1. Japan Extends Sanctions on N. Korea for 2 Years
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The Japanese government Friday extended its sanctions against North Korea, set to expire on April 13, by another two years.
The decision was made by the cabinet in response to escalating provocations by Pyongyang, including its nuclear test in February and ballistic missile launch in December. Previously, such extensions were made annually.
The sanctions include a ban on entry into Japanese ports by all North Korean-registered ships and a trade embargo on North Korea.
Japan first imposed its own sanctions against North Korea for a six-month period after the reclusive country launched ballistic missiles in July 2006.
In a separate move, the government confirmed the freezing of assets of two entities and three individuals, based on a U.N. Security Council resolution adopted in the wake of the North Korean nuclear test.
Available at: http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2013040500485
2. North Korea Can Likely Revive Reactor in Six Months, Needs Years for More Bombs
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North Korea can probably restart a mothballed plutonium-producing reactor in six months if it is determined to do so and the site has suffered no major structural damage, but it may take years to produce significant new atom bomb material.
Pyongyang announced on Tuesday that it would revive the aged Yongbyon five-megawatt research reactor that yields bomb-grade plutonium, but stressed it was seeking a deterrent capacity and did not repeat recent threats to attack South Korea and the United States.
Several nuclear experts familiar with North Korea's program said it would probably take the North Koreans about half a year to get the Yongbyon research reactor up and running, provided it has not suffered significant damage from neglect.
The decision to restart the reactor was the latest chapter in an escalating crisis that erupted after Pyongyang was hit with U.N. sanctions for conducting a third nuclear test in February, and the United States and South Korea staged military drills that North Korea viewed as "hostile."
Driving those threats home, the North said it has "ratified" a merciless attack against the United States, potentially involving a "diversified nuclear strike.
The Yongbyon reactor has been technically out of operation for years. But Siegfried Hecker - a Stanford University nuclear scientist who is believed to have been the last Westerner to visit the Yongbyon nuclear complex - said the Yongbyon research reactor has been on standby since July 2007.
"If they restart the reactor, which I estimate will take them at least six months, they can produce about six kilograms of plutonium (roughly one bomb's worth) per year," Hecker said in an interview published on Tuesday on a Stanford website.
He said that it would take the North approximately three to four years before it could get another 12 kg (26 lbs) of plutonium, which would suffice for two more weapons.
Isolated North Korea occasionally lets nuclear experts like Hecker into the country, most likely to persuade them that its nuclear capabilities are not imaginary, U.N. diplomats and officials say.
Hecker added that when he last visited North Korea in 2010, he estimated that the country had a stockpile of 24 to 42 kg (53 to 93 lbs) of plutonium, roughly four to eight bombs worth. If the country's February nuclear test used plutonium - which is not clear - the stocks would be about five to six kg lower, he said.
North Korea has repeatedly threatened to use nuclear weapons to attack the United States and its bases in South Korea, but Hecker said he was skeptical about Pyongyang's ability to hit targets on U.S. or South Korean territory.
Olli Heinonen, former head of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) safeguards department, told Reuters he had a similar prediction, though he said it was possible North Korea could have the research reactor running in less than six months.
"We don't know how much preparatory work they've done," said Heinonen, who is currently at Harvard University and has visited North Korea and met with North Korean scientists.
Both Hecker and Heinonen said North Korea could most likely restart the reactor without any foreign assistance, despite U.N., U.S. and other sanctions aimed at curtailing its ability to purchase nuclear and missile technology.
A U.S. official concurred with Hecker and Heinonen.
"North Korea's assertion that it intends to bring Yongbyon back on line can't be easily written off as an insurmountable hurdle," the official said on condition of anonymity.
Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank in London, however, said there was a possibility that the Yongbyon reactor has been rendered inoperable for unknown reasons.
"It's been a mystery to me why they haven't started it up before this," he said. "The most logical answer is that they couldn't ... But there's no certainty here."
If the reactor is functional, Fitzpatrick said, the half-year timeline for restarting it made sense.
IAEA spokeswoman Gil Tudor said North Korea's decision to restart Yongbyon was "another deeply regrettable development, which is in clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions."
The Security Council has repeatedly sanctioned North Korea for its nuclear tests and repeated missile launches, and ordered it to abandon both its nuclear and missile programs.
Heinonen said North Korea has already mothballed and restarted the five-megawatt graphite-moderate research reactor before. It shut down the plant after signing the "Agreed Framework," a 1994 deal with the United States under which Pyongyang agreed to freeze Yongbyon in exchange for heating oil and construction of newer light-water reactors.
Pyongyang began to restart the reactor in late 2002 after Washington accused it of secretly developing a parallel uranium enrichment program in violation of the 1994 deal. Washington ceased aid to the North and Pyongyang accused it of reneging on its promise to build the light-water nuclear reactors.
North Korea then expelled all inspectors from the IAEA and in 2003 withdrew from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In 2006, it tested its first nuclear device, using plutonium from Yongbyon, followed by two more in 2009 and earlier this year.
Certain technical challenges await the North Koreans. In 2008 they destroyed the Yongbyon reactor's cooling tower as a confidence-building step in U.S.-led multilateral negotiations aimed at reducing tensions on the Korean peninsula.
But the reduction in tensions was short lived. Six-nation aid-for-disarmament talks between the two Koreas, China, Russia, Japan and the United States have been stalled for years.
Heinonen said that either North Korea must build a new cooling tower or create an underground cooling plant, like one that was under construction at a site in Syria that Israel bombed in 2007. Western intelligence sources have said North Korea helped build the Syrian reactor, which the government of President Bashar al-Assad has said was not a nuclear site.
David Albright, a former weapons inspector and head of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security think tank, said it was important not to underestimate the nuclear capabilities of the North Koreans or their determination to live up to their word.
"North Korea huffs and puffs a lot, but underneath that they pretty much do as they say," said Albright, who met with North Korean nuclear scientists in Pyongyang in 2011. "They have been saying they want to improve the quality of their nuclear weapons and they may very well do that."
As well as reviving the reactor at Yongbyon, the North's only known source of plutonium for its nuclear arms program, Pyongyang's official KCNA news agency said a uranium enrichment plant would be put back into operation.
Hecker, who visited the enrichment plant in 2010, said North Korea has a good safety record for its five-megawatt research reactor, but he voiced concerns about the new plant it intends to construct.
"I am much more concerned about the safety of the new light-water reactor they are building," he told Reuters without elaborating.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/03/us-korea-north-nuclear-idUSBRE93217K20130403
3. China Backs North Korean Economic Zone Amid Nuclear Threat
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China expressed support for a shared economic zone on the North Korean border, signaling the ruling Communist Party wants to maintain ties even as Kim Jong Un’s regime steps up threats to attack South Korea and the U.S.
Vice Commerce Minister Chen Jian said at a briefing in Beijing today that work at the zone in Rason is “proceeding smoothly” and he’s “optimistic” about its future. “I haven’t heard anything that it has slowed down,” he told reporters.
Chen’s comments may indicate China’s continued economic backing for North Korea even as leaders support tighter United Nations sanctions after Kim’s regime detonated a nuclear device in February. Editorials in Chinese state-run media criticizing Pyongyang had fueled speculation that new leaders under President Xi Jinping may be scaling back support.
“I believe China won’t abandon North Korea,” Fang Xiuyu, an associate professor at Shanghai-based Fudan University’s Center for Korean Studies, said in a telephone interview. “Some people say that it should, which symbolizes that Chinese scholars are more free than before. It doesn’t symbolize China’s government voice.”
The speculation about a change in China’s position grew after Deng Yuwen, deputy editor of the Study Times, the journal of the Central Party School, wrote an opinion piece published Feb. 27 in the Financial Times saying China should abandon North Korea.
Deng was suspended from his job over the article, the South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo reported yesterday.
North Korea’s economy is about one-fortieth the size of that of its southern neighbor and is reliant on China for diplomatic and economic support. Xi may make new decisions about North Korea soon, according to Gong Keyu, a researcher at the Shanghai Institute of International Studies.
“For China there is a common understanding that policy toward North Korea needs to be adjusted,” Gong said. “Deng Yuwen’s point of view was abandoning North Korea. I think for China this is a little extreme. It would be not a large change but a completely thorough change.”
Kim, North Korea’s leader, said March 31 that nuclear- weapons development was one of the nation’s top priorities. The country has increased tensions by declaring a state of war with South Korea and reiterating threats to attack the U.S.
North Korea restarted work at its Yongbyon nuclear site six years after nuclear activities there were shuttered as part of a disarmament accord. A uranium enrichment plan and 5-megawatt reactor will resume operation, the official Korean Central News Agency said in a statement on its website today.
If North Korea continues to conduct nuclear tests, China may be forced to adjust its policy, Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations at Peking University, wrote in the Global Times on Feb. 2.
China expresses its regret over the restart at Yongbyon, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a briefing today. Hong said all parties must return to the “track of dialogue and consultation.”
China and North Korea said in 2011 they would develop economic zones in Rason and on the islands of Hwanggumphyong and Wihwa. Wen Jiabao, then China’s premier, said last August that the two countries would offer favorable land and tax policies to encourage companies to invest along their joint economic zones.
A Chinese official last year promoted the Rason area as “North Korea’s Shenzhen,” referring to the southern city that led China’s rise to becoming the world’s biggest exporter.
“It’s a project for people’s livelihoods under the cooperation of China and North Korea,” Chen said of Rason. “It will benefit the economic development of North Korea. It’s a normal project. I am optimistic for its development.”
The briefing was held with Chen Weigen, a vice governor of China’s northeastern Jilin province, which shares a border with North Korea.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-02/china-backs-north-korea-economic-zone-amid-kim-nuclear-threat.html
World powers and Iran are holding a fresh round of talks on Tehran's controversial nuclear program in Kazakhstan.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is representing the so-called P5+1 -- the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany -- expressed "cautious optimism" ahead of the two-day meeting in Almaty, which started on April 5.
Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalil said the chances of a breakthrough hinge on the world powers recognizing Iran's right to enrich uranium.
"We think our talks...can go forward with one word. That is the acceptance of the rights of Iran, particularly the right to [uranium] enrichment."
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Western diplomat said Iran has yet to give a "clear and concrete response" to a proposal made during a first meeting in Almaty in February.
Iranian representatives at the talks say they have presented their own proposals for resolving the standoff over Iran's nuclear program.
The announcement was made by Ali Bagheri, Iran's deputy nuclear negotiator, shortly after negotiations began in Almaty
The P5+1 powers are meeting with Iran for the second time in five weeks in Almaty.
At the first meeting in February, they offered to lighten some economic sanctions on Iran if Tehran agreed to suspend higher-grade uranium production.
An Iranian diplomat told the ISNA news agency that the two sides agreed in February on a timetable of six months -- leading up to Iran's June 14 presidential election -- to explore further steps.
Some analysts predict no breakthrough before that election.
Russia's foreign ministry spokesman voiced skepticism on the eve of the start of the talks.
Aleksandr Lukashevich told reporters in Moscow that the negotiations have made little progress so far.
The talks come amid warnings from Israel that it could bomb Iranian nuclear installations if diplomacy and sanctions fail to curb Tehran's nuclear progress.
Iran has denied it is secretly developing nuclear weapons as the West claims, and says its nuclear program is solely for energy generation and medical research.
Available at: http://www.rferl.org/content/iran-almaty-talks-/24948330.html
2. For Now, Iran Cooling Nuclear Drive, Officials Say
The Times of Israel
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Iran has decided to curb its nuclear program to within the parameters laid down by Israel and the West, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing Israeli, American and European officials.
The decision was made by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, apparently in an effort to prevent an international crisis for his country in the months leading up to its presidential elections, the report said.
The latest round of talks between Iran and world powers over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program concluded last month in Kazakhstan with little progress.
In the wake of the talks, Khamenei blasted the concessions offered by the West in exchange for Tehran scaling back its nuclear program, saying they were “minor and unimportant.”
In an apparent about-face, however, the Iranian supreme leader seems to have decided tonot push forward with the nuclear program at this time, and is instead doing the opposite, the report quoted the unnamed sources as saying.
Both Israeli and American officials have called 2013 a crucial year for Iran’s ongoing effort to obtain nuclear weapons capability, and the issue was key during US President Barack Obama’s meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel last month.
The report cited a December 2012 report by the UN’s nuclear watchdog to the effect that Iran was limiting its stockpile of 20-percent-enriched uranium to under 250 kilograms, an amount which, if further enriched, is considered sufficient to assemble a nuclear weapon.
Two hundred and fifty kilograms of uranium enriched to that level is also the amount that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu implied would be a “red line” constituting a casus belli for Israel.
“Based on the latest IAEA report, Iran appears to be limiting its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium by converting a significant portion of it to oxide,” a senior US official working on Iran was quoted as saying. “But that could change at any moment.”
Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Michael Oren, also warned that, despite apparently cooling its enrichment program, Iran could quickly break out toward a nuclear weapon, leaving the West with little time to react.
“There is a good point to be made that Iran has accepted 250 kilograms as the red line, but they are doing this very cleverly,” Oren was quoted as saying.
But Tehran’s moves would allow it “to cross the red line clandestinely in a matter of weeks,” he said.
Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the head of military intelligence in the IDF, said last month at the Herzliya security conference that Iran has 170 kg of uranium enriched to 20 percent and that it can produce uranium at that level of enrichment at a rate of 14 kilograms per month. However, he said that the regime “is careful not to cross red lines, as perceived by the international community.”
The regime’s primary goal, Kochavi added, the one which dictates all other considerations, is the preservation of the regime itself, and that, he indicated, demanded caution. Currently, he said, the regime is striving to close the gap on nuclear weapons technology and, significantly, pushing ahead with a plutonium reactor in Arak
Available at: http://www.timesofisrael.com/for-now-iran-cooling-nuclear-drive-officials-say/
Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Thursday a system that can substantially reduce radioactive substances in tainted water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has been halted because of a worker’s operational mistake.
The advanced liquid processing system, or ALPS, had been in continuous operation since it was switched on for a test run starting Saturday.
The equipment was halted at around 5:25 a.m. Thursday after the worker pushed the wrong button.
As no problem was found, the plant started discharging water from the ALPS at around 6:35 a.m. Tepco is depending on the system to drastically cut the levels of 62 types of radioactive materials in water, excluding tritium.
On Wednesday, Tepco announced that an alarm went off at the crippled plant to warn that a dust monitor near the main gate had detected radioactive materials above an acceptable level in the air.
The utility said the incident was probably the result of an equipment malfunction because there were no major changes in radiation levels around the monitor and no problems with the reactors’ water injection and cooling systems.
According to Tepco, the alarm sounded around 3:55 p.m., warning that radioactive materials were detected above the set level of 0.0001 becquerel per cubic centimeter.
Dust monitors in other places and at monitoring posts showed no abnormalities, but Tepco issued a temporary order for workers at the plant to wear full face masks, including in zones where they are allowed to work without a mask.
No abnormal figures were found when radiation levels around the main gate were measured using a portable dust monitor, Tepco said.
Tepco also revealed Wednesday that it did not make public that dust monitor alarms sounded four times at the plant between November 2011 and November 2012. In each case, measuring equipment stopped showing abnormal readings after being reset.
A Tepco official said the company decided to announce the latest alarm activation after the power outage at the plant in March.
Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/04/05/national/mistake-halts-fukushima-no-1-water-cleaner/
3. NRA to Give Nuclear Plants 5 Years to Build New Safety Facilities
Japan Daily Press
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A team of experts at Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority has decided to postpone the mandatory requirement for nuclear plants to build a new safety facility at least 100 meters away from reactor buildings. Operators will now be given five years to build this facility as part of the new safety standards that the NRA will implement starting July.
The new safety facility will operate as an alternative base if for some reason the central control room is rendered unusable due to either natural calamities or terrorist attacks. The reason why it should be built far away from the main facility is to avoid both being damaged at the same time. They are also required to have cooling facilities that can be remotely operated, in case workers will not be able to reach either the control room or the new facility. The requirement for this separate safety facility is a result of the learnings from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown of 2011, when the situation worsened due to the fact that they had difficulty in using the control room because it was right next to the reactor buildings.
The NRA decided to give operators 5 years to build the facility instead of immediate compliance because one of the mandates in the new regulations is to build mobile facilities. They believe that is enough for the meantime for short-term security. They understand it would be difficult to comply with all the requirements immediately, which includes the reinforcement of fire, earthquake and tsunami prevention measures. The NRA will officially accept the team’s recommendation and proposal by April 10.
Available at: http://japandailypress.com/nra-to-give-nuclear-plants-5-years-to-build-new-safety-facilities-0526497
4. Tepco to Delay Restart of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Plant in Japan
Energy Business Review
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Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has announced that it will not be able to restart the reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant soon.
Tepco president Naomi Hirose was quoted by The Wall Street Journal as saying, "If we don't get back in the black, we would no longer exist as we are.We will use all possible means to achieve that."
The owner of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Tepco, in summer 2012 proposed a plan to streamline operations in exchange for government approval of a rate increase and public cash to remain afloat.
As part of the plan, one of Tepco's seven reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in northwestern Niigata prefecture was supposed to restart in April 2013, after which the other six reactors were to restart over 17 months.
On Monday, Hirose noted that Tepco will not seek additional government funds.
The company has already received $20bn to compensate those affected by the 2011 Fukushima accident.
Most of Japan's utilities have kept most reactors offline because of public concerns over safety as an aftermath of the Fukushima accident, while only two of Japan's 50 reactors are currently operating.
Available at: http://nuclear.energy-business-review.com/news/tepco-to-delay-restart-of-kashiwazaki-kariwa-nuclear-plant-in-japan-020413
Some 150 pounds of highly-enriched uranium has been safely removed from the Czech Republic, making it the 10th country since 2009 to have removed all nuclear-weapon grade uranium, the White House announced Friday.
The uranium was taken to Russia, where it will be down-blended to a lower grade strong enough for use in nuclear power plants but too weak for weapons.
"This achievement comes on the anniversary of President Obama’s remarks in Prague on April 5, 2009, where he stated that nuclear terrorism remains our greatest threat," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement. "The President called on the world to act with a sense of purpose and without delay to secure vulnerable nuclear material.
"The United States and the global community have responded with an unprecedented effort that has secured thousands of kilograms of HEU and plutonium, enough for dozens of nuclear weapons."
The removal from the Czech Republic was a joint, multi-year effort by the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, the Czech Republic’s Nuclear Research Institute, Russia’s Federal Atomic Energy Agency, and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Available at: http://www.politico.com/politico44/2013/04/wh-uranium-removed-from-czech-160925.html
2. Components of Kudankulam Nuke Reactor Sub-Standard, Say Protesters
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The Union government and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited should not hastily commission the first reactor of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project as the components supplied by two Russian firms are of inferior quality, claimed S.P. Udayakumar, convener of the anti-KKNPP struggle committee, on Wednesday.
“If the Central government dares to commission the reactor built with substandard components, despite our stiff resistance and tried to treat the Tamils like guinea pigs, we will be compelled to intensify our agitation, as we are not bothered about personal security. We are prepared for any sacrifice,” Dr. Udayakumar warned.
Speaking to reporters during the anti-nuke protestors’ sea-based agitation held near the Anu Vijay Township beach on Wednesday, he said two Russian firms had supplied “substandard components” to the KKNPP. Hence, thunderous noise coupled with black fumes was coming out of the turbines for the past few days.
Dr. Udayakumar claimed that top officials of these Russian firms had been arrested “for having supplied inferior components for nuclear power programmes”.
The agitators, who reached the protest point near Anu Vijay Township beach around 10.15 a.m., raised slogans against the nuclear power programme and demanded its complete scrapping and left the spot at 12.15 p.m.
Condemning the firing of tear gas shells at Koottapuli on Tuesday evening, a section of Uvari residents observed fast in their village.
While fishermen of all coastal hamlets in the district abstained from fishing in view of the agitation, traders downed the shutters of their business establishments at Kudankulam.
The sea-based demonstration by the anti-nuke activists did not affect construction activities at the site and the workers, as usual, left from Anu Vijay Township to the site in the buses.
District Collector C. Samayamoorthy, who had camped at Radhapuram Travellers’ Bungalow, was monitoring the situation since morning.
Available at: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/components-of-kudankulam-nuke-reactor-substandard-say-protesters/article4577654.ece
Enrichment Technologies, jointly owned by Areva and Urenco, said it had shut facilities in five countries after two workers died from their injuries in an accident at its Dutch plant last week.
The company, which supplies Urenco and Areva with machines for enriching uranium, stopped production on March 31 in the Netherlands, Germany, France, the United States and the United Kingdom, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
"We don't know when production will restart," she said without giving more details about the accident.
Dutch news agency ANP reported that the two employees became unconscious from a lack of oxygen while working in a furnace in Almelo. They were taken to hospital where they died.
The spokeswoman said the police and health and safety inspectors were investigating the accident. "Safety is our main concern right now," she added.
Enrichment Technologies employs 2,000 people in the five countries where it operates, according to its website.
Urenco, the world's largest uranium enrichment company which is owned by the British and Dutch states and Germany's two top utilities, has a 50 percent stake in Enrichment Technologies, while French nuclear group Areva owns the other 50 percent.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/03/enrichment-techologies-idUSL5N0CQ39Y20130403
4. Nuclear Board Warns of Hanford Tank Explosion Risk
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Underground tanks that hold a stew of toxic, radioactive waste at the nation's most contaminated nuclear site pose a possible risk of explosion, a nuclear safety board said in advance of confirmation hearings for the next leader of the Energy Department.
State and federal officials have long known that hydrogen gas could build up inside the tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, leading to an explosion that would release radioactive material. The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board recommended additional monitoring and ventilation of the tanks last fall, and federal officials were working to develop a plan to implement the recommendation.
The board expressed those concerns again Monday to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who is chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and had sought the board's perspective about cleanup at Hanford.
The federal government created Hanford in the 1940s as part of the secret Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. It spends billions of dollars to clean up the 586-square-mile site neighboring the Columbia River, the southern border between Washington and Oregon and the Pacific Northwest's largest waterway.
Federal officials have said six underground tanks at the site are leaking into the soil, threatening the groundwater, and technical problems have delayed construction of a plant to treat the waste for long-term safe disposal.
Those issues are likely to come up during confirmation hearings next week for Energy Secretary-nominee Ernest J. Moniz. The fears of explosion and contamination could give Washington and Oregon officials more clout as they push for cleanup of the World War II-era site.
Central to the cleanup is the removal of 56 million gallons of highly radioactive, toxic waste left from plutonium production from underground tanks. Many of the site's single-shell tanks, which have just one wall, have leaked in the past, and state and federal officials announced in February that six such tanks are leaking anew.
"The next Secretary of Energy - Dr. Moniz - needs to understand that a major part of his job is going to be to get the Hanford cleanup back on track, and I plan to stress that at his confirmation hearing next week," Wyden said in a statement Tuesday.
The nuclear safety board warned about the risk of explosion to Wyden, who wanted comment on the safety and operation of Hanford's tanks, technical issues that have been raised about the design of a plant to treat the waste in those tanks, and Hanford's overall safety culture.
In addition to the leaks, the board noted concerns about the potential for hydrogen gas buildup within a tank, in particular those with a double wall, which contain deadly waste that was previously pumped out of the leaking single-shell tanks.
"All the double-shell tanks contain waste that continuously generates some flammable gas," the board said. "This gas will eventually reach flammable conditions if adequate ventilation is not provided."
All of the tanks are actively ventilated, which means they have blowers and fans to prevent a buildup of hydrogen gas, and those systems are monitored to ensure they are operating as intended, Energy Department spokeswoman Carrie Meyer said.
For even greater safety, she said, the agency implemented an improved monitoring system in February.
"DOE is absolutely committed to ensuring the safety of Hanford's underground tanks," Meyer said.
The board also noted technical challenges with the waste treatment plant, which is being built to encase the waste in glasslike logs for long-term disposal. Those challenges must be resolved before parts of the plant can be completed, the board said.
The federal government spends about $2 billion annually on Hanford cleanup — roughly one-third of its entire budget for nuclear cleanup nationally. About $690 million of that goes toward design and construction of the plant. Design of the plant, last estimated at more than $12.3 billion, is 85 percent complete, while construction is more than 50 percent complete.
The problems identified by the board show that the plant schedule will be delayed further and the cost will keep rising, Wyden said, adding: "There is a real question as to whether the plant, as currently designed, will work at all."
Available at: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/nuclear-board-warns-hanford-tank-explosion-risk
5. Russia to Scrap Last Soviet-Era Nuclear Sub by 2014
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Russia's Nerpa shipyard is to scrap the last Soviet-era nuclear submarine to be withdrawn from the Russian Fleet by 2014, the yard said on Tuesday.
The Project 949A (NATO: Oscar II class) cruise-missile submarine Krasnodar was launched in 1985 and retired from the Russian Navy in 2012, according to rusnavy.com.
The boat will be the last submarine to be dismantled at the shipyard, Nerpa press secretary Irina Anzulatova said.
“Work is currently underway to remove spent nuclear fuel from it,” she said.
According to Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom, a total of 199 nuclear submarines have been decommissioned from the Navy since the late 1980's, including 120 in northwestern Russia and 79 in Russia’s Far East.
Russia has three nuclear submarine disposal enterprises: Zvyozdochka in Severodvinsk (Arkhangelsk region), Nerpa in Snezhnogorsk (Murmansk region) and Zvezda in Bolshoi Kamen (Far East).
Nerpa has dismantled over 50 submarines since 1998. Zvyozdochka completed its submarine dismantling program in 2011. Zvezda currently has no submarine dismantlement contracts, a company representative told RIA Novosti.
Rosatom has confirmed that information to RIA Novosti.
During the scrapping process, spent nuclear fuel is removed from the submarine's reactors and put into storage, while the hull is cut into three sections, with the bow and stern sections being removed and destroyed. The hull's reactor compartment is sealed and put into storage.
Available at: http://en.rian.ru/military_news/20130402/180398822/Russia-to-Scrap-Last-Soviet-Era-Nuclear-Sub-by-2014.html
Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd and France's Areva SA have won an order to build Turkey's second nuclear power plant, a project expected to cost around $22 billion, the Nikkei business daily said on Thursday.
Areva shares rose 4.8 percent in Paris after the report, which cited Japanese and Turkish sources. Spokesmen for Areva and Mitsubishi Heavy had no immediate comment.
The Nikkei said Turkey's Energy and Natural Resources Ministry had informed Japanese government and corporate officials of the decision to award the deal to build four pressurized water nuclear reactors with a combined capacity of about 4.5 gigawatts at Sinop on the Black Sea.
The paper added that the Turkish government had approached Japan about a summit meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan in early May, after which it is likely to officially grant preferred negotiating rights to the Mitsubishi-Areva consortium.
Turkey, which is likely to overtake Britain as Europe's third-biggest electricity consumer within a decade, plans to build several nuclear plants over the next 10 years to reduce its dependence on imported oil and gas.
Construction is set to start in 2017, with the first reactor slated to come online by 2023, and France's GDF Suez SA will operate the plant, it added.
A GDF Suez spokesman said he could not comment on the report.
Turkey had also been in talks with companies from Canada, South Korea and China regarding the planned Sinop plant.
Russia's Rosatom will build Turkey's first nuclear power station and start construction in mid-2015. It expects the facility to start producing electricity in 2019, its deputy general manager told Reuters in February.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/04/turkey-nuclear-mitsubishi-idUSL3N0CQ5H020130404
2. Canadian Government Puts On Hold Proposal To Help Secure Pakistan’s Nuclear Arsenal
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The idea of Canadian help to secure Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal against terrorist theft has been put into the deep freeze by the Harper government.
A briefing prepared for Canada’s top military commander in 2011 outlined how the Foreign Affairs Department was examining the notion, under an anti-proliferation program established in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
But a Foreign Affairs spokesman says there’s no agreement to improve security around Islamabad’s estimated 110 nuclear warheads, nor any consideration of one.
The relationship between the two nations grew increasingly frosty throughout the Afghan war with Pakistan’s perceived support of Taliban militants who were killing Canadian troops in Kandahar.
The international community has grown uneasy as the government in Islamabad has amassed one of the fastest-growing nuclear arsenals in the world.
The defence briefing note, stamped secret and dated Nov. 9, 2011, claimed Foreign Affairs was “working to advance bilateral co-operation” with Pakistan on nuclear trafficking, training and other regulatory issues.
“Bilateral relations between Canada and Pakistan are modest,” say the documents, obtained by The Canadian Press under the access-to-information law.
“However, (Foreign Affairs) is presently working under the auspices of Global Partnership Program to establish a nuclear security co-operation program with Pakistan. The initiative would improve diplomatic relations and enhance the security of Pakistan’s nuclear assets.”
But it is something officials now tersely deny.
Canada “does not have a bilateral agreement with Pakistan to enhance the security of its nuclear assets, nor is it in any way contemplating negotiating one at this time,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Ian Trites said in an email.
Available at: http://blogs.ottawacitizen.com/2013/04/03/canadian-government-puts-on-hold-proposal-to-help-secure-pakistans-nuclear-arsenal/
3. Belarusians to Build Russian Nuclear Facilities
Belarusian Telegraph Agency
(for personal use only)
Belarus and Russia have agreed that Belarusian companies will be able to take part in the construction of Russian nuclear energy facilities in Russia and third countries, Deputy Energy Minister of Belarus Mikhail Mikhadyuk said at a press conference on the occasion of the opening of the 5th international specialized expo and conference AtomExpo Belarus 2013 on 2 April.
At present Belarusian companies seeking to take part in construction of Russian nuclear power plants and other nuclear power installations have to set up a legal body in Russia to get a license. However, soon Belarusian organizations will be able to open their branches in Russia. “In the nearest future amendments will be made to Russian laws to authorize Belarusian organizations to construct nuclear power facilities. This permission extends only to Belarusian companies, as Belarus is part of the Union State with Russia,” the Deputy Energy Minister said.
When asked about the reasons to arrange the AtomExpo Belarus 2013 expo, Mikhail Mikhadyuk noted that the exhibition gives an opportunity to showcase new technologies and solutions developed by companies from Belarus, Russia and other states. The forum enables these companies to forge ties and take part in nuclear power projects in Belarus and the rest of the world. “Believe me, Belarusian companies and organizations have certain things to offer,” the Deputy Energy Minister said.
Available at: http://news.belta.by/en/news/econom?id=711395
Savannah River Site’s H Canyon processing plant will expand its operations to accommodate 6,076 gallons of liquid radioactive material from Canada, the U.S. Department of Energy says.
The material from Atomic Energy Canada Limited’s Chalk River Laboratory is included in a nonproliferation effort aimed at recovering U.S.-origin highly enriched uranium distributed to research facilities in other countries.
The Canadian lab used highly enriched uranium for decades to produce molybdenum-99, a source of technetium, for medical diagnostic procedures.
The DOE said a contract has been signed in which Canada will pay $60 million over four years for SRS to receive and process the liquid, beginning as early as 2013.
Jim Giusti, a DOE spokesman, said the assignment to process the highly enriched uranium into low enriched uranium for use as commercial reactor fuel is good news for workers at the facility.
“This could definitely help the H Canyon staff to mitigate the impacts of sequestration and continuing resolutions,” he said.
The facility creates about 750 direct jobs and employs almost 1,100 workers if support service personnel in other areas are included.
The liquid radioactive material will be trucked to SRS in special shipping containers, but the routes, quantities and shipping dates are kept secret. Giusti said shipment plans will be coordinated with law enforcement and transportation officials in states along the route.
Processing the Canadian material will generate more radioactive waste at SRS.
Estimates indicate that the Canadian waste, when processed, would create about 1.5 million gallons of low-level waste that would be disposed of in the site’s Saltstone Facility, and enough high-level waste to fill an additional 24 steel canisters produced by the site’s Defense Waste Processing Facility.
Those quantities translate to about one additional month of operation for the Defense Waste Processing Facility and two for the Saltstone Facility.
Tom Clements, the Southeastern nuclear campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth, said the Canada project is more about bringing money to SRS than safeguarding bomb-grade materials.
“A decision by the U.S. Department of Energy to import 23,000 liters of liquid high-level waste from Canada is being presented as a nonproliferation effort, but in reality it is a waste-management issue in Canada and a monetary issue at the Savannah River Site,” Clements said, adding that Canada “is dumping their problem on SRS.”
Importing the Canadian material required amending SRS’s Spent Nuclear Fuel Environmental Impact Statement.
Spent fuel recovered from research reactors has been stored in the site’s L Basin, which is expected to reach capacity by 2016.
The amended spent nuclear fuel plan will allow the department to process enough material through 2018 to free up storage space in L Basin for additional nuclear material to be brought to South Carolina.
Freeing storage space by processing more material will avoid the need to modify or expand the L-Basin storage facility, saving about $40 million, the DOE said.
Available at: http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/metro/2013-04-02/canada-ship-highly-enriched-uranium-srs
As western powers debate unabatedly Tehran’s real intentions behind harnessing energy from the atom, Japan is willing to provide Iran technical advice, equipment support and vast experience of abiding by nonproliferation safeguards so that it may practice its right to peacefully use nuclear power, says a Japanese government official serving as research fellow at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).
The author of the ‘FAS issue brief’, titled ‘Japan’s Role as Leader for Nuclear Nonproliferation’, is Kazuko Goto, the Federation’s first research fellow selected by MEXT, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, of the Government of Japan.
“Japan could provide Iran with power reactors with the condition of the IAEA’s safeguards system and the AP,” writes Goto, adding: “Japanese technology might (in fact) be appropriate for Iran’s purposes because both countries face the threat of earthquakes. Fault lines run across Iran and Bushehr is located near a point where three fault lines converge.”
The Bushehr Nuclear Power Station was designed by Germany. In 1979, Unit 1 was 80-85 percent complete when construction was suspended. The reactor containment dome and other structures were seriously damaged by attacks during the Iran-Iraq war in 1980-1988.
When Russia resumed the project, they constructed it using the already-built structures. But substantial differences between the two designs complicated the construction, such as replacing equipment and operations associated with this uncommon situation, according to the paper.
Operators required unique training due to the combined designs. Usually nuclear power plant operators drill at the training facilities of each plant’s type of PWR (pressured water reactor) or BWR (boiling water reactor) because the design is the same, informs the FAS issue brief.
It warns: “Because the Bushehr NPP (nuclear power plant) has an exclusive design, the operators might not receive proper operations or emergency training. This could pose a safety concern at the Bushehr NPP.”
Iran recently announced it had started operation on an enrichment facility and refused an IAEA safeguards inspection.
Goto leaves no doubt that the pre-condition for Japan’s technical advice and equipment support is that Iran adopts a transparent nuclear energy program in order for the international community to trust it to proceed with its electric power supply program.
“Iran must enter into a verifiable agreement not to proliferate nuclear technology or knowledge to other states, including any developed indigenously or provided by Japan,” she says.
Goto refers in this context to Japan’s experience in exporting a pressure vessel to China’s Qinshan Nuclear Power Plant in 1984. China agreed to the condition of a visit by Japan to examine the Qinshan power plant’s construction and operation, she adds.
The AP, mentioned by Goto, is the 1997 Additional Protocol (AP: INFCIRC/540), which obligated states to declare nuclear related activities that had not been declared under the conventional “comprehensive” safeguards and bestowed IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) with the authority to access facilities other than the ones declared under conventional safeguards. Japan was the first state using nuclear power plants for electricity generation to apply the AP.
The FAS issue brief points out that though Vietnam had not agreed to the AP, it was considering importing Japanese nuclear plants. Japan gave a seminar to Vietnam on the AP, which might encourage them to adopt it, and can conditionally provide the plants.
“Countries interested in exporting Japanese products sign cooperation agreements with Japan that includes a condition of nonproliferation. Countries that import nuclear plants from the United States or France also might require agreements with Japan because at least one major component of the plants was produced in Japan. Thus, Japan has leverage to encourage these countries to apply the AP,” the brief adds.
It points out to Iran’s recent announcement that it had developed centrifuge enrichment technology and had used it to produce enriched uranium. Though Iran stated the enriched uranium was for peaceful nuclear use, countries including the United States were sceptical because of its past clandestine activities, the military dimension to Iran’s nuclear program, and the refusal of a special inspection by the IAEA.
“Though the United States and the EU imposed sanctions on Iran, Japan imports about 10 percent of its oil from Iran. To help support sanctions on Iran, Japan reduced oil imports from Iran, which allowed the United States to exempt it from a block of the Central Bank of Iran,” informs Goto.
She avers: “Sanctions might change Iran’s behaviour but it might not change Iran’s determination to move ahead with enrichment. Another option includes a dialogue between Iran and western countries, including the United States. If Iran accepted full safeguards, implemented the AP requirements, agreed to limit enrichment to less than 5 percent, and limited the size of its nuclear program, then it might convince the international community right of its intention to use nuclear power for peaceful uses.”
If those conditions were met, Japan could cooperate with Iran to improve its energy security., notes Goto. Iran’s current electricity sources are stressed by industrial and economic development, and an increase in population.
Though Iran uses oil and gas to power its electricity generation stations, it is exploring hydro technology and is planning to develop more nuclear power reactors. In 2011, Iran started operation of the Bushehr nuclear power station with a capacity of 1000MWe. Iran’s Five-Year Plan calls for an increase in nuclear power capacity to 20,000MWe by 2025.
The FAS issue brief adds: “Though Iran’s security environment is very different from Japan, Japan can help Iran develop nuclear power and safeguards. As a non- nuclear weapon state, Japan’s experience with technology and safeguards is different from Russia, China, or India, which are enhancing their competitiveness in the global market for nuclear energy technology.
“As Japan has nuclear facilities, other than reactors that fall under the IAEA’s safeguards, it might advise Iran on designs that ease the installation of safeguards equipment and introduce safe- guards without difficulties, in addition to establishing a domestic material accounting system.”
Available at: http://www.indepthnews.info/index.php/global-issues/1513-japan-offers-iran-help-in-things-nuclear
Finnish power company Fennovoima has launched negotiations with Russia’s state-owned Rossatom over a new reactor planned at Pyhaejoki in northern Finland.
The Finnish company is in exclusive talks with Rosatom after dropping bids by France's Areva and other suppliers.
Fennovoima is said to be interested in Rossatom’s 1,200 megawatt AES-2006 pressurised water reactor.
Fennovoima has also been negotiating with the Japanese firm Toshiba since February. A decision is expected within a year, according to Yle.
Rosatom has recently been stepping up its foreign operations. It is due to begin constructing Turkey's first nuclear plant in 2015 and it is also planning to participate in a bid to build Poland's first reactor.
In February, Bulgaria confirmed its decision to abandon the Belene nuclear power plant project that was to be constructed by Rosatom subsidiary Atomstroyexport.
Available at: http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=149298
2. Perry Nuclear Power Plant Adds New Rotors to Boost Output
The News Herald
(for personal use only)
Installation of three new rotors to the main steam turbine began Wednesday at the Perry Nuclear Power Plant.
The project, which cost $109 million, is expected to increase the plant’s power output of 1,260 megawatts by an estimated 30 megawatts. To put that number in perspective, one megawatt can power about 1,000 homes.
First Energy Corp. spokesperson Jennifer Young said while the rotors have been serviced and maintained over the years, this will be the first rotor replacement since the plant opened in 1987.
The rotor replacement, along with refueling, are the biggest projects being done during the plant’s scheduled shutdown, which occur every 24 months. The shutdowns typically last between 25 to 60 days, Young said.
About one third of the plant’s 748 fuel assemblies, made up of uranium rods, will be replaced during the outage, she said.
Additionally, about 1,200 additional workers were brought in to help complete the assorted tasks scheduled during the shut down.
“Good luck finding a hotel room in Lake County,” Young said.
Ordered in 2008, the 175-ton, 35-feet-long rotors were fabricated in Japan before being fully assembled at a General Electric facility in New York. They were then moved by freighter through the Great Lakes and arrived in Fairport Harbor in June.
Featuring an updated design, the new rotors will only need to be inspected every five refueling shut downs. They are also expected to last for the remaining life of the plant. It is currently licensed through 2026 but will likely be renewed through 2046.
Available at: http://news-herald.com/articles/2013/04/04/news/doc515db095e8045182602689.txt
China has been granted “special mining rights” to mine some of Zimbabwe’s controversial uranium deposits by the winding up unity government, in exchange for the Asian giant building a nuclear power plant for electricity and providing military hardware.
The Zanu PF side of government, which has been using the MDC’s as a window dresser for it’s electoral and political legitmacy over the past four years, is also desperately mortgaging the country’s mineral wealth to Beijing in return for opaque economic loans, which the administration is finding difficult to repay thus piling up the responsibility on future generations.
Zimbabwe is targeting to make use of domestic nuclear energy by 2020, thereby necessitating the overtures with China, in which President Robert Mugabe and a coterie of his military strongmen are said to be interested parties, sources from the energy and power development ministry have said.
It is also coming to light for the first time that, Mugabe had initially sought nuclear technology, to boost the country’s electricity needs from Iran and North Korea in the 1990s, but his efforts did not bear fruit thus he turned to Argentina where he decided to acquire a nuclear reactor, and again his plans suffered a stillbirth.
Both Iran and North Korea have controversial nuclear programmes, which have set them on a collision course with the West due to the veil of secrecy shrouding them and fears by many intelligence organisations that the two rogue states are not pursuing peaceful nuclear programmes.
President Barack Obama, has warned the former is just over a year from possessing a nuclear bomb, while the latter has threatened Washington with a first nuclear strike option after being hit with a new regime of sanctions by the United Nations Security Council for her nuclear tests activities along the Korean Peninsula.
Pyongyang is also loathed in the country, for its notorious role in the training of 5th Brigade regiment forces charged with the sad massacres of Gukurahundi in Matabeleland in the 80s. China now appears, however to be the destination of last resort for Mugabe’s nuclear energy ambitions, which the ailing leader first mooted in the early days of his presidency.
Hard-line security chiefs widely believed to be the new power behind the curtain and also suspected of running a parallel government seem not to be leaving any stone unturned in the pillaging of minerals, from diamonds and now uranium to maintain political hegemony at Munhumutapa.
The green light given to China, makes it the second country after Iran which Harare has approved to tap into the mineral whose ore is also known as yellowcake, a powder that can be converted into uranium hexafluoride a key step of enrichment required to run a nuclear power plant or production of a nuclear bomb.
According to a report on the mining sector penciled in 2012 , believed to have been prepared for cabinet deliberations by mines minister Obert Mpofu, China will now have the rights to mine a slice of the uranium deposits found in the Kanyemba district, which is about 150 miles north of Harare.
Zimbabwe’s uranium deposits were first discovered by German prospectors in the 1980s but remained virgin due to low world prices, and inconclusive feasibility studies of the mineral.
“China has received the special rights to mine uranium and diamonds,which have become strategic national minerals,”reads part of the report. “They are considering to operate up to 60 percent of uranium claims in the Kanyemba area, and have indicated that they have technical capacity for the operations. Moves by the ministry to draft a law regime for miners to refine raw materials inside the country, presents the possibility of uranium processing inland for nuclear energy purposes in the not so distant future.”
Beijing’s planned foot-hold on the country’s uranium deposits has the blessing of securocrats who appear to have arm-twisted government into submission on the issue, and are determined to shape increasingly militarized foreign relations with China.
Harare initially had fears of a US-led military attack and a set of stringent sanctions from the EU, over its first secretive uranium deal with Iran reported in 2010, but fresh intelligence from seasoned State operatives indicates the risk is now minimal with China in the fold, our sources disclosed.
A Chinese firm, already registered in Zimbabwe, China Uranium Corporation (CUC) is said to be partnering with Zimbabwe’s Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) on the project, although it is also not clear which other Chinese companies will take up the nuclear power plant plan if it receives the nod from cabinet.
The uranium mining project failed to take off earlier because the rights had not yet been awarded, although a deal had been sealed but busted after, British bank Standard Chartered cited EU and US sanctions against ZMDC thereby failing to facilitate the joint venture.
Deputy mines minister, Gift Chimanikire recently told Nehanda Radio China was welcome to resume uranium mining and the thrust was for the mineral to benefit local blacks according to the country’s contentious indigenisation laws.
“Yes China are welcome,” said Chimanikire. “Government is in fact planning to explore our uranium reserves at a massive scale, through partnering foreign investors and the private sector, but the indigenisation law of 51 percent ownership by local Zimbabweans must be observed. Chinese companies together with other investors can help us to determine the quantity and commercial value of the uranium, but the country must benefit from it.”
Zimbabwe’s power utility chief executive officer, Josh Chifamba, could have lifted the lid on the nuclear power plant plans with China, last year when he all but confirmed to executives during an International Conference in Bulawayo that the country would be using nuclear energy by 2020.
“There is no reason why a country with untapped uranium deposits continues to have chronic electricity shortages. We have four power options at the moment. One of it involves nuclear power,” said Chifamba.
“We are looking at the year 2020 to go on full scale nuclear power production. As for the nuclear power option, it will be the fourth option. We will set up a small group to look at the nuclear option. We are looking at the year 2020 and onwards for full scale nuclear power production.”
However Chifamba’s boss, energy minister Elton Mangoma made a sharp contradiction telling us that the nuclear option was not on the radar but:
“That we are looking at regional power cooperation, because it is cheaper and safer.” Mangoma could neither confirm nor deny overtures made by Mugabe to China for the construction of a nuclear plant facility.
Available at: http://nehandaradio.com/2013/04/03/zimbabwe-eyes-nuclear-energy-by-2020/
The government on Tuesday approved the first phase of 2,000-megawatt (MW) nuclear power plant project which is scheduled to be completed at Rooppur in Pabna by 2017.
The Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) has allotted Tk 5,242 crore to the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission for implementing the project.
The approval came at a meeting at the Nec auditorium with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
Of the amount, Russia will provide Tk 4,000 crore ($500 million) as hard term loan for the first phase but the country is likely to provide around $6 billion for the second phase the tentative implementation schedule of which is 2017 to 2022.
In January this year, Bangladesh signed loan agreements with Russia for $500 million to implement the first phase of the plant.
The IMF in a report this month to the government has expressed its reservation about both cost of the Russian loan and safety of the power plant.
The planning ministry proposal said study and survey on primary safety of the project area has already been completed for getting assistance from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Russian Federation.
The IAEA has been providing necessary technical assistance for developing atomic infrastructure.
Available at: http://www.thedailystar.net/beta2/news/ecnec-okays-tk-5242cr-project/
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