1. North Korea Vows Military Action Against More U.S. B-52 Flights
(for personal use only)
North Korea warned of “strong military counter-action” if the U.S. again flies B-52 bombers over the Korean peninsula, with two flights this month after the totalitarian regime threatened preemptive nuclear strikes.
The U.S. Pacific Air Forces Command successfully carried out the latest training flight, 7th Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Richelle Dowdell said in an e-mail yesterday without giving further details. A B-52 can carry nuclear warheads and air-to- ground missiles with a range of 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles).
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects a long-range artillery at an undisclosed place in North Korea in this undated picture released by Korean Central News Agency on March 12, 2013.
The U.S. is increasing its defense capability in the region after Kim Jong Un’s regime this month threatened to use atomic weapons in response to tougher United Nations sanctions. Tensions on the peninsula are the highest since at least 2010, with China also indirectly criticizing U.S. plans to bolster a regional anti-missile shield.
Yesterday’s sortie is an “unpardonable” provocation, introducing a mechanism to deliver a strategic nuclear strike to the Korean Peninsula “at a time when its situation is inching close to the brink of war,” an unidentified North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said today in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
The North is closely watching the situation and “the hostile forces will never escape its strong military counter- action” if the B-52s fly sorties over the the peninsula again, according to the KCNA statement.
The first B-52 flight came on March 8 as part of joint U.S.-South Korea military drills, Defense Department spokesman George Little said in a March 18 statement. He said such flights are routine. The bomber was flown out of Andersen Air Force Base in Guam in the first week of the annual two-month Foal Eagle exercise which ends April 30.
“We are drawing attention to the fact we have extended deterrence capabilities that we believe are important to demonstrate in the wake of recent North Korean rhetoric,” Little said. “We are in the midst right now of sending a very strong signal that we have a firm commitment to the alliance with our Republic of Korea allies.”
Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on March 18 announced during his visit to South Korea that a second flight would take place the next day. He traveled to Seoul to reaffirm the commitment to deter North Korea at a time the U.S. faces multi-billion dollar defense budget cuts.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said March 15 he will shift $1 billion from a European missile shield to install 14 additional missile interceptors in Alaska against threats by Iran and North Korea. Russia has dismissed the move, muffling hopes of arms control advocates that the U.S. and Russia could improve relations and revive talks on reducing their nuclear arsenals.
South Korean President Park Geun Hye yesterday reiterated her government’s stance to “firmly respond” to any attacks, while promising to give aid to North Korea if it gives up nuclear weapons and “chooses the right path,” according to a statement on her website.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-20/north-korea-vows-military-action-against-more-u-s-b-52-flights.html
2. Under Threat, South Koreans Mull Nuclear Weapons
(for personal use only)
The barrage of threats from North Korea has sparked talk from within South Korea of the need to develop its own nuclear weapons.
A recent poll shows that two-thirds of South Korean citizens surveyed support the idea, especially in the wake of North Korea's third nuclear test in February.
"We, the Korean people, have been duped by North Korea for the last 20 to 30 years and it is now time for South Koreans to face the reality and do something that we need to do," said Chung Mong-joon, a lawmaker in the governing Saenuri (New Frontier) Party and a former presidential conservative candiate. "The nuclear deterrence can be the only answer. We have to have nuclear capability."
The talk of South Korea arming with its own nuclear weapon used to be taboo in the country-- and there's no apparent official government move to do so. But the tensions between the two Korean nations have amplified over the weeks, becoming reminiscent of the Cold War.
Earlier this month, South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok responded to North Korea's threat to attack the South with a pre-emptive nuclear strike saying: "If North Korea is to attack the South with its nuclear weapons... Kim Jong Un's regime will cease to exist on the face of Earth." After North Korea conducted its third nuclear test last month, the South unveiled a cruise missile, which it claims to be so precise that it can target "a specific window of a North Korean military commander's office."
Some commentators in South Korean media have been calling for a nuclear weapons option, claiming that the country has the technology and economy to develop them in a short period of time. And public opinion is following in line.
According to a February poll conducted by South Korea's private think tank, Asan Institute, 66% of South Koreans said they support developing a nuclear weapons program. The poll suggests that just under half of South Koreans in 2012 believed that the United States would provide South Korea with what's known as the "nuclear umbrella" in the case of a North Korean nuclear attack, indicating a 7% decrease from 2011.
Under the nuclear umbrella, the U.S. is to provide South Korea with defensive means to ensure deterrence against a nuclear threat.
In recent times, South Korea has been known for little if no reaction on North Korea's provocations and threats. Its attitude changed after the 2010 attack on its battleship That killed more than 40 sailors -- North Korea was blamed. That same year, there was also outrage after the North shelled Yeonpyeong Island. South Korea returned fire and also began responding to North Korea with its own strong words.
But not all South Koreans are rallying behind the cause of developing South Korean nuclear weapons.
If South Korea makes nuclear weapons, nonproliferation in the region would soon fall apart, Han Yong-sup, professor at the Korea National Defense University said. "Japan and Taiwan could follow the suit. Then, a domino effect of nuclear proliferation will result," he said.
To assuage anxieties in South Korea, "Washington needs to make an official statement in order to make U.S. extended deterrence more credible," Han added.
Experts say that China, also a powerful economic partner with South Korea, will never agree with the idea of nuclear armed South Korea, because "it will affect Sino-U.S. ties," said Yang Zhaohui, a professor of international relations at Peking University.
But so far, China hasn't been pleased with Kim's nuclear ambitions, although it is North Korea's closest ally and economic supporter. China recently signed on to tougher U.N. sanctions against the north, targeting that country's nuclear program.
"China appears to be getting impatient on North Korea," Yang said. "The Chinese government does not appear to be controlling its public opinion on North Korea anymore. North Korea is not popular here."
Recently, criticism of North Korea have become rampant on Sina Weibo, the popular Chinese microblog. Kim Jong Un has even earned a nickname "Jin Sanpang" which means "Fat Kim the Third," and has become a popular subject of satire among Chinese netizens.
An editorial printed in China's state-run newspaper Global Times in January warned North Korea that if it conducted a nuclear test it would not hesitate to reduce assistance to North Korea.
"China's attitude towards North Korea appears to be changing," Yan said. "But China's priority is peace and stability in the region. It wants to maintain good relationship with both South and North Korea."
Available at: http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/18/world/asia/south-korea-nuclear/index.html
1. Iran Leader Hints at First Direct US Nuclear Talks
(for personal use only)
Iran's supreme leader on Thursday signalled openness for the first time to US offers to hold direct talks on his country's disputed nuclear drive, but voiced pessimism over the chances of a breakthrough.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say in all decisions on Iran's nuclear programme which the West suspects is cover for a drive for a weapons capability.
"US officials time after time have offered one-on-one talks" on the sidelines of negotiations with the so-called P5+1 group of major powers, Khamenei said in an address broadcast live on state television.
"I am not optimistic about these (direct) talks but I am not opposed to it either," Khamenei said, while visiting the holy city of Mashhad in northeastern Iran on the occasion of Persian New Year.
The United States -- along with Britain, China, France and Russia plus Germany -- has been involved in the longrunning P5+1 negotiations with Iran.
The next round of those talks is scheduled for April 5-6 in the Kazakh city of Almaty, after Iran hailed the last round in March as a turning point.
A senior US official, speaking in Jerusalem where President Barack Obama is travelling, said that Washington was committed to the P5+1 process.
The official added: "But in that context, we would be open to bilateral discussions."
Previous calls by Washington for direct dialogue with Tehran had been shot down by Khamenei. The two governments have had no diplomatic relations for more than three decades.
Khamenei did not say what had prompted his change of heart. But he played down the prospects of a breakthrough.
"We believe the Americans are not interested in a nuclear settlement," Khamenei said, adding that US officials would "only want to dictate their own agenda" and not listen to Iranian positions.
If the US was seeking a solution, Khamenei said, "the Americans should recognise Iran's right to enrichment and then move to alleviate their concerns by implementing the regulations" of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The IAEA, the UN's atomic energy watchdog which monitors Iran's nuclear activities, has raised the alarm over possible weapons-related work in the past.
Those allegations lie at the heart of Western suspicions about Iran's intentions.
Iran insists it regards the atomic bomb as "banned by religion," and says it operates only a peaceful nuclear energy programme.
Iran is under multiple rounds of UN sanctions over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, as well as additional unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union targeting its oil income and access to the global banking system.
The US and Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East's sole but undeclared nuclear power, have also refused to rule out a military strike against Iran to prevent it getting the bomb.
Khamenei on Thursday renewed a threat of devastating retaliation against Israeli cities if Iranian facilities came under Israeli attack.
"Every now and then the leaders of the Zionist regime threaten Iran with a military attack," Khamenei said.
"They should know that if they commit such a blunder, the Islamic republic will annihilate Tel Aviv and Haifa," he said.
Iran is said to possess ballistic missiles capable of reaching Israel. It also boasts of close relations with Israel's foes in the region, including Lebanon's Hezbollah and Palestinian militants in the Islamist-ruled Gaza Strip
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5h04JEtZC3XNz-uGh2ObfCxyofC2g?docId=CNG.96128469d5e474f01bbcc7597bf2167d.c1
2. Iran Bank Takes Legal Fight Over Sanctions to London
(for personal use only)
An Iranian bank is challenging UK sanctions against it in the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. On Tuesday, Bank Mellat appealed to the court against the sanctions imposed over its alleged links to Iran’s nuclear energy program.
The British government imposed the sanctions in 2009, but it has failed to provide evidence that the bank indirectly facilitated Iran’s nuclear energy program.
The bank announced that it has been unable to defend itself over allegations of indirectly facilitating Iran’s nuclear program because a lower court heard the case behind closed doors.
London has urged the Supreme Court to consider the secret material as part of its deliberations on the bank's appeal, but Bank Mellat has said that would be unfair as it has not received any evidence from the secret hearing.
The sanctions against Bank Mellat, which came into force in October 2009, prevent anyone in the British financial sector from having any business relationship or conducting any transactions with the bank.
Bank Mellat won a similar legal battle against EU sanctions in January.
At the beginning of 2012, the United States and the EU imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors with the goal of preventing other countries from purchasing Iranian oil and conducting transactions with the Central Bank of Iran. The sanctions took effect last summer.
On October 15, 2012, the EU foreign ministers reached an agreement on another round of sanctions against Iran.
The US-engineered sanctions were imposed based on the accusation that Iran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.
Iran rejects the allegations, arguing that as a committed signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
In addition, the IAEA has conducted numerous inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities but has never found any evidence showing that Iran’s civilian nuclear program has been diverted to nuclear weapons production.
Available at: http://www.albawaba.com/business/iran-nuclear-court-478528
1. Adsorbents Help Clean Contaminated Water at Fukushima Plant
(for personal use only)
UOP LLC, a Honeywell (NYSE: HON) company, announced that its adsorbent materials have been used to clean nearly 100 million gallons of radiation-contaminated water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan.
Honeywell's UOP IONSIV™ Selective Media adsorbents have been used by Toshiba Corp. and Shaw Global Services LLC as part of the Simplified Active Water Retrieve and Recovery System (SARRY), which is being used to treat wastewater that was contaminated after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March 2011. Honeywell's UOP material has been used in the system since August 2011 and has reduced cesium to below detectable levels.
"We are committed to partnering with those on-site to continue removing radioactive contaminants from all water sources," said Mike Millard, vice president and general manager of Honeywell's UOP Catalysts, Adsorbents and Specialties business unit.
Honeywell's UOP IONSIV Selective Media adsorbents are crystalline materials designed to remove radioactive ions, particularly cesium and strontium, from liquids as well as contaminants such as mercury and sulfur compounds.
The SARRY system, developed by Toshiba, Shaw and AVANTech, Inc., has operated problem-free at the plant since its installation. Cleanup efforts are still underway ,and IONSIV adsorbents are expected to remain in use for the next 10 years to remove cesium and strontium from various contaminated water sources at Fukushima.
Available at: http://www.waterworld.com/articles/2013/03/adsorbents-help-clean-contaminated-water-at-fukushima-plant.html
2. Rat Suspected of Causing Power Problem at Fukushima Plant
(for personal use only)
The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant said Wednesday it suspects a rat-like animal of causing a short circuit in a switchboard that may have led to the power outage at the plant, disabling cooling systems for spent fuel pools earlier this week.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it found burn marks on a makeshift power switchboard on Wednesday and a dead animal nearby. The utility suspects excess current caused by an unknown reason led to the blackout.
The switchboard is connected to the cooling systems for the spent fuel pools of the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors as well as a common pool located inside another building at the site.
Available at: http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2013/03/215172.html?searchType=site&req_type=article&phrase=rat
1. South Africa on the 'Radioactive Recycling Road'
(for personal use only)
A proposal from the US Department of Energy to mix radioactive metal from nuclear weapons factories with clean scrap has led the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (NECSA) to start building and testing a radioactive metal smelter at Pelindaba - 'the birthplace of South Africa's atomic bombs', claims non-profit organisation Earthlife Africa.
Three proposed radioactive metal smelters are due to be licensed at the Pelindaba plant in early 2013 despite what are described as 'flawed' environmental impact analysis approval processes and a 'public outcry' during the public hearings of the National Nuclear Regulator.
According to Judith Taylor, Branch Co-ordinator at Earthlife Africa, the country initiated and ratified the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty - known as the Pelindaba Treaty - and agreed 'not to take any action to assist or encourage the dumping of radioactive wastes and other radioactive matter anywhere within the African nuclear-weapon-free zone'.
Public and political pressure is essential to stop the plans to intentionally disperse radioactive material, insists Mrs Taylor. 'What is the difference between dumping and feeding radioactive metal into the recycling stream?' she asks. 'If we follow the radioactive ''recycling'' road, we are going to dump and disperse nuclear waste - we are going to deliberately contaminate and poison us and our environment.'
Growing volumes of scrap, mainly from decommissioned nuclear reactors, weapons and submarines, are entering the public domain in an uncontrolled manner, claims Earthlife Africa. 'Even ''low-level'' nuclear waste can contain lethally radioactive and long-lived elements, such as Plutonium-239, Strontium-90 and many others,' it contends.
Mrs Taylor says it will be incredibly difficult to guarantee all the radioactive material can be controlled. 'Nobody, and no technical solution like air filters, can ensure that,' she states. 'That's why the so-called recycling of radioactive metals is unacceptable.'
Available at: http://www.recyclinginternational.com/recycling-news/6950/research-and-legislation/south-africa/south-africa-039-radioactive-recycling-road-039
2. U.S. Contractor Charged with Passing Nuclear Secrets to Chinese Woman
(for personal use only)
A U.S. defense contractor in Hawaii has been arrested on charges of passing national defense secrets, including classified information about nuclear weapons, to a Chinese woman with whom he was romantically involved, authorities said on Monday.
Benjamin Pierce Bishop, 59, a former U.S. Army officer who works as a civilian employee of a defense contractor at U.S. Pacific Command in Oahu was arrested on Friday and made his first appearance in federal court on Monday, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Hawaii said in a news release.
He is charged with one count of willfully communicating national defense information to a person not entitled to receive it, and one count of unlawfully retaining documents related to national defense. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, asked about the case at a daily news briefing in Beijing, said he did "not understand the relevant situation", and declined further comment.
China and the United States, the world's two largest economies, have long engaged in spying against each other.
Last year China arrested a Chinese state security official on suspicion of spying for the United States, sources said, a case both countries had kept quiet for several months as they strove to prevent a fresh crisis in relations.
That incident ranked as the most serious Sino-U.S. spying incident to be made public since 1985 when Yu Qiangsheng, an intelligence official, defected to the United States.
Yu told the Americans that a retired CIA analyst had been spying for China. The analyst killed himself in 1986 in a U.S. prison cell, days before he was due to be sentenced to a lengthy jail term.
Bishop met the woman - a 27-year-old Chinese national identified as "Person 1" - in Hawaii during a conference on international military defense issues, according to the affidavit.
He had allegedly been involved in a romantic relationship since June 2011 with the woman, who was living in the United States on a visa, and had no security clearance.
From May of that year through December 2012, he allegedly passed national defense secrets to her on multiple occasions, including classified information about nuclear weapons and the planned deployment of U.S. strategic nuclear systems.
Other secrets included information on the United States' ability to detect foreign governments' low- and medium-range ballistic missiles, as well as information on the deployment of U.S. early warning radar systems in the Pacific Rim.
Bishop had top secret security clearance since July 2002. A court-authorized search of his home in November found around a dozen individual documents each with classification markings at the secret level, the affidavit said.
The case is being investigated by the FBI's Honolulu Division and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in coordination with U.S. Pacific Command and the U.S. Army.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/19/crime-usa-contractor-idUSL1N0CB1SU20130319
China and Pakistan reached a formal agreement last month to construct a third nuclear reactor at Chashma that the Obama administration says will violate Beijing’s promises under an international anti-nuclear weapons accord.
According to U.S. intelligence and diplomatic officials, the secret agreement for the Chashma 3 reactor was signed in Beijing during the visit by a delegation from the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission from Feb. 15 to 18.
The agreement calls for the state-run China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC) to construct a 1,000-megawatt power plant at Chashma, located in the northern province of Punjab where two earlier Chinese reactors were built.
China’s government last month issued an internal notice to officials within its nuclear establishment and to regional political leaders urging care to avoid any leaks of information about the nuclear sale that Beijing expects will be controversial, said officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The reactor deal had been in the works for several years and prompted high-level U.S. government efforts to block the sale because of concerns it will boost Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program.
The CNNC is China’s main nuclear weapons producer and has been linked in the past to Pakistan’s nuclear arms program by U.S. intelligence agencies. CNNC sold thousands of ring magnets to Pakistan during the 1990s that were used in centrifuges that produced highly enriched uranium for weapons.
Additionally, recent U.S. intelligence reports indicate that China, which supplied Pakistan with nuclear weapons design data and technology, is in the process of modernizing Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal, which is estimated to contain as many as 110 warheads.
The arms cooperation is said to include development of a new warhead for Pakistan’s growing missile arsenal as well as assistance in reprocessing spent nuclear fuel.
A Congressional Research Service report published Feb. 13 stated, “Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal probably consists of approximately 90-110 nuclear warheads, although it could be larger.”
“Islamabad is producing fissile material, adding to related production facilities, and deploying additional delivery vehicles,” the CRS report said. “These steps could enable Pakistan to undertake both quantitative and qualitative improvements to its nuclear arsenal.”
The report warned that spent fuel from Pakistan’s Karachi and Chashma nuclear power plants are vulnerable to theft or attack.
Pakistan produced one of the most dangerous cases of nuclear proliferation in the early 2000s when weapons technology was supplied to Libya, Iran, and North Korea by the group led by Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan.
The Obama administration has not publicly contested the nuclear cooperation between the two countries in the past to avoid upsetting U.S. covert efforts against Islamist terrorism in the region.
The Beijing-Islamabad nuclear cooperation also has been limited as a result of U.S. efforts to win Chinese support for sanctions on Iran for its illicit nuclear program.
The new reactor sale also will undermine the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a voluntary association with no enforcement mechanisms that is viewed as a key tool in the administration’s effort to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
China in 2004 joined the group and agreed not to sell additional reactors to Pakistan beyond the two reactors sold earlier. China is not permitted under NSG guidelines to sell nuclear goods to any country that is not part of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Two U.S. officials confirmed that the Chashma reactor deal was finally reached.
Spokesmen for the Chinese and Pakistani embassies could not be reached for comment.
A State Department official declined to provide details of the sale but said it is not permitted under the U.S. understanding of China’s admission to the nuclear group. That understanding is China would not sell additional reactors to Pakistan’s Chashma complex.
“Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) participating governments have discussed the issue of China’s expansion of nuclear cooperation with Pakistan at the last several NSG plenary sessions,” the official said.
“We remain concerned that a transfer of new reactors at Chashma appears to extend beyond the cooperation that was ‘grandfathered’ in when China was approved for membership in the NSG.” The administration is expected to protest the sale at an upcoming NSG meeting in June.
Pakistan does not have full-scope IAEA safeguards in place, which is required before China could provide the third Chashma reactor.
The 46-member NSG was formed in 1974. Its stated mission is to “contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of guidelines for nuclear exports and nuclear related exports.”
China agreed as part of its NSG membership that it would limit future reactor sales to Pakistan to the Chashma 1 and Chashma 2 reactors.
The officials said China specifically directed Pakistani officials not to make the latest reactor deal public. Beijing sought to avoid the negative publicity expected from the deal that could upset the leadership transition that took place last week at the National People’s Congress, the communist mock parliament that formally appointed top communist leaders to government posts, the officials said.
China also sought to keep the reactor agreement secret from the United States, which this year is serving as the rotating head of the NSG.
The Chinese also urged the Pakistani delegation from the Atomic Energy Commission to play down the recent transfer of control to a Chinese company of the key port of Gwadar that U.S. officials said likely will be used by Chinese warships for port calls. The port is close to the Persian Gulf, where some 20 percent of the world’s oil is produced.
The deal for Chashma was announced in July 2010 during the visit to China by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. However, the announced arrangement was limited to a memorandum of understanding.
Henry Sokolski, director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, said Beijing appears to be keeping the Chinese-Pakistan nuclear deal secret to avoid international opposition.
“When it comes to grandfathering, the Chinese, like the Russians before them [in Iran], like a fait accompli, which is probably why they don’t want this made public,” Sokolski said in an interview. Mark Hibbs, with the Carnegie Endowment’s Nuclear Policy Program, said nothing in the NSG guidelines prevents the Chashma 3 reactor sale.
“The rub is that the NSG guidelines are voluntary understandings of governments,” Hibbs told the Free Beacon. “There is no enforcement mechanism. There is, however, a forum for dealing with information that suggests that a participating government is not upholding the guidelines.”
The issue could be addressed during the next NSG plenary meeting in June and at working-level NSG meetings prior to the June session, he said.
However, Hibbs said the issue could come up in talks between Washington and Beijing on the renewal of the bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement in 2015.
Hibbs said the U.S. government has raised the planned Chashma reactor sale in several NSG meetings.
“When China joined the NSG in 2004, Beijing provided the NSG a list of nuclear items which China said it intended to provide to Pakistan under a longstanding bilateral agreement between Islamabad and Beijing,” he said. “This list did not include additional power reactors beyond those already agreed to and under construction in 2004.”
However, recently China has said that additional nuclear power reactors to Pakistan are allowed under its earlier contracts.
“A lot of NSG members will tell you they beg to differ,” he said. “As of last year, China has not seen fit to provide NSG members any information which would corroborate that reactor sales beyond Chashma-1 and -2 were included in pre-2004 understandings between China and Pakistan.”
The administration’s non-proliferation policy and opposition to the Chinese-Pakistani nuclear cooperation was made more difficult by the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement reached in 2005. That deal provides for the sharing of nuclear know-how with a state that like Pakistan is not part of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and thus not eligible for such transfers.
The NSG altered its guidelines in 2008 to permit the Indian nuclear sales but the Obama administration did not support a similar change for Pakistan.
China, meanwhile, is opposing efforts by the United States, France, Britain, and Russia to allow nuclear-armed India to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Reuters reported from Vienna on Thursday.
The divisions were made known during a closed-door meeting of the NSG on Monday, diplomats told the news agency.
The five states supporting India’s membership were countered by China, which wants its ally Pakistan to join the group.
India has not applied for membership in the NSG and is not expected to join when the NSG holds its major meeting in Prague in June.
Available at: http://freebeacon.com/china-pakistan-reach-nuke-agreement/
2. Yanukovych: Ukraine Ready to Continue Cooperation with US in Nuclear Safety
(for personal use only)
Ukraine is ready to continue its fruitful cooperation with the United States in nuclear safety and nonproliferation, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has said.
"We're ready to continue our fruitful cooperation in nuclear safety and the non-proliferation of nuclear materials. Such cooperation demonstrates the reliability of Ukrainian-U.S. partnership," the presidential press service quoted Yanukovych as saying at a meeting with U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman in Kyiv on Wednesday.
He also said that he, along with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Tefft, would soon attend the opening of a plant for the disposal of empty engine casings of intercontinental ballistic missiles in Pavlohrad.
Yanukovych also noted there was successful cooperation between Ukraine and the United States in the removal of stockpiles of highly enriched uranium from Ukraine.
"We're now engaged in the introduction of modern technology that will replace highly enriched uranium with low enriched uranium," he said.
Available at: http://en.interfax.com.ua/news/general/145478.html
1. Motions Passed to Cease Nuclear Plant Construction
Helen Ku, Shih Hsiu-chuan and Chris Wang
(for personal use only)
Motions demanding that state-owned Taiwan Power Co suspend construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District and rejecting the company’s budget proposal for the year were passed yesterday by the legislature’s Economics Committee.
The motions, initiated by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers, shot down Taipower’s plan to spend NT$11.7 billion (US$392.99 million) on the plant this year, including NT$10.7 billion of construction work that has already been outsourced.
The committee, chaired by DPP Legislator Huang Wei-cher, passed the motions a few minutes after the meeting started, catching Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators off-guard.
Describing the process as an “ambush,” KMT caucus whips told a press conference after the meeting that the KMT did not recognize the validity of the DPP’s resolutions and would file a reconsideration motion when the committee reconvenes on Monday.
“It’s regrettable that the DPP’s resolutions cleared the Economics Committee. We do not accept their validity,” KMT Policy Committee chief Lin Hung-chih said.
KMT Legislator Liao Kuo-tung, who co-chairs the legislative committee, said the resolutions were passed without due process.
“The meeting was in a bit of chaos when the DPP made the proposals. The rotating chairperson [Huang] announced the passage of the resolutions before all the members had a copy of the proposals,” Liao said.
Lin said the committee has no right to “send back” Taipower’s budget request for the year because it was part of a joint budget request made by all state-owned enterprises that the Executive Yuan had sent to the legislature for review.
“The budget bill was referred by the legislature’s plenary session to the [Economics] Committee for preliminary review. The committee can hold off a review, slash the budget, or freeze it, but it has no right to reject it,” Lin said.
According to Constitutional Interpretation No. 520, if the power plant’s construction is stopped — which constitutes a major policy change — “the right to launch the initiative rests with the Executive Yuan, rather than the legislature,” Lin said.
As required by Article 3 of the Additional Articles of the Constitution and Article 17 of the Law Governing the Legislative Yuan’s Power, the premier and Cabinet officials have to present a report on the policy change to the legislature, take questions from lawmakers in a plenary session and win legislative support before an order to halt the plant’s construction can be issued, Lin added.
After the committee meeting, the DPP caucus called a press conference, in which DPP caucus whip Pan Men-an said the passage of the motions was “the first step” toward permanently suspending construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.
Pan said his caucus had been surprised that KMT lawmakers had not opposed the motions during the meeting.
Pan added that a previous resolution passed by the plenary session stated that, except for safety work and projects that have already been contracted, all construction at the power plant should be suspended until a national referendum is held.
Huang said the motions passed by the committee were in line with the plenary resolution and that the procedures in yesterday’s meeting were entirely legal.
“It would constitute a violation of the plenary resolution if an additional budget is passed,” he said.
DPP Legislator Chen Ming-wen said Premier Jiang Yi-huah had pledged to abide by legislative resolutions, including those demanding the suspension of construction, and the rejection of Taipower’s budget was “only trying to reiterate that no additional budget allocation will be approved before a national referendum on the nuclear power plant is held.”
If the result of the referendum shows that a majority favors completing and operating the plant, “we will respect the public’s decision,” Chen said.
Taipower spokesman Roger Lee yesterday said the company would continue making the utmost effort to ensure the safety of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, while Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch said he was “very sorry” about the committee’s decision, adding that the ministry would be seeking a solution through legal means.
Meanwhile, Executive Yuan spokesperson Cheng Li-wun reserved judgement because it is not yet clear whether the legislature has the authority to demand that the Executive Yuan suspend the project.
The Executive Yuan hopes that any decision made on the power plant’s future does not violate the Constitution as the previous DPP administration had done in 2000 when then-premier Chang Chun-hsiung halted the construction illegally, she said.
In related developments, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin yesterday said that he would vote “yes” in a referendum asking voters if the construction and operation of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant should be suspended.
“Taipower’s handling of follow-up planning and management at the power plant has been problematic and the issue of storing nuclear waste remains unresolved. I am concerned about the situation and would not support the continued construction of the plant under these circumstances,” Hau said.
Amid growing opposition to the plant’s completion, Hau said the government should consider whether a referendum is necessary if a majority wants the project suspended. The mayor suggested the government should allow the legislature to reach a consensus.
Available at: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2013/03/22/2003557678
Construction has started on a pilot production line for fuel elements for the Shidaowan HTR-PM project - a demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) in China's Shandong province. A signing and groundbreaking ceremony was held at Northern Nuclear Fuel Element Co Ltd's facility in Baotou in Inner Mongolia on 16 March.
The participants in the project - including China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), Tsinghua University, China Huaneng Group, China Nuclear Power Engineering Co and Nuclear Huaxing Construction Co - signed a cooperation agreement for the provision of technical services, construction engineering, installation and supervision for the HTGR fuel manufacturing line project.
A groundbreaking ceremony was then held to mark the laying of the foundation stone for the fuel facility. Representatives of organizations involved in the project as well as local dignitaries took part. In March 2011, a contract was signed with Germany's SGL Group for the supply of 500,000 machined graphite spheres for HTR-PM fuel by the end of 2013.
A technical support agreement was signed by Zhang Zuoyi, dean of the Institute for Nuclear and New Energy Technology (INET) at Tsinghua University and Wen-Jun Ma, general manager of Northern Nuclear Fuel Element. Over the past 30 years, INET has conducted research on HTGR fuel element technology and developed a trial production line with an annual capacity of 100,000 spherical fuel elements.
The new pilot production line, based on this production technology, will have an annual capacity of 300,000 fuel elements. The National Nuclear Security Administration issued a permit for its construction last month. It is expected to be commissioned in August 2015.
The fuel produced by the pilot plant will be used by the demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled reactor plant being built at Shidaowan, near Weihai city in Shandong province. This will initially comprise twin HTR-PM reactor modules driving a single 210 MWe steam turbine. Construction started in late 2012, with commercial operation scheduled in 2015. A further 18 such HTR-PM units are proposed at Shidaowan.
China Huaneng Group, one of China's major generators, is the lead organization involved in the demonstration HTR-PM plant with a 47.5% share; China Nuclear Engineering & Construction (CNEC) will have a 32.5% stake and Tsinghua University's INET 20% – it being the main R&D contributor.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/ENF-Chinese_HTGR_fuel_plant_under_construction-2103134.html
A mixed oxide (MOX) fuel plant under construction at Savannah River as part of the USA's plutonium disposition program is likely to start up three years later than originally planned, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has suggested in published testimony.
The Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility is being built at the South Carolina site as part of a program to dispose of 34 tonnes of surplus weapons-grade plutonium. Construction began on the plant, which is being built by the Shaw Areva MOX Services consortium, in 2007 and had been scheduled to begin operations in October 2016.
Problems with the design of critical components has been cited by the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) and the contractor as a major factor behind the delays and cost increases. The facility is based on the Melox MOX facility in France, but according to the GAO, the cost of adapting the French design to meet the needs of the US project "was not well understood when the project was approved for construction."
A second reason cited for the delays is a failure to adequately understand the nuclear supply base, in particular the ability of industry to fabricate and deliver nuclear-quality components to meet the project schedule. GAO says its ongoing review work on the project will focus on these areas as well as on changes in project scope, the effectiveness of project reviews and lifecycle cost estimates for the overall plutonium disposition program.
According to GAO's review, the Department of Energy (DOE) is now forecasting an increase in total project costs for the MOX facility from $4.9 billion to $7.7 billion, with operations beginning in November 2019. However these figures are not final. The agency notes that DOE is currently in the process of evaluating a change to the project baseline proposed by the contractor, and that final costs and scheduling will not be known until after the review process is complete. DOE expects to approve a new project baseline by September 2013.
Once operational, the plant would turn 3.5 tonnes per year of weapons-grade plutonium into MOX fuel assemblies. Initially these were destined for use at Duke Energy's Catawba and McGuire plants although a contract between Duke and the NNSA subsequently lapsed. The NNSA opened negotiations with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) on the possibility of using MOX in TVA's reactors in 2009, but the ultimate destination of the MOX that will be produced at the plant remains unclear.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-US_watchdog_issues_MOX_plant_snapshot-2103137.html
The government has today approved plans for the UK's first new nuclear plant in decades, after energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey granted EDF planning permission to build two reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset.
The proposed £14bn Hinkley C power station is expected to produce around seven per cent of the UK's electricity when completed, providing enough power for five million homes.
Davey said the decision was "vital to get investment in new infrastructure to get the economy moving". "Low-carbon energy projects will bring major investment, supporting jobs and driving growth," he said in a statement.
"This planned new nuclear power station in Somerset will generate vast amounts of clean energy and enhance our energy security. It will benefit the local economy, through direct employment, the supply chain and the use of local services."
The CBI also called the decision "a big step forward on a critical energy infrastructure scheme".
However, EDF still has to make a final investment decision on the project, as negotiations are continuing with the government over the long-term contract it will be granted providing a guaranteed price, known as a strike price, for the electricity generated by the plant.
Months of wrangling have yet to produce a deal, with EDF rumoured to want a strike price of around £100 per megawatt-hour, almost twice the current wholesale rate. Ministers are instead pushing for a lower figure, with reports suggesting a compromise figure of £96-97/MWh is now likely, although the price could be guaranteed for up to 40 years.
Nuclear opponents have argued any deal could see taxpayers fund Hinkley C to the tune of £45bn over 20 years, while the price of electricity from other low-carbon technologies, such as offshore wind, is expected to fall over the same period.
Keith Allott, chief adviser on climate change at WWF-UK, said the cost of dealing with nuclear waste would add another burden to the public purse.
"Unlike renewable energy, the costs of nuclear keep on rising – as witnessed by the fact that the only reactors currently being built in Europe are massively over-budget and far behind schedule," he said.
"Focusing on renewables and energy efficiency, on the other hand, where the UK has huge potential to be an industrial leader, could deliver both huge cost reductions and a substantial boost to UK economic growth and manufacturing."
While the strike price has yet to be agreed, the granting of planning permission is a strong indicator an agreement is close, meaning work could start on the project in the coming months.
Any deal will have significant repercussions for the wider nuclear sector, given the government expects around 16MW of new nuclear capacity to be built by the mid-2020s.
Hitachi, which last acquired the rights to build up to four new reactors from RWO and E.On for £700m, is likely to seek a similar deal, while the government is also hoping EDF will look to develop other sites.
Available at: http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2255766/breaking-hinkley-nuclear-power-station-approved
DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to visit the websites from which the source material originates. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of Partnership for Global Security. Partnership for Global Security takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.