allowed to discuss military information. "The move seems to be aimed at keeping nuclear test preparations near their completion from being exposed outside."

Another source, who also requested anonymity due to sensitivity of the issue, said the cover may be aimed at confusing outside watchers before detonating the nuclear device.

"It seems like a disturbing tactic, similar to one that was used when the North prepared for a long-range rocket in December last year," the source said.

Days before the Dec. 12 rocket launch, Pyongyang placed a camouflage net on a launch pad in its northwestern tip and assembled the three-stage rocket with the cover on, a move interpreted as evading spy satellites.

Citing satellite imagery that shows increased activity near the site, Seoul officials have been placed on high alert to cope with a third nuclear test, which could further escalate tensions in the region.

"North Korea has come to a level to be able to detonate a nuclear device any time if the leadership makes a decision," Wi Yong-seop, a defense ministry official said in a briefing. "Forces of South Korea and the U.S. are closely monitoring North Korea's preparations."

Pyongyang detonated nuclear devices at the Punggye-ri test site in 2006 and 2009, following long-range rocket launches.

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D.  Japan

Prosecutors Grill Nuclear Safety Chief over Fukushima
The Japan Times
(for personal use only)

In a possible prelude to criminal charges, prosecutors have questioned Haruki Madarame, former chief of the now-dissolved Nuclear Safety Commission, about delays in announcing radiation fallout data when the Fukushima crisis began and the failure to protect power plants against tsunami, news reports said Sunday.

Madarame was responsible for giving the government technical advice on the crisis, NHK quoted sources as saying. He appeared voluntarily for questioning and was apparently asked to explain how he dealt with the disaster, the public broadcaster said.

Fukushima residents have filed a criminal complaint with prosecutors against Madarame on suspicion of professional negligence that resulted in deaths and injuries.

The complaint alleges that Madarame was responsible for delaying the public release of computerized projections that showed how radioactive fallout from the meltdowns might spread, the NHK report said.

It also reportedly faults him for failing to take the steps necessary to shield the plant against the tsunami that triggered the meltdowns in the first place.

NHK said prosecutors have also questioned executives of plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., including former Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, but expert observers say it was far from clear if any individuals could be charged over the disaster, which tainted wide swaths of the agriculturally productive prefecture.

A report last July by a Diet investigation panel said Fukushima was a man-made disaster caused by Japan’s culture of “reflexive obedience.” Tepco has admitted it played down known tsunami risks for fear of the political, financial and reputational damage.

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Japan: Official Leaked Nuclear Report
(for personal use only)

An official who gave a report to a nuclear power plant operator on geological faults at the plant has been booted from Japan's nuclear agency, officials said.

The Nuclear Regulatory Agency said Tetsuo Nayuki, 54, will return to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, where he previously worked, Kyodo News reported.

Officials said Friday Nayuki was reprimanded for giving a draft copy of the report to Japan Atomic Power, which operates the Tsuruga nuclear plant.

Officials say Nayuki handed over the document during a meeting Jan. 22, an action ascribed to carelessness.

"It is extremely regrettable that a senior official did such a thing. It was a thoughtless act, because we should be especially careful when having contact with parties subject to regulations and should be transparent in the exchanges," NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said in a statement.

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Japan Atomic Safety Rules May Keep Reactors Closed for Years
Tsuyoshi Inajima and Yuji Okada
Bloomberg Businessweek
(for personal use only)

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority approved safety standards for atomic power plants that may require years of reinforcement work for some reactors idled after the Fukushima disaster.

Nuclear power plants will need to build secondary control centers at least 100 meters from reactor buildings to manage emergency cooling systems and radiation filter vents, according to the rules. They also stipulate tougher tsunami defenses.

All but two of Japan’s 50 reactors are idled for safety assessments after a record earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11, 2011, caused meltdowns and radiation leaks at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima plant. The NRA was set up after Fukushima to provide reviews independent of the trade and industry ministry that oversees nuclear power.

“Some plants may have to undergo large reconstruction” to meet NRA requirements, Tomoko Murakami, a nuclear analyst at the Institute of Energy Economics Japan, said by phone today. For those sites, “it may take several years before they can restart.”

A group of scientists led by Toyoshi Fuketa, the regulatory agency’s commissioner, approved the requirements today in Tokyo, said Tatsuya Taguchi, an NRA official who attended the meeting. The rules will be implemented in July after inviting public comment, according to the NRA.

Earlier this week, another NRA panel led by Kunihiko Shimazaki, a seismologist and agency commissioner, approved rules for assessing earthquake and tsunami risk.

Currently, power companies are required to assess geological faults using rock and earth samples from the last 120,000 to 130,000 years, or the Late Pleistocene era. The new rules require investigation of faults going back 400,000 years if study of Late Pleistocene geology is inconclusive.

The NRA is investigating quake faults under nuclear plants owned by Kansai Electric Power Co., Tohoku Electric Power Co., Japan Atomic Power Co., Hokuriku Electric Power Co. (9505), and Japan Atomic Energy Agency. The widened definition may prompt the regulator to investigate faults under other nuclear power plants, Murakami said.

Geological faults under Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant, the world’s biggest, could be judged active, Kyodo News reported last week, citing the NRA’s earlier draft of the safety rules.

Restarting the Kashiwazaki Kariwa reactors is key to reviving Tokyo Electric, which was taken over by the government because costs stemming from the Fukushima disaster threatened it with bankruptcy.

On tsunami defenses, utilities must estimate tsunami risk based on the latest scientific assessments, according to rules approved by the Shimazaki panel. Tsunami defenses such as seawalls and watertight doors must be able to withstand the largest estimated tsunami, under the rules.

After Fukushima, it was revealed Tokyo Electric’s own research showed the plant could be hit by a tsunami more than 10 meters (33 feet) high, while its defensive seawall was only 5.6 meters high. The March 11 tsunami that wrecked the plant reached 13 meters.

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E.  Nuclear Safety & Security

Nuclear Reactors in India Secure
Abhinav Malhotra
The Times of India
(for personal use only)

A survey of the existing nuclear reactors was done in India and it was observed that they are completely secure. The upcoming reactors will have more safety measures", said Dr PD Krishnani while talking to mediapersons at IIT-Kanpur on Saturday. Krishnani had come to attend the Severe Accident Analysis and Management, a three day long symposium organised by IIT-Kanpur on its campus.

He also informed that a range of seven kilometer from a nuclear reactor is affected due to radiation but beyond that there is no affect as several safety measures are being adopted. Dr VS Krishnan who had come to IIT-Kanpur from Canada said that the nuclear countries, be it India or Canada, have good safety standards at the nuclear reactors. He said that it's good to see the country's best and most qualified people are handling and operating the reactors. "Capable people like scientists and technical staff ease the job of operating nuclear reactors ", said Krishnan while talking to media persons.

During the symposium, the speakers also highlighted that it is a misunderstanding amongst people that commissioning of nuclear reactors will cause radiation. The speakers also stressed upon the fact the need of the hour is to ensure that in case of an earthquake or any other natural calamity, radiation emission should not cause any harm. The design of the reactors should be such that they can bear the earthquakes of higher magnitude. The nuclear reactors in the years to come will be a major source of power generation as already more than 5,000 megawatts of power is being generated from the existing plants.

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U.K.’s Cleanup of Sellafield Nuclear Site Too Slow, Panel Says
Craig Stirling
(for personal use only)

The U.K.’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority isn’t showing enough urgency in completing the cleanup of radioactive waste at its Sellafield facility in the north of England, a panel of lawmakers said.

“It is unclear how long it will take,” Margaret Hodge, a lawmaker from the opposition Labour Party who chairs the Public Accounts Committee, said in an e-mailed statement. “It is essential that the authority brings a real sense of urgency to its oversight of Sellafield so that the timetable for reducing risks does not slip further and costs do not continue to escalate.”

Hodge’s panel of lawmakers released a report today in which it said it’s “implausible” that the authority can’t speed up construction of an underground storage facility at the site for nuclear waste, which is currently slated to take another 27 years. The total cost of decommissioning Sellafield has now reached 67.5 billion pounds ($106 billion).

“Successive governments have failed to get to grips with this critical problem,” Hodge said. “A solution to the problem of long-term storage of the waste is as far away as ever.”

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US and Russia in Nuclear Weapons Talks
The Voice of Russia
(for personal use only)

The US and Russia may begin a new round of talks over the reduction of strategic nuclear weapons, according to media reports. US Vice-President Biden is meeting Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov at the Munich Conference this weekend.

A source close to the Russian Defence Ministry said the US will propose negotiations on tactical nuclear weapons, a sharp reduction of which is "unprofitable" for Russia.

However, if the number of warheads is reduced to 1,000, the negotiations will have to involve China, France and Britain in the nuclear disarmament negotiations over stored, but not deployed US weapons.

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F.  Nuclear Cooperation

Belarus, Russia Sign Nuclear Security Cooperation Agreement
Energy Tribune
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Energy Minister of Belarus Alexander Ozerets and Director General of the Russian state corporation for nuclear energy Rosatom Sergei Kiriyenko signed an intergovernmental agreement on nuclear security cooperation between Belarus and Russia on 1 February, BelTA has learnt.

“The construction of the nuclear power plant is not just the issue of construction. It is a big issue related to the personnel training and absolute compliance with the international requirements of openness and transparency, IAEA requirements. We are building here the safest and most advanced nuclear power plant meeting all post-Fukushima requirements. The agreement signed today is one of the brightest examples of cooperation of the states in nuclear and radiation security taking into account new requirements that emerged following the Fukushima disaster,” Sergei Kiriyenko said commenting on the signed agreement.

The draft agreement on cooperation in nuclear security was approved in late 2012. The agreement envisages various cooperation forms, including the development of the nuclear security infrastructure, security regulation systems, development and improvement of the existing legal framework taking into account the IAEA requirements and norms, development of the crisis center network in Belarus, training of specialists in nuclear security.

The first document regarding the preparation to the NPP construction in Belarus was signed in Minsk on 28 May 2009. it is the Belarusian-Russian intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the peaceful use of atomic energy. This framework document stipulates the main areas of cooperation in the development, designing, construction and exploitation of the nuclear power plant, supplies of nuclear fuel, ensuring of nuclear and radiation security as well as the issues of scientific cooperation and the training of the personnel.

The next step was the signing of the contractual agreement on the NPP construction in October 2011. The document envisages the construction of power generating units No.1 and No.2 in Belarus. The document was signed by Atomstroyexport (Russia), the company of the state corporation Rosatom, and the NPP Construction Directorate (Belarus). On 18 July 2012 Belarus and Russia signed the general contract on the construction of the Belarusian NPP. The genera contract defines the obligations and responsibilities of the parties, the timing of the project, its estimated cost up to 2020, payment terms, delivery of equipment, organization of construction, commissioning of the units and other conditions.

In November 2011 the sides signed an intergovernmental agreement on the allocation of the Russian state export loan of up to $10 billion to Belarus. In December 2012 the board of the Russian Vnesheconombank (VEB) approved the opening of the $500 million credit line for the Finance Ministry of Belarus to provide advance payments for the NPP construction works.

Russia is ready to provide Belarus with a soft long-term state loan of $10 billion for 25 years.

The construction of the nuclear plant will enable Belarus to replace nearly 5 billion cubic meters of imported natural gas annually, cut the cost of electricity, reduce carbon footprint by about 10.7 million tonnes, and significantly improve the country’s energy security.

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China, Argentina Extend Nuclear Cooperation
World Nuclear News
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Both agreements were signed in Buenos Aires on 29 January by utility Nucleoeléctrica Argentina SA and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) in the presence of Argentine federal planning minister Julio de Vido, Chinese ambassador Yin Hengmin and CNNC president Mao Xiaoming.

Under the first agreement, Nucleoeléctrica and CNNC will cooperate on issues related to reactor pressure tubes, including engineering, fabrication, operation and maintenance. It will also cover the manufacture and storage of nuclear fuel, licensing, life extension and technological advances. This agreement is aimed at both operating and future nuclear power plant projects.

The second agreement calls for the transfer of Chinese technology to Argentina. Under the accord, Argentina could act as a technology platform, supplying third countries with nuclear technology incorporating Chinese goods and services.

In addition, the CNNC delegation presented technical and financial aspects of its CAP-1000 reactor, which is one of several designs being considered for Argentina's fourth nuclear power reactor.
The signing of the two agreements follows a July 2012 nuclear cooperation accord between Argentina and China involving studies for a fourth nuclear power plant, financed by China, and in transfer of fuel fabrication and other technology.

Argentina has two operating power reactors, one at Atucha and the other at Embalse. A second unit at Atucha is nearing completion. Work began on this in 1981 but was suspended due to lack of funds in the 1990s before resuming in 2006. All three units are pressurized heavy-water reactors (PHWRs). Embalse is a 600 MWe Candu-6, while the Atucha units are a Siemens design unique to Argentina.

Government plans call for the construction of a fourth unit and a feasibility study has already been conducted. In July 2007, Nucleoeléctrica signed an agreement with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) to establish contract and project terms for construction of a 740 MWe gross Enhanced Candu 6 reactor, as well as completing Atucha 2. A further 740 MWe Enhanced Candu 6 unit was proposed. However, the government has also been talking with reactor vendors from France, Russia, Japan, South Korea, China and the USA, suggesting that the choice of reactor design may not be certain. A final decision on Atucha 3 is pending completion of Atucha 2.

In September 2007, AECL signed a memorandum of understanding with Nucleoeléctrica and CNNC to conduct a joint study for cooperation in the design, manufacture, construction and operation of Candu nuclear power reactors on future projects in Argentina, Canada and China. In addition, CNNC and Nucleoeléctrica agreed to strengthen cooperation in sharing and exchanging their Candu 6 reactor operational and maintenance experience.

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Niger Wants to Renegotiate Areva Partnership Terms
Mining Weekly
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Niger wants to renegotiate the terms of its uranium mining partnership with French nuclear group Areva and is looking for other partner countries, its president told French channel TV5 Monde on Sunday.

Mahamadou Issoufou said in an interview that the uranium deal with Areva generates just €100-million a year for Niger and that he wanted a fairer deal for the dirt-poor African country.

"This represents just 5% of our budget, it's not acceptable. That's why I have asked to re-equilibrate the terms of the deal between Areva and Niger," he said.

Issoufou declined to disclose the new terms Niger is seeking from its French partner. "Discussions are under way, they are not over yet," he said.

Issoufu added he would welcome other uranium mining investors, in addition to France.

When asked about an eventual interest by China in the sector, he said: "Our objective is to diversify our uranium mining partners."

"There is no reason … to exclude other countries that wish to cooperate with us," he added, without naming any potential partners.

A spokesperson for Areva declined to comment.

Areva has been mining uranium in Niger for around four decades and is the country's biggest single investor.

It runs two uranium mines in the country and is building a new mining project, in Imouraren, meant to boost Niger's uranium output and make it the world's second-largest exporter of the nuclear fuel. It also mines uranium in Canada and Kazakhstan.

Areva has not yet published 2012 profit figures (they are due on February 28), but 2012 revenue figures released last week showed that its uranium mining business revenue rose 5.5% to €1.36-billion.

In 2011, Areva's mining division's operating income rose to €287-million from €204-million in 2010, thanks to higher uranium prices and better cost control.

In 2011, Areva's mining division produced 8 709 t of uranium, with roughly one third each from Niger, Canada and Kazakhstan, although precise data for 2011 were not immediately available.

In 2010, when the firm produced 9 400 t of uranium, 3 400 t came from Kazakhstan, 3 200 t from Niger and 2 800 t from Canada, company data showed.

The new Niger mine, in Imouraren, would produce 5 000 t of uranium a year.

Niger has long complained that it has failed to reap benefits from its uranium wealth.

Niger is one of the ten poorest countries in the world, with most people living on less than $1 a day.

The United Nations and the World Bank estimate Niger's 2011 GDP at just over $6-billion, or €4.4-billion, which is less than half Areva's €9.34-billion 2012 revenue.

Last month, a Niger presidency official told Reuters that Areva had agreed to pay Niger €35-million in compensation for delays to its Imouraren project in the north of the desert country.

He had also said that Niger would renegotiate all its mining agreements with Areva this year and that there would be political negotiations with France about uranium.

The mine's start-up was delayed from 2012 after seven people working for Areva and a unit of French construction group Vinci were kidnapped in 2010 in the town of Arlit in Niger's northern uranium mining zone. Three were later released.

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G.  Links of Interest

Are Mini-Reactors The Future Of Nuclear Power?
Ben Bradford
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Can Natural Gas Push Nuclear Out of Energy Market?
The Energy Collective
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Audit Report - The National Nuclear Security Administration's Weapons Dismantlement and Disposition Program
Department of Energy
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