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Nuclear News - 3/14/2013
PGS Nuclear News, March 14, 2013
Compiled By: Pia Ulrich

A.  Nuclear Safety & Security
    1. Nuclear Stress Tests: EP Urges Full Implementation of Safety Improvements, European Parliament (3/14/2013)
    2. Iran: Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant Taken Off Line, Associated Press (3/13/2013)
    3. Ukraine Receives EUR 600 Million for Nuclear Safety, PRNewswire (3/13/2013)
    4. Kudankulam: IAEA Chief Pitches for Transparency, Business Standard (3/11/2013)
B.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Leningrad 1 Decision Before Year End, World Nuclear News (3/11/2013)
    2. New Nuclear Reactor for Maryland Rejected, Ben Wolfgang, The Washington Times (3/11/2013)
C.  North Korea
    1. U.S. Intelligence Chief ‘Very Concerned’ on North Korea, Terry Atlas & Sangwon Yoon, Bloomberg (3/12/2013)
    2. No "Smoking Gun" from North Korean Nuclear Test, Fredrik Dahl, Reuters (3/12/2013)
D.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. S. Korea, U.S. Stuck in Struggle for Nuclear Energy Deal, Lee Chi-dong, Yonhap News Agency (3/14/2013)
    2. Temelín Bidder Consortium MIR.1200 Signs Contracts with Czech Companies, Prague Daily Monitor (3/14/2013)
    3. Japan Urged to Send Out Global SOS over No. 1 Plant, Eric Johnston, The Japan Times (3/14/2013)
E.  Links of Interest
    1. EU Countries Defend Nuclear's Climate Role, World Nuclear News (3/13/2013)
    2. Drones To Be Deployed As Nuclear Fallout Detectors, Jeff McMahon, Forbes (3/13/2013)
    3. World's First Conceptual Nuclear Reactor Design of High Plutonium Breeding by Light-Water Cooling, PennEnergy (3/12/2013)
    4. Nuclear Reactor Operators Must Be Financially Liable for Disasters, The Guardian (3/11/2013)

A.  Nuclear Safety & Security

Nuclear Stress Tests: EP Urges Full Implementation of Safety Improvements
European Parliament
(for personal use only)

All the safety improvements recommended following stress tests on the EU's nuclear reactors must be carried out urgently, say MEPs in a resolution adopted on Thursday. They also insist that nuclear plant operators must pay for these improvements and bear all the costs for which they are liable in the event of an accident.

Amalia Sartori (EPP, IT), chair of the energy committee and author of the oral question to the Commission debated on Monday, asked which of the stress test findings would be incorporated into the upcoming review of the Nuclear Safety Directive and called for a clear indication of the timing and content of proposals for binding legislation on nuclear insurance and liability.

"The stress tests did show that practically all nuclear power plants need to implement site‑specific safety improvements," says Parliament, which is pressing for the urgent implementation of the necessary upgrade measures.

MEPs want the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) to have a leading role in monitoring the implementation of the recommendations, while stressing that "whatever the costs of such improvements they must be borne entirely by the nuclear operators and not by the taxpayer".

Parliament welcomes the upcoming revision of the Nuclear Safety Directive which should be "ambitious in nature" and lead to major improvements. It also welcomes the Commission's plans for "legislative and non-legislative instruments" for nuclear insurance and liability, while stressing that nuclear operators and waste licensees should be required to have "alll financial means in place, through insurance and other financial instruments to enable them to fully cover all costs for which they are liable in respect of damage caused to people and the environment in the event of an accident.

The text underlines that the stress tests were "limited in scope" and did not extend to off-site emergency preparedness despite the importance of limiting the impact of potential nuclear accidents on the population. It notes that in the EU, 47 nuclear power plants with 111 reactors have more than 100 000 inhabitants living within 30 km.

An amendment adopted by 315 votes to 282 highlights that stress tests are "incomplete" and risks such as secondary events, material deterioration, human errors, and specific flews inside the reactor vessels were not taken into account. The text says that "even if it is successful a stress tests will not guarantee the safety of a nuclear power plant."

The non-binding resolution was adopted by 414 votes to 116, with 83 abstentions.

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Iran: Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant Taken Off Line
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

Iran's vice president says the Bushehr nuclear power plant has been disconnected from the country's electricity grid because of a mechanical problem.

Fereidoun Abbasi, vice president and head of Iran's nuclear agency, said there was a problem with the power plant's generator, according to the official IRNA news agency Wednesday.

Abbasi said the Bushehr nuclear power plant is still in the experimental stage, and such malfunctions can be expected. He said Russian contractors have brought in equipment to fix the generator, and it is expected to be back in operation in a few days.

The West has imposed stiff sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, suspecting it might be aiming for nuclear weapons production. Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes, like generating electricity.

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Ukraine Receives EUR 600 Million for Nuclear Safety
(for personal use only)

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will provide a EUR 300 million loan for the comprehensive program of upgrading operating Ukrainian nuclear power plants. In addition to EBRD's loan, the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) will contribute another EUR 300 million to the project, reads

The comprehensive program comprises of a set of measures, which will bring Ukraine's operating nuclear reactors in compliance with international standards as well as with local regulations. The total upgrade, provisioned by the program, will cost EUR 1.4 billion and is scheduled for completion by late 2017.

"It is of the utmost importance that the nuclear units are working to the highest, internationally recognized standards, as nuclear safety is clearly an issue that transcends borders. All 15 nuclear units in Ukraine are of a similar design (VVER 1000 and VVER 440/213), which are in operation in some EU member states, and the safety level of the units can be upgraded to reach internationally accepted standards," reads the statement, released by the EBRD.

The EBRD loan comes as a result of the successful cooperation between the Bank, Euratom and Ukraine in raising safety at the Khmelnitsky (2) and Rivne (4) nuclear power plant units built between 2004 and 2009. The extended comprehensive program, partially financed by EBRD and Euratom, is to ensure that the remaining units are upgraded to the desirable level.

"It is a responsibility of an organization like ours to ensure that energy is not only delivered in an affordable way, but that it is delivered in the safest way possible. We all know that nuclear energy is the kind of energy where we cannot afford a mistake," commented EBRD Managing Director, Energy and Natural Resources Riccardo Puliti on the bank's involvement in the program in Ukraine.

The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine earlier approved Energoatom's [Ukraine's National Nuclear Energy Generating Company] involving the loan in the amount of EUR 600 million from EBRD and Euratom in order to implement the comprehensive program on nuclear safety. "We had a due diligence of Energoatom's capacity to implement the project in the right time. And we are very satisfied… And of course, we will continue monitoring," stated Riccardo Puliti.

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Kudankulam: IAEA Chief Pitches for Transparency
Business Standard
(for personal use only)

As India works towards commissioning the Kudankulam atomic power plants, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano today pitched for transparency and sharing of information to ensure safety in use of nuclear power.

"Transparency is needed. We should not hide anything. We need to share information and do everything that is humanly possible for the safety of the use of nuclear power," he told reporters here after delivering the Indian Nuclear Society Silver Jubilee lecture in Mumbai on 'IAEA Perspectives on Future of Nuclear Energy' here.

He was responding to questions on the issues of safety at Kudankulam and the proposed Jaitapur nuclear project in the backdrop of the Fukushima accident, the second anniversary of which falls today.

"We have learnt a very important lesson from the Fukushima incident," he said and underlined the importance of a strong nuclear regulator.

"It (nuclear regulator) should be robust and independent and have oversight over the utilities and the industry," said Amano, who began his five-day visit to India today.

He said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has a concrete plan for safety and it has to be implemented to restore confidence.

The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited is in the final stages of commissioning the 1,000 MW atomic power plant at Kudankulam. Work on the plant, built with Russian collaboration, was delayed due to eight-month long protests over issues related to safety.

Amano is in India at the invitation of Atomic Energy Commission Chairman R K Sinha. He is expected to hold discussions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and other officials on Wednesday.

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B.  Nuclear Energy

Leningrad 1 Decision Before Year End
World Nuclear News
(for personal use only)

Rosatom head Sergei Kiriyenko praised work to develop technical solutions to enable the world's oldest RBMK reactor to continue generating during a visit to Leningrad 1. The fate of the unit will be made clear by 1 November.

The 925 MWe unit, in commercial operation since 1974, has been off line since May 2012 because of deformation of its graphite moderator. Work is currently under way at the plant to investigate whether it will be feasible to bring the unit back into operation. Russian contractor Titan-2 has been carrying out preparatory work towards the restoration of the graphite stack since February. The work will involve the replacement of up to 350 process channels, according to Titan-2.

The main phase of development work towards resolving the issue is due to be completed by the summer, and Kiriyenko said that solutions would be applied by the second half of October. A final decision on the plant's future would then be made by 1 November. Kiriyenko promised that safety would remain the priority. The solutions that had already been developed were without parallel in either the Russian or world nuclear industry, Kiriyenko said.

The RBMK is a light water-cooled reactor with individual fuel channels surrounded by the graphite blocks that form the reactor's moderator. Each channel is individually cooled by pressurised water which is allowed to boil in the tube. The design had serious shortcomings which contributed to the 1986 Chernobyl accident. After this, measures were implemented to improve safety and RBMKs continued to operate in Russia, Lithuania and Ukraine. All of the 11 RBMKs remaining in operation today are in Russia, including the four units at Leningrad. Two VVER 1200 pressurized water reactors are under construction at a second Leningrad site, the first of which is due to enter service later this year.

Russian nuclear plant operator Rosenergoatom is to investigate the graphite stacks at all of its RBMKs this year, so the development work being carried out at Leningrad 1 will be of relevance to the rest of the RBMK stable.

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New Nuclear Reactor for Maryland Rejected
Ben Wolfgang
The Washington Times
(for personal use only)

Plans to build a third reactor at southern Maryland’s Calvert Cliffs were halted — perhaps permanently — on Monday as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission upheld its earlier decision to reject the project.

Based primarily on the fact that the applicant’s parent company is 85 percent owned by the French government, the commission once again denied UniStar Nuclear Operating Service’s proposal to build and operate the reactor at the site near Lusby.

Built in the 1970s, Calvert Cliffs is Maryland’s lone nuclear power plant and the only one in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area.

Unistar’s plan initially was denied last summer by the commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board; that decision was upheld Monday by the agency’s five commissioners.

Critics of the project quickly held up Monday’s decision as a victory in their much larger fight to turn the U.S. away from nuclear power.

The ruling comes just days after Maryland lawmakers approved a plan to build a massive offshore wind farm, leading opponents of nuclear power to cast the state as leading the way on alternative energy.

“Maryland already has moved on. With this decision, Maryland’s future is clear: It will be based on clean renewable power, not dirty, dangerous and expensive nuclear reactors,” said Michael Mariotte, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, which has long opposed the project.

Critics also pointed out that Monday’s denial came on the second anniversary of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan. The meltdown was responsible for pushing nations such as Germany away from nuclear power and toward renewables.

“This decision could not be more timely,” said Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Oversight Project at Beyond Nuclear, an environmental advocacy group based in Maryland.

The key reason for the NRC denial can be traced to UniStar’s parent, the massive French company Electricite de France, which is 85 percent owned by the French government.

With nuclear power generating more than three quarters of its electricity, France relies on the fuel more than any other nation.

But U.S. law — specifically, the 1954 Atomic Energy Act — prohibits foreign ownership of U.S. nuclear reactors, meaning an American company would have to step up and invest heavily in the project or the NRC would have to rewrite its rules.

The commissioners signaled that they may be willing to do the latter, something UniStar and other nuclear power proponents continue to push for.

“We agree that, with the passage of time since the agency first issued substantive guidance on the foreign ownership [issue] a reassessment is appropriate,” they wrote in their seven-page decision.

The commissioners also said they’ll reconsider the application if and when an American company joins the project.

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C.  North Korea

No "Smoking Gun" from North Korean Nuclear Test
Fredrik Dahl
(for personal use only)

A month after North Korea's nuclear test, a monitoring agency said on Tuesday it was highly unlikely to find any "smoking gun" radioactive traces from the blast, potentially leaving important questions about the device unresolved.

The lack of this kind of telltale scientific evidence would likely make it hard to determine what fissile material was used in the isolated Asian state's third nuclear test, which was detected by seismic monitors.

"Without detecting radioisotopes it will indeed be impossible to distinguish" between a device with highly enriched uranium as the fissile core and one with plutonium, said nuclear expert James Acton of the Carnegie Endowment think-tank.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which has a global network of monitoring stations designed to pick up radioactive traces emitted from tests, said it had yet to find any such signs.

"It is very unlikely that we will register anything ... at this late stage," CTBTO spokeswoman Annika Thunborg said.

Thunborg did not give details, but the failure to detect radioactive particles could indicate that North Korea managed to prevent any such release from the February 12 underground explosion.

The test-ban treaty was negotiated in the 1990s but has not taken effect because some holders of nuclear technology have not yet ratified it, including the United States and China.

But the organization already monitors possible breaches, deploying more than 270 stations worldwide to look out for signs of atomic tests, including seismic waves and radioactive traces.

It can take weeks to pick up radioactive so-called noble gases, depending on the weather.

"We are confident that the system works very well," Thunborg said. A senior CTBTO official last month said the "smoking gun" of any nuclear test would be the detection of radionuclide traces.

North Korea's third test yielded a stronger blast than its previous explosion four years ago, and Pyongyang said it had made progress in miniaturizing an atomic weapon.

While estimates of the explosive power of the latest test vary, most officials and experts estimate it was at least five kilotons, which is still smaller than the power of the atomic bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima in World War Two.

U.S. nuclear expert Siegfried Hecker said the February test would allow North Korea to eventually make smaller nuclear weapons to mount on missiles, but that it would not fundamentally change the security threat Pyongyang poses.

It "has very little plutonium and highly enriched uranium, limited nuclear test experience, and limited success in testing its long-range missiles," he said in a New York Times article co-written with political science professor Scott Sagan.

In its 2006 and 2009 tests, North Korea is believed to have used plutonium. It abandoned plutonium production six years ago, following international pressure, but later acknowledged that it had built facilities to produce enriched uranium, which can also be used in bombs if refined to a high degree.

Without the trace evidence, however, U.S. and allied officials have said it would be very difficult to determine whether the latest test involved a plutonium or uranium core.

Experts say plutonium, a by-product of nuclear reactors, can be difficult to use as bomb material because specifications have to be precise. It would be easy for North Korea to make large quantities of highly enriched uranium.

Despite the lack radioactive traces, Carnegie's Acton and others said they were still confident that it had been a nuclear test, because of the magnitude of the blast.

"The North Korean device was definitely nuclear. The size of the explosion was far too large to be conventional," Yale University geology professor Jeffrey Park said.

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U.S. Intelligence Chief ‘Very Concerned’ on North Korea
Terry Atlas & Sangwon Yoon
(for personal use only)

North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs pose a “serious threat” to the U.S. and its allies in Asia, according to U.S. intelligence agencies in an unclassified worldwide threat assessment.
Presenting the report to the Senate intelligence committee yesterday, Director of National IntelligenceJames Clapper said he is “very concerned” about the actions of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and the “very belligerent” rhetoric that has been emanating from his regime.

His testimony comes as tensions on the Korean peninsula are at the highest since at least 2010, with North Korea threatening nuclear strikes and withdrawing from the 1953 armistice ending the Korean War.

“The rhetoric, while it is propaganda laced, is also an indicator of their attitude and perhaps their intent,” Clapper told the committee. “So, for my part, I am very concerned about what they might do.” The North is capable of initiating “a provocative action against the South,” he said.

North Korea is combat-ready with strategic rockets and “diversified surgical nuclear strike mechanisms,” the state- run Rodong Sinmun newspaper said March 11.

There’s no evidence yet that Kim’s regime has nuclear-armed ballistic missiles to target the U.S. and South Korea. There’s also no public information on whether the North has been able to covertly advance beyond testing to weaponizing a nuclear device.

North Korea does have a large, non-nuclear force “held in check by the more powerful South Korean-U.S. military alliance,” according to the intelligence agencies’ report. “Nevertheless, the North Korean military is well postured to conduct limited attacks with little or no warning, such as the 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship and the artillery bombardment of a South Korean island along the Northern Limit Line.”

Earlier this week, U.S. National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon called North Korea’s threats of preemptive nuclear strikes “hyperbolic.”

“North Korea’s claims may be hyperbolic -- but as to the policy of the United States, there should be no doubt. We will draw upon the full range of our capabilities to protect against, and to respond to, the threat posed to us and to our allies by North Korea,” he said in a March 11 speech to the Asia Society in New York.

President Barack Obama’s administration, while open to talks with North Korea, “will not play the game of accepting empty promises or yielding to threats,” Donilon said.

New South Korean President Park Geun Hye plans to meet with Obama at the White House in early May to discuss the North Korean threat and mark the 60th anniversary of the alliance, Park spokesman Yoon Chang Jung told reporters yesterday in Seoul.

The Kim regime successfully fired a long-range rocket in December and detonated underground what it described as a “smaller and light” nuclear device two months later, both in defiance of the United Nations Security Council.

Satellite images from as recently as early this month show no preparations under way for a rocket launch in the next month at either of two test facilities, according to research published yesterday by the 38 North website of the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.

North Korea’s rocket tests show its “commitment to develop long-range missile technology that could pose a direct threat to the United States,” according to the U.S. intelligence agencies’ report.

The U.S. intelligence community has long assessed that North Korea’s nuclear ambitions are for “deterrence, international prestige, and coercive diplomacy,” according to the report.

“Although we assess with low confidence that the North would only attempt to use nuclear weapons against U.S. forces or allies to preserve the Kim regime, we do not know what would constitute, from the North’s perspective, crossing that threshold,” according to the report.

South Korea’s won closed near a four-month low against the dollar on rising tensions. The benchmark Kospi Index (KOSPI) fell 0.5 percent to 1,933.34.

North Korea may be holding as many as 200,000 political prisoners in camps with enforced labor where conditions are “dire” and “horrid,” Marzuki Darusman, the UN’s special rapporteur on the human-rights situation in North Korea, told reporters in Geneva yesterday. “These camps have the purpose of driving the people detained there toward a slow death,” he said.

Those and other actions by the regime, including torture and mass starvation, may constitute crimes against humanity, Darusman told the UN Human Rights Council. He urged the UN to create an independent commission to place responsibility for the abuses.

While North Korea has cut the border phone line before, its technological advances have increased the possibility of more provocations, George A. Lopez, a former UN sanctions investigator on North Korea, said in an e-mail.

“What I worry most about is that in the past the bluster from DPRK was not really matched by much capability,” said Lopez, a professor at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. “Now DPRK defiance of sanctions can be played out in a big way via a new nuke test or missile launch or both.”

DPRK stands for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

During a visit to a front-line artillery post on North Korea’s Wolnae Islet, Kim expressed confidence in the unit’s ability to turn South Korea’s Baengnyeong Island into “a sea of fire,” the official Korean Central News Agency said.

The location is significant because 46 South Korean seamen died in March 2010 after the naval ship Cheonan sank in waters near Baengnyeong, about 210 kilometers (130 miles) northwest of Seoul. While an international panel said the North torpedoed the ship, the Pyongyang government denied any involvement.

North Korea will stage a mass military drill on its eastern coast soon, South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min Seok said at a briefing in Seoul yesterday. The South advises its people not to get nervous, he said. South Korea and the U.S. on March 11 began their “Key Resolve” exercise.

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D.  Nuclear Cooperation

Japan Urged to Send Out Global SOS over No. 1 Plant
Eric Johnston
The Japan Times
(for personal use only)

Two years after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, the herculean task of decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant is the subject of growing international involvement, with the International Atomic Energy Agency looking to step up its role.

But even as Tokyo and the IAEA trumpet increased cooperation, other international experts, and many Japanese who distrust claims by the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. that progress is being made in containing the triple-meltdown crisis, are calling for a broader range of international experts to be brought on board, including those whose views run counter to the claims of government bureaucrats, engineers and medical professionals.

In general, Japan has received high marks from the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog. At a meeting on nuclear safety in Fukushima in December, IAEA members said Japan had made tangible progress in stabilizing the Fukushima No. 1 complex and in decreasing the amount of radioactive discharges. The establishment of the independent Nuclear Regulation Authority in September, which had long been called for by pro- and antinuclear experts abroad, was also welcomed.

In late February, the IAEA announced plans for a multinational mission to decommission the Fukushima No. 1 plant’s wrecked reactors, a process that will take decades. Japan is also expected to host an IAEA international expert mission on how to dismantle the facility later this year, but the agency has also called on Tokyo to ensure there is international participation in the cleanup.

“The safe decommissioning (of the reactors) should be undertaken not just by Japan, but should draw on the wisdom of the most advanced technologies from around the world,” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said. “We will make use of experts involved in the Chernobyl nuclear accident and other incidents.”

Critics charge that the IAEA can’t have the last word on nuclear safety because its mandate is fundamentally contradictory. On the one hand, it’s supposed to monitor nuclear safety worldwide, while on the other, it’s also supposed to support nuclear power, which means many antinuclear activists in particular, regardless of their expertise, may not get heard.

But the bigger problem, experts say, is that Japan itself is not tapping the advice of a wide body of international expertise outside the IAEA on everything from decommissioning to disposing of nuclear waste and monitoring the health effects of radiation.

As a result, certain questions don’t get asked.

“There are some bilateral cooperation activities that are heavily biased by the specific interests of the assisting states. But nothing, absolutely nothing, is visible that would resemble a concerted international effort to solve the unprecedented problems at the Fukushima site,” said Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based consultant on energy and nuclear policy who has advised the IAEA and several European governments, and who has called for the broadest possible range of international experts and global assistance to monitor the Fukushima disaster long term.

Cooperation from the U.S. government, industry and nuclear experts on a host of technical and environmental issues related to the Fukushima plant has greatly increased since it experienced three core meltdowns in March 2011. Three U.S. experts, Robert Sindelar from the U.S. Department of Energy; Mark Triplett from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), a government research laboratory; and Sang Don Lee of the National Homeland Security Research Center, traveled to Japan in early February and will stay until the end of this month.

In addition, Tepco officials visited the Savannah River National Laboratory earlier this year to learn about waste management technologies that can be used in the Fukushima cleanup. Japanese-U.S. cooperation in this area is expected to expand further, especially as cleaning up and decommissioning the plant is expected to take decades. Besides the United States, French nuclear company Areva has worked with Japan on dealing with the radioactive water inside the damaged reactor buildings.

But in Schneider’s view, such efforts are too narrow. The unprecedented scale of the disaster, he says, means Japan needs to seek all the expert advice it can get, from a wide variety of countries and from those who are not just nuclear engineers but have expertise in several technical fields.

“The most immediate and largest threats are probably still stemming from the spent-fuel pools of the four crippled reactors at Fukushima No. 1. Tepco’s affirmation that there is no damage to the fuel assemblies seems to be more of an optimistic guess, rather than a certainty,” he said.

Tepco is pumping several cubic meters of water per hour into the damaged reactors to keep them cool. The supply comes mainly from the water that has accumulated in the basements of the units’ buildings, and is desalinated and decontaminated before being reinjected into the reactor cores.

“It’s meant to be a closed system. But it’s obvious that significant quantities of water must have evaporated, or are leaking from the basements to other areas, including into the sea.

“These basements were never constructed to hold radioactive water. And corrosion of the steel reinforcement in concrete walls, especially of the spent-fuel pools, remains another area of concern. Cracks in the concrete could lead to steel corrosion, to significant breaks of the walls and to ever-increasing levels of water leakage,” Schneider said.

Tepco has been monitoring some of the sludge. Last month, workers in the reactor 1 building collected water and sediment. Radiation levels on the outside of the container that held the sediment registered 4 millisieverts per hour.

Then there are the concerns over health issues posed by the meltdowns, concerns that often contradict the government’s policies. Anand Grover, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to health, visited Japan in late November, traveling to Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures and meeting with central government and Tepco officials, as well as medical and legal experts, and NGOs.

In a Tokyo news conference at the end of his trip, Grover noted problems in two areas that international critics in and outside Japan, including Schneider, are especially worried about: the way Japan is conducting health surveys and food safety checks.

“(Japan) has undertaken a health management survey. However, it’s limited to the residents of, and visitors to, Fukushima Prefecture at the time of the disaster. They are also limited to thyroid examinations for children, comprehensive health checks, a mental and lifestyle survey, and to a pregnancy survey,” Grover said.

“The scope of the surveys is unfortunately narrow, as they draw on the limited lessons from the Chernobyl accident and ignore epidemiological studies that point to cancer as well as other diseases in low-dosage radiation, even in areas of exposure below 100 millisieverts per year,” he said. “I would urge the government to expand the health survey to all radiation-affected zones.”

The central government also has a long way to go to convince the world, and many Japanese, that the nation’s food is safe. There are calls at home and overseas for long-term independent monitoring and testing of food products. Under one suggestion made by Schneider last year, each product would be tested by a government-certified — but completely independent — laboratory, similar to the Underwriters’ Laboratory that conducts safety testing on technology in the U.S.

From April 2012, the government set some of the world’s strictest limits on radioactive cesium in food, including 10 becquerels per kilogram for drinking water, 50 for milk, 100 for foodstuffs, including dairy products, and 50 for baby food items. One U.S. company, Eden Foods, did its own independent testing in 2011 of Japanese foodstuffs and detected no radiation.

Grover noted that radioactive contamination of food is a long-term issue and commended Japan for reducing the threshold for food safety from 500 to 100 becquerels per kilogram.

“However, individual prefectures have imposed lower threshold levels. Moreover, residents have raised concerns about the enforcement of standards. The government should strengthen food safety in an urgent manner,” he added.

Despite the international calls for Japan to work harder in seeking out all kinds of advice overseas, the international media, antinuclear NGOs, and Japanese individuals and groups pushing for greater global involvement offer numerous reasons for the lack of effort on the part of the government and Tepco to bring in more outside help.

Last autumn, the group Skilled Veterans Corps for Fukushima, which consists of older Japanese nuclear experts who have been pressing Tepco to allow its members to work at the No. 1 complex in order to reduce younger workers’ radiation exposure, traveled to the United States.

Their purpose was to update federal government officials, nuclear experts and civil society organizations on the state of the Fukushima reactors, and to call for more international assistance in cleaning up the Fukushima mess.

But the group told its audiences that the main problems in convincing Japan to accept new offers of international assistance started with the large number of multilayered contracts between subcontractors to traditional heavy industries and Tepco, which can’t be controlled.

Buck-passing by Tokyo, a fragmented bureaucracy, communities that have been bribed, and an alliance between central and local government leaders and the businesses involved in the cleanup process are also problems, the group added.

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S. Korea, U.S. Stuck in Struggle for Nuclear Energy Deal
Lee Chi-dong
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

As time is running out for South Korea and the United States to strike a deal on revising their nuclear energy cooperation, the two sides have no other ideal options, experts here said Wednesday.

Chances are high that the allies face a lapse of the agreement or temporary extension of the existing version, both of which carry considerable risks, according to former U.S. government official Fred McGoldrick.

"Given the strong differences of views between the ROK (South Korea) and the U.S. over enrichment and reprocessing, it will be a monumental challenge to reach agreement on a text and submit it to their respective legislatures for review and approval before the March 2014 expiration date," he said in a report for a Washington forum hosted by Korea Economic Institute of Korea.

He has long experience in nuclear nonproliferation and international nuclear policy at the U.S. Department of Energy and Department of State, where he negotiated non-military nuclear partnership agreements.

The South Korea-U.S. civil nuclear pact, signed in 1974, sets the legal guidelines and rules for exports of U.S. nuclear material and equipment to South Korea. It is set to expire in March 2014. In renewing the agreement, South Korea hopes to leave the door open for enriching uranium and reprocessing spent fuel, which are currently prohibited.

The U.S. is reluctant out of concern over a possible negative impact to its nonproliferation campaign and efforts to denuclearize North Korea, as well as the huge costs required to monitor the South's nuclear activities.

It is one of the most urgent and thorniest issues between the two sides. It is likely to be a main agenda item in the summit talks between South Korea's new president, Park Geun-hye, and President Barack Obama, expected to take place in Washington in early May.

The Park administration is expected to maintain a position similar to the Lee Myung-bak government on the issue.

"But it is unclear what exact conditions it will find acceptable. Thus, the change of administration may delay the negotiations," McGoldrick said in the report co-authored by Kim Du-yeon, senior fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. Many agree that Seoul and Washington will have to reach a deal no later than June, given domestic procedures.

It remains uncertain the upcoming Park-Obama summit will produce a breakthrough. McGoldrick and Kim said resolving differences over the reprocessing issue may prove far more difficult than the enrichment problem. South Korea's demand for U.S. consent to enrich U.S.-supplied natural uranium has little practical effect, they pointed out.

"The U.S. is not a major producer or exporter of natural uranium and the international market has a fairly large number of low-cost uranium producers," they said. South Korea's need for spent fuel management is more urgent, as its on-site nuclear waste storage reaches saturation in 2016.

South Korea, the world's fifth-largest nuclear producer, has 23 reactors, which generate about 35 percent of the country's electricity. It plans to build an additional 16 reactors by 2030.

It has also signed a contract to export nuclear plants to the United Arab Emirates. South Korea has proposed pyro-processing, an uncommercialized way to reuse spent fuel, claiming it offers little possibility for the manufacturing of nuclear weapons. But many U.S. officials view it virtually as reprocessing.

If South Korea and the U.S. fail to reach a deal anytime soon, McGoldrick said, they have few options.
"The likelihood of a lapsed agreement currently appears greater than expected with both parties firm in their respective positions on enrichment and pyro-processing," the experts said. "A lengthy lapse could have adverse economic and political consequences."

The South Korean industry could lose confidence in the U.S. as a reliable supplier and turn to other partners, he warned.

Short-term extension of the existing agreement is also risky since it does not meet all the requirements of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act, which means difficulties for congressional approval, they added.

"None of those options are ideal," they said. "All have real costs and risks, but the two sides need to move quickly in deciding how they wish to work their way out of the political thicket, avoid the political and economic costs of failure, and come to a timely closure of a new peaceful nuclear trade pact."

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Temelín Bidder Consortium MIR.1200 Signs Contracts with Czech Companies
Prague Daily Monitor
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Czech-Russian Consortium MIR.1200 has signed contracts with companies ZAT, Hochtief CZ and Nuclear Research Institute (UJV) Rez on cooperation if it succeeds in the tender for building two more units at nuclear plant Temelin, the consortium's PR rep Monika Matyastikova informed CTK yesterday.

Hochtief CZ and ZAT offer exclusive cooperation to MIR.1200, while UJV Rez has signed a similar contract also with the consortium's rival, US-Japanese company Westinghouse.

"These contracts define the duties and obligations of both sides. They clearly set concrete responsibility and specify the extent of the work. At the same time, based on the submitted offers of the individual companies, we can check any time with what sub-contractors these companies sign further contracts. We can thus be sure that 75 percent of the order will really remain in the Czech Republic," said Josef Perlik of company Skoda JS, a member of the consortium. The other members are Russian firms Gidropress and Atomstroyexport.

In case of the consortium's victory, ZAT will supply automated technological processes control systems and other equipment for the power plant. Hochtief CZ will be responsible for the construction part of the project. UJV Rez will take part in the processing of project documentation for the nuclear and turbine parts.

Westinghouse is also signing contracts with Czech companies. It earlier signed a memorandum on cooperation, for example, with engineering group Vitkovice and at the end of February also with UJV Rez, Skoda Praha Invest and Kralovopolska Ria.

France's Areva was also vying for the order and has signed letters of intent with Czech companies but CEZ eliminated it from the tender last year in October. Areva has turned to antitrust office UOHS as it is trying to return to the tender.

The costs of the construction of the third and fourth units of nuclear power plant Temelin are estimated to reach Kc200bn to Kc300bn. CEZ wants to pick the winner this year in September and the new units are to be lunched into operation in 2025.

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E.  Links of Interest

Drones To Be Deployed As Nuclear Fallout Detectors
Jeff McMahon
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EU Countries Defend Nuclear's Climate Role
World Nuclear News
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World's First Conceptual Nuclear Reactor Design of High Plutonium Breeding by Light-Water Cooling
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Nuclear Reactor Operators Must Be Financially Liable for Disasters
The Guardian
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