1. N. Korea May Conduct Joint Missile-Nuclear Tests, South Says
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North Korea may detonate a nuclear device and carry out a missile test together as early as this week, South Korea’s government said, as the totalitarian regime defies international concern including from ally China.
Kim Jong Un’s regime is ready to conduct a fourth underground atomic weapon test at its Punggye-ri site, after carrying out its third Feb. 12, South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min Seok said today. National security chief Kim Jang Soo said yesterday the North may stage a provocation including a ballistic missile test on or around April 10.
North Korea today said it will withdraw all of its workers from a jointly managed industrial complex that is the last remaining point of contact with the South and a source of income for Kim’s impoverished country. The move came after U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke said “China and the United States and the world community are very concerned about the provocative acts and statements” made by North Korea.
North Korea’s threats to carry out pre-emptive nuclear strikes against the U.S. and South Korea have escalated tensions and prompted calls for dialogue. Chinese President Xi Jinping said yesterday no country should be allowed to instigate regional chaos and the U.S. postponed a missile test to avoid making the situation worse.
South Korea’s won slid to its weakest level in eight month as the heightened risk of conflict spurred foreign fund outflows. The currency closed down 0.8 percent at 1,140.15 per dollar. The benchmark Kospi (KOSPI) index of shares declined 0.4 percent after dropping more than 3 percent last week.
All North Korea workers are being recalled from the Gaeseong industrial park and operations will be suspended indefinitely, the official Korean Central News Agency said, citing Workers’ Party Secretary Kim Yang Gon. About 120 South Korea companies employ more than 50,000 North Koreans at the complex.
While Kim’s regime has blocked South Koreans from entering the complex since last week, removing its workers would be unprecedented, said Koh Yu Hwan, a North Korean studies professor at Dongguk University in Seoul.
“This is the most serious the situation has ever been since Gaeseong started operating” in 2005, Koh said. “The value of Gaeseong is not in the value of the products made there, but its value as a deterrent for war.”
South Korea sees no unusual North Korean troop movements near the complex, a Defense Ministry official said on condition of anonymity, citing ministry policy.
North Korea last week told countries including Russia and the U.K. to consider evacuating embassy staff from the capital by April 10, warning that they can’t be protected, and told South Korean companies at Gaeseong to leave by the same date.
Currently 475 South Koreans remain in the complex after 39 left today, Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung Suk said in a text message.
North Korea’s decision last week to restart production of weapons-grade plutonium is credit negative for South Korea as it has increased “the chance of a serious military clash,” Moody’s Investors Service analysts David Erickson and Thomas Byrne wrote in a report today.
American politicians stepped up their appeals for China, North Korea’s biggest trading partner, to use its economic and political clout to rein in Kim Jong Un and prevent an armed conflict. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry travels to Asia this week to meet leaders from South Korea, China and Japan.
“China does hold the key to this problem,” Arizona Senator John McCain said yesterday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program. “China can cut off their economy if they want to.”
Negotiations are “the only effective solution,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters today in Beijing, adding his government wants to see tensions ease.
Xi said in a speech yesterday that no country “should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains.” While he didn’t mention North Korea, analysts including Fang Xiuyu, a professor of Korean studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, said “it is fair” to interpret the comments as referring to the situation.
In a bid to defuse the tensions, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel postponed the April 9 test of a Minuteman III intercontinental missile from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, according to a Defense Department official who asked not to be identified.
The Obama administration was concerned Kim might misinterpret the test as a sign the U.S. and South Korea were preparing an attack to destroy North Korea’s nuclear weapons facilities, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of having access to classified intelligence.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-08/north-korea-may-conduct-joint-missile-nuclear-tests-south-says.html
2. North Korea: Embassies Stay Despite Security Warning
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Foreign embassies in the North Korean capital Pyongyang have played down warnings from Kim Jong-un's government over their safety.
On Friday North Korea warned it would not be able to guarantee the safety of embassy staff in the event of a war.
The UK Foreign Office, which has an embassy in Pyongyang, described the warning as "continuing rhetoric".
US and South Korean officials have sought to play down fears of a conflict on the Korean peninsula in recent days.
No foreign embassies have announced plans to evacuate, and the UK and Russian embassies have said they have no immediate plans to shut their embassies.
The UK has maintained a diplomatic presence in North Korea since 2001, led by Michael Gifford, the current UK ambassador.
Meanwhile China, traditionally a North Korean ally, has reportedly urged dialogue between North Korea and the international community.
On Saturday Chinese media reported telephone discussions between the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, and UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon.
The talks stressed that dialogue was the only way forward and that "China would not allow any trouble at its door step".
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, is due to visit China in the coming week, along with South Korea and Japan, where talks are expected to focus on North Korea's nuclear programme and escalating threats against the US and its allies.
US officials have said they would not be surprised if North Korea launched a missile, and are moving a missile defence system to its Pacific island territory of Guam.
But they have also played down fears of an all-out conflict on the Korean peninsula.
North Korea has issued a series of unusually strong threats since it was sanctioned by the UN in March for having carried out a third nuclear test.
It has threatened nuclear strikes on the US, formally declared war on the South, and pledged to reopen a nuclear reactor in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.
The movement of missiles within North Korea has sparked concern, but it is not clear how well developed its missile technology is.
North Korea has not taken direct military action since 2010, when it shelled a South Korean island and killed four people.
Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-22054175
Amid mounting tensions with North Korea, the Pentagon has delayed an intercontinental ballistic missile test that had been planned for next week at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, a senior defense official told The Associated Press on Saturday.
The official said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel decided to put off the long-planned Minuteman 3 test until sometime next month because of concerns the launch could be misinterpreted and exacerbate the Korean crisis. Hagel made the decision Friday, the official said.
The test was not connected to the ongoing U.S.-South Korean military exercises that have been going on in that region and have stoked North Korean anger and fueled an escalation in threatening actions and rhetoric.
North Korea's military warned earlier this week that it was authorized to attack the U.S. using "smaller, lighter and diversified" nuclear weapons. And South Korean officials say North Korea has moved at least one missile with "considerable range" to its east coast — possibly the untested Musudan missile, believed to have a range of 1,800 miles. U.S. officials have said the missile move suggests a North Korean launch could be imminent and thus fuels worries in the region.
Pyongyang's moves come on the heels of the North's nuclear test in February, and the launch in December of a long-range North Korean rocket that could potentially hit the continental U.S. Added to that is the uncertainty surrounding the intentions of North Korea's new young leader, Kim Jong Un.
Meanwhile, North Korea has been angered by increasing sanctions and ongoing U.S.-South Korean military exercises, which have included a broad show of force ranging from stealthy B-2 bombers and F-22 fighters to a wide array of ballistic missile defense-capable warships. The exercises are scheduled to continue through the end of the month.
This past week, the U.S. said two of the Navy's missile-defense ships were moved closer to the Korean peninsula, and a land-based system is being deployed to the Pacific territory of Guam later this month. The Pentagon last month announced longer-term plans to beef up its U.S.-based missile defenses.
While Washington is taking the North Korean threats seriously, U.S. leaders continue to say that they have seen no visible signs that the North is preparing for a large-scale attack.
The defense official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the Minuteman 3 test delay and requested anonymity, said U.S. policy continues to support the building and testing of its nuclear deterrent capabilities. And the official said the launch was not put off because of any technical problems.
The globe-circling intercontinental ballistic missiles make up one of the three legs of America's nuclear arsenal. There are about 450 Minuteman 3 missiles based in underground silos in the north-central U.S. The other two legs of the nuclear arsenal are submarine-launched ballistic missiles and weapons launched from big bombers, such as the B-52 and the stealthy B-2.
The traditional rationale for the "nuclear triad" of weaponry is that it is essential to surviving any nuclear exchange.
Available at: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/ap-source-us-delays-missile-test-tensions-rise
4. Fidel Castro Advises Friend North Korea Against War
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Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro warned ally North Korea against war on Friday and described the current tensions on the Korean Peninsula as one of the "gravest risks" for nuclear holocaust since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
Saying he spoke as a friend, Castro wrote in Cuban state media that North Korea, led by 30-year-old Kim Jong-un, had shown the world its technical prowess and now it was time to remember its duties to others.
North Korea, which along with Cuba is one of the world's last communist countries, has been ratcheting up pressure by declaring war on neighbor South Korea and threatening to stage a nuclear strike on the United States.
Few observers believe it will actually attack anyone, but Castro has become an anti-nuclear advocate in recent years.
"The Democratic People's Republic of Korea was always friendly with Cuba, as Cuba always has been and will continue to be with her," Castro wrote, using an almost paternalistic tone.
"Now that it has demonstrated its technical and scientific advances, we remind it of its duties to other countries who have been great friends and that it would not be just to forget that such a war would affect in a special way more than 70 percent of the world's population," said the 86-year-old, who turned Cuba communist after taking power in a 1959 revolution.
Castro called the present situation on the Korean Peninsula "incredible and absurd," but said "it has to do with one of the gravest risks of nuclear war since the Crisis of October (Cuban Missile Crisis), 50 years ago."
He led Cuba through the October 1962 showdown when the United States and Soviet Union nearly went to war over the placement of Soviet nuclear missiles on Cuba, 90 miles south of Florida.
At one point, Castro wrote a letter to Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev urging a nuclear attack on the United States, which he assumed was about to invade the Caribbean island.
Cooler heads prevailed as Khruschev and President John F. Kennedy reached an agreement in which the Soviet missiles were removed and the United States promised never to invade Cuba.
Castro ruled Cuba for 49 years before age and ill health forced him to step down in 2008.
He was succeeded as president by younger brother Raul Castro, 81, but remains a power behind the scenes and writes occasional columns for Cuban press.
The elder Castro also said the United States had the responsibility to prevent war, which he said if unleashed would make President Barack Obama look like "the most sinister person in the history of the United States."
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/05/us-korea-north-castro-idUSBRE9340ML20130405
The European Union's foreign policy chief says nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers have ended without an agreement.
Catherine Ashton said Saturday the two sides "remain far apart on substance," after a second and final day of negotiations in Kazakhstan.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said there was no agreement on a date or venue for further talks.
Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, acknowledged differences between the two sides. He reiterated Iran's position that it has a right to enrich uranium, and said Tehran is hoping for more concessions from world powers before curtailing its uranium enrichment production.
During two days of meetings in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the major powers had hoped to reach a compromise with Iran to resolve their concerns about the widespread belief that Iran's nuclear program conceals a covert effort to make nuclear bombs.
Delegates from the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany met with Iranian officials on proposals that would have allowed some exceptions to the international sanctions program against Iran, if authorities there would close a controversial nuclear facility and turn over the national stockpile of enriched uranium.
A spokesman for Ashton urged Iran earlier to take a "confidence-building step" and reassure the international community it is not engaged in a nuclear weapons program for military purposes.
Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program has only peaceful purposes, including power generation.
The United States attended the talks with the four other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - Britain, France, Russia and China. German representatives were also there.
Available at: http://www.voanews.com/content/iran-nuclear-talks-end-without-agreement/1636152.html
1. Japan Experts Say New Nuclear Safety Plan Too Lax
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Experts who investigated Japan's nuclear crisis said Monday that a watchdog's oversight of the crippled plant's operator is still too lax, amid renewed public fear over a recent spate of safety problems.
The Fukushima Dai-ichi plant has been plagued with glitches. A blackout last month, caused by a rat that short-circuited a switchboard, left the plant's fuel storage pools without cooling for more than a day. Last Friday another cooling failure occurred, and hours later the operator reported a massive contaminated water leak from underground tanks.
The plant's operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. revealed Saturday that up to 120 tons of highly contaminated water has escaped from a temporary underground tank, and a smaller amount from another tank. TEPCO said it believes the water hasn't escaped into the ocean.
Regulators asked TEPCO on Monday to determine the cause and contain the problem quickly. But the investigators said the Nuclear Regulation Authority is only rubber-stamping TEPCO's work at the plant that still runs on makeshift equipment.
"The public is extremely concerned, especially about the latest contaminated water leak. Many people worry if it's a good idea to leave the plant up to TEPCO and the regulators," said Shuya Nomura, a lawyer who served on the 10-member investigation panel commissioned by the parliament last year. "Regulators should demonstrate they can properly carry out a decades-long decommissioning process."
Another investigator Mitsuhiko Tanaka, a nuclear engineer, said regulators routinely approved work plans submitted by the utility.
"They make a risk assessment, submit their plans to the government and they're approved," he said. "It's the same old routine."
Nine of the investigators testified at a lower house nuclear committee Monday for the first time since releasing their findings in July. The report called the March 2011 disaster "manmade," and blamed regulator-operator collusion and botched crisis management. The NRA started in September as a more independent, tougher regulator.
TEPCO is moving tons of highly radioactive water from the temporary tanks to two similar ones nearby to minimize the leak. They are among seven underground tanks in different sizes with the same design.
TEPCO admitted Sunday it had dismissed earlier signs of water loss as a margin of error and waited until a spike in radiation levels around the tanks was detected. Critics suspect cashapped TEPCO built poorly designed underground pits instead of safer and more manageable steel tanks to save money. TEPCO is also criticized for delaying upgrades of makeshift equipment, raising suspicions whether the plant is really under control.
The underground tanks, several times the size of an Olympic swimming pool and similar to an industrial waste dump, are dug directly into the ground and protected by double-layer polyethylene linings inside the outermost clay-based lining, with a felt padding in between each layer. Officials suspect ruptures in the linings due to the weight of the water.
Contaminated water at the plant, which went into multiple meltdowns after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan, has escaped into the sea several times during the crisis. Experts suspect a continuous leak into the ocean through an underground water system, citing high levels of contamination among fish caught in waters just off the plant.
The contaminated water in the tanks is part of more than 270,000 tons of water used to cool melted fuel at the plant's reactors damaged in the twin disasters. So much water has been used that TEPCO is struggling to find storage space. The water is also stored in hundreds of gigantic steel tanks.
NRA commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa told reporters Monday that the water leak poses a more immediate threat to the plant's water management than to the environment. He questioned TEPCO's risk evaluation in the tanks' planning stage, but acknowledged regulators have to allow TEPCO to use remaining underground tanks for now.
"Although we need more long-term plans, we have to tackle the most immediate problem first. TEPCO's decommission process is a tightrope situation to begin with," he said.
Available at: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/japan-experts-say-new-nuclear-safety-plan-too-lax
2. Japan's Tepco May Run out of Space for Radioactive Water
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Japan's Tokyo Electric Power Co said on Monday it does not have enough tank space should it need to move contaminated water from storage pits that started leaking over the weekend at its wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Two years after the worst nuclear disaster in a quarter of a century, Tepco is struggling with breakdowns and glitches in its jerry-rigged cooling system to keep reactors and spent fuel pools in a safe state known as cold shutdown.
About 120,000 liters (32,000 gallons) of water contaminated with radiation leaked from two giant pits over the weekend. The cooling system has broken down twice over the past three weeks.
The utility does not have enough sturdy, above-ground tanks it is building to take the water from the pits, a Tepco general manager, Masayuki Ono, said at a news conference at the company's headquarters.
Tepco engineers have not decided whether to transfer the water to above-ground tanks, Ono said. The plant's seven storage pits are lined with water-proof sheets meant to keep the contaminated water from leaking into the soil.
An earthquake triggered tsunami waves that crashed into the power plant north of Tokyo on March 11, 2001, setting off a chain of events that caused three reactors to melt down and forcing 160,000 people to flee from their homes.
In the immediate aftermath of explosions at the plant, Tepco released some radioactive water into the sea nearby, prompting protests from neighboring countries. Many nations put restrictions on imports of Japanese food after the disaster.
It was the worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
"It is extremely regrettable that incidents keep occurring at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters. "The government has instructed Tepco to carry out a fundamental review of how it's dealing with the problems."
Tepco's president, Naomi Hirose, was summoned to the Industry Ministry to explain the leaks in the temporary storage pits and got a public dressing down from the minister, Toshimitsu Motegi.
Tepco said on Friday it lost the ability to cool radioactive fuel rods in one of the plant's reactors for about three hours, the second cooling system failure at the plant in three weeks.
Last month, a senior Tepco executive told Reuters in an interview that the company was struggling to stop groundwater flooding into the damaged reactor buildings and may take as long as four years to fix the problem.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/08/us-japan-fukushima-leak-idUSBRE93601Q20130408
3. 120 Tons of Contaminated Water Leaks at Fukushima Nuclear Plant
The Asahi Shimbun
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About 120 tons of contaminated water has leaked from an underground storage tank at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and may have mixed with underground water, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said April 6.
TEPCO estimated that the water contained about 710 billion becquerels of radioactivity and leaked through the joints of protective sheets of the storage tank.
The water had passed through a filtration system before leaking, and its radioactivity level was about half that of water that has yet to be filtered, according to TEPCO.
TEPCO acknowledged that the contaminated water likely soaked the soil surrounding the tank and may have reached underground water.
But "the contaminated water has not seeped into the sea,” TEPCO spokesman Masayuki Ono said at a news conference before dawn on April 6. Ono noted that the storage tank is located 800 meters from the Pacific Ocean.
About 13,000 tons of contaminated cooling water was put into the tank from Feb. 1 to March 2, filling it to capacity.
Workers began to transfer contaminated water from the leaky underground storage tank to a different tank early on April 6. It takes about an hour to transfer about 100 tons of water, meaning five days or more are required to complete the task.
The water had initially been used to cool melted nuclear fuel after the onset of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, and was subsequently put into the storage tank.
TEPCO has been removing cesium from the water with filtration equipment. However, water that goes through the filtration process and is stored in the underground storage tank is still highly contaminated because it contains other radioactive materials, such as strontium. The radioactivity level of the water is about 290,000 becquerels per cubic centimeter.
TEPCO became aware of the leak after measuring the height of the water in the tank on April 4 and 5.
The underground storage tank is 60 meters long, 53 meters wide and 6 meters deep. It is lined with three layers of protective sheets--two made of polyethylene and the outermost layer of clay--to prevent leakage.
TEPCO had been checking for possible leaks by measuring radioactivity levels of water from a hole dug near the tank. Until last month, however, the radioactivity level of the water had been so low that it was impossible to detect any leakage.
But on April 3, 20 becquerels of radioactivity per cubic centimeter was detected, followed by 35 becquerels the next day.
At 3 p.m. on April 5, workers took water from an area between the clay layer and a polyethylene layer. At 10 p.m. they found that the radioactivity level of the water was about 6,000 becquerels.
TEPCO suspects that joints in the sheets of the polyethylene layer had ruptured and the water then managed to leak through the 6.4-millimeter-thick clay layer.
Available at: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201304060038
1. Report on N-Plant Site Must Be Taken Seriously: Experts
Nikhil M. Ghanekar
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The findings of the Department of Atomic Energy report, which details 12 faults and lineaments in and around the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant (JNPP), raise safety concerns about the project and must be taken seriously, said geologists.
A lineament is a geological feature that can turn out to be a faultline, a crack or even a fissure and shows the landscape's vulnerability to tremors.
A lineament mentioned in the report cuts across the Madban plateau, the site of the project. Experts said the features of this beg serious consideration as it runs parallel to the west coast fault line. "If, according to the DAE report, the Madban plateau trends in the north northwest - south southeast direction, then its features are similar to the deep seated west coast fault line," said Professor MK Prabhu, a former government geologist who investigated the 1993 Latur quake.
The 2002 DAE report also enlists 11 other locations where lineaments and fault lines exist around the plant site. The report says: "a lineament in east northeast - west southwest direction lies at a distance of 10 km and follows the course of the Vagothan River for some distance."
With regard to this, Prabhu said: "The Vagothan lineament, said to be associated with the Rajapur hot springs, is also quite close to the project. Historically, the Madban plateau and surrounding areas have been home to faults and lineaments."
In its official response to the report findings, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) said the lineaments had been studied and were not found to be capable faults. However, it did not specifically talk about the minor faults that exist on the Madban plateau, as mentioned in the report.
The Jaitapur nuclear project has met with opposition from locals and activists regarding the safety of the plant from tremors and earthquakes, particularly in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Available at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/Mumbai/Report-on-N-plant-site-must-be-taken-seriously-experts/Article1-1039064.aspx
2. Hanford Waste Shipment Plan Under Debate in New Mexico
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Last month, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a plan to send some nuclear waste from leaky storage tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation to southern New Mexico.
The proposed new storage site is near Carlsbad, and it's called the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. WIPP, as it’s known, has been prohibited from receiving Hanford tank waste for nearly a decade. Now, New Mexicans are debating whether to reverse course, and accept some of the waste.
WIPP is nearly half a mile underground near Carlsbad New Mexico. The facility provided a jump-start to the failing Carlsbad economy in the 1990s when unemployment was high and people were leaving the largely blue-collar town. WIPP brought around 800 white-collar jobs, and transformed the community.
Today, that same salt formation protects New Mexico’s future by providing a safe place to permanently dispose of the nation's defense-related transuranic radioactive waste. New Mexico has a long tradition of dealing with waste from U.S. nuclear weapons facilities. Think Los Alamos National Laboratory and the birth of the atomic bomb.
As part of the early negotiations between the state and the DOE, it was agreed that only transuranic waste—consisting mainly of contaminated tools, clothing, soil and sludge— would be allowed at WIPP.
This so-called "TRU" waste is less radioactive than high-level waste, which comes from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. WIPP is not equipped to handle that super-hot stuff.
But tank waste at Hanford has always been managed as high-level waste. As a result, back in 2004, shipments of waste from the tanks were prohibited by New Mexico—a prohibition the DOE is now proposing that the state eliminate.
“Because it was managed as HLW doesn't mean that is what it really is," said John Heaton, a former New Mexico state representative and Chair of the Carlsbad Mayor's Nuclear Opportunities Task Force. “That tank waste has since been analyzed thoroughly and none of those incompatibilities are known to exist, those were hypothetical at the time that that prohibition was put in place.”
Supporters say the Hanford shipments would extend the repository's mission and keep people working long after waste from Los Alamos National Labs is shipped over the next couple of years.
“WIPP has a mission for transuranic waste," Heaton said. "And it has 16 square miles of bedded salt. We are barely using two-thirds of a square mile, so there is a vast volume available.”
On a recent evening in Albuquerque, Janet Greenwald and other members of nuclear watchdog groups met over bowls of vegetable soup to discuss their opposition to the DOE plan.
“Through the years we've all noticed that if you talk to people too much about nuclear issues, their eyes glaze over, you can't see it, you can't hear it,” she said.
But waste destined for WIPP is driven right through small New Mexico communities by truck, and Greenwald worries about the potential for nuclear spills.
“If we accept the Hanford waste because they are having problems, we are going to end up taking care of all the problems that they have at all the facilities in the U.S.," Greenwald says. "I don't think New Mexico wants to be in that position.”
Don Hancock is another opponent. He directs the Nuclear Waste Project for the Southwest Research and Information Center.
For Hancock, the DOE proposal to remove the New Mexico prohibition is a rushed response to a political crisis. Any Hanford waste would have to be processed in a brand new facility there, he says, before it could be shipped to WIPP.
“We’d have to spend all that money anyway," Hancock said. "I don't know anybody from a technical standpoint that thinks either they can do or that they can do that anytime soon, or that it would be cost-effective.”
The Department of Energy is preparing their official request for the New Mexico Environment Department to remove the prohibition on Hanford tank waste.
According to a DOE statement, once that request goes in, there will be a 60-day public comment period and two public hearings to debate the proposal.
Available at: http://www.kplu.org/post/hanford-waste-shipment-plan-under-debate-new-mexico
A leading Russian scientific expert vouched for the safety of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP), which has faced the ire of protestors believed to be backed by Russia’s rivals. Yevgeniy Dudkin, head of the Russian Specialists Group at Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project told The Hindu that the superior technology and exceptionally high quality equipment used in the reactors at the project made them unique in the global nuclear industry.
Dudkin told the paper that the ‘hot run’ of the first reactor was successfully completed, as all components behaved exceptionally well during the tests. Since the Russian government established Quality Management System with international standards, the companies manufacturing any component to be used in the nuclear industry would always be adhering to international standards, the report said.
Every part used and being used in the reactor and other parts fitted in the allied sections were being jointly inspected by Indian and Russian specialists prior to a series of tests conducted on them to ascertain their quality, the report said adding that the products were being received at the KNPP site jointly by the project’s engineers and Russian specialists, who would sign the documents to certify the quality of the components.
“If any of the observation made by one of the members questioned the quality of a particular component, it will not be installed until the issue is settled. Hence, there cannot be any room for compromise in quality in the products supplied to KKNPP,” Dudkin told the paper adding that the Russia side was addressing the issue of short supply of any of the components, if any, to avert possible delay in the execution of the project.
Dudkin told the paper that the VVER – 1000 technology, which has been used in the reactors under construction at Kudankulam, was a proven one, as two similar reactors constructed by his company, Atomstroyexport, a Rosatom subsidiary were functioning well in China.
“Inter-governmental agreement had been signed for constructing two nuclear reactors of 1,000 MWe in Bangladesh and construction on two reactors with similar capacity is to be started at Vietnam. Of course, we have planned to construct four more reactors at Kudankulam. This is purely because of the highest quality standards Russia has evolved over the years and the components with exceptionally superior quality,” The Hindu quoted Dudkin as saying.
Dudkin also told the paper that a number of passive safety measures installed had made the reactors the safest in the world. The report said that the passive heat removal system that could extract the residual heat from the reactors even during absolute power cut, quick boron injection system, the core catcher that would cover completely even the melted core, hydro accumulators and an array of few more safety features had made the KNPP reactors unique in the industry.
“In fact, we will be pleased to introduce such futuristic safety measures in the reactors we are going to construct in other parts of the world,” Dudkin told the paper.
The Kudankulam units comprise of 1,000 MW reactors of the VVER-1000 model being constructed by NPCIL and Russia’s Atomstroyexport.
India signed a contract with the Soviet Union to build the Kudankulam plant in 1988, while the actual construction started only in 1997 due to due to the political and economic upheaval in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The construction of the first two units of the power plant was halted in September 2011 over protests by local residents who demanded the scrapping of the Indo-Russian project citing the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. Protesters had blocked all roads to the plant and would not allow the workers to enter. The work resumed in March 2012.
Protestors have vowed to disrupt the project and continue to fight against the project in Indian courts.
Available at: http://indrus.in/economics/2013/04/05/russian_expert_vouches_for_kudankulam_safety_23539.html
1. IAEA Hosts Training Event on Uranium Exploration
The Economic Times
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Adequate uranium reserves have been proved for India's nuclear power programme and the future belonged to mineralisation of poor grade uranium ore, according to the country's nuclear experts.
Chairman-cum-Managing Director of Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) Diwakar Acharya said environment-friendly mining activities for fuel and metal will have to be introduced in the country in view of the increasing demand.
He was speaking at a five-day International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inter-regional training course on Uranium exploration strategy, mining and processing techniques which commenced here today.
UCIL, a public sector unit, was equipped with skilled manpower and technique as it was engaged in the field of uranium exploration, mining and processing for over five decades in Singhbhum belt of Jharkhand, he said.
Appreciating the IAEA for hosting the training course in Jamshedpur, Acharya said it was the first such event in the country and Jharkhand has been chosen because of "the good practices being followed at UCIL as well as the vast experiences it had."
The training department of UCIL recently bagged the National award because of the good practices, he said asserting that UCIL was equipped with expertise to train the delegates taking part in programme from across the country and 26 overseas countries.
Acharya expressed confidence that the five-day training programme would give a platform to scientists, geologists and other stakeholders enaged in this field to share their experiences.
He told newsmen that integral part of the training course was to share experiences with freshers coming in the spectrum of nuclear science including Uranium exploration, mining and processing.
Among other related issues, the course would deliberate upon methods being followed in the field of mineralization, geological survey and economic and market condition at the time of mining.
Admitting that the uranium prices were very low, Acharya regretted there was no new investment in the uranium sector for the last ten years in the country.
Expressing satisfaction over UCIL's Tummalapalle project in Cuddapah district of Andhra Pradesh, Acharya said it was in advance stage of commissioning.
Dwelling upon the subject, the Director of Atomic Minerals Directorate (AMD), Pratap Singh Parihar, said the concerned department has started various exploration and search activities including aerial, geological and physical survey, identification of rocks, grade quality of ore.
Parihar claimed that adequate uranium reserves are there for the country's nuclear power programme. With future exploration strategy, he said it was envisaged to add more uranium reserves in promising uraniumareas.
Henry Schnell, IAEA expert from Canada, was attending the event.
Available at: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/news-by-industry/energy/power/iaea-hosts-training-event-on-uranium-exploration/articleshow/19443361.cms
2. Nuclear-Experts Bat for India's Membership at NSG
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Indian nuclear experts have told Business Standard that it is an opportune time for the country to gain membership of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG), despite reservations expressed by China and some smaller European states such as Ireland, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
The experts strongly feel that this would not only help India procure more fuel and nuclear components, but also be an opportunity for the Indian industry to aggressively tap the global market. They said India’s nuclear generation and plant load factor of its 20 nuclear plants have improved after the end of nuclear apartheid. The clean waiver given to India by the NSG enables India to resuscitate its nuclear energy programme without endangering its nuclear deterrent.
“India has put in place an export control regime that is being effectively implemented. During the dialogue with the NSG in 2008, the effectiveness of India’s export control regime was acknowledged by the NSG community. The NSG revises its control lists periodically to keep pace with developments in technology. Decisions in this regard are taken by the NSG through a consultative process involving all members. As a responsible player, it is desirable that India is associated with this decision making process and that will be possible only if India is a member of NSG,” Ravi B Grover, Director, Homi Bhabha National Institute (HBNI) told Business Standard.
Grover and the Atomic Energy Commission’s former chairman, Anil Kakodkar, were primarily responsible for the success of the Indo-US negotiations that culminated in the 123 agreement signed in July 2007.
Grover’s views are shared by distinguished nuclear scientist Surinder Thakur, who says that in order to get the full benefit of international cooperation in the nuclear sector, it is imperative that India be inducted as a member of the NSG. “A large number of inter-governmental agreements for civil nuclear cooperation have been signed and more are in the pipeline. In this context, the benefit is two ways. We have the possibility of import of components, fuel, safety systems and also the entire global market will open for the Indian industry,” he said.
G R Srinivasan, former vice chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), opined that India has all the necessary credentials — commercial, military and technological — which other members have. “The NSG is missing an important member in India. The NSG would certainly need India as its member, especially when the NSG’s ground rules have been observed by us both by action and by regulatory framework like export control rules which have been already put in place.” He noted India is following the NSG regime even before formally becoming the member compared with many who are already members.
A retired director of the Nuclear Power Corporation, who did not want to be identified, said it was simply matter of a time. “One day, India will become a member of the NSG. India is following all the necessary practices required to non-proliferate nuclear technology. Our track record is quite good. After becoming an NSG member, India will be in a far better position to obtain new technologies and nuclear material from abroad,” he said.
However, A Gopalakrishnan, former chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board did not see any benefit in India joining the NSG. “I do not understand why the UPA government is shamelessly pursuing the issue of being accepted as a member of the NSG, which was formed in the first instance solely to block India from receiving nuclear technologies and equipment. After the pime mnister’s assurance in September 2008 that under the NSG exemption then granted, India would receive enrichment & reprocessing (ENR) technologies, the 2012 NSG decision that only NPT (non proliferation treaty) members can receive such technologies is a slap on the face for the UPA. As it stands, there is no benefit in India joining the NSG,” Gopalakrishnan said.
Available at: http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/nuclear-experts-bat-for-india-s-membership-at-nsg-113040700164_1.html
3. John Kerry to Visit India in June to Spur Nuclear Energy Commerce
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US President Barack Obama is sending secretary of state John Kerry, Washington’s new top diplomat to India to expand strategic cooperation and iron out the issues stalling the actual implementation of the India-US civil nuclear energy deal.
During his visit, expected to take place in mid-June, Kerry will also co-chair the Indo-US strategic dialogue with external affairs minister Salman Khurshid and try to push nuclear energy commerce.
“US, sources said, is keen to finalise the early works agreement on nuclear reactors and settle the liability issue so as to clear the decks for actual nuclear commerce to begin,” reported the Daily Mail.
During his visit, Kerry will also co-chair the Indo-US strategic dialogue with external affairs minister Salman Khurshid and try to push nuclear energy commerce.
When former President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed the nuclear deal in 2008, it was heralded as a new era in post-Cold war ties and US companies hoped to reap a bonanza in reactor sales.
In June last year, Westinghouse Electric Co. and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) finally signed a preliminary pact for an Early Works Agreement (EWA) for installation of the first 1,000 MW American nuclear reactor in Gujarat. The EWA includes preliminary licensing and site development work.
However, the US says there is still lot of work to be done including understanding the implications of India’s civil nuclear liability law. US nuclear companies have voiced reservations at some provisions of the liability legislation saying they are tough on suppliers of reactors. American firms have been unwilling to shoulder the kind of liabilities India is insisting on. Diplomats from Washington have been in talks with their counterparts in New Delhi over how liability is determined in an accident.
In 2010, India’s parliament passed a nuclear liability act that made companies liable to pay compensation without monetary limit in the event of a nuclear accident. But India posted new rules called “Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Rules 2011,” effectively limiting the liability on foreign suppliers and imposing time constraints on claimants seeking compensation.
The new rules implementing the act have laid a cap of Rs 1,500 crore as damages that can be claimed by a plant operator from reactor suppliers in the event of faulty equipment causing an accident. The rules also set a five-year time limit within which the operator can claim damages from the supplier. This is a departure from the earlier clause in the nuclear liability bill that made nuclear equipment suppliers liable for 80 years in the event of an accident.
Other sources of energy like natural gas will also be a key component of the strategic dialogue. The global energy map is being redrawn by the resurgence in oil and gas production in the US. Amid the emergence of the US as an energy superpower, India is turning to America as a new source for imports.
The US is open to the supplies of liquefied natural gas to energy-hungry India, though it will have to get its domestic laws tweaked to make an exception for India. Washington doesn’t allow gas exports to any country with which it doesn’t have a Free Trade Agreement, but it is making an exception for India’s state run energy giant GAIL India.
GAIL has managed to lock down a 20-year import deal to buy liquefied natural gas (LNG), from Houston-based Cheniere Energy. New Delhi is now pressing Washington to relax its restrictive export policy for other Indian companies.
“Energy trade is of strategic interest on both sides, and should be prioritized,” Nirupama Rao, India’s ambassador to the US, told the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said earlier this month.
“Its elements should include export of US natural gas and other fossil fuel to India. I wish to emphasize the high importance we attach, both at governmental and private sector levels, to opening up the export of shale gas from the United States to India,” added Rao.
The Daily Mail noted that while former secretary of state Hillary Clinton created the right foundations for the strategic dialogue, South Block will be anxiously looking forward to Kerry’s visit, given his reputation of being soft on Pakistan.
Backed by Kerry, US aid to Pakistan is already flowing. The Obama administration has sent to the Congress on December 7, Pakistan’s tab for a $688 million payment that constitutes Islamabad’s bill for providing infrastructural support to the US in its war in Afghanistan. In 2009, Kerry was the co-author of the Kerry-Lugar-Berman law which authorized a five-year $7.5 billion payout to Pakistan subject to conditions
Available at: http://www.firstpost.com/world/john-kerry-to-visit-india-in-june-to-spur-nuclear-energy-commerce-687143.html
4. Kazakhstan Says Not Refusing to Host Nuclear Fuel Bank
Xinhua News Agency
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Kazakhstan has dismissed reports that it might scrap cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog on the creation of a low-enriched uranium "bank" in its territory.
"Yes, we can refuse. In this case, the IAEA redeclares the tender and the bank will be located in another country. However, taking into account direct and indirect economic dividends, refusing to deploy the bank would look unfounded," Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrisov said Thursday.
The government is now engaging in intensive negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the placement of the bank, said Idrisov, adding that the program is still pending for the nuclear agency's final decision.
World powers resumed talks with Iran here on Friday on Iran's nuclear program which the West suspects aims to give Tehran the capability to build an atom bomb, while Tehran insists it is for civilian use.
To curb Iran's enrichment activities, the IAEA has approved the creation of the bank for low-enriched uranium to be hosted in Kazakhstan to separate power generation from the fuel cycle.
Available at: http://big5.xinhuanet.com/gate/big5/news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2013-04/05/c_132286397.htm
1. Ghana Says Critically Considering Nuclear Power for Energy
Ghana Business News
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Mr Emmanuel Kofi Buah, Minister for Energy and Petroleum says Ghana is committed to considering nuclear energy as a viable option in power generation.
He said the Ministry was putting the necessary measures in place to ensure the realization of that great goal. According to him, the increasing demand for power in the country called for accelerated measures to venture into nuclear power, adding that the time had come for critical consideration of this option.
A statement issued by the Ministry on Friday and copied to the Ghana News Agency said, the Minister made the disclosure when the Head of Africa section of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Dr Dazhu Yang currently in Ghana, called on him at his office.
The Minister urged Dr Yang to provide the necessary assistance to Ghana to realize the goals of its nuclear energy programme.
The IAEA Africa Head pledged his support for Ghana in its quest to venture into that area, saying that if the country was to achieve higher middle income status, it needed cheap and clean energy to power its developing industries.
Dr Yang said the IAEA would provide technical support for countries which consider nuclear power as an option, adding that as a bonafide member of the IAEA, Ghana qualified for technical assistance in that venture.
Professor Benjamin Jabez Botwe Nyarko, Director General of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) said preparations were underway to construct the first Nuclear Power Plant in Ghana, including the finalization of techno-economic assessment and financing process.
GAEC Director General said Ghana’s Nuclear Energy Programme Implementation Organization, called the Ghana Nuclear Power Programme Organization was inaugurated in September, last year forming part of the first milestone required by the IAEA.
Prof Nyarko added that a bill on the establishment of an autonomous regulatory body, another prerequisite for operating a Nuclear Power Plant had been sent to Parliament for approval.
Available at: http://www.ghanabusinessnews.com/2013/04/06/ghana-says-critically-considering-nuclear-power-for-energy/
2. Olympics Chief Lord Deighton to Bring Nuclear Power Stations to Britain
Kamal Ahmed and Emily Gosden
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Lord Deighton, who was made Commercial Secretary to the Treasury in January, will lead negotiations with the French nuclear firm, EDF.
He will work alongside the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Energy, Stephen Lovegrove. Lord Deighton, the former chief executive of the London Olympic organising committee and a former banker at Goldman Sachs, is seen as a "doer" who can get big projects off the ground.
EDF has received planning permission for a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset but has said it will not build the facility unless it can agree a price on the energy that it will produce with the Government. It also wants a partner to take a 20pc stake in the project.
Without the so-called "strike price" agreement, EDF said that the £14bn investment needed is not commercially viable.
It is believed that the Prime Minister and the president of France, François Hollande, will discuss the negotiations – which are at a delicate stage – as early as this week. David Cameron and George Osborne, the Chancellor, are known to be keen to seal a deal, particularly after warnings that Britain was facing an "energy crunch".
Two months ago, Alistair Buchanan, the outgoing head of the energy regulator, Ofgem, warned that the country is facing a squeeze on energy supplies that could lead to power shortages by 2016. Treasury sources said that Mr Osborne was "pro-nuclear" but not "at any price".
Talks are believed to have stalled on the issue of the strike price, with EDF demanding £100 per megawatt hour and the Treasury keener on a figure closer to £80 per megawatt hour. A deadline set by EDF for an agreement by the end of March has already been missed.
Even if a strike price is agreed, EDF will still need to secure partners to help fund the project. Any deal with the Government will also need to secure European Union state aid clearance.
The Government is putting pressure on EDF to "bear down" on the costs of building the plant. Sources have made it clear that a number of significant issues still remain to be resolved and no deal is imminent.
The Sunday Telegraph also understands that the size of the contingency budget is another possible sticking point.
In an open letter to this newspaper today, published online, a cross-party group of MPs and dozens of British university academics call for the National Audit Office to review the negotiations "in the context of openness, transparency, fiscal and regulatory accountability, and 'best value' for the UK taxpayer and energy consumer".
They claim that a "commercial confidentiality" clause in the Energy Bill will mean "there will be very limited Parliamentary or public access to information about important details of these non-reviewable contracts".
The letter has been signed by MPs including Alan Whitehead, a member of the energy select committee, Joan Walley, the chair of the environmental audit committee, Simon Hughes, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, and the Conservative MP for Richmond-upon-Thames, Zac Goldsmith.
It has also been signed by dozens of academics including Dr Paul Dorfman of UCL and Professor Tom Burke of Imperial and University Colleges.
Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/9976577/Olympics-chief-Lord-Deighton-to-bring-nuclear-power-stations-to-Britain.html
3. Transatomic Power Offers a Salt-Cooled Reactor That Can Run on Nuclear Waste
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Transatomic Power, which is am offshoot of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has updated a type of nuclear power plant that uses a molten-salt cooled reactor core. The design would run at about half the cost of a standard reactor, it would be resistant to any kind of meltdown and best of all it can run on our nuclear waste.
Transatomic Power says they can create a more cost effective nuclear reactor at about half the cost of a current reactor. The company, which is a creation out of MIT, has updated an older reactor design that uses a molten-salt type of cooling that was previously experimented with in the 1960s at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The Oak Ridge, Tennessee model ran for approximately 6 years before it was shut down and pretty much forgotten about.
What makes the molten-salt design special is that it produces far more energy but it is much smaller and safer to run. Better yet, the model design by Transatomic runs on waste without the need of extra refining or enrichment of uranium.
One of the major reasons why nuclear reactors are so controversial is because of their potential for a meltdown such as with Chernobyl. Then there is the big question with what to do with spent fuel rods and other nuclear waste material or how to deal with natural disasters such as the Fukushima disaster that took place in March 2011.
The salt-cooled reactor from Transatomic would run about 500-megawatts of power and can be constructed for approximately one-half the cost of larger reactors today. Interestingly enough, this model would be constructed off-site inside of a factory and later relocated, which also cuts down on costs.
The design does not use water for cooling but molten salt, which boils at a much higher temperature than the fuel itself that it is mixed with. In the event that there is a problem the fuel and salt would immediately drop into a holding tank where the reaction would cease thereby thwarting any kind of meltdown or nuclear contamination to the environment.
To put the Transatomic reactor into perspective, a modern nuclear reactor produces about 20 metric tons of highly dangerous nuclear waste per year. That waste in turn must be stored away safely under ground in special containers for an estimated 100 thousand years. Transatomic’s molten-salt reactor produces as little as four kilograms of waste that only needs a few hundred years to be stored away.
Russ Wilcox who serves as Transatomic’s CEO says the company will need to come up with about 200 million dollars to produce the first running reactor. However, that cannot begin to be a reality until they can first get approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Once approval goes through, he estimates it would take approximately eight years to see it up and running.
Available at: http://vr-zone.com/articles/transatomic-power-offers-a-salt-cooled-reactor-that-can-run-on-nuclear-waste/19527.html
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