1. UN Orders New Nuclear Sanctions Against N. Korea
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The UN Security Council on Thursday imposed new sanctions against North Korea amid escalating tensions as the North threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States. The council unanimously passed a resolution, agreed by the United States and China, which added new names to the UN sanctions blacklist and tightened restrictions on the North's financial dealings, notably its "bulk cash" transfers. North Korea said ahead of the meeting that a new war was "unavoidable" because of South Korean-US military exercises. The North's military "will exercise the right to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors," said the foreign ministry. North Korea now faces one of the toughest UN sanctions regimes ever imposed after three nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and the latest on February 12. And resolution 2094 agreed by the 15-member Security Council threatened "further significant measures" if the North stages a new nuclear test or rocket launch. The resolution expresses "gravest concern" over the nuclear test and adds three new individuals, a government science academy and trading company to the UN blacklist for a travel ban and assets freeze. Two of the individuals are Yon Chong-Nam and Ko Chol Chae, the head and deputy chief of Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID). The resolution described KOMID as North Korea's "primary arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons."
The government's Second Academy of Natural Sciences was also added to the list. It carries out research on North Korea's "advanced weapons systems, including missiles and probably nuclear weapons," said the resolution.
US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice (C) votes with UN Security Council members to adopt sanctions against North Korea at the United Nations headquarters in New York, March 7, 2013. The UN Security Council on Thursday imposed new sanctions against North Korea amid escalating tensions as the North threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States.
The resolution calls for "enhanced vigilance" over North Korean diplomats. US officials suspect the diplomats have been carrying suitcases of cash to get around financial sanctions.
The Security Council said it was concerned that North Korea "is abusing the privileges and immunities" given under diplomatic conventions.
It says that a ban on financial transactions linked to the North's weapons programs must include "bulk cash" transfers.
Earlier resolutions gave states the right to inspect suspect cargos. Those inspections will become mandatory. The new measures also call on states to turn away airplanes if there are reasons to believe that they carry prohibited items.
The Security Council had also banned exports of luxury goods but this resolution for the first time says that certain jewelery, yachts and luxury and racing cars must be banned.
The North's foreign ministry said that adoption of the resolution would fast track North Korean plans to carry out promised "powerful" countermeasures.
It blasted the United States and South Korea over military exercises which have just started in the South.
The North said earlier this week that it would withdraw on Monday from the armistice that halted the 1950-53 Korean War.
A foreign ministry spokesman warned that a second Korean war was "unavoidable", with the United States and South Korea refusing to cancel their joint military exercise.
"Now that the US is set to light a fuse for a nuclear war, (our) revolutionary armed forces... will exercise the right to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors," the spokesman said in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
In the past, the North has threatened attacks on US forces in South Korea and also claims to possess long-range missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the continental United States.
North Korean state television showed a massive military and civilian rally held Thursday in Pyongyang's giant Kim Il-Sung square.
The rally was addressed by senior military and party officials who denounced the United States and warned that Washington would reap the consequences of its "aggression".
1. IAEA Chief Amano Wins New Term, Iran "Hopes He Will Change"
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Yukiya Amano, who led the U.N. nuclear watchdog to take a tougher approach to Iran, secured a second four-year term as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Wednesday.
The veteran Japanese diplomat was approved by consensus by the IAEA's 35-nation governing board as Iran came under increasing pressure from Western countries which suspect it of developing nuclear weapons technology.
Western diplomats are generally happy with Amano - who only narrowly won the job in 2009 when he succeeded Egyptian Mohamed ElBaradei whom they criticized for taking a softer line on Tehran. There were no rival candidates this time.
Iran, which denies it is seeking nuclear weapons and accuses the West of using its scientific progress as an excuse to bully it with sanctions, is less happy with Amano.
Tehran has rejected the IAEA's request to visit a military facility where the agency suspects explosives tests relevant for nuclear weapons development took place, possibly a decade ago. "There have been some ups and downs," said Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the IAEA, when asked about Amano's performance. "We really expect and hope that he will change the course of action."
Diplomats say Amano's IAEA has at times also had uneasy relations with Russia.
Russia, and to a lesser extent China, made clear their displeasure with the agency's decision in late 2011 to issue a report giving a wealth of information pointing to activities in Iran relevant for nuclear weapons development.
Western powers seized on the report to tighten the sanctions pressure on Iran, a major oil producer. Beijing and Moscow have criticized unilateral punitive steps on Tehran.
Soltanieh said Amano's reports on Iran's nuclear program "provoke" IAEA member states. "We cannot accept that we will continue to have political pressure and tension on the board of governors," he said. Iran is not a member of the IAEA board.
Amano, 65, said he faced "many and huge challenges" in his work and that the aim was to help resolve the Iran nuclear issue through diplomatic means.
"For that I need cooperation from Iran," he told reporters after the board decided on his re-appointment, which needs to be confirmed by an annual meeting of all 159 IAEA member states in September.
Under Amano, the IAEA was criticized in 2011 for a perceived slow initial response to Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster, but later led international efforts to agree an action plan to improve global reactor safety.
In 2009, supported largely by industrialized nations, Amano defeated South Africa's Abdul Samad Minty in a sixth round of balloting after five inconclusive votes.
The United States and Israel were deeply suspicious of ElBaradei, who ran the Vienna-based IAEA from 1997 to 2009, and what they saw as his attempts to undermine efforts to ratchet up the pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.
In 2010, Britain's Guardian newspaper cited U.S. diplomatic cables as saying that Amano suggested before he took office the previous year that he was "solidly in the U.S. court" on key issues including Iran. Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/06/us-nuclear-iaea-amano-idUSBRE92511V20130306
1. Flooding Complicates Clean-Up at Japanese Nuclear Plant
James Topham and Mari Saito
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Tokyo Electric Power Co is struggling to stop groundwater flooding into damaged reactors at its wrecked Fukushima plant and it may take four years to fix the problem, possibly delaying the removal of melted uranium fuel.
A March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling equipment at the company's Fukushima Daiichi plant north of Tokyo, triggering the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. More than 160,000 people were forced from their homes.
Nearly two years later, hundreds of metric tons of groundwater is seeping into the damaged reactor buildings every day and mixing with water still being poured on the leaking reactors through a jerry-rigged cooling system.
Dealing with the contaminated water has been especially tricky because of equipment failures and high levels of radiation.
Shunichi Suzuki, Tepco's general manager for research and development of Fukushima Daiichi decommissioning, said on Friday stopping the groundwater was crucial.
"Every day we have approximately 400 metric tons of groundwater," Suzuki told Reuters in an interview.
Tepco is building a bypass system to try to stop the groundwater flowing from high ground into the buildings.
On Thursday, the Japanese government told the utility to revise by June its roadmap for cleaning up the site, which is expected to take 30 to 40 years. Experts say it could cost at least $100 billion to close the reactors down.
Plugging leaks in the reactors and removing the water is a necessary before removing melted fuel from the three damaged reactors.
Two years after the disaster, Japan is facing a third year with most nuclear reactors shut because of safety fears the accident raised. The shutdowns have forced Japan to import more fossil fuels for electricity generation pushing it into a current account deficit.
One of the most daunting tasks remains the disposal of water contaminated after it is poured onto the reactors. Radioactive material must be filtered out and stored.
Work to treat and store the contaminated water is behind schedule, partly because of the groundwater flooding in. On Thursday, the company announced another delay in an operation to remove most radioactive material from the water.
Tepco also needs to plug leaks in the reactors made by firms which included General Electric Co, Hitachi Ltd and Toshiba Corp so they can filled with water to reduce radiation exposure and prepare for the removal of fuel.
"We are developing remote technologies to do that, but in case there are too many holes and it is difficult to repair all of them, we have to take a different approach," Suzuki said.
The company may resort to pouring a cement-like material into the rectors' suppression chambers to plug leaks it has not been able to locate, Suzuki said.
"One approach we are considering is putting grout, like cement," he said. "In other words, filling it in. That would block all the holes."
Removing the ground water may take two to four more years, Suzuki said, adding that it wasn't possible to give a firm schedule.
Tepco is building tanks to hold the water and has capacity for 320,000 metric tons of water but wants to increase that to 400,000 metric tons by June.
The utility is considering several measures to dispose of the water, including treating and releasing it into the sea. But Tepco officials said they would not go ahead with that without the consent of authorities.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/08/us-fukushima-disaster-delays-idUSBRE9270A820130308
The latest aerial survey of the Fukushima region reveals a pattern of contamination significantly reduced in the space of a year by natural processes of radioactive decay and dispersal.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) released the latest map on 1 March, based on data collected by a survey during October and December last year. Compared to the version from October and November 2011 it shows widespread recolouring, with each colour change indicating a reduction by half in surveyed radiation dose.
Most obvious is a marked reduction in the size of the red portion, which represents high radiation dose rates of over 19.0 microSieverts per hour (uSv/h) - some 166 milliSieverts per year (mSv/y). Anything above 50 mSv/y is characterised as 'difficult to return to' by Japanese authorities.
The accident at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011 released three main radioactive substances: iodine-131, caesium-134 and caesium-137.
Of these, iodine-131 is the quickest to decay, with a half-life of around eight days that means it had contributed virtually nothing to the 2011 map. Of more interest is caesium-134, with a half-life of two years that would show significant reduction in the annual timespan shown by the maps. Further noticeable reductions due to ongoing decay of caesium-134 decay are expected, with these gradually tailing off in years to come.
The long-term issue remains the caesium-137, which has a half-life of about 30 years, and will maintain raised levels of ambient radiation for a significant time. Japanese national and regional governments are tackling this through an extensive clean-up and decontamination program.
Apart from decay, natural processes have also contributed to reducing levels of contamination in the last year. Rainfall moves contamination through river systems to the sea, where strong currents and a powerful dilution effect make radioactivity virtually undetectable even alongside the damaged power plant itself. The region also suffered a Class 4 Typhoon in July last year that will have accelerated dispersal effects.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Radiation_declines_at_Fukushima_0603131.html
3. TEPCO Considers Dumping Water from Fukushima Nuclear Plant into Ocean
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Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has started to consider dumping massive amounts of water from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant into the Pacific Ocean after treating the radiation-tainted water.
The utility is considering taking the measure because space on the premises of the nuclear power station for storage tanks for contaminated water is nearing its limit. Before releasing the contaminated water into the ocean, TEPCO plans to introduce new purification equipment to remove radioactive substances from the contaminated water as early as the end of March and conduct a test operation. But with the local fisheries industry standing firmly against any move to release the water into the ocean, the situation remains far from resolved.
At an expert meeting of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) held in Tokyo on March 1, a TEPCO official commented on how to deal with the ever-increasing contaminated water, saying, "We will treat it with new purification equipment. If we were to release the water into the ocean, we would like to obtain the understanding of the people concerned." Responding to this, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a plenary session of the House of Representatives on March 5, "The water will not be released into the ocean easily."
There is about 360,000 cubic meters of contaminated water on the premises of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Of the total volume of the water, about 80,000 cubic meters is in reactor buildings at the No. 1 to No. 4 reactors and about 40,000 cubic meters is in other reactor buildings and elsewhere, leaving storage tanks that can hold only about 240,000 cubic meters available.
TEPCO is currently using cesium absorption equipment to remove radioactive substances such as cesium from the contaminated water. The utility then separates it into pure water and condensed salt water, and reuses the pure water to cool molten fuel and store the condensed salt water in tanks.
There is apparently an influx of about 400 cubic meters of groundwater per day beneath the reactor buildings, but the influx routes have not been confirmed. TEPCO plans to build more storage tanks by September 2015 to boost the capacity to a total of 700,000 cubic meters. But space on the premises of the plant for such storage tanks is nearing its limit.
Furthermore, the condensed salt water in storage tanks and the pure water to be used as coolant still contain not only cesium but also many other radioactive substances such as strontium. A senior NRA official voiced concern, saying, "There is always a danger of radioactive substances being released from storage tanks into the general environment." Problems have emerged one after another, hampering efforts to decommission the nuclear power station.
This led TEPCO Managing Director Akio Komori to declare the need to consider the release of water into the ocean as an option. Hoping to make the option a reality, the utility introduced a water purification system called "ALPS." On Feb. 21, an NRA expert panel endorsed TEPCO's plan to conduct a test run on ALPS, saying, "The risk involved in the problem of contaminated water can be reduced by introducing ALPS." TEPCO plans to test the new system soon.
However, while the new system is capable of removing a total of 62 of the 63 radioactive substances so far detected, it cannot remove radioactive tritium for technical reasons. The concentration of tritium contained in contaminated water and other areas is about 1,300 becquerels per 1 cubic centimeter, exceeding the government-imposed limit of 60 becquerels per 1 cubic centimeter. Therefore, the NRA demanded TEPCO store condensed salt water on the premises of the nuclear plant even after treating it using ALPS.
University of Tokyo professor Satoru Tanaka, who is knowledgeable on tritium, said, "Tritium removal equipment is operating in Canada, but a huge device is needed to remove the substance from such a large amount of contaminated water as that from the Fukushima plant. It is unrealistic. Even if the water were to be released into the ocean, it would have to be diluted to push the levels of tritium below the prescribed standard." On how to treat the tritium, TEPCO said, "It is under consideration at present."
Shoichi Abe, a senior official of the Soma Futaba fisheries association, angrily said, "Even if tritium is diluted, it cannot be removed 100 percent. If it is released into the ocean, consumers will look at Fukushima's seas with suspicion."
On April 2, 2011 -- shortly after the outbreak of the nuclear disaster -- highly radioactive water that leaked from the No. 2 reactor flowed into the ocean. Shortly after that, TEPCO intentionally released low-level radioactive water into the ocean without consulting with local residents in advance. Because of this, the fisheries industry was forced to stop operations to catch fish temporarily in waters off Fukushima.
The issue of releasing the contaminated water into the ocean has emerged at a time when the local fisheries industry has just begun to rebuild itself. Therefore, the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations has been urging TEPCO to pledge never to release contaminated water into the ocean.
Available at: http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20130306p2a00m0na019000c.html
4. AREVA : and its Japanese Partner Kobe Steel Deliver the First Dry Storage Casks for Spent Fuels of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant
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Electric Power Co., Ltd (TEPCO) the first three metallic casks for the dry storage of spent fuels stored in the common pool of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
TEPCO plans to transfer the spent fuels currently stored in the spent fuel pools of damaged units 1 to 4 to the common pool which did not suffer damages after March 11th events. This transfer will be made possible thanks to the loading of a number of spent fuels from the common pool into the dry storage casks delivered by TransNuclear Ltd. These casks will then be stored by TEPCO in the cask temporary storage facilities under construction on the site of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The order from TEPCO consists of 11 casks in which a total of 452 spent fuels can be stored. Eight other casks will be delivered to TEPCO in the coming weeks. These deliveries are an important step in the decommissioning process of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
These casks can withstand major natural disasters as proven by the nine similar casks used by TEPCO on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant site at the time of the March 11th events. This is a new illustration of the very high safety level of the solutions proposed by AREVA to its customers.
With an experience of nearly 50 years, AREVA provides high-performance solutions for interim storage of nuclear materials while guaranteeing the highest level of safety. AREVA is the worldwide reference and the leader of the interim storage market.
Available at: http://www.4-traders.com/AREVA-8084917/news/AREVA-and-its-Japanese-partner-Kobe-Steel-deliver-the-first-dry-storage-casks-for-spent-fuels-of-F-16437066/
The Department of Energy wants to ship as much as 3.1 million gallons of radioactive waste from its Hanford site in Washington state to New Mexico.
Shipment of the waste, from Hanford’s infamous radioactive sludge tanks, would help alleviate pressure on the agency to clear waste out of Washington. But in attempting to accomplish that, the Department of Energy has rekindled a decade-old argument about whether the waste is appropriate for disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the Department of Energy said it believed the waste “may be properly and legally classified” as meeting disposal requirements for shipment to WIPP.
The federal agency long insisted that the waste is no more radioactive than other waste already being disposed of at WIPP. But the administration of then-Gov. Bill Richardson in 2004 disagreed, writing strict provisions into WIPP’s state permit to try to prevent the waste from being shipped to New Mexico. Richardson, who as secretary of energy in 1999 was responsible for WIPP’s opening, was vocal later as governor in opposing attempts to expand its mission to include disposal of the Hanford waste.
The Department of Energy is expected to request a formal modification of the state permit to allow the waste to be sent to WIPP, New Mexico Environment Department spokesman Jim Winchester said Wednesday.
In an emailed statement, Winchester said a permit modification request would be “thoroughly evaluated on technical merit and for compliance with applicable laws and regulations.”
Don Hancock of the Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque said citizen opposition to the proposal is likely in a repeat of the political battle when DOE made a similar proposal a decade ago.
Available at: http://www.abqjournal.com/main/2013/03/07/news/doe-wants-to-send-hanford-waste-to-wipp.html
2. DPP Legislators Cite 9 'Time Bombs' at 4th Nuclear Power Plant Roof
Wen Kuei-hsiang, Huang Chiao-wen Chen Shun-hsieh and Y.L. Kao
Focus Taiwan News Channel
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Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators charged Tuesday that Taiwan's unfinished Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is plagued by nine major problems, which they described as "time bombs."
The DPP lawmakers said they plan to disclose their findings to the Control Yuan and freeze funding used by state-run utility Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower) to promote the plant's continued construction.
Among the nine problems identified by DPP lawmakers, including Lin Chia-lung and Gao Jyh-peng, are improper welding techniques used on the plant's nuclear reactors, serious damage done to standby emergency generators, and drywells potentially unable to withstand operating temperatures, which could lead to leaks of radioactive substances.
A drywell is the containment structure that encloses the reactor and recirculation system in a boiling water reactor system, the design being used in the controversial project.
The legislators also said 1,400 grounding lines do not meet design standards, and the touch panels in the control room reflect light, which could lead to mistakes in an emergency situation.
Gao accused the government of wanting to use the referendum to sidestep the nuclear safety issue, and he said the Legislature would invite heads of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Taipower to give briefings on the issue.
Taipower spokesman Lee Hung-chou said later Tuesday that four of the nine problems cited by the DPP legislators simply do not exist, and that the other five have been resolved or are being corrected.
A spokesman for the facility in Gongliao District in New Taipei, known formally as the Lungmen Nuclear Power Plant, acknowledged the problem with glare on the touch panels and said the plant has asked domestic manufacturers to install screens on the devices to keep it away.
The Atomic Energy Council has also instructed Taipower, which operates the nuclear plants, to implement a number of additional tsunami, flooding and earthquake safety measures, the spokesman said.
These include expanding the emergency planning zones around the plant from the current 5-kilometer radius to 8 kilometers.
Critics have also questioned how Taipower plans to manage nuclear waste generated by the plant if it goes into operation, but Tsai Fu-feng, a Taipower spokesman, said Taiwan is technically able to deal with nuclear waste and has ground sites suitable for storing it.
The storage of nuclear waste will ultimately be decided through a democratic process, the company said.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs has chosen Wuciou Island in Kinmen County and Daren Township in Taitung County as possible sites to store low-level radioactive waste, and it plans to hold referendums in both areas to decide on a site.
Available at: http://focustaiwan.tw/ShowNews/WebNews_Detail.aspx?Type=aALL&ID=201303050024
Officials behind China's self-developed nuclear reactor, known as the CAP1400, expect to sign its first overseas orders for the technology this year, most likely from South America or Asia.
Sun Qin, chairman of China National Nuclear Corp, told China Daily the deals should mean the start of construction of a CAP1400 reactor in China by the end of the year, after approval from the State Council.
Sun added the reactor has been approved by China's security inspector, a detailed construction schedule is now under way, and a construction site has been finalized at Fuqing in Fujian province.
He refused to disclose which nations are negotiating to buy a reactor.
Most developing countries with nuclear energy ambitions have limited resources available at present, he added.
But he said countries had found it attractive to talk to CNNC because of the favorable and unconditional credit conditions they have been offered to buy the Chinese technology.
Feng Xiangzhao, a researcher at the Policy Research Center for Environment and Economy, which is attached to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, said if China could manage to export its nuclear technology, it could help make a huge contribution to global carbon reduction.
"Many developing nations could benefit from this and reduce their carbon emissions. This could also diversify their energy mix," Feng said.
Sun said China's nuclear power station construction would continue to develop at a stable pace during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15).
Its nuclear station construction program was halted for 20 months after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan in March 2011, but had gradually resumed by the second half of last year.
"I think during the 12th Five-Year Plan, China's nuclear station construction should be prudent. The pace should be five or six reactors a year," Sun said.
"Then, as its management and regulation mature, the pace could be accelerated during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20)."
At the height of the previous boom, 11 reactors were built in China in 2011. Sun said CNNC was open to the possibility of developing further nuclear stations in inland regions, as technically speaking, building stations in inland areas is no different to building them along the coast.
He added that nuclear construction will continue in traditional areas and one or two inland sites could be studied.
In a sign of the eagerness of inland provinces to develop nuclear stations, Hunan officials have made the construction of the Taohuajiang station their No 1 proposal during the ongoing annual session of the National People's Congress.
Feng said previous expansion of nuclear stations had been too bold, and that some of the potential sites were chosen without enough planning.
Feng added: "Nuclear power projects carry a very slim chance of an accident, but if they do happen, the consequences can be disastrous. So every project should be very carefully examined."
Sun also disclosed that China has been maintaining its pace of research into fourth-generation nuclear reactor technology.
The country has two experimental 4G nuclear reactor sites, both moving from the experimental phase to the model phase. The final stage in a development is the commercial phase.
"The international community has set a target that by 2030 to 2035, commercial 4G reactor technology should be available.
"We will be ready to reach the commercial phase by 2030, which is the same, or a little earlier than the international pace," Sun said.
Available at: http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2013-03/08/content_16290372.htm
2. India, Kazakhstan to Carry Forward Civil Nuclear Cooperation Beyond 2014
The Economic Times
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India and Kazakhstan today agreed to carry forward their civil nuclear cooperation beyond 2014, the deadline for the supply of fuel for the reactors as per the present nuclear contract, with the uranium-rich nation assuring to help meet the "big appetite" of energy-deficient India.
The two sides also discussed projects of ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), which has already acquired 25 per cent stake in the Satpayev Oil Block in the Caspian Sea, with India seeking Kazakhstan's support for an important bid that OVL is making for a stake in the Kashagan oil field.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and his Kazakh counterpart Erlan Idrissov held comprehensive talks on various regional and international issues of mutual interest and reviewed status of bilateral ties in key areas of defence, civil nuclear energy and hydrocarbons.
"We hold similar views on most pressing global problems. We agreed that the menace of international terrorism has to be fought by the international community collectively and that we must also make bilateral efforts in this direction," Khurshid said at a joint press conference with Idrissov.
They also discussed ways to enhance civil nuclear cooperation with Idrissov noting that the agreement inked by two sides for supply of fuel till 2014 was being implemented.
"Therefore, we are looking beyond that," the visiting dignitary said while noting that the Chairman of Kazakh nuclear company KazAtomProm was part of his delegation and he held discussions with his counterpart here.
India and Kazakhstan already have civil nuclear cooperation since January 2009 when NPCIL and Kazakh nuclear company KazAtomProm signed an MoU under which KazAtomProm supplies uranium for Indian reactors.
India has 20 operating nuclear units with five more, including a fast breeder, under construction. Another 39 are planned or firmly proposed. However, the country has only modest indigenous uranium resources.
In 2010, the NPCIL reported that it had imported some 868 tonnes of uranium so far that year, including 300 tonnes of natural uranium from Kazakh nuclear company KazAtomProm.
Kazakhstan, on the other hand, has 15 per cent of the world's uranium resources and became the leading uranium- producing country in 2009.
Available at: http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2013-03-05/news/37469802_1_kazatomprom-india-and-kazakhstan-kazakh-counterpart
1. Global Laser Enrichment Formally Proposes Uranium Facility for Paducah
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GE–Hitachi division Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) has reportedly submitted a nonbinding proposal to establish an additional uranium enrichment facility at the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Paducah enrichment site in Kentucky.
Australian firm Silex Systems, which will provide the laser technology to be used in the proposed plant, said in its half-year operational update that GLE’s proposal is part of an expression of interest submitted to the DOE on Feb. 21 for the enrichment facility in Paducah. The company noted that a preliminary evaluation of an opportunity to establish an additional enrichment plant in Paducah using SILEX technology was announced on Nov. 20.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in September gave GLE a license to operate a previously proposed facility that could be sited on a 1,600-acre tract of land at the company's global headquarters in Wilmington, N.C., where GLE currently operates a fuel fabrication plant. The license allows GLE to enrich uranium up to 8% by weight in the fissile isotope U-235, using Silex's Separation of Isotopes by Laser Excitation (SILEX) technology to produce 6 million single work units (SWU) per year. But GLE has yet to make a commercialization decision. If built, the facility would be one of three new enrichment plants expected to be operational in the U.S. by 2020, even though several others have received NRC approval and federal government funding.
Only one fully operating enrichment plant exists in the nation—USEC's Paducah facility in Kentucky, a large gaseous diffusion plant that was commissioned in 1952 and which has a capacity of about 8 million SWU per year. But that plant is expected to close down in May 2013. About 12.7 million SWU per year are required by the 104 reactors operating in the U.S. today.
USEC's own proposed enrichment plant, the American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon, Ohio, was licensed by the NRC in April 2007, but it was put on hold in July 2009 after the DOE declined to award the project a $2 billion loan guarantee. Last June, USEC reached an agreement with the DOE for a $350 million cooperative research and development program that would be 80% funded by the DOE for this purpose. In November, the DOE agreed to provide an additional $45.7 million in federal funding for the program. The program supports building, installing, operating, and testing commercial plant support systems and a 120-machine cascade that would be incorporated in the full commercial plant in Piketon, which is planned to operate 96 identical cascades. USEC says the program is "within budget and on-schedule."
A majority of enriched uranium used to produce nuclear fuel in the U.S. is imported, with about half of it coming from Russian weapons-grade uranium that is downblended to a low-enriched uranium in Russia. Only about 5% of uranium is sourced domestically; most of it is mined in New Mexico and Wyoming.
Available at: http://www.powermag.com/nuclear/Global-Laser-Enrichment-Formally-Proposes-Uranium-Facility-for-Paducah_5436.html
After much speculation, MIT's Ernest Moniz has been announced as President Barack Obama's choice for energy secretary. He awaits confirmation by the US Senate.
Moniz is no stranger to the Department of Energy (DoE), which he is now likely to head. He served as under secretary of energy for President Bill Clinton from 1997 to 2001, taking responsibility for the department's network of 17 national laboratories. Currently he is the Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and director of its Energy Initiative and its Laboratory for Energy and the Environment.
On nuclear power, Moniz takes a pragmatic view, saying it would be a "mistake... to let Fukushima cause governments to abandon nuclear power and its benefits." He wrote this in a November 2011 article for Foreign Affairs magazine. Recognizing the benefits of nuclear power in terms of reliable, low-carbon generation, Moniz listed some of the problems that should be overcome in the USA to allow nuclear to fulfil its potential.
Chief among these are economic issues of high build and capital costs, which are exacerbated when problems occur during construction. Industry is working hard to address the issue for new build in Western countries. Elsewhere, in China and Russia for example, predictable construction costs and schedules are already a reality. In America, "the government and industry need to advance new designs that lower the financial risk of constructing nuclear power plants."
Second on Moniz's list was to fix the "dysfunctional" waste management system that had seen a $25 billion fund build up from industry contributions to finance a non-existent program after Yucca Mountain was pulled by Obama with collaboration from outgoing energy secretary Stephen Chu and former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Gregory Jazcko.
Moniz contributed to the Blue Ribbon Commission that drafted ideas for a replacement strategy. A year after the commission's report came proposals from the DoE for a central interim dry storage facility to be created for the period until a permanent underground disposal site was set up. This corresponds closely to Moniz' ideas in the Foreign Affairs article, in which he said moving used reactor fuel from wet to dry storage should be a priority and money from the Nuclear Waste Fund should be used to do this.
Moniz had called for the US government to support the development of small modular reactors (SMRs), which could take advantage of economies of manufacturing, rather than the economies of scale offered by large reactors (complete with capital cost issues). He described this trade-off as "a proposition that will have to be tested," calling for the government to share some of the risk. Such an SMR cost-sharing program is in fact part of the DoE's plans, with Babcock & Wilcox the recent winner of a cost-sharing scheme to accelerate commercialisation of a small reactor design. Said Moniz, "If the USA takes a hiatus from creating new clean-energy options - be it SMRs, renewable energy, advanced batteries, or carbon capture and sequestration - Americans will look back in ten years with regret."
Moniz wrote: "As greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere, finding ways to generate power cleanly, affordably, and reliably is becoming an even more pressing imperative. Nuclear power is not a silver bullet, but it is a partial solution that has proved workable on a large scale. Countries will need to pursue a combination of strategies to cut emissions, including reining in energy demand, replacing coal power plants with cleaner natural gas plants, and investing in new technologies such as renewable energy and carbon capture and sequestration. The government's role should be to help provide the private sector with a well-understood set of options, including nuclear power - not to prescribe a desired market share for any specific technology."
Speaking yesterday to announce Moniz's nomination, Obama said he "could not be more grateful" to outgoing energy secretary, the Nobel laureate Stephen Chu. President of MIT Rafael Reif said Obama "has made an excellent choice in his selection."
US nuclear industry trade group the Nuclear Energy Institute welcomed Moniz's nomination, calling on him to quickly implement waste policies - as well as reevaluate the waste fund and restart the licensing of Yucca Mountain "as a matter of legal obligation." The NEI's president and CEO Marv Fertel said Obama's nomination of Moniz "has sent America a strong message that its energy leadership will be entrusted to a strong advocate of clean energy supplies, including nuclear energy."
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP_Moniz_is_Obamas_new_man_for_energy_0503131.html
3. Deal at Czech Nuclear Power Plant Fuels US-Russia Economic Rivalry
Christian Science Monitor
(for personal use only)
The nuclear power plant that towers over the green fields outside the small Czech village of Temelin is quickly becoming a frontline in the economic rivalry between the United States and Russia.
Companies with ties to both countries are vying for a contract to build two new reactors at the site, a move that analysts say could open new nuclear energy markets across the region.
"The energy equation has changed.... [Globally] nuclear energy is in decline,” says Michal Snobr, an energy analyst at the Czech J&T Bank. "The Temelin contract is not about nuclear energy in the Czech Republic, but about breaking into the European market.”
Competing for the tender are two energy companies: Russia’s Rosatom, and Westinghouse, which is owned by the Japanese Toshiba Group but based in the United States.
For Prague, the proposed expansion of the Temelin plant will help it meet the European Union's guidelines on "diversifying" energy sources and lessening dependence on Russian gas and oil. It is also expected to create thousands of jobs at a time when the Czech economy has been particularly sluggish. At a cost of at least $10 billion, it will be the most costly public project ever in the country’s short history.
For the nuclear industry, that's a bonanza. The tender in the Czech Republic is the most lucrative contract on offer anywhere in the world for the industry, which has suffered a popularity decline in recent years, particularly since the March 2011 accident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
In Europe, only France and Finland are constructing reactors and Germany has decided to unplug all 17 of its nuclear reactors by 2022. But the Temelin deal could open new markets in Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, and Bulgaria, Mr. Snobr says.
And politically, it is of great interest to both Moscow and Washington.
"We're not shy about pressing the case for Westinghouse to expand the Temelin nuclear power plant, because we believe that company offers the best option in terms of safety and technology," said then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during a visit to Prague in December.
"It would clearly enhance Czech energy security … and it would create job opportunities for Czechs and Americans [and] ensure the new facility would be built to the highest international standards."
Washington has urged the Czechs to do more to generate their own energy, pointing to the fact the country gets 60 percent of its gas and 70 percent of its oil from Russia.
The Czech Republic’s main security agency, Security Information Service, has raised red flags about doing business with Russia, warning in a 2009 report that the Kremlin was using Russian business to infiltrate NATO states with spies.
“If the Russian bid wins, there is no doubt Russian influence over the Czech energy sphere will increase,” Snobr says. “However, I’m not sure that will be bad for the Czech Republic.”
“In Europe, Germany is the leader in the energy sphere, and they have not shown any fears about working with the Russians,” he adds, highlighting the German-Russian cooperation on the Nord Stream pipeline project, which delivers Russian gas under the North Sea to European markets.
In pushing Temelin, however, Czech politicians not focused on security or energy needs, but rather have talked mostly about jobs. Martin Kuba, the minister of industry and trade, has stressed that whoever receives the contract, most of the positions it generates must go to Czechs.
“The investment must remain in the Czech Republic," Kuba told an energy forum in Prague on Feb. 18. Westinghouse is promising to partner with a Czech engineering company, Vitkovice, to build most of the modules for the reactors at the company’s plant in the city of Ostrava. For its part, Rosatom is promising to dish out 70 percent of the work to subcontractors, and is sweetening the deal with offers of financing.
That, says Snobr, is a big plus for the Russians, because Westinghouse is not offering the option of financing.
But does the country need it?
As plans for the Temelin contract proceed, however, some are questioning if the country needs new nuclear reactors in the first place.
“The Czech Republic simply does not need another 2.5 gigawatts of power and with demand falling all round Europe and not likely to bounce back soon, the export market is risky,” says Steve Thomas, a professor of energy policy at Greenwich University in England.
However, others argue only nuclear energy can replace “dirty” power sources like coal. “Between 3,000 and 4,000 megawatts of coal-derived power are to be taken offline by … 2022 that has to be replaced with something, despite the ill-founded belief that electricity consumption will continue downward,” says Pavel Solc, Czech deputy minister for industry and trade. “Even other European states are not planning for a drop in electricity usage.”
Available at: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2013/0304/Deal-at-Czech-nuclear-power-plant-fuels-US-Russia-economic-rivalry
4. Global Nuclear Capacity Rises in 2012 After Post-Fukushima Drop
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Global nuclear energy capacity increased again in 2012 - albeit only slightly - after a drop the previous year following Japan's Fukushima disaster, the U.N. atomic agency chief said on Monday.
Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told the U.N. agency's 35-nation board that construction began on seven new reactors last year, up from four in 2011.
He was referring to data in a new IAEA report, which said there were 437 nuclear power reactors in operation worldwide as of end-December, with a total generating capacity of 372.5 gigawatt, up by roughly one percent from 2011.
"The impact of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant continued to be felt in 2012 in the relatively low overall number of construction starts on new reactors," the IAEA's Nuclear Technology Review for 2013 said.
Although the seven construction starts - of which more than half took place in China - were more than in 2011, "this is significantly fewer than in 2010, when the steady increase since 2003 reached its peak with 16 construction starts," it said.
The number of new reactors under construction worldwide now stands at 66, Amano said, according to a copy of his speech at the closed-door board session.
Reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant triggered by a deadly earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 shook the nuclear industry and raised questions over whether atomic energy is safe.
Germany, Switzerland and Belgium decided to move away from nuclear power to increase reliance on renewable energy instead.
But the IAEA said it still anticipated significant expansion in the use of nuclear energy worldwide - by between 23 and 100 percent by 2030 - on the back of growth in Asia, despite Fukushima.
But it said a somewhat slower capacity growth than previously forecast was likely after the world's worst nuclear accident in a quarter of a century.
"Most of the growth is expected in countries that already have operating nuclear power plants, particularly in the Far East," the nuclear report said.
"Although some countries delayed decisions to start nuclear power programmes, others continued with their plans to introduce nuclear energy," it added.
In mid-2012, the United Arab Emirates became the first country in 27 years to start construction of a first nuclear power plant, the report said.
Other countries, such as Belarus and Turkey, have made progress towards their first nuclear energy plant, it said.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/04/nuclear-energy-power-idUSL6N0BWH2N20130304
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte has said nuclear energy will not be generated in Ireland but the State had no objection to importing such energy.
Mr Rabbitte spoke to parliamentarians from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic this morning in Donegal, where the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly is discussing the topic of energy across borders.
“Under our planning laws at the moment the issue is not one for Ireland, which is not to say that in good old-fashioned Irish tradition that we would have any objection to importing nuclear fused energy.
“We have a habit of accommodating ourselves to legislation that facilitates the use of the neighbouring island for matters that we don’t want to deal with here,” he said to laughter at the conference.
Mr Rabbitte also the Irish Government wants to see Britain “remain central” to the European Union. He said the developing economic relationship between Ireland and Britain would be challenged if Britain’s trading relationship with the EU changed.
He told the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly that continuing membership of the EU was a matter for British politicians and British voters.
“But the issue also concerns our shared future. The Irish Government has made no secret of its view that the EU is stronger with Britain as part of it. We want to see the UK remain – and remain central – to the European Union.”
Mr Rabbitte said Ireland had to exploit its indigenous renewable energy sources. Expert advice suggested Ireland had the capability to achieve its national targets for renewable electricity from onshore renewable generation alone, with capacity to spare.
“This means that there is potential for projects of scale onshore that are aimed at export markets. It also means that our offshore wind resource can be developed as an export opportunity.”
He said the commercial exploitation of wind resources must be accompanies by a very real commercial return to the people.
Mr Rabbitte said Ireland was hugely wasteful of energy and there was not adequate debate about the topic. He said the media generally found energy too difficult a subject to delve into, but huge developments were taking place.
Available at: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2013/0304/breaking22.html
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