1. As US Talks Up Diplomacy, NKorea Takes Hard Line
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The United States and Japan opened the door Sunday to new nuclear talks with North Korea if the saber-rattling country lowered tensions and honored past agreements, even as it rejected South Korea's latest offer of dialogue as a "crafty trick."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Tokyo that North Korea would find "ready partners" in the United States if it began abandoning its nuclear program.
Japan's foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, also demanded a resolution to a dispute concerning Japanese citizens abducted decades ago by North Korean officials.
The diplomats seemed to point the way for a possible revival of the six-nation talks that have been suspended for four years.
China long pushed has for the process to resume without conditions. But the U.S. and allies South Korea and Japan fear rewarding North Korea for its belligerence and the endless repetition of a cycle of tensions and failed talks that have prolonged the crisis.
Kerry's message of openness to diplomacy was clear, however unlikely the chances appeared that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's government would meet the American's conditions.
"I'm not going to be so stuck in the mud that an opportunity to actually get something done is flagrantly wasted because of a kind of predetermined stubbornness," he told U.S.-based journalists.
"You have to keep your mind open. But fundamentally, the concept is they're going to have to show some kind of good faith here so we're not going to around and around in the same-old, same-old," he said.
Tensions have run high on the Korean Peninsula for months, with North Korea testing a nuclear device and its intercontinental ballistic missile technology.
The reclusive communist state hasn't stopped there. It has issued almost daily threats that have included possible nuclear strikes against the United States. Analysts and foreign officials say that is still beyond the North Koreans' capability.
While many threats have been dismissed as bluster, U.S. and South Korean say they believe the North in the coming days may test a mid-range missile designed to reach as far as Guam, the U.S. territory in the Pacific where the Pentagon is deploying a land-based missile-defense system.
Japan is the last stop on a 10-day trip overseas for Kerry, who visited Seoul and Beijing as well in recent days.
In South Korea, he strongly warned North Korea not to launch a missile and he reaffirmed U.S. defense of its allies in the region. In China, he secured a public pledge from Beijing, the lone government with significant influence over North Korea, to rid the North of nuclear weapons.
Before flying back to the United States, Kerry told students Monday at the Tokyo Institute of Technology that the important thing was staying united on North Korea. He then met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
So far, Republican lawmakers in the U.S. have largely backed the Obama administration's efforts on North Korea.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told CBS' "Face the Nation" that he was encouraged by Kerry's China visit and that he hoped "we can get the Chinese to care more about this issue.
U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona suggested on CNN's "State of the Union" that the U.S. make a counter-threat by using missile interceptors to hit any North Korean missile that is test-fired.
At each stop along his trip, Kerry stressed that the United States wanted a peaceful resolution of the North Korea situation six decades after a cease-fire ended the Korean War.
But North Korea on Sunday served a reminder of the difficult task ahead. Its Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said the government had no intention of talking with Seoul unless the South abandons its confrontational posture, as the North called it.
Seoul had pressed North Korea to discuss restarting operations at a joint factory park on the border and President Park Geun-hye has stressed peace opportunities after taking power from her more hard-line predecessor, Lee Myung-bak. The presidency expressed regret with North Korea's rebuttal Sunday.
At a news conference in Tokyo, Kerry stressed that gaining China's commitment to a denuclearized North Korea was no small matter given its historically strong military and economic ties to North Korea.
But he refused to say what the Chinese were offering to do concretely to pressure the North into abiding by some of the conditions it agreed to in a 2005 deal that required it to abandon its nuclear program.
"They have to take some actions," Kerry said of North Korea. "How many or how much? I'd have to talk to folks back in Washington about that. But if the Chinese came to us and said, 'Look, here's what we have cooking,' I'm not going to tell you I'm shutting the door today to something that's logical and might have a chance of success."
In remarks to U.S. journalists, Kerry said that under the right circumstances, he even would consider making a grand overture to North Korea's leader, such as an offer of direct talks with the U.S.
"We're prepared to reach out," he said. Diplomacy, he added, required risk-taking and secrecy such as when President Richard Nixon engaged China in the 1970s or U.S. back-channel talks were able to end the Cuban missile crisis a decade earlier.
Given their proximity and decades of hostility and distrust, Japan and South Korea have the most to fear from the North's unpredictable actions.
Kerry clarified a statement he made Saturday in Beijing, when he told reporters the U.S. could scale back its missile-defense posture in the region if North Korea goes nuclear-free.
It appeared to be a sweetener to coax tougher action from a Chinese government which has eyed the increased U.S. military presence in its backyard warily, but which has done little over the years to snuff out funding and support for North Korea's weapons of mass destruction program.
Kerry said America's basic force posture wasn't up to debate. "There is no discussion that I know of to change that," he said.
But he said it was logical that additional missile-defense elements, deployed specifically in response to the Korean threat, could be reversed if that threat no longer existed.
"I was simply making an observation about the rationale for that particular deployment, which is to protect the United States' interests that are directly threatened by North Korea," he said.
Available at: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/us-japan-nkorea-must-honor-earlier-nuclear-deals
North Korea warned Japan on Friday that it risked nuclear retaliation should it get involved in any conflict that breaks out on the Korean peninsula.
Condemning as "provocative" Japan's statement that it might intercept an expected missile launch by North Korea, the Korean Central News Agency said intervention by Tokyo could see it "consumed in nuclear flames."
North Korea warned Japan Friday that Tokyo would be the first target in the event of a war on the Korean Peninsula if it continues to maintain its hostile posture.
In a commentary carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the communist country lashed out at Tokyo's standing orders to destroy any missile heading toward Japan, threatening such actions will result in a nuclear attack against the island nation
Available at: http://english.ruvr.ru/2013_04_12/N-Korea-threatens-nuclear-retaliation-on-Japan/
3. Nuclear-Free North Korea Goal of U.S.-China Pledge
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The United States and China committed Saturday to a process aimed at ridding North Korea of its nuclear weapons, with the Obama administration gaining at least the rhetorical support of the only government that can exert significant influence over the reclusive North.
The question now is whether Beijing will make good on its pledge to uphold "peace and stability" and work with Washington on achieving the goal of a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan, reporting from Beijing, said on "CBS This Morning: Saturday" that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with China's president and foreign minister and pushed them to freeze North Korea's accounts so that it can no longer purchase weapons.
But, so far, that hasn't worked. Brennan reports China's having its own trouble influencing North Korea. Rising tensions in the Korean peninsula recently led China's president to warn of regional chaos. China's worried that a flood of North Korean refugees will spill across its border if war breaks out.
China's also concerned for its security, Brennan reports. A state-owned news service reported that an air raid drill was held in a Chinese town on the North Korean border Friday.
Saturday's declarations from both nations' foreign policy chiefs came as North Korea appears to be readying a missile test that has caused grave concern for the U.S. and its two close Asian allies, South Korea and Japan.
"We are able — the United States and China — to underscore our joint commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner," Kerry told reporters in Beijing before having dinner with State Councilor Yang Jiechi.
Kerry and Yang said they'd seek a peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear standoff, which has only grown worse in recent months under its young leader Kim Jong Un.
Since testing an atomic device in February, the North has threatened new tests of its missile capacity and even talked about launching nuclear strikes against the United States, while expanding its U.N.-outlawed uranium and plutonium enrichment program.
"We agreed that this is of critical importance for the stability of the region and indeed for the world and indeed for all of our nonproliferation efforts," Kerry said. "This is the goal of the United States, of China" and of other countries that hope to resume nuclear talks one day with North Korea.
"From this moment forward we are committed to taking actions in order to make good on that goal," he added. "And we are determined to make that goal a reality. China and the United States must together take steps in order to achieve the goal of a denuclearized Korean peninsula. And today we agreed that further discussions to bear down very quickly with great specificity on exactly how we will accomplish this goal.
Kerry said U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and representatives from U.S. intelligence agencies would travel to Beijing later this month. Kerry also is sending his deputy at the State Department, William Burns, as part of the effort to "make sure that this is not rhetoric but that it is real policy that is being implemented."
Yang said his government's position was clear.
"China is firmly committed to upholding peace and stability and advancing the denuclearization process on the Korean peninsula," he said through an interpreter.
"We maintain that the issue should be handled and resolved peacefully through dialogue," Yang said, adding that China would work with the United States and other nations to resume six-party talks with North Korea that fell apart for good four years ago.
Amid almost daily North Korean threats, the U.S. has been counting on China to force its unruly neighbor to stand down. It's a strategy that has produced uneven results over decades of American diplomacy, during which the North has developed and tested nuclear weapons and repeatedly imperiled peace on the Korean peninsula.
But with only the counter-threat of overwhelming force to offer the North Koreans, the U.S. has little other option.
In their statements delivered side by side, neither Kerry nor Yang specifically addressed the immediate crisis: a North Korean test of a missile with a range of up to 2,500 miles that the U.S. believes could happen any day. Later, Kerry said at a news conference that Washington and Beijing "both call on North Korea to refrain from any provocative steps and that obviously refers to any future missile shoot."
Kerry and Yang focused primarily on the long-term problem, which is a nuclear program that may soon, if not already, include the capability to deliver a warhead on a missile.
The question of North Korea's capacity has been subject to great debate in Washington this past week after a U.S. intelligence assessment suggested North Korea had the capacity to put a nuclear warhead on a missile, even if any such weapon would have low reliability.
China has the greatest leverage over North Korea, a country that like few in the world actually cherishes its isolation.
The Chinese dramatically have boosted trade ties with their neighbors and maintain close military relations some six decades after they fought side by side in the Korean War. They provide North Korea with most of its fuel and much of its food aid.
And China has a history of quickly reversing course after talking tougher with North Korea. In late 2010, as American officials were praising Beijing for constructive efforts after the North shelled a South Korean island, a Chinese company agreed to invest $2 billion in a North Korean industrial zone.
"There is no question in my mind that China is very serious — very serious — about denuclearizing," Kerry told reporters after his day of talks with top Chinese officials including new President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. He said no options were taken off the table in their discussions, without going into specifics.
Beijing, which values stability in its region above all else, clearly has different priorities than Washington.
Available at: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57579465/nuclear-free-north-korea-goal-of-u.s.-china-pledge/
4. Lavrov: Russia Would Back NKorea Talks in Geneva
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday his nation would welcome a fresh round of talks on Swiss soil over North Korea's nuclear program, if all the parties were to agree.
Flanked by his Swiss counterpart at a news conference, Lavrov supported renewed talks in Geneva, if Pyongyang were to agree to hold discussions with Russia, Japan, South Korea, the United States and China.
But both officials made clear there was no such general agreement.
"If we can re-establish that, Russia would, of course, support it," Lavrov, who spoke in Russian, said in response to a question.
North Korea agreed in principle in 2005 to scrap its nuclear program, including a presumed small stockpile of weapons, in return for aid and diplomatic incentives from other members of the six-party talks. But Pyongyang walked out of talks in 2009 and later conducted more nuclear tests.
Recently, North Korea warned it has weapons "on standby" and aimed at its foes if provoked, but has not revealed specific plans to fire a missile or carry out another nuclear test.
Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, who spoke in French, said his nation had offered to host such talks. "But, of course, that should be agreed by all parties and that is not the case at the moment," said Burkhalter.
They spoke as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was visiting South Korea, where he sternly warned North Korea against test-firing a mid-range missile.
Lavrov came to Switzerland from the Group of Eight foreign ministers' meeting in London, where he held talks with Kerry on issues including the North Korean and Syrian crises. In London, Lavrov urged a calm response from all toward North Korea's nuclear provocations.
Switzerland also has offered to try to defuse the crisis on the Korean Peninsula by mediating between the United States and North Korea. Switzerland and Sweden help monitor the demilitarized zone that was created after the Korean War ended in 1953, with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula still technically at war.
Switzerland brokers relations between the U.S. and Iran, and is home to the U.N.'s European headquarters in Geneva, where peace talks and other negotiations are held regularly.
North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un reportedly attended school for several years in Switzerland, which also has maintained a humanitarian aid office in North Korea.
On Syria, Lavrov told the news conference in Neuchatel, a city at the foot of the Jura Mountains close to the French border, that Russia would support an international war crimes prosecution — eventually.
"Without any doubt, this aspect must be taken into account in this complex process, in the search for a final settlement for the future of national reconciliation in Syria," he said. "But at this stage, I think the first priority is to end the violence as fast as possible to avoid more civilian deaths."
Russia has been Syrian President Bashar Assad's staunch ally, supplying Damascus with weapons and shielding the regime from tougher U.N. sanctions.
"And these calls for not allowing impunity are totally correct," Lavrov added, "but what I notice is that certain people try to use that to slow down discussions and have the reconciliation process canceled, which will only lead to more deaths."
Lavrov also warned the United States against naming Russians accused of human rights abuses, who are to be targeted for U.S. financial sanctions and visa bans under a new law dubbed the Magnitsky Act. The law was named for Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested in 2008 for tax evasion after accusing Russian police officials of stealing $230 million in tax rebates.
Magnitsky was repeatedly beaten and denied medical treatment in prison, then died in 2009 of untreated pancreatitis.
Lavrov hinted that Russia has its own list of U.S. officials that would be similarly sanctioned and would release those names in retaliation, along with using the so-called Magnitsky List to possibly block future cooperation on security issues.
"Of course, Moscow will react and our American partners know about that very well," he told reporters. "And given the circumstances, I don't think they've chosen very good timing, since the American national security adviser is coming to Moscow to bring President Obama's message with his vision for the prospects of our broader cooperation."
Available at: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/lavrov-russia-would-back-nkorea-talks-geneva
1. GCC Meet Amid Radiation Fears After Bushehr Earthquake
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Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states met on Sunday to look into ways to address potential disasters linked to radiation leaks from the Iranian city of Bushehr where the country’s only nuclear power plant is located, diplomats have said.
The special meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh follows the earthquake that on Tuesday jolted the Iranian city and raised grave concerns about safety standards, the diplomats told Saudi daily Al Watan.
Shockwaves from the earthquake that reportedly killed at least 37 people and injured more than 800 were felt in major cities in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, western Saudi Arabia and the UAE and several high-rise buildings had to be evacuated. GCC nationals have repeatedly warned that the nuclear plant was a direct threat and attributed their concerns to the “mystery about its safety standards” and to “the proximity of Bushehr.”
They argued that the plant was closer to their homes than to the Iranian seat of government or parliament in the capital Tehran. “The meeting will review the emergency plans for each of the member countries,” the diplomats who were not named said. Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE form the Gulf alliance established in 1981 in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi.
“The earthquake on Tuesday was not far from the nuclear plant, but it could extend to it and we have to be ready for this ominous possibility,” the diplomats said. “Everything is possible and the seismic activity could well affect the plant anytime. We need to make sure we can tackle incidents and plan ahead to be on the safe side.” The diplomats said that the GCC had opened direct channels with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the issue.
Reports said that the earthquake last week was around 90 kilometres from the nuclear plant. Iranian officials have said that the 6.1 magnitude earthquake did not cause any leak and that the Bushehr plant was designed to withstand tremors of up to eight on the Richter scale.
This month, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the US-based think tank, said in a report that Iran’s “nuclear materials and stockpiles are some of the least secure in the world.”
“Critical questions about the programme’s economic efficacy and safety have been left unanswered” and “most ominously, the Bushehr reactor sits at the intersection of three tectonic plates” the report said.
Iran is the only nuclear state that is not a signatory to the Convention on Nuclear Safety, it said. According to Carnegie, the Bushehr nuclear reactor took nearly four decades to complete and cost almost $11 billion (measured in today’s dollars) (Dh40.4 billion), making it one of the most expensive reactors in the world.
“Bushehr provides merely two per cent of Iran’s electricity needs, while 15 per cent of the country’s generated electricity is lost through old and ill-maintained transmission lines.” The report said that “despite aspirations to be self-sufficient, Iran’s relatively small uranium resources will inhibit the country from having an indigenous nuclear energy programme.”
Available at: http://www.albawaba.com/news/gcc-bushehr-earthquake-484379
Russia condemned Iran's unveiling of a new uranium production facility, warning the move could hurt progress in negotiations with world powers over Tehran's contested nuclear programme, a report said Friday.
An unnamed source in the Russian foreign ministry told Interfax that Iran's announcement does not actually breach its obligations under various international nuclear agreements.
"At the same time, in our opinion, the expansion of Iran's nuclear programme activities does not promote the achievement of an atmosphere of mutual understanding between the (P5+1) international negotiating nations and Iran, which is so necessary for the successful continuation of the negotiating process," the foreign ministry source said.
The P5+1 nations are comprised of the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany.
The group met with Iran for two days of talks in the Kazakh city of Almaty earlier this month that ended without a breakthrough or agreement to meet again.
Tehran days later unveiled a new uranium production facility and two extraction mines.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hailed the advances and boasted of mastery over "the entire chain of nuclear energy."
The world powers suspect Iran of developing a covert programme aimed at having the capacity to produce a nuclear bomb. Iran denies this and says its work is being conducted for energy and medical purposes.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iAl33oUCyHOjFL5yzeSMY8NoiyIw?docId=CNG.73267cd3bbc5671032863cf2cfcb8357.311
1. Tepco Postpones Transfer of Radioactive Water in Fukushima
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Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Sunday it has postponed the transfer of radioactive water from a leaking underground tank at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant because it needs more time to conduct safety checks and install a water pipe.
The operator of the crisis-hit plant in northeastern Japan had planned to start moving contaminated water from the No. 2 tank to an above-ground container located about 400 meters away.
However, the utility known as Tepco discovered Thursday that about 22 liters of contaminated water had leaked from a junction of the piping for transferring liquid from the No. 3 tank to the No. 6 tank.
Since the radioactive water from the No. 2 tank was also to go through the junction, company officials now say it will take several more days to put in place a new pipe to be used to transfer the water and inspect it.
From the No. 2 tank, up to 120 tons of contaminated water may have leaked into the soil. Smaller amounts of radioactive water have also leaked from the No. 1 and No. 3 tanks.
Tepco has decided to pump out a total of 23,600 tons of liquid to tanks above ground by the end of June. The leaking underground containers have been used to store water for cooling reactors which experienced meltdowns during the 2011 nuclear crisis at the plant.
Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/04/15/national/tepco-postpones-transfer-of-radioactive-water-in-fukushima/
Some 99% of residents of Fukushima prefecture and neighbouring Ibaraki have barely detectable levels of internal exposure to caesium-137, a group of Japanese researchers has found. Of the remaining 1%, all showed levels well below the government-set limit.
A group of researchers headed by Professor Ryugo Hayano of the University of Tokyo studied the results of whole body scans carried out at Hirata Central Hospital in Fukushima prefecture between October 2011 and November 2012. Their finding - published in the Proceedings of the Japan Academy - show much lower internal exposure levels than estimates based on the finding of post-Chernobyl accident studies.
The team found that levels of caesium-137 were well below the detectable threshold of 300 becquerels per body for 9886 (88%) of the residents tested between October 2011 and February 2012. For the remaining 12% (1340 people), their exposure levels generally ranged between 10 and 50 bequerels per kilogram (Bq/kg). However, 21,785 (99%) of the residents tested between March and November 2012 had no detectable exposure, while the remaining 1% (212 people) mainly had exposure levels between around 10 and 25 Bq/kg. A policy introduced in March 2012 for subjects to change from their usual clothes into hopital gowns contributed to this sharp decrease.
The highest rates - about 1 millisievert per year - were found in four people, aged between 66 and 74, who were discovered to have been regularly eating unscreened food such as wild mushrooms, wild boar and freshwater fish. However, after following advice not to eat such food, their internal exposure levels significantly dropped.
A study of the results of whole body scans of nearly 1500 school children in the town of Miharu, Fukushima prefecture, found that although 54 had detectable levels of caesium-137 exposure in the winter of 2011, by the autumn of 2012 no children were found to have detectable levels.
The researchers noted, "These results are not conclusive for the prefecture as a whole, but are consistent with results obtained from other municipalities in the prefecture, and with prefectural data. This does not mean, however, that Fukushima residents are free of internal exposure risks, as evidenced by a small number of senior citizens whose body burden exceeded 100 Bq/kg." Maintenance of the low-level of internal exposure to Fukushima residents will require continuous "conscientious and well-supervised food testing/screening and whole body counting," they suggest.
The levels of internal exposure found in people living in Fukushima prefecture are much lower than the levels found in people living near the Chernobyl plant following the 1986 accident there.
This is despite the fact that the environment - particularly the soil - around Fukushima was heavily contaminated with radioactive elements following the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
A recent monitoring survey carried out by the Japanese government shows that the surface deposition density of caesium-137 totals 60,000 to 300,000 becquerels per square-metre in such densely populated cities as Fukushima and Koriyama.
The researchers said, "If we apply the knowledge of post-Chernobyl accident studies, internal exposures in excess of a few mSv/y would be expected to be frequent in Fukushima." They suggest that the proportion of food with elevated levels of contamination "are rather low" in Fukushima compared with Chernobyl.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-Fukushima_internal_exposures_low_study_finds-1104134.html
1. S. Korea Divides Nuclear Plant Controls from Internet
Yonhap News Agency
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Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., the sole operator of South Korea's nuclear power plants, said Sunday that it has separated its internal computer network from the Internet in an effort to guard against possible cyber attacks.
The state-run company said it has also completely divided its nuclear plant control systems from its internal computer networks and restricted both systems' access to the Internet.
USB ports of the nuclear power plant control systems have also been sealed, it added.
The network separation is the safest way of protecting the nuclear power plants from hacking attacks from the outside, the company explained.
South Korea has 23 reactors nationwide, which generate around 35 percent of the country's electricity.
Last week, South Korea's government announced that North Korea was behind the massive hacking attack that paralyzed the networks of local financial firms and broadcasters last month, though the North later denied its involvement.
Three South Korean banks -- Shinhan, NongHyup and Jeju -- and their insurance affiliates as well as three TV broadcasters -- KBS, MBC and YTN -- were hit by the cyber attack as malicious code infected some 48,000 computers in their networks on March 20.
North Korea is known to operate a cyber warfare unit of 3,000 elite hackers who are trained to break into computer networks to steal information and distribute malware.
In addition to the hacking attacks, the North has been interfering with global positioning system signals since 2010, disrupting hundreds of South Korean commercial ships and flights in the border area.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/business/2013/04/14/65/0503000000AEN20130414000500320F.HTML
2. Unit 2 at Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant Safely Shut Down for Planned Refueling and Maintenance
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Operators safely shut down the Unit 2 reactor at PPL Corporation's Susquehanna nuclear power plant in northeastern Pennsylvania early Saturday (4/13) to begin a planned refueling and maintenance outage.
While the reactor is shut down, workers will replace about 40 percent of the uranium fuel and complete a large number of equipment maintenance tasks and upgrades. Workers also will inspect the unit's turbines and replace several pieces of the unit's turbine assembly.
"The modifications will address the turbine blade issues that have affected both Susquehanna units," said Timothy S. Rausch, PPL Susquehanna senior vice president and Chief Nuclear Officer.
"After the refueling outage, we will continue to closely monitor the turbines throughout the next two years to confirm the modified equipment is performing as expected," Rausch said.
Unit 1 at the plant continues to operate at full power. Operators expect to shut down that unit later this spring to make the same modifications to its turbine assembly as on Unit 2.
The Susquehanna plant, located in Luzerne County about seven miles north of Berwick, is owned jointly by PPL Susquehanna LLC and Allegheny Electric Cooperative Inc. and is operated by PPL Susquehanna.
Available at: http://m.prnewswire.com/news-releases/unit-2-at-susquehanna-nuclear-power-plant-safely-shut-down-for-planned-refueling-and-maintenance-202841361.html
The International Conference on Effective Nuclear Regulatory Systems closed here Thursday, urging nuclear regulators worldwide to stress more of the safety regulations than post-accident emergency measures. The conference, organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is the first major event specifically devoted to nuclear regulatory systems since the nuclear accident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011.
More than 250 senior nuclear safety and security regulators from 40 member states and five international organizations. In his opening remarks, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said strengthening nuclear safety is a continuous process and there should be no complacency in safety matters. Amano proposed specific actions in some key areas including enhancing regulatory measures and addressing the challenges in managing the radioactive waste and spent fuel.
IAEA would support new members in establishing and strengthening their regulatory framework, and international cooperation on emergency management should be enhanced, he added. Tero Varjoranta, president of the conference, said substantial efforts and resources have been invested to understand what happened, and why, in the Fukushima Daiichi accident, and "stress tests" have been carried out in all nuclear power plants in the world.
However, Varjoranta noted that regulators don't have a systematic way of collecting, analyzing and sharing regulatory experience, hence the need for a "regulatory operating experience program" should be considered. He also stressed the importance of communication, coordination and consistency in national and international responses to emergencies.
Varjoranta said regulators should implement the relevant IAEA Safety Standards, especially the requirements on development and implementation of predefined generic and operational criteria. "Regulators should also facilitate the preparation and conduct of national stress test of emergency management utilizing harmonized scenarios developed by the IAEA and engaging stakeholder at all levels," he added. "Regulators should report results in a transparent manner."
Varjoranta also said that the IAEA is requested to organize another regulators' conference to review the progress of this meeting as well as to discuss and assess possible new regulatory issues. He added that the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group, ENSREG, would host the next international conference on effective nuclear regulatory systems, in 2016.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the largest since the nuclear accident in Chernobyl in 1986, was a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns and releases of radioactive materials at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011.
Available at: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/asianet/130412/iaea-urges-nuke-regulators-enhance-safety-regulations
New Brunswick’s Point Lepreau nuclear power station isn’t sending any electricity to homes or businesses while it deals with another issue following last year’s restart of the reactor.
NB Power spokeswoman Kathleen Duguay says the power station was taken offline late Wednesday night to give crews an opportunity to adjust the chemistry of the water in the boilers.
Lepreau vice-president Sean Granville issued a statement saying that type of maintenance is expected during the first six to 12 months of bringing any industrial plant online.
Power at Point Lepreau had been reduced a number of times in recent weeks because plugs at each end of the fuel channels are too tight.
Duguay says that issue has not been resolved.
She says water in the boilers was disturbed each time the power levels were changed and the chemistry of the water is kept at exacting standards.
Duguay said other maintenance will be done while the power output is at zero, and the situation will be re-evaluated Monday.
The power plant had been online since November following an overhaul that began in 2008. The original $1.4-billion project to refit the plant cost an extra $1 billion and took three years longer than expected.
Available at: http://metronews.ca/news/canada/631773/no-power-from-new-brunswick-nuclear-plant/
5. Third International Nuclear Security School Opens in Trieste, Italy
Bio Prep Watch
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The International Atomic Energy Agency announced on Wednesday the opening of the International School on Nuclear Security in Trieste, Italy, a program that teaches young professionals how to improve national nuclear security.
The IAEA and its member states are trying to improve the international nuclear security framework to secure nuclear material in storage, use and transport. The program will teach young professionals from developing countries involved in nuclear security how to improve their countries’ nuclear security programs.
“Unless states have a sufficient number of well-educated and trained staff with the right competence and skills, nuclear security cannot be sustainable,” Khammar Mrabit, the director of the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Office, said.
The school, which opened on Monday, is jointly organized by the IAEA, the Abdus Salam International Center for Theoretical Physics, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Partnership for Nuclear Security. The two-week program combines IAEA technical expertise with the ICTP’s international network of researchers from developing countries.
Since the school’s establishment by the Italian government in 2010, two schools have successfully concluded, reaching more than 100 young nuclear security professionals from 50 countries. This year’s program will instruct 47 participants from 39 states.
Experts from the IAEA will conduct lectures during the program related to international legal framework, illicit nuclear trafficking and remedies to threats against nuclear security, among other topics. The program will conduct practical exercises to help the attendees to incorporate the knowledge into actual plans and procedures.
Available at: http://www.bioprepwatch.com/international_nuclear_policy/third-international-nuclear-security-school-opens-in-trieste-italy/329238/
1. Russian-Turkish Partnership Possible in Nuke Plant
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Russia's Rosatom, which will build Turkey's first nuclear power station in Akkuyu, could partner with Turkish companies for the project, offering as much as a 49 percent stake, a senior official told Turkish press.
The government had earlier agreed to allow the Russian firm to transfer up to 49 percent of its shares in Akkuyu NGS -- the Rosatom subsidiary established for the Akkuyu project -- to another firm.
Speaking to reporters Thursday in Budapest, Akkuyu NGS deputy head Rauf Kasumov said it is possible that 49 percent of shares in the company will be offered up for sale to Turkish entrepreneurs who are interested in the nuclear project. “There are Turkish infrastructure firms that own operating certificates approved by the EU. … We could partner with them in Akkuyu,” the official said. He added that they would prefer to partner with companies that are suggested by the Energy Ministry. “We have established a working group jointly with the Turkish energy and technology ministries. … We could share expertise with potential Turkish partners in this group,” he stated.
Rosatom will start construction in Akkuyu in mid-2015 and expects the facility to start producing electricity in 2019. The $20 billion plant being built by Rosatom in Akkuyu, Mersin province, on the Mediterranean coast will have four power units with an installed capacity of 4,800 MW.
According to the terms of the tender, the Russian firm will finance the whole cost of constructing the nuclear plant, which is estimated to be around $20 billion.
Available at: http://www.worldbulletin.net/?aType=haber&ArticleID=106584
Scientists and experts of Belarus are taking part in the 8th international public forum “Nuclear Energy, Society, Security 2013” that is underway in Moscow on 11-12 April. The Moscow event is also attended by experts, scientists and representatives of public associations of Ukraine, Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia, Norway, the Czech Republic and France, BelTA learnt from the Social Council of Rosatom State Corporation.
A plenary session of the forum highlighted the issues related to the development of nuclear security and environmental safety of nuclear power plants (NPPs) as well as the prospects of building up Russian NPPs abroad. Alexander Lokshin, First Deputy Director General of Rosatom State Corporation, noted in his speech that the “post-Fukushima syndrome” has almost come to naught; the society has started taking a calmer and more positive look at the nuclear industry.
Participants of the roundtable “Nuclear Facilities, Security and Public Opinion” took note of the experience in constructive cooperation between the green and the nuclear sector which should be taken into account. There was also stressed at the forum that the nuclear industry can coexist in harmony with both the nature and the public opinion, it is open for dialogue and cooperation.
Among the organizers of the event is the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian Ecological Congress, the International Environmental Organization Greenlight, Vernadsky Non-Governmental Ecological Fund.
The main objective of the forum is to provide a platform for a dialogue between atomic scientists and representatives of the civil society on possible ways for nuclear power safe development as well as an open discussion of nuclear power issues, aspects of nuclear and radiation security.
Available at: http://news.belta.by/en/news/econom?id=712492
1. Debate Over Life Extension of Old Nuke Plants Revived
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A series of breakdowns of the nation’s nuclear power plants have rekindled the debate over whether to shut down old reactors or extend their operation.
A top government official fanned the controversy when he hinted at a possible shutdown of another reactor whose design lifetime has expired.
“Whether to extend operation of the 30-year-old first reactor at the Wolseong complex will be decided based on the agreement of the public,” said Lee Eun-chul, new head of the nation’s Nuclear Safely and Security Commission.
Industry watchers said Lee’s remark is likely to put the brakes on efforts made by Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, the state-run operator of the nation’s 23 nuclear power plants, to renew the license for the reactor from the NSSC within the first half of this year.
Wolseong unit 1, near the coast in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, stopped operations once its 30 year-long design life expired last year. It had produced about 678,000 kilowatts of electricity, fulfilling about 0.8 percent of the nation’s power consumption.
“Whether to extend operation of an old nuclear power plant whose design life expires should be decided depending on results of a safety evaluation rather than age,” a KHNP official said.
“As part of efforts to prove the safety of Wolseong unit 1, we are planning to conduct a European stress test for the unit following the safety review from the International Atomic Energy Agency.”
The EU stress test evaluates whether a nuclear power plant can withstand extreme natural disasters such as earthquakes.
Despite KHNP’s continued efforts, civic groups, especially environment-related nongovernmental organizations, have raised questions over the credibility of KHNP’s safety review processes for Wolseong unit 1.
“We found out that KHNP used outdated IAEA’s inspection criteria to review the safety of Wolseong unit 1,” an official from the Korea Federation of Environment Movement said, urging the government to reconsider the license renewal for the reactor.
Civic groups also oppose the extended use of the first reactor at the Kori nuclear power plant complex in Busan. The nation’s oldest nuclear reactor, which was built in 1977, was given a 10-year operational extension in 2007. The KHNP is trying to gain approval for another operational extension for the reactor through the tighter safety assessment.
“A series of breakdowns of nuclear power plants and the 2011 Fukushima accident fanned safety concerns of the public over the nation’s old nuclear power plants,” Lee said.
“The NSSC will increase investments to take preventive measures to prevent nuclear power plants from breaking down,” Lee said.
Available at: http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20130414000285
2. Hitachi Reluctant About UK Nuclear Reactor Plan
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The political landscape has changed radically in Japan since Shinzo Abe took office in December and signalled a revival of Japan's nuclear industry, a move that lessens the need for Hitachi to search for contracts abroad.
"We're still committed to the idea but we're a private company. We're not tied. Without an acceptable plan we can't invest," said a senior Hitachi executive in Tokyo.
The official said Hitachi is monitoring the Government's fractious talks with the French nuclear group EDF over the £14bn Hinkley Point project. "EDF is the front-runner for us. We're watching the strike price conditions very carefully," he told the Daily Telegraph.
The Government is counting on the company to revive Britain's ailing nuclear industry after it took over Horizon Nuclear Power last year from German utilities E.ON and RWE.
Hitachi is to build four to six of its advanced boiling water reactors for around £5bn each, producing electricity for a quarter of the country for sixty years. The first reactors will come on stream in the early 2020s.
The firm made no secret of its motive at the time, saying it needed a fresh outlet for reactors after Tokyo shut down Japan's nuclear plants and cancelled plans for twelve new reactors following the Fukushima disaster in 2011.
Mr Abe has since rescinded plans by the old government to phase out nuclear energy, and has even hinted at new reactors in the future.
The country has been deeply shaken by the threat of black-outs since the original closure of all 54 reactors, which provided 30pc of Japan's electricity. Two have been reopened in Osaka to avert a power crisis.
Japan has switched to liquefied natural gas or oil instead. This has caused Japan's trade surplus to evaporate and pushed up energy costs, leaving the country's heavy industries at an acute disadvantage. Power costs three times more than in the US.
Mr Abe plans to reopen reactors one by one as the new nuclear watchdog gives the go ahead. The reactors in the southwest of the country are not on a major tectonic fault-line and should be first to re-open.
The prime minister is moving carefully since the public is not yet reconciled to nuclear power. It understood that he will unveil bolder plans once the Diet elections in July are safely out of the way. "I think seven or eight reactors could be restarted in western Japan later this year," said Tsutomi Toichi from Japan's Institute of Energy Economics.
Japan's nuclear shift and the country's dash for economic growth under Mr Abe has taken pressure off Hitachi at home, and may make it less willing to accept thin pickings in Britain.
The Government's talks with EDF have run aground over the "strike price" guaranteed for 30 years. Lord Hutton, chairman of the Nuclear Industry Association, wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that EDF has already spent £1bn on the project and is losing £1m a day waiting for a decision.
Failure to agree at this stage would damage British credibility and leave the country dependent on imported gas. A withdrawal by EDF "threatens not only the first new nuclear power station for a generation, but potentially all those that will come in its wake," he said.
Horizon-Hitachi is staying the course for now, agreeing last week to bear the costs of probing the new ABWR reactor design, It is a modest "pay-to-play" fee compared to the vast costs that come later.
Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/9993564/Hitachi-reluctant-about-UK-nuclear-reactor-plan.html
3. Westinghouse Contracted to Support Argentina's Embalse Nuclear Power Plant Steam Generator Replacement
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Westinghouse Electric Company has announced that its subsidiary, PCI Energy Services, LLC (PCI), has signed a contract with Nucleoelectrica Argentina S.A. (NA-SA) to provide engineering, specialty pipe cutting and welding services in support of the replacement steam generator program at Argentina's Embalse Nuclear Power Plant. This work is part of the overall refurbishment program at Embalse to extend the plant's life by up to an additional 30 years.
"NA-SA values the engagement and participation of PCI in the Embalse life extension project which will further enhance plant safety and operation for years to come," said Ruben Semmoloni, NA-SA project director, Life Extension Embalse Nuclear Power Plant.
To fulfill this first large contract in Argentina, Westinghouse draws upon PCI's extensive experience in the steam generator replacement market, and offers the utility critical metrology, specialty machining and advanced welding technologies and processes.
John Qualizza, president, PCI Energy Services said, "We appreciate our customer's confidence in our people and technology, and look forward to the successful and timely completion of this work."
Although the engineering scope of work for this CANDU-6 pressurized heavy water reactor plant is underway, the major site activities are expected to be executed during 2014.
"Westinghouse is delighted to bring its unmatched experience and world-class nuclear technology to Argentina to help ensure that Embalse Nuclear Power Plant continues to generate safe, reliable and clean electricity in Argentina for years to come," said Carlos Leipner, Westinghouse vice president, Latin America.
Available at: http://www.power-eng.com/news/2013/04/05/westinghouse-contracted-to-support-argentina-s-embalse-nuclear-power-plant-steam-generator-replaceme.html
4. NuScale Power Completes Major Fuel Test Program
Todays Energy Solutions
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As part of its design certification efforts, officials at NuScale Power LLC announced it has completed a major test program to obtain heat flux data for its nuclear fuel. Because the NuScale design does not rely on pumps to circulate water inside the reactor, the NuScale fuel bundle incorporates proprietary features designed specifically for operation under natural circulation conditions.
Beginning in September 2012 and successfully completed March 15, 2013, the tests were conducted under fully-prototypic conditions in a specialized test rig at Stern Laboratories in Ontario, Canada. The test program was conducted under the strict quality assurance requirements of 10 CFR 50 Appendix B. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission witnessed testing and performed a thorough inspection of NuScale’s oversight of the program. Canadian regulators also observed testing.
A full-length, full-power, electrically-heated fuel assembly mock-up with spacer grids was tested for a wide range of natural circulation flow rates with both uniform and cosine shape power profiles. The data, known as critical heat flux (CHF) data, is being used to define the limiting conditions for fuel performance and to validate NuScale’s safety analysis computer codes. The test results show that the NuScale fuel has a significant safety margin under natural circulation flow conditions.
The successful completion of this test program marks another major achievement for NuScale. Thus far, NuScale has successfully completed two major test programs and has three additional test programs underway.
NuScale has developed an innovative technology for building safer, smaller, scalable nuclear power plants. Using proven light water reactor technology, the NuScale Power Module is cooled by natural circulation, entirely self-contained and installed underwater and underground to maximize safety.
The NuScale design was initially developed in 2000 under a DOE-funded research program and demonstrated in a one-third scale electrically-heated test facility in Corvallis, Ore., starting in 2003. NuScale was the first U.S.-based SMR vendor to begin discussions with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and has been engaged in pre-application efforts since 2008.
Available at: http://www.onlinetes.com/nuscale-nuclear-power-completes-fuel-test-41313.aspx
The installation of steam generators is underway at two new nuclear power reactors in China: unit 3 of the Ningde plant and unit 2 of the Fangjiashan plant.
Plant constructor China Nuclear Engineering and Construction Corporation (CNECC) announced that the first of three steam generators for Ningde 3 was successfully installed on 9 April. Installation of the component marks the start of putting all the heavy equipment in place at the unit.
Ningde 3 is one of four CPR-1000s being built as Phase I of the Ningde site in Fujian province. Construction on units 1 and 2 started in 2008 and units 3 and 4 were started in 2010. Unit 1 is due to start commercial operation later this year. All four units should be in operation before the end of 2015 and are expected to ease pressure on energy transport infrastructure in the congested coastal areas of China's southeast. Phase II will see two further CPR-1000 units built at Ningde.
The plant is 46% owned by China Guangdong Nuclear Power Company and 44% by China Datang Corporation. The remaining 10% is held by Fujian Provincial Energy Group.
Meanwhile, the installation of steam generators is also being carried out by CNECC at another CPR-1000 project at China National Nuclear Corp's Fangjiashan site in Zhejiang province.
The Fangjiashan project will see two CPR-1000 reactors with a combined capacity of 2160 MWe constructed near the existing Qinshan plant. First concrete for the unit 1 at the Fangjiashan plant was poured in December 2008, while that for unit 2 was poured in July 2009. The scheduled start of commercial operation are December 2013 and October 2014, respectively.
The steam generators measure about 13 metres in length, 2.5 metres in diameter and weighing about 85 tonnes. Each CPR-1000 reactor system has three such steam generators.
The CPR-1000 is a standardized Chinese design developed from the two Areva PWRs imported for the Daya Bay plant in Guangdong province, starting up in 1994. Those units were built to the French three-loop standard, outputting 944 MWe. The CPR-1000 builds on that to produce 1080 MWe. The CPR-1000 is a mainstay of China's planned near-term nuclear capacity expansion, with 18 CPR-1000s already under construction.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Chinese_units_get_their_steam_generators-1204134.html
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