1. China Steps Up Radiation Checks of N.Korean Minerals
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China is stepping up radiation checks to prevent contaminated North Korean-made products from getting through the border, according to the Chinese inspection and quarantine administration. Already last year, China returned about 666 tons of minerals which surpassed the radiation safety limit to the North.
The move comes in the wake of the North's latest nuclear test, but the Chinese government has not commented on the reasons for tougher inspections.
The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of China in its website last Tuesday said the Changbai customs office on the North Korea-China border conducted radiation checks on 1,227 cases of minerals imported from the North in 2012, and sent back 665.96 tons which emitted more radiation than permitted.
Changbai sits across the Apnok River from Hyesan in North Korea, only about 100 km from the nuclear test site in Pyunggye-ri.
The office did not state the total amount of minerals China imported from the North in 2012 or in January and February this year. But it has boosted equipment to detect radiation with the help of the Jilin provincial inspection and quarantine bureau.
Chinese customs officials conduct inspections jointly with their North Korean counterparts on the bridge over the Apnok River, apparently in order to smooth ruffled feathers in the North.
A foreign affairs and security expert in South Korea said the move "seems to be aimed at preventing proliferation of North Korean nuclear weapons. It's highly likely that China is doing this after consultations with the U.S."
South Korea's Economy Ministry said Seoul is only conducting radiation checks of specific minerals "imported from certain risk countries," suggesting it is unusual for China to check all mineral imports from the North.
Available at: http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2013/03/04/2013030401033.html
1. U.N. Nuclear Chief Presses Iran on Military Base Access
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The U.N. nuclear watchdog raised pressure on Iran to finally address suspicions that it has sought to design an atomic bomb, calling for swift inspector access to a military base where relevant explosives tests are believed to have been carried out.
Airing frustration at the lack of progress in his agency's investigation, Yukiya Amano told its 35-nation governing board on Monday that negotiations with Iran must "proceed with a sense of urgency" and be focused on achieving concrete results soon.
Because Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation with inspectors, the International Atomic Energy Agency "cannot conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities", said Amano, the IAEA's director-general.
His message that Iran must act now was echoed by the United States and its top Gulf ally Saudi Arabia. They declared on Monday that separate but related talks between Tehran and world powers on a wider diplomatic solution to the nuclear dispute could not go on indefinitely.
Israel, Iran's arch-enemy and convinced Tehran is secretly trying to develop a nuclear weapon, has grown impatient with the protracted talks and has threatened pre-emptive war against Tehran if it deems diplomacy ultimately futile.
"There is a finite amount of time," Secretary of State John Kerry, in Riyadh, said of the talks between a group of six world powers and Tehran, Saudi Arabia's main regional adversary.
Iran was upbeat last week after talks with the powers in Kazakhstan about its nuclear work ended with an agreement to meet again. But Western officials said it had yet to take concrete steps to ease their fears about its atomic ambitions.
The United States, China, France, Russia, Britain and Germany offered modest relief from economic sanctions in return for Iran scaling back its most sensitive nuclear activity, but made clear that they expected no immediate breakthrough.
The IAEA has been trying separately for more than a year to persuade Iran to cooperate with a long-stalled agency investigation into suspected nuclear weapons research by Tehran, which denies any such activity.
The U.N. agency's priority is to be able to inspect Parchin, a sprawling military site southeast of the capital Tehran, where it believes Iran built an explosives chamber to carry out tests, possibly a decade ago. Iran denies this.
Iran says it first needs to agree with the IAEA on how the inquiry is to be conducted before allowing any Parchin visit. But Amano underlined that access should be granted in any case, even before a deal on investigation ground rules was reached.
He told the IAEA governors that he was "once again unable to report any progress on the clarification of outstanding issues, including those relating to the possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program".
Some diplomats and analysts say Iran is using the meetings with the IAEA merely for leverage in its negotiations with world powers which, unlike the IAEA, have the power to ease sanctions that they have recently tightened on the major oil producer.
"Providing access to the Parchin site would be a positive step which would help to demonstrate Iran's willingness to engage with the agency on the substance of our concerns," Amano said, according to a copy if his speech.
Western officials accuse Iran of cleansing the Parchin site of any incriminating evidence of illicit nuclear-related activity, a charge the Islamic Republic has dismissed.
Citing satellite imagery, they say Iran now seems to be rebuilding the specific part of Parchin that inspectors want to see, after last year razing several smaller buildings there. Amano also said Iran was continuing to construct a research reactor at Arak, which Western experts say could offer the Islamic state a second way of producing material for a nuclear bomb, if it decided to embark on such a course.
"Iran has stated that the reactor is expected to begin operating in the first quarter of 2014," Amano said. Western worries about Iran are focused largely on uranium enrichment plants at Natanz and Fordow, as such material refined to a high level can provide the fissile core of an atomic bomb.
But experts say Arak could yield plutonium for bombs if the spent fuel is reprocessed, something Iran has said it has no intention of doing.
Iran, a leading oil producer, says its nuclear program is entirely peaceful and aimed primarily at producing electricity.
But its refusal to curb atomic activity which can have both civilian and military purposes and its lack of full openness with U.N. inspectors have drawn increasingly tough Western sanctions targeting its lifeblood oil exports.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/04/us-iran-nuclear-iaea-idUSBRE92308720130304
Iran is building about 3,000 advanced uranium-enrichment centrifuges, Iranian media reported on Sunday, in a development likely to add to Western concerns about the Islamic state's disputed nuclear program.
Iran said earlier this year that it would install the new-generation centrifuges at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant in central Iran, but Sunday's reports in Iranian agencies appeared to be the first time a specific figure had been given.
The announcement, which comes after talks between Iran and world powers in Kazakhstan about its nuclear work ended with an agreement to meet again, underlines Iran's continued refusal to bow to Western pressure to curb its nuclear program.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said in February 180 so-called IR-2m centrifuges and empty centrifuge casings had been put in place at the facility near the town of Natanz in central Iran. They were not yet operating.
Iranian media on Sunday paraphrased Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, as saying Iran was producing 3,000 new-generation centrifuges.
"The final production line of these centrifuges has reached an end and soon the early generations of these centrifuges with low efficiency will be set aside," Abbasi-Davani said in statements in the Iranian city of Isfahan on Sunday, according to the Fars news agency.
An IAEA note informing member states in January about Iran's plans implied Iran could install up to 3,000 or so of the new centrifuges. Natanz is designed for tens of thousands of the machines.
If launched successfully, such machines could enable Iran to speed up significantly its accumulation of material that the West fears could be used in a nuclear weapon. Iran says it is refining uranium only for peaceful purposes.
Iran has for years been trying to develop centrifuges more efficient than the erratic 1970s IR-1 model it now uses, but their introduction for full-scale production has been dogged by delays and technical hurdles, experts and diplomats say.
In his statements on Sunday Abbasi-Davani also addressed problems at the nuclear power plant near the Gulf city of Bushehr. The plant is not considered a major weapons proliferation risk but recent shutdowns there have raised concerns about its safety.
In its latest report on Iran, the IAEA said it had visited the Bushehr plant in mid-February and that Iran then told it the reactor was shut down. No reason was given.
The plant had previously been shut down in October 2012 and fuel had to be unloaded. A Russian nuclear industry source told Reuters in November the shutdown was due to the discovery of stray bolts beneath the fuel cells.
The 1,000-megawatt plant was originally started in 1975 by German company Siemens, and Russian engineers took over the project in the 1990s.
"In the last year and a half it (the Bushehr plant) has faced problems because of old equipment and hybrid technology from Russia and Germany," Abbasi-Davani was quoted as saying by Fars.
"In the last year we have had no problem in the nuclear portion of the reactors and the outages have been linked to the generators, because of problems in their Russian design and resulting energy leakage."
Iran has repeatedly said the delays at Bushehr were in part due to the need to ensure safety.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/03/us-iran-nuclear-idUSBRE92205T20130303
Glencore, the London-listed Swiss commodities giant, supplied thousands of tonnes of alumina to an Iranian company with links to the country’s controversial nuclear programme.
Glencore supplied the raw material to the Iranian Aluminium Company (IAC), which was hit by European Union sanctions in December for allegedly supplying aluminium metal to Iran Centrifuge Technology Co. (ICTC), a subsidiary of the body responsible for Iran’s nuclear programme.
The deal was part of a barter arrangement – where goods are swapped for other goods – which is a common practice in the metals industry.
Alumina is used to make aluminium, which in turn can be used to make aluminium tubes for uranium enrichment gas centrifuges.
Glencore said the last actual trade made under the arrangement, which was disclosed by Reuters based on information from intelligence and diplomatic sources, took place in October, months before the sanctions. The Swiss giant immediately ended dealings with IAC when, in December, it learnt of the sanctions and its links with ICTC. Moreover, Glencore said the alumina it supplied “is a generic raw material sand”.
“Glencore complies with applicable laws and regulations, including applicable sanctions. We closely monitor all new legal developments to ensure that we continue to be in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including applicable sanctions,” the company, which is not accused of violating any sanctions, said.
Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/glencore-traded-with-iranian-nuclear-firm-8517404.html
1. Temporary Cover to be Built Over Collapsed Chernobyl Roof
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A temporary cover will be built above the collapsed section of Chernobyl’s nuclear power plant, the chief engineer said late on Friday.
Wall panels and parts of the roof caved in on February 12 in the turbine hall at the plant's Reactor Number Four, the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster. The damaged area covered about 600 square meters (6,456 square feet).
Chernobyl NPP technical director and chief engineer Andrei Bilyk said the temporary cover was recommended by experts who visited the plant last week, and that the station’s management saw it as “the first thing that has to be done.”
“Our specialists, including the technical service, are currently studying technical options of how to close this hole with a temporary cover. We have the technology, have the equipment, we are able to do it,” Bilyk said.
He said works are due to be over by the end of May.
Two expert commissions said in a report on Tuesday that there was no danger to humans or the environment and that the collapse did not affect the safety of the damaged reactor’s cover. Radiation levels have been within the normal range.
The chief engineer described the structure’s current condition as “stable.”
“We came to a conclusion that there will be no further collapses. We expect no domino effect,” Bilyk said.
Available at: http://en.rian.ru/world/20130302/179771733/Temporary-Cover-to-be-Built-over-Collapsed-Chernobyl-Roof-------.html
1. Brazil Opens Naval Shipyard to Build Conventional Submarines and Eventually a Nuclear Powered One
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Brazil advanced toward its target of joining the small club of nations that have nuclear-powered submarines with the opening of a naval shipyard installation that will build French-designed submarines.
President Dilma Rousseff inaugurated the factory that will make metal hull structures for four conventional diesel-electric Scorpene attack submarines and eventually a fifth submarine powered by a nuclear reactor developed entirely by Brazil.
She said Brazil, which is Latin America’s largest economy was a peaceful country but a defence industry was needed to deter and prevent violent conflict.
“This facility allows our country to affirm itself on the world stage and, above all, develop in an independent sovereign way,” Rousseff said.
The submarines will be made by French shipbuilder DCNS in a joint venture with Brazil’s Odebrecht at the Brazilian Navy base on Sepetiba Bay south of Rio de Janeiro.
The 7.8 billion Reais (3.95bn dollars) program will turn out the first conventional submarine in 2015 and the nuclear-powered submarine will be commissioned in 2023 and enter operation in 2025, the Brazilian Navy said in a statement.
Available at: http://en.mercopress.com/2013/03/04/brazil-opens-naval-shipyard-to-build-conventional-submarines-and-eventually-a-nuclear-powered-one
2. UN Nuclear Watchdog Reports on Fukushima Accident, Iran and DPR Korea
UN News Centre
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The United Nations is working hard to help Japan deal with the consequences of the March 2011 nuclear power plant accident, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said today, as he presented a report in which he also voiced concern about issues relating to Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
“It has been a challenging two years, especially for the people and Government of Japan, but also for the IAEA. However, the worst elements of the accident are behind us and we are now in the post-accident phase,” Director General Yukiya Amano told the Agency’s Board of Governors as it began its first meeting of the year in Vienna.
Next Monday is the second anniversary of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan. The incident was reported to be the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
“The Agency continues to work hard to help Japan deal with the consequences of the accident. Member States are also making serious efforts to implement the lessons learned from this and from previous accidents,” noted Mr. Amano.
At the Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety in December, the IAEA signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with the Governor of Fukushima Prefecture by which they will work together on projects on radiation monitoring, remediation, human health, and capacity building in emergency preparedness and response.
Work has also begun on a comprehensive IAEA report on the Fukushima Daiichi accident, which the Agency hopes to finalize in 2014.
The 35-nation Board is meeting to discuss the IAEA’s work on nuclear verification, safety, security and the peaceful use of nuclear technologies.
Mr. Amano reported that the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement.
“However, Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation to enable us to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. The Agency therefore cannot conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities,” he stated.
Iran’s nuclear programme – which its officials have stated is for peaceful purposes, but some other countries contend is driven by military ambitions – has been a matter of international concern since the discovery in 2003 that the country had concealed its nuclear activities for 18 years in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Mr. Amano noted that the Agency and Iran have had three rounds of talks since November 2012. “However, it has not been possible to reach agreement,” he said, adding that access to the Parchin site for verification has not been granted.
“I am therefore, once again, unable to report any progress on the clarification of outstanding issues, including those relating to possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme,” he said.
The Director General requested Iran once again to provide access to the Parchin site without further delay, saying that doing so would be “a positive step” which would help to demonstrate Iran’s willingness to engage with the Agency on the substance of its concerns.
Mr. Amano also voiced deep regret at the announcement by DPRK on 12 February that it had conducted a third test of a nuclear weapon, despite calls from the international community not to do so. “I reiterate my call for the DPRK to fully comply with the NPT and to cooperate promptly and fully with the Agency. The IAEA remains ready to contribute to the peaceful resolution of this issue by resuming its nuclear verification activities once political agreement is reached among the countries concerned,” he stated.
Available at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44274&Cr=nuclear&Cr1=
An application for the construction of units 3 and 4 at the new Barakah plant in the UAE has been submitted by the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) to the country's nuclear regulator.
Enec announced that it submitted the 10,000-page application for Barakah units 3 and 4 to the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) on 1 March. The move, it said, was "the culmination of 18 months of intense work by Enec and its prime contractor, the Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco)."
The application is based on that for Barakah units 1 and 2 and the safety analysis completed for Kepco's Shin Kori units 3 and 4 in South Korea. These are the reference units for the Barakah plant. Enec earlier said that its reactors will be "essentially the same" as those units "but supplemented with changes required to adapt to the UAE climatic conditions and any specific requirements for FANR." These differences relate to a 50 Hertz output instead of 60 Hertz, as well as higher temperatures and the possibility of sand storms.
The construction licence application also includes the design changes identified from lessons learned from the Fukushima accident.
Enec CEO Mohamed Al Hammadi commented, "This marks another important milestone in our program as we work towards delivering safe, clean, reliable and efficient nuclear energy to the UAE." He added, "The team has worked diligently to deliver to our regulator a comprehensive, high-quality application that draws from all the experience we have gained - through our reference plants in Korea, the lessons learned from Fukushima, and our own experience with the first application process for units 1 and 2."
In a $20 billion deal announced in December 2009, Enec selected a Korean consortium led by Kepco to build four APR-1400 reactors. All four units planned for Barakah, close to the border with Saudi Arabia, should be in operation by 2020.
Approval of construction licence application for units 1 and 2 came in July 2012. Enec said that construction work on the first two units is progressing on schedule. First concrete for unit 1 was poured the day after the construction licence was issued, while extensive preparatory work is underway at unit 2. First concrete for unit 2 expected to be poured by mid-2013. Unit 1 is scheduled to be completed in 2017, with unit 2 following a year later.
Unit 3 is scheduled to begin commercial operation in May 2019, with unit 4 following in May 2020.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Application_in_for_two_more_Barakah_units-0403134.html
The chairman of the UK’s Energy and Climate Change Committee, Tim Yeo, says government inaction means Britain is in danger of suffering energy shortages and blackouts in a few years.
Mr Yeo believes that the country has been compromised by relying on just one developer, EDF, to build new nuclear power plants, and is now under pressure to come to an agreement on price with the French-owned company.
Speaking to the BBC’sToday programme, the Conservative MP said: "We've had a decade of neglect of nuclear policy, and we do need nuclear, it's an essential part of our energy mix."
"The danger is there's only one company ready to build nuclear power stations, and the negotiations which they're having with the government are at a crisis point, they may even fail - it will then be at least 10 or 12 years before any nuclear power stations are built in this country."
"The government seems to be crossing its fingers that private companies will deliver a fleet of new nuclear power stations on time and on budget. Ministers need to urgently come up with a contingency plan in case the nuclear industry does not deliver the new power stations we need."
Last month the outgoing chief executive of Ofgem, Alistair Buchanan warned that the UK will have to go shopping on world markets for gas to try to make up for the pending shortfall. He painted a stark picture of a scenario whereby nuclear power plants were over 10 years away, coal power plants were closing down and shale gas development was far from ready.
EDF Energy is in a stand-off with ministers over demands for higher prices for its energy, and work on the first potential reactor is likely to face further opposition, endangering the government's timetable for new nuclear power plant developments.
Available at: http://www.powerengineeringint.com/articles/2013/03/Fears-of-future-power-blackouts-grow-in-the-UK.html
3. Streamlined Energy Panel Has Fewer Anti-nuke Advocates
The Asahi Shimbun
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Only two anti-nuclear advocates remain on the pared-down panel of experts tasked with compiling Japan's new basic energy policy, making a dramatic shift away from nuclear power unlikely.
The number of panel members has been reduced from 25 to 15, with several anti-nuclear advocates being passed over for reappointment. The panel was set up when the Democratic Party of Japan was in power, and one-third of panel members were opposed to nuclear energy.
The new lineup of members was announced by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on March 1.
The panel is expected to make its recommendations for a new basic energy policy by the end of the year.
Akio Mimura, an adviser to Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corp., will continue to serve as chairman of the panel.
Although 10 members from the last panel were reappointed, a number of anti-nuclear advocates were sidelined, including Tetsunari Iida, executive director of the nonprofit Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies, and Junko Edahiro, an environmental journalist.
The only nuclear energy opponents left on the panel are Kazuhiro Ueta, an economics professor at Kyoto University, and Kikuko Tatsumi, a consumer affairs adviser.
New members to the panel include Issei Nishikawa, governor of Fukui Prefecture, which has 13 nuclear reactors in its jurisdiction, the largest number in Japan, and Toshiyuki Shiga, chief operating officer of Nissan Motor Co.
When the DPJ was still in power, eight of the 25 panel members were opposed to continued dependence on nuclear energy. However, discussions have not been held since November because Mimura said the DPJ government's stance of decommissioning all nuclear reactors by the 2030s was too vague.
At a March 1 news conference, Toshimitsu Motegi, the industry minister, said: "We are not hoping for a clear demarcation into two camps during discussions on individual issues. We are hoping that a comprehensive policy direction can be reached centered on specialization in each field."
He also added that no conclusion had been reached on whether a long-term ratio of dependence on nuclear energy would be included in the new basic energy policy.
Available at: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201303020038
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