Welcome to AtomWatch - world nuclear power news and analysis

This blog is aimed at tracing the world news related to nuclear power development internationally and in particular countries. Being an independent resource, we accept all kinds of opinions, positions and comments, and welcome you to discuss the posts and tell us what you think.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Swedish Daily Says Russia Planning to Build Nuclear Power Plant in Kaliningrad

Russia is going to build a nuclear power plant in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, circa 350 kilometres from the Swedish border. The plant is expected to come online in 2015 and the electricity produced to be exported primarily to the Baltic nations - and perhaps Sweden.

"That Russia is building a nuclear power plant in Kaliningrad is surprising, controversial and a provocation. Geographically it will be located in Europe but not be covered by the EU's laws," says a highly placed source at the Foreign Ministry.

When the plans to build a facility in Kaliningrad were first made public in April they were met by protests. Countries in the region warned against safety and environmental problems. On Monday [ 25 August] that did not prevent Sergey Kiriyenko, head of the Russian nuclear energy organ Rosatom, from signing [the document] which gives the enclave two pressurized water reactors with a total capacity of 2,400 megawatts.

.Lars Gunnar Larsson, an expert on nuclear power plants in Sweden and Russia and formerly employed at the Swedish Nuclear Energy Inspectorate, does not think there is any reason for concern.

"I'm not at all worried. Russia is not the same as the Soviet Union, where there was no safety thinking. In Russia there is a very high level of expertise," he says.

Construction will begin at the end of next year, according to Rosatom. The nuclear power plant will be located in the city of Neman on the highly polluted Nemunas river, which forms the border with Lithuania, among others. Foreign investors are welcome to buy shares up to 49 per cent.

According to the Lithuanian newspaper Respublika there are plans to lay underwater cables from Kaliningrad to Sweden and Poland in order to facilitate the sale of power to those countries. After Lithuania decided to close the country's Ignalina nuclear power plant, the nation has entertained the idea of a new plant jointly with Estonia, Latvia, and Poland. That is why the Russian construction plans were received with surprise and indignation. With a nuclear power plant so close, there is believed to be great risk that the new plant at Ignalina would become less profitable or even superfluous.

The Radiation Protection Authority in Sweden takes no positions on Russia's announced construction plans.

"We have no supervision over nuclear power plants abroad and therefore don't want to comment on the building of such plants abroad," says Mattias Skold, press spokesman for the authority.

Before World War II Kaliningrad was German and was called Konigsberg. During the war large parts of the region were devastated. After that it was occupied by the Soviet Union and served the superpower as a military base. Post-Soviet Kaliningrad is part of the Russian Federation and is marked by extreme social and economic poverty.

(Source: RedOrbit)

Russia's nuclear chief to visit Iran on Sunday

Russia's nuclear power chief will visit Iran to prepare the nuclear fuel of the joint Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran, ISNA news agency reported on Saturday.

Sergei Kiriyenko will arrive in Tehran on Sunday for talks with officials of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, the news agency said.

Kiriyenko is also scheduled to go to the Persian Gulf port of Bushehr and inspect the latest developments in the plant there.

Iran's Atomic Energy Organization head Gholam-Reza Aqazadeh said the Russian side was committed to launching the Bushehr plant as scheduled.

Russia finished delivery of 82 tonnes of low-enriched uranium for the plant's light-water reactor in January, and Kiriyenko said in June that nuclear fuel operations would start this year.

The Iran-Russia joint project was originally supposed to be completed at the beginning of the millennium but has been delayed at least five times for various reasons.

(Source: NDTV.com)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Iran designing a new nuclear power plant : reports

Iran has chosen the site for and started designing a new, 360-megawatt nuclear power plant in the country, a senior atomic-energy official said Sunday, according to reports. "We are involved in the design phase of this power station," said Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, according to a Reuters report. "Gradually, the complementary design phase and its building will begin," Saeedi said. Iran's first nuclear power plant, with a capacity of 1,000 MW, is currently being built by Russia in the port city of Bushehr. The country has said it wants to build nuclear power plants with a total capacity of 20,000 MW by 2020, the report added.
(Source: MarketWatch)

Hong Kong and China sign nuclear, gas energy deals

Hong Kong and China signed nuclear and gas energy deals on Thursday which the southern city hopes will reduce both pollution and the need for a controversial liquefied gas terminal.

The deals aim to provide Hong Kong with a consistent supply of both natural gas and nuclear energy for the next two decades, as it tries to reduce its dependency on coal-fired power, chief executive Donald Tsang said.

"The sustained supply of clean energy from the mainland will greatly reduce the need for Hong Kong to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal within its territory," he told reporters.

"The resulting reduction in capital investment by the power company concerned will relieve the pressure for electricity tariff increases."

"(Hong Kong) can also benefit from improved air quality by increasing the use of clean energy and reducing the emissions of power plants."

Hong Kong would sign a 20-year natural gas supply agreement with China's third largest oil company, CNOOC Group, and a 20-year nuclear power deal with neighbouring Guangdong province, a government statement said.

There will also be a feasibility study for supplying further natural gas to Hong Kong via a pipeline from central Asia and the deal meant Hong Kong firms could build a gas terminal in mainland China.

Tsang signed the agreement with Zhang Guobao, China's top energy official, in Hong Kong. The memorandum of understanding guarantees there will be no reduction in supply from current levels.

Hong Kong relies on coal-fired power for much of its energy, which is one of the major contributors to pollution from within the territory.

The city has faced criticism that it is not doing enough to reduce the smog, much of which originates across the border and has raised worries it could damage the economic centre's ability to attract top international talent.

Local energy firm China Light and Power has been pushing to build an LNG terminal on one of Hong Kong's islands, but has hit concerns from environmental groups that the proposed location could damage the local wildlife.

(Source: AFP)

Friday, August 22, 2008

SAfrican company awards C$253M nuclear contract to SNC-Lavalin and its partner


MONTREAL - A South African power company has awarded a C$253-million contract to a subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin Group (TSX:SNC) and its partner Murray & Roberts.
The Canadian and South African partners will provide engineering, procurement, project and construction management services for Phase 2 of the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor, SNC-Lavalin said Friday.
Phase 1, completed in June, involved the construction of a demonstration nuclear power plant in Koeberg, near Cape Town, South Africa. Phase 2, which began in July, involves construction of a commercial scale power operation by September 2014.
Murray & Roberts (JSE: MUR) is South Africa's leading engineering, contracting and construction services company.
Earlier this week, a joint venture led by SNC-Lavalin won a $92 million contract for upgrades to Rio Tinto Alcan's Boyne aluminum smelter in Australia.
That contract with Sinclair Knight Merz will provide engineering, procurement and construction management services for projects at the smelter in Gladstone, Queensland.
SNC-Lavalin is a Montreal-based engineering company that manages construction projects around the world, including some countries where it faces operating risks. On Wednesday, 12 of its Algerian workers were killed in a North African bus bombing.
The Montreal company's shares fell Friday by $1.59 to C$50.26, a drop of more than three per cent, on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
The South African contract was awarded by Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (Pty) Ltd., or PBMR.
"We developed a good relationship with PBMR and Murray & Roberts on Phase 1 and look forward to working with them again on Phase 2," said Patrick Lamarre, who is executive vice-president of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., and president of SNC-Lavalin Nuclear.
Content Provided By Canadian Press.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Iran to build more nuclear power plants

Iran has asked its energy companies to look for potential sites to set up more nuclear power plants in the country, a senior official has said.

Ahmad Fayyazbakhsh, deputy chief of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation and head of a state-owned nuclear energy production company, said that his company has signed an agreement with six local companies to set up nuclear power plants.

These companies were asked to look for potential sites within a year for setting up new nuclear power plants, Iran's state run IRNA news agency Tuesday quoted the official as saying.

The construction of the power plants would begin after finalising the sites, Fayyazbakhsh said.

Earlier, 62 foreign and 58 Iranian companies had applied for the work, but the six Iranian companies won the bid, he added.

Russia is helping Iran to build its first nuclear power plant in the country's southern port of Bushehr. The plant was expected to start its operation early this year, but was postponed due to disputes over payment.

The US and its Western allies fear that Iran's nuclear programme is to make weapons. Iran insists that its programme is for peaceful purposes only.

(Source: NDTV Arabia)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Japan signals approval of India-US nuclear deal

Japan on Tuesday signalled it would approve a nuclear energy deal between India and the United States, raising the chances that the controversial pact will come into force.

The 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, which controls the global flow of civilian atomic exports, is expected to meet Thursday in Vienna on the nuclear deal. Objections by any nation would scuttle the pact.

Japan, the only nation to have suffered atomic attack, had been a major holdout as it pressed for India to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

But Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said: "It may be biased to view the deal as going against nuclear non-proliferation efforts."

"For example, the issue of global warming has been getting serious in recent years and CO2 emissions from emerging nations such as China and India are becoming a problem," said Machimura, the government's spokesman.

"It is important that India proceeds with nuclear power generation as clean energy."

The deal would give India access to international nuclear technology after being shut out for decades for refusing to sign the NPT.

Anti-nuclear campaigners have petitioned Japan to block the pact, a key priority for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who nearly saw the collapse of his government over the issue.

The UN's atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has approved an agreement to inspect some Indian facilities. Singh's former communist allies had argued that inspections would violate Indian sovereignty.

Machimura said the IAEA's supervision of Indian nuclear facilities "can lead to the strengthening of the NPT."

Australia, another country seen as a potential opponent of the India-US nuclear deal, said last week it would not stand in the way.

But the Nuclear Suppliers Group also includes a number of European countries, including in Scandinavia, that are strongly committed to the NPT.

Japan, like the United States, has been seeking a closer alliance with India.

"Japan, which has suffered atomic bomb attacks, should take the initiative in blocking the deal," said Sunao Tsuboi, the 83-year-old chairman of the Hiroshima Council of A-Bomb Sufferers Organisations, a group of bomb survivors.

"It would be a pity if Japan only follows US policy irrespective of what is just," he told AFP. "India needs to join the NPT first if it wants civilian use of nuclear energy."

Japan's main labour union Rengo joined anti-nuclear groups in a letter to Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura urging the government to oppose the India-US deal.

"If this kind of exception is approved, that means that the international community accepts India as a nuclear power. That would shake the nonproliferation regime under the NPT," the letter said.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group is being asked to grant an exception for India, which ordinarily would not be allowed nuclear material as it is not part of the NPT.

India declared itself a nuclear power in 1998 with a nuclear test.

It says the NPT, which came into force in 1970, is unfair by confining nuclear weapons in the hands of five powers -- Britain, China, France, the then Soviet Union and the United States.

(Source: AFP)

Diablo nuclear reactor shut down after fire at plant

    One of two reactors at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant remained shut down Monday after a transformer fire was extinguished.

    There was no danger of a radiation leak, and the reactor was shut down as part of standard safety procedures at the Central Coast facility, spokeswoman Sharon Gavin said.

    She did not know when the reactor would restart.

    The fire broke out Sunday at a non-nuclear part of the plant, and the power plant's own firefighting crew extinguished the blaze in about 14 minutes.

    The San Luis Obispo County plant started supplying electricity in 1985 and generates power for about 3 million homes in northern and central California.

    The cause of the fire was being investigated.

    (Source: Energy Central)

Energy debate at Economist.com

Tomorrow The Economist is launching a debate on World Energy Crisis, withe the following proposition announced:

“This house believes that we can solve our energy problems with existing technologies today, without the need for breakthrough innovations.”
What do you think? Will the reduction of global energy consumption be enough to sustain current fossil fuel reserves? Or should all efforts be directed toward discovering new technologies that broaden the world’s energy portfolio?

This morning I got a welcome invitation to participate, and any of those who read my blog and may be interested to express their opinion, can do it following this link - Here.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Elite idea factory’s biggest venture yet: safer and cheaper nuclear power plants

[Another venture firm interested in nuclear]


Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle) - by Eric Engleman Staff Writer
With presidential candidate John McCain and others promoting nuclear power as a solution to the nation’s energy woes, a Bellevue invention factory is positioning itself to spark a revived nuclear industry.
Intellectual Ventures, founded by former Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold, has begun to reveal details of what Myhrvold calls the firm’s “most ambitious project” — a new type of safer and cheaper nuclear reactor.
The concept, which Intellectual Ventures presented this summer to the American Nuclear Society, would reduce the need for costly uranium enrichment and reprocessing, cutting the risk of weapons proliferation. The firm has a team of 30 engineers and scientists refining the concept, not to mention a big-name backer: Bill Gates.
Even so, experts caution that safety concerns about nuclear power mean a new reactor design would face enormous political hurdles and could take many decades to get built, if it’s accepted at all.
Intellectual Ventures LLC is best known as a collector of technology patents and for in-house brainstorming sessions — often featuring elite figures in science and business — to generate ideas for its own patent applications.
Usually reticent, the firm has lately been talking up its nuclear energy initiative.
“We’re having a very serious run at coming up with concepts that would allow you to implement nuclear power with no enrichment required,” said John Gilleland, manager of nuclear programs at Intellectual Ventures. “We have an unusual opportunity to steer things in a way that will do the world a lot of good.”
Gates has participated in brainstorming sessions on the topic and is providing an undisclosed amount of funding for the nuclear project. Gates is interested in the reactors as a cheap source of power for the world’s poor, which dovetails with the global health mission of his philanthropic foundation, the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Today, all commercial nuclear reactors are light-water reactors that run on enriched uranium. The uranium has been enriched to increase the concentration of a particular atom, U-235, that is easily split to produce energy.
Intellectual Ventures’ reactor model would need a small amount of enriched uranium at startup, but could then run on natural, unenriched uranium or depleted uranium, the waste product of enrichment, meaning it could draw on a much more abundant and potentially cheaper supply of fuel.
The firm is also investigating thorium as a reactor fuel source. Thorium, a radioactive metal, has the advantage of being more plentiful than uranium.
By reducing the need for uranium processing and transport, this reactor technology would, in theory, lower the risk of nuclear accidents and weapons proliferation. Enriched uranium for atomic weapons can be made in the very same kinds of facilities that produce enriched uranium for nuclear power plant fuel.
Intellectual Ventures’ foray into nuclear energy comes as the issue takes a central role in the national debate over energy policy.
McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has advocated expanding nuclear power to make the U.S. more independent of foreign oil. He wants to build 45 more nuclear power plants by 2030, augmenting the 104 commercial plants operating today. Those existing plants produce 19 percent of the country’s power.
Nuclear power plants, unlike coal and natural gas facilities, generate no carbon emissions, and advocates see them as a way to meet future power needs without contributing to global warming. But nuclear power is still a hot button topic, associated by many people with high-profile accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. No new reactor projects have been started in the U.S. in nearly 30 years, though the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing a number of applications now.
Jon Phillips, director of the sustainable nuclear power initiative at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a Department of Energy facility in Richland, said nuclear power “is going to play a big role if carbon management is an issue in the future.”
But Phillips said introducing a new reactor design, particularly one that operates on different principles than existing reactors, is a daunting proposition.
“Any time someone starts out on a new idea in nuclear power design, they need to understand the inertia of that marketplace and the regulatory context of that market, which is vast,” Phillips said. Regulators are “trying to avoid nuclear accidents and that makes it in a very painstaking process.”
He said new reactor designs tend to be an evolutionary change of existing models. It could take many years to get certification and licensing from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, followed by more years to gather funding and do construction, he said.
“I wish them luck,” Phillips said. “It’s not like coming out with a software package.”
Intellectual Ventures’ reactor model is known as a “traveling-wave reactor,” a concept that originated in the 1990s with Edward Teller, an American physicist known as the “father of the hydrogen bomb.” (Lowell Wood, who is working on Intellectual Ventures’ nuclear initiative, worked with Teller at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.)
The traveling-wave reactor would contain a small, actively burning region that generates fast-moving neutrons. These neutrons would convert adjacent “fertile material,” such as unenriched uranium or thorium, into fissile material, in which the atoms can be split to release energy. This process would inch along the reactor core in a slow-moving wave. This traveling-wave model is part of a broader category of so-called “breeder” reactors, which create their own fissile fuel. Japan and France have been looking at breeder reactor technology.
The way Intellectual Ventures envisions it, the traveling-wave reactor could be filled with fuel at the construction phase and operate without refueling for up to 60 years.
Of the 30 people working on the nuclear energy initiative, about 12 are in-house staff and the rest contractors. Right now, they’re working with computer-aided design.
“We can now simulate things that people could not simulate 20 years ago,” said Gilleland, a nuclear industry veteran who worked for Bechtel Corp. and the U.S. government.
“Some things that were unthinkable in the last century when they developed light-water reactors are possible today,” he said.
eengleman@bizjournals.com 206.876.5430
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India-U.S. nuclear deal in focus again

The India-U.S. nuclear deal is all set to raise investor hackles for the second time in less than a month as it comes under the scanner of the Nuclear Suppliers Group this week in Austria.
And blue-chips such as NTPC, Bharat Heavy Electricals and Larsen & Toubro -- which stand to benefit from an approval -- could be in for some volatile trading.
Getting the 45-nation group to lift a ban on exports of nuclear fuel and technology to India will be every bit as difficult for New Delhi as it was to win a confidence vote in the Parliament over the same agreement last month. Perhaps even more so.
Unlike the Indian Parliament, where a simple majority was sufficient for the ruling coalition to win the vote and avoid early elections, India needs to make sure that none of the NSG's 45 members block the agreement. It isn't going to be easy, as India hasn't signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Local media has reported that although a majority of the countries are either in favor of the deal or neutral, some countries such as Austria and New Zealand, as well as non-government organizations, aren't comfortable with making an exemption for India, fearing such a move could undermine non-proliferation efforts.
While Indian ministers and bureaucrats are on diplomatic overdrive to win over the group members, the outcome is by no means certain and will likely keep investors on tenterhooks.
The importance of nuclear energy to India can't be overemphasized. Millions of people in rural India still live in the Stone Age, with no electricity at all. Even in major cities, power outages of several hours a day are becoming commonplace, especially in summer.
With limited coal reserves and insufficient supplies of natural gas and other fuels, nuclear energy is potentially the brightest hope to boost the country's power-generation capacity, as well as dependence on cleaner fuels.
Needless to say, the huge power deficit translates into an equally big opportunity for not just nuclear power specialists in the developed world, but also the entire power chain in India, comprising utilities such as NTPC, equipment suppliers such as Bharat Heavy and engineering and construction majors like L&T and Hindustan Construction, which are keen on a major presence in the nuclear-energy segment.
In a rally that began shortly before the parliamentary vote on July 22, both the power and capital goods indexes on the Bombay Stock Exchange have risen at least 15% to comfortably outperform the 30-stock benchmark Sensex. The advance suggests the market may have already priced in some amount of upside in anticipation that the nuclear agreement will sail through. At least some of those gains could come off if U.S. and Indian diplomacy fails this week.

(Source: Market Watch)

Vattenfall sees ease in German nuclear opposition

German opposition to nuclear energy is starting to ease but the debate is still too emotional, the chief executive of Swedish power company Vattenfall said in an interview published on Monday.

Lars Goran Josefsson told Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper that state-owned Vattenfall, whose German subsidiary is one of the country's top four generators, would consider investing more in renewable energy if it were allowed to run its German nuclear power stations for longer.

"We can discuss this. But it has to be market-oriented ... any restriction to energy markets makes things more expensive for customers," he said.

Germany plans to phase out nuclear power, unlike some of its European neighbours which see the technology as a tool to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and dependence on natural gas.

But high power prices have prompted some German politicians to call for the phase-out to be scrapped or postponed.

"I see movement in this area in Germany too, that's what the latest surveys show. Unfortunately the mood here is still a bit ossified. I don't understand that, and I wish that the debate was a bit more objective and less emotional," Josefsson said.

Vattenfall was also considering selling its power grid, in part because of how the apparent concentration of both production and distribution assets had damaged the firm's reputation, Josefsson said.

One of Germany's top courts ruled recently that Vattenfall had overcharged competitors for using its grid, and must pay back around 50 million euros ($74.6 million).

"First we've got to see if there are respectable investors, which will invest long-term in the grid, and second whether there's a decent price. There are plenty of interested parties, including private equity companies."

But the creation of an independent national grid company, bringing together all main power companies' networks, would be difficult, Josefsson said.

"It's theoretically possible. I don't rule it out, but it's very complicated."

(Source: Reuters)

Westinghouse, Areva eye India nuclear plants-paper

India's Nuclear Power Corp has tentatively picked four suppliers, including U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric and France's Areva, for planned new projects, the Hindu Business Line reported on Monday.

Citing unidentified government sources, the newspaper said General Electric-Hitachi and Russia's atomic energy agency Rosatom had also been qualified by India's monopoly nuclear power generator for placement of orders.

The United States on Thursday proposed to waive restrictions on critical nuclear trade with India in a draft circulated among member nations of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

The draft would lift a 34-year embargo on nuclear trade with India and would be discussed by the 45-nation NSG next week in Vienna.

If trade with global players open up, India hopes to double its target to 40,000 megawatts of nuclear capacity by 2020, the newspaper said.

India has 17 nuclear power plants with a capacity of 4,120 megawatts, while six units of 3,160 MW are under construction.

State-owned Nuclear Power Corp has identified four coastal sites to build nuclear park or reactor clusters housing up to eight reactors of 1,000 megawatts each, the newspaper said.

(Source: Reuters)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

First customer for Hyperion reactor

[It will be interesting to see if the small reactor designs gain a foothold in the commercial market. The reactor described below sounds like a competitor of the 4S reactor under consideration for Galena, Alaska.]


Hyperion Power Generation announced that it has received a letter of intent from investment company TES Group to purchase the Hyperion Power Module (HPM) – a 27 MWe nuclear power reactor. The intention is to purchase up to six units for various projects in Europe and the Middle East, at some $25 million each. Hyperion said that, if these projects are successful, TES could potential buy up to 50 HPMs. The HPM is a small self-regulating hydrogen-moderated and potassium-cooled reactor fuelled by powdered uranium hydride. It is designed to operate for 5-10 years before being returned to the factory for refuelling. The reactor is about 1.5 metres wide and 2 metres high, so easily portable, and has no moving parts. Hyperion has had preliminary discussions with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and a US design certification application is possible in 2012, when the company plans to begin manufacturing the plants in New Mexico. The design is licensed from the US Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory there. Hyperion eventually expects to build 4000 units for sale worldwide.

Canada May Abandon Nuclear Agency If It Loses Bid, Globe Says

The Canadian government is preparing to end support for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. if it loses a bid to build two nuclear reactors in Ontario, the Globe and Mail reported, citing unidentified people.

If the government-owned nuclear power developer loses the multibillion-dollar contract to either Areva SA of France or U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric Co., the federal government will blame the province of Ontario for the demise of the nuclear agency, the newspaper said today.

The result of the competition for the Ontario contract will be a critical factor in the federal government's decision on whether to sell the company or provide it with more funds to be globally competitive, the Globe said.

(Source: Bloomberg)

U.S. State official backs 2nd license for nuclear waste disposal firm

Permit would allow higher level material at site in Andrews County

A Dallas-based company on Tuesday cleared another hurdle in its multimillion-dollar effort to operate a radioactive waste dump in West Texas.

The executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality recommended that the commission grant Waste Control Specialists a second license for disposal of low-level nuclear waste in Andrews County.

The commission in May granted the company a license to dispose of byproduct material, including waste from nuclear weapons processing and uranium mining.

The second license, if granted by the commission after a 30-day public comment period, would allow the company to dispose of a higher level of radioactive material, such as soil or contaminated uniforms, from hospitals and nuclear power plants. It wouldn't include spent fuel rods.

The recommendation, in the form of a "draft license," was made despite reservations by some of the commission's own geologists and engineers, who concluded a year ago that the application should be denied.

Waste Control Specialists is owned by Harold Simmons, a major political donor to Gov. Rick Perry, who appointed the environmental commissioners.

The company, in a written statement, said the state had taken "critical" steps toward meeting its low-level radioactive waste needs. It said the new facilities will be safe and environmentally sound.

Carrying on with expansion

The company, which has been disposing of other hazardous and toxic waste at the Andrews County site for several years, already is proceeding with expansion plans, despite a lawsuit by the Sierra Club challenging the project.

The facility would accept waste from Vermont as well as Texas.

"In addition to providing more than 75 new jobs at our Andrews County facility, this (second) license will ensure that Texas and Vermont hospitals, universities, power plants and other enterprises will be able to continue operating with the knowledge that there is an assured solution for the permanent disposal of their low-level radioactive waste," said William J. Lindquist, chief executive officer of Waste Control Specialists.

Company President Rodney A. Baltzer said the new facilities "will be protective of the environment and public health for thousands of years to come."

The company announced recently that it was moving ahead with construction of disposal facilities authorized by the first license.

It has awarded a three-year, $80 million contract to URS, a San Francisco-based engineering and construction firm.

(Source: www.Chron.com)

Saudi nuclear plan gets green light

The Saudi Arabian cabinet has decided to approve the country's agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the protocols and application of safeguards under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Saudi newspaper Arab News reported.

The Saudis established their Atomic Energy Research Institute, based outside the capital Riyadh, in 1988 to conduct research for peaceful purposes. While Saudi Arabia's northern neighbor Iran has been accused of using its nuclear program to manufacture weapons grade uranium, which can be used to produce nuclear weapons, no such allegation has been raised against the Saudis, who also lack the missiles to launch a nuclear bomb.

In December 2006 Saudi Arabia, together with the five other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE and Oman - announced that they were setting up a commission to study the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. For technical expertise most of GCC countries turned to France and not their traditional ally, the US.

While it might seem strange that the world's largest producer of oil and the one believed to have the largest oil reserve would need nuclear power to supply the county with electricity, many analysts say that with crude oil prices at record levels it makes economic sense to sell the oil abroad and use nuclear power at home.

Meanwhile, during a visit to Iran by Algerian President 'Abd Al-'Aziz Bouteflika the possibility of establishing a cartel to control the production of natural gas was once again raised. There have previously been discussions among various countries to set up the equivalent of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for natural gas, but so far the plan has not materialized.

(Source: Jerusalem Post)

US Sanctions 5 Iranian Companies for Nuclear Ties

The United States has imposed new sanctions on five Iranian companies it accuses of helping Iran's nuclear and missile programs.

In a statement Tuesday, the U.S. Treasury Department said the action is aimed at freezing the assets under U.S. jurisdiction of "proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters." The designation also prohibits American individuals and companies from any contact with those companies.

A top Treasury official Stuart Levey, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence says Iran has used the newly sanctioned companies to hide what he called "illicit conduct" and to further its "dangerous" nuclear ambitions.

The five companies are the Nuclear Research Center for Agriculture and Medicine, the Esfahan Nuclear Fuel Research and Production Center, Jabbar Ibn Hayan, Safety Equipment Procurement Company and Joza Industrial Company.

(Source: VOA)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Iran unmoved on nuclear stance in face of sanctions

Iran will not back down on its nuclear stance despite the threat of tighter sanctions, Iranian media quoted a government spokesman as saying on Sunday.

Britain, France, Germany and the United States are considering imposing sanctions that go beyond existing U.N. measures against Tehran over its nuclear programme, a British diplomat said on Friday.

Western powers fear Iran wants to build a nuclear bomb, while Tehran says it seeks to master nuclear technology for electricity.

"Our stance would not change with sanctions or the threat of sanctions," the students news agency ISNA reported spokesman Gholamhossein Elham as saying.

"It is important that our country is ready to insist on its rights under any conditions."

Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States have led diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran to freeze uranium enrichment.

The United States and Britain said on Wednesday the six had agreed to consider more U.N. sanctions against Iran after Tehran failed to halt enrichment, but Russia said there was no firm deal.

Iran gave a noncommittal, one-page letter this week to the six powers containing no reply to their offer to refrain from seeking more U.N. penalties if Iran froze expansion of its nuclear work.

Tehran promised a "clear response" at an unspecified date.

China and Russia have big commercial interests in the world's fourth-largest oil exporter and have watered down the three previous U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions against Tehran.

(Source: Reuters)

Iran, EU agree to hold fresh nuclear talks

Iranian and EU nuclear diplomats on Monday agreed to continue talks aimed at ending Iran’s long-running nuclear standoff with the West.

The agreement came after Supreme National Security Council Secretary Saeed Jalili on Monday held a telephone conversation with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

“The two sides agreed to continue negotiations in a constructive atmosphere…Solana and Jalili voiced satisfaction at the constructive trend of negotiations in Geneva and the contacts afterwards,” Iran’s TV reported.

On July 19, Jalili and Solana held talks in Geneva over Iran’s nuclear dispute. U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns also participated in the negotiations. It was the highest level of diplomatic contact between Iran and the United States in 30 years.

Also present were representatives from the four other permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.

Russia, China, the United States, Britain, France, and Germany last month offered Iran an updated package of incentives in return for a halt to Tehran’s uranium enrichment program.

The package, which is a follow-up of an original proposal in 2006, offers nuclear cooperation and wider trade in aircraft, energy, high technology, and agriculture.

However, Iran has repeatedly ruled out suspending uranium enrichment as a precondition for talks with the major powers, insisting that, as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it has the right to utilize civilian nuclear technology.

The United States and Britain said on Wednesday the six world powers had agreed to consider more UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, but Russia said there was no firm deal.

The UN Security Council has so far imposed three rounds sanctions against the Islamic Republic, including financial and travel bans on Iranian individuals and companies.

(Source: Tehran Times)

Chinese Company Wants to Build Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant

China's Guangdong Nuclear Power Group has expressed its intention to participate in the construction of Belarus's first-ever nuclear power plant, Belarusian Deputy Energy Minster Mikhail Mikhadzyuk told reporters in Minsk on Monday [11 August].

"China has 20 years of experience in the construction and maintenance of nuclear power plants, and that is why we will consider this proposal of the Chinese side for possible cooperation in the development of a nuclear power industry in Belarus," Mikhadzyuk said.

He said that cooperation could have various forms, such as supplies of equipment and services. China also could provide loans to fund the project, he said.

The Belarusian government sent an invitation to submit bids to three companies, including Russia's Atomstroyeksport, the French- German Areva Group and US-Japanese Westinghouse Toshiba. The former two accepted the invitation, while the latter reportedly never replied by the deadline, 1 August, according to earlier reports.

The deputy minister said that Westinghouse Toshiba had replied, saying that Belarus should first sign an intergovernmental agreement with the United States on the peaceful use of nuclear power. "At the same time, they said that it would take a few years to conclude such an agreement," he said.

Rosatom that controls Atomstroiexport confirmed its readiness to build the plant under a turnkey contract and "study issues concerning the provision of funds for this project," Mikhadzyuk said.

Mikhadzyuk said that the Belarusian government was examining all proposals.

Talks with Areva were postponed to a later date, Belarusian officials said last week.

Belarus plans to start the construction of the nuclear power plant in 2009. The government is considering three possible locations for the plant: near the village of Kukshynava between Horki and Shklow, Mahilyow region; in the Astravets district, Hrodna region; and near the village of Chyrvonaya Palyana near Bykhaw, Mahilyow region.

The 2,000-MW plant is supposed to supply some 15 percent of the country's electricity needs. One of the two 1,000-MW reactors is to be put into operation in 2016 and the other one in 2018.

(Source: RedOrbit)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Nuclear projects in central and southeast Europe

A number of countries in central, eastern and southeastern Europe plan to build new nuclear power reactors or extend the life of existing ones to meet growing domestic demand and replace ageing power capacity.

The plans mirror a worldwide nuclear boom as part of the solution to climate change.

Following are key facts on major projects:


- The country, which suffers chronic power shortages, said in May it wanted to develop nuclear power generation and was ready to invite Italians to build a plant on its soil.

- Italian power utility Enel has said it is looking into nuclear opportunities in Albania.


- The Balkan country, where nuclear energy supplies about 40 percent of all power, plans a new 2,000 megawatt (MW) nuclear power plant by 2013-14.

- It has contracted Russia's Atomstroyexport, along with France's Areva and Germany's Siemens, to build the plant in a 4.0 billion-euro deal.

- Sofia has yet to pick a strategic investor for 49 percent of the plant between Germany's RWE and Belgium's Electrabel, owned by French utility Suez.


- Power group CEZ has unveiled a preliminary plan to build two new units of 3,400 MW at its Temelin nuclear power plant. The country already relies on nuclear for about 30 percent of its electricity.

- The centre-right government, in which the Green Party is a junior member, has pledged not to approve construction of new nuclear power stations before its term ends in 2010.


- The country has one nuclear generator with 1,860 MW of capacity, supplying about 37 percent of electricity.

- Their lifetime will begin to run out in 2012. All major political parties have approved a 20-year lifetime extension.

- In 2006 and 2007, press reports surfaced that big Western European power firms were considering building a new nuclear generator in Hungary but no specific plans had emerged.


- The Baltic country, which relies on nuclear for 70 percent of its electricity, is still in the planning stages of a new 3,200-3,400 MW plant estimated to cost $9 billion. It is expected to be ready in 2015-18.

- Poland and the other two Baltic states, Latvia and Estonia, are negotiating plans to build the new plant, which will replace the Soviet-era Ignalina plant that Lithuania is obliged to shut down by the end of next year.

- Lithuania's parliament voted in July to hold a non-binding referendum on extending the life of Ignalina.


- Poland, seeking to lessen its dependence on Russian energy, plans to back Lithuania's nuclear plant project.

- Some officials, including Economy Minister Waldemar Pawlak, have said Poland should consider building a nuclear power plant in the future to help reduce its near-complete reliance on coal for energy.


- The Balkan country, whose two nuclear reactors at the Cernavoda plant accounted for 13 percent of all power in 2007, plans two more reactors, each 706 MW, at the same site by 2015.

- Candidates to build the two new reactors include Electrabel, Enel, Spain's Iberdrola, CEZ, a Romanian unit of Arcelor Mittal and RWE. The investment is estimated at around 2.2 billion euros.

- Romania is also considering building another new plant with capacity of between 2,000 and 2,400 MW, whose first unit could come on line after 2020.


- Nuclear energy contributed for 57 percent of Slovakia's electricity in 2007.

- Dominant power company Slovenske Elektrarne (SE) SE, controlled by Enel, aims to complete two new blocks, each with a power capacity of 440 MW, at the Mochovce plant by 2013.

- The state plans construction of a single 1,100-1,200 MW block or two new 600 MW blocks at the Bohunice site by 2025, worth an estimated 3 billion euros.

- A new 1,200 MW nuclear plant, expected to cost 3.5 billion euros, is being considered in eastern Slovakia for after the shutdown of younger Bohunice blocks, expected in 2025.


- Ankara passed a law last year to allow for the construction of Turkey's first nuclear power reactors. Turkey, which is facing an energy shortfall, has set a Sept. 24 deadline for bids to build the nuclear power plant.

- The country plans three nuclear plants with a total production capacity of 5,000 MW.

(Source: IAEA, Reuters)

Areva: no need to repeat MOX trials

Areva has refuted claims that its MOX nuclear fuel assemblies failed in-core tests essential to the US program to use the fuel, which would be made in part from dismantled nuclear weapons.

A recent statement from Friends of the Earth and the Union of Concerned Scientists contended that the in-core test had been a failure which would derail the program to use MOX fuel while being carried out again. An Areva spokesman today said "there's no reason to expect the test would have to be repeated."

Plutonium oxide recovered from 'surplus' nuclear weapons can be combined with uranium oxide as mixed oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel for use in commercial light-water reactors. The US Department of Energy (DoE) has 34 tonnes of plutonium it wishes to use in this way and is constructing a dedicated $4.8 billion plant to manufacture MOX fuel at Savannah River.

A necessary step before MOX fuel assemblies can be used in the USA is a long-term in-core test. France's Areva supplied four MOX 'lead test assemblies' for the trial, carried out at the first reactor of Duke Energy's Catawba nuclear power station. The ultimate plan would be to use 20-40% MOX fuel loads in the four reactors at Catawba and McGuire from around 2010.

This plan was cast into doubt on 4 August by a statement from Friends of the Earth and the Union of Concerned Scientists, which they said was based on a report from Duke Energy detailing the results of the second inspection of the MOX assemblies.

The activists' statement said that the fuel had become excessively elongated and now posed a safety hazard. Furthermore, the apparent failure of the fuel would necessitate Areva re-designing the assemblies and a complete repeat of the in-core test. This, they said, would put the MOX program back by at least eight years - and therefore it should be scrapped. The integrity of fuel assemblies is important in nuclear safety, as the metal alloys that contain the highly-radioactive used fuel constitute the second barrier between the dangerous material and the environment. The first barrier is the insoluble ceramic structure of the fuel pellets, while further barriers come from power plant structures and systems - including a reinforced concrete containment.

Areva today refuted the claims. Spokesman Jarret Adams told World Nuclear News that the assemblies completed their test run after their second 18-month operating cycle. At that point, an inspection revealed that they had "extremely slight" growth beyond an acceptance limit, defined separately from safety limits. Fuel assemblies for a pressurized water reactor like Catawba 1 are typically around four metres long and feature springs to accommodate the thermal expansion of around 15mm expected during their lifetimes in the reactor core.

It had been planned to use the assemblies once again for a third operating cycle to gain more data, and Adams said Duke was still considering this.

Delays to the program could be costly for the DoE, but the initiative is seen as too advanced to cancel. The 34 tonnes of 'surplus' former weapons material is to be destroyed according to an agreement with Russia which will see equivalent amounts in both countries used for power generation. In total, some 400 billion kWh of electricity could be generated by the materials.

Work has already started on the Savannah River MOX plant, which Areva is constructing with Shaw, and it could begin operation from 2016. It was originally agreed that Russia would also build a MOX fuel plant, but officials would now prefer to use the plutonium in starter fuel for fast breeder reactors instead.

(Source: World Nuclear News)

Positive thinking in Italy, Canada and Poland

Recent opinion surveys have found broad support for new nuclear power plants amongst Italians, Poles, and residents of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan - all areas currently without nuclear power but looking into nuclear new-build projects.

A survey carried out on behalf of leading Italian business organization Confesercenti found a total of 54% of respondents in favour of new nuclear power plants being built in Italy, with 17% strongly in favour. Overall, 36% were against a new Italian nuclear plant, with 21% strongly opposing the idea. The primary reason given for opposition to a new nuclear plant was the availability of "cleaner" sources of energy, cited by 70% of "no" voters, rather than safety fears (58%) or concerns about radioactive waste (51%).

Surprisingly, despite supporting the idea of nuclear power, the Italian population would appear to prefer to keep it local. A large majority (82%) of the 800 respondents opposed the idea of Italy importing energy from newly built nuclear plants in neighbouring countries. Only 11% were in favour of such an idea. The respondents to the survey were selected to be representative of the whole country in terms of gender, age and domicile.

Italy was an early nuclear energy pioneer and has operated nuclear plants in the past, but decided to close them down following a referendum in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl accident. Now, as well as being the only country ever to have abandoned an operating nuclear power programme, it is the world's largest net importer of electricity. It is also the only G8 country without operating nuclear power plants. The Italian government has said it plans to start building new reactors within five years to reduce the county's dependence on oil, gas and imported power.

Saskatchewan says "maybe"

A poll carried out on behalf of Bruce Power in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan found support for nuclear power from a majority of the residents of the province. The level of support, at 55%, was second only to that found in Ontario, the only Canadian province that currently has operating nuclear power plants. Over 800 residents were questioned.

The survey was carried out as part of Bruce Power's Saskatchewan 2020 initiative, launched in July. The initiative, due to be completed by the end of 2008, includes a study on the feasibility of bringing nuclear energy to the province as part of a wider look at clean energy technologies.

According to Bruce Power, the top five reasons given for opposing nuclear included safety, environmental impacts, health, waste and a general opposition to the technology. On the other hand, the survey found three main driving factors for supporting nuclear energy: its lack of greenhouse gases emissions; the presence of uranium in the province; and economic considerations. The company, which operates the Bruce A and Bruce B nuclear power plants in Ontario, is keen to point out that it has not yet made any decision on whether to progress a nuclear option for Saskatchewan.

Record support from Poles

Support for the construction of a nuclear power plant in Poland is reported to have reached a "record high" of 38% in a July survey of over 1000 people carried out by the Centre for Public Research. A similar poll carried out in June 2006 found only 25% in favour.

Poland is heavily dependent on coal for its energy. It has the largest reserves of coal in the EU (14 billion tonnes), generating 93% of its electricity from coal, but also has very high CO2 emissions. The Polish government decided in 2005 that the country should pursue nuclear power in order to diversify energy supply and reduce emissions. As well as the possibility of building its own nuclear plants in the future, Poland is participating in plans to build a new nuclear power plant in partnership with Lithuania and Estonia.

Meanwhile, Polish copper giant KGHM has said it would like to build a nuclear power plant too. According to press reports, the company, whose largest shareholder is by the Polish treasury, has said it would like to build a nuclear plant and form an investment fund as a way of diversifying its business.

(Source: World Nuclear News)

AtomEnergoProm buys into Hungarian manufacturer

AtomEnergoProm, a subsidiary of Rosatom, has acquired a 51% stake in Ganz Energetika, a Hungarian manufacturer of fuel-loading and hydraulic equipment for nuclear power plants. The value of the deal was not disclosed. Ganz Energetika has manufacturing facilities in Budapest. AtomEnergoProm said that Russian orders will double the Hungarian company's sales to €20 million ($31 million) per year, allowing it to "recoup all the investment". AtomEnergoProm reportedly plans to spend €300 million ($465 million) in 2008 to acquire eastern European and Russian producers of components used to construct nuclear power reactors.
(Source: World Nuclear News)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Duke stops using MOX at nuclear plant

[This is interesting as MOX is used in about 30 reactors in Europe see http://world-nuclear.org/info/inf29.html ]


The Associated Press
CHARLOTTE, N.C. --Duke Energy has stopped using a test fuel at the Catawba nuclear station on Lake Wylie while it investigates unusual changes in the material.
The Charlotte Observer reported Tuesday Duke removed test bundles of mixed-oxide or MOX fuel, which mixes conventional uranium with surplus weapons plutonium.
Duke planned to test MOX fuel at the South Carolina reactor for more than four years, covering three refueling cycles at Unit 1 at Catawba. The newspaper says the fuel was removed in May, after two refueling cycles and less than three years of testing.
The MOX program is designed to dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium, keeping it out of the hands of terrorists.
Duke and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission say the physical changes in the materials did not endanger plant safety.
Information from: The Charlotte Observer, http://www.charlotte.com

Iran hands over nuclear reply to powers - agency

Iran's written reply to a proposal backed by six world powers aimed at defusing a row over Tehran's disputed nuclear programme has been handed over to European Union officials, Iran's Fars News Agency said on Tuesday.

An EU source in Brussels could not confirm the report.

The six world powers have offered to refrain from steps to impose more U.N. sanctions if Iran freezes expansion of its nuclear work -- an initial step in getting talks going on a broader resolution to the stand-off.

Western officials, who fear Iran wants to build a nuclear bomb despite its denials, said they had been told Tehran would give a written reply on Tuesday.

"Iran's written response to the six countries involved in the nuclear negotiations was handed to officials at the European Union by Iran's ambassador to Brussels," Fars News Agency reported, without giving any further details.

The freeze idea is aimed at getting preliminary discussions going before starting full negotiations on a package of nuclear, trade and other incentives. But those formal talks will not begin until Iran suspends uranium enrichment.

Enrichment is the part of Iran's programme that most worries the West because it can have both civilian and military uses.

Iran, the world's fourth largest oil producer, insists it is only seeking to master technology to make electricity, and has repeatedly refused to halt its atomic work.

Washington and its Western allies said on Monday that, if Iran's response was not positive, the next step would be to expand U.N. sanctions. The U.N. Security Council has imposed three rounds of penalties on Iran since 2006.

Russia and China, two members of the sextet, have been reluctant to impose sanctions in the past but have, in the end, voted for all three sanctions resolutions after initial drafts were watered down.

The others in the sextet are the United States, Britain, France and Germany.

(Source: Reuters India)

Ahmadinejad to visit Turkey for nuclear talks

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit Turkey next week to discuss his country's disputed nuclear programme and growing bilateral ties, a Turkish official told Reuters on Monday.

Ahmadinejad will hold talks with President Abdullah Gul during his one-day working visit to Istanbul on August 14, which comes after months of lobbying by Tehran.

Turkey has offered to help resolve a dispute between Iran and the West over Tehran's nuclear programme, which Western powers fear is aimed at producing atomic weapons. Ankara has good ties with both neighbouring Iran and the West.

"We are trying to help make Iran and Western countries understand each other well. We view this high level visit as an opportunity for the role we play," the official, who declined to be named, said.

Iran and the representatives of six world powers talked by telephone on Monday but Tehran said it would press ahead with its nuclear programme despite demands that it halt the work.

Turkey and Iran have growing trade ties and are negotiating expanding energy cooperation. Gul and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan have also sought to boost Turkey's role as a regional problem solver in the Middle East.

Ahmadinejad's visit, long rumoured but reportedly delayed several times, has caused a stir in officially secular but predominantly Muslim Turkey.

Turkey's secularist establishment, including army generals and judges, view Ahmadinejad with suspicion and previous President Ahmet Necdet Sezer had refused to invite him. Gul, a respected former foreign minister and ex-Islamist, was appointed president last year.

Turkish officials sought to down play media reports about a dispute over whether Ahmadinejad would visit the mausoleum of modern Turkey's revered secularist founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

"Iran is an important country on the world agenda right now, especially discussions on its nuclear programme ... You (media) should focus on the content of the visit rather than the small details," Foreign Minister Ali Babacan told a news conference.

Radical newspaper reported on Saturday that Turkish authorities had been forced to move the Iranian leader's visit to Istanbul and make it a working trip rather than an official visit because he did not plan to visit Ataturk's burial place.

(Source: Reuters)

US Official Says Malaysia Ready for Nuclear Energy

Malaysia is well-positioned to embrace nuclear energy to power up its homes and industries due to its good power infrastructure, robust economy and strong leadership attributes in the region.

US Department of Energy deputy assistant secretary Edward McGinnis said the US recognises Malaysia as a regional leader in the research and development of advanced alternative energy, including nuclear.

"The US regards Malaysia as a partner in promoting peaceful and safe uses of technology including nuclear energy.

"We are in the process of extending an invitation to the Prime Minister (Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) to join the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) at its next meeting in October in Paris, France," McGinnis told Business Times in Kuala Lumpur recently.

GNEP is an organisation of 21 countries, three permanent international non-government observers (comprising the International Atomic Energy Agency, Generation IV International Forum and Euratom) and 17 participating observer countries.

All members share a common vision of advancing new technologies to make possible the expansion of safe, clean nuclear energy to help meet growing global energy demand in a safe and secure manner.

Members include all the nuclear majors such as the US, France, Russia and the UK as well as other partners like Senegal, Jordan, South Korea, Ghana and potential candidates and observer countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Libya, Turkey, South Africa, Sweden, Morocco and Finland.

Partner nations also aim to improve the environment through effective nuclear waste or spent fuel disposal and reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation.

"Asia already has Japan, Australia and China as partners and we are also in the process of extending our invitation to Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia," said McGinnis.

He said GNEP provides member countries and new potential members the opportunity to exchange ideas and discuss possible collaboration in furthering Malaysia's interest in using nuclear energy after 2020.

"If Malaysia chooses to join the partnership, other member countries will offer expertise, skills, knowledge and financing mechanism.

"Admittedly nuclear energy requires significant investment upfront, but it will become profitable and economically viable in the long term due to reactor reliability. It is also a source of clean energy," he added.

McGinnis however said nuclear energy is not to replace other energy sources but to complement them such as hydro, solar, gas, wind, and spent fuel will be disposed of in a safe manner.

Member countries participating in GNEP voluntarily engage to share efforts and gain the benefits for economical and peaceful nuclear energy.

Cooperation among member countries will be carried out under existing and new bilateral agreements as well as existing multilateral arrangements.

(Source: Energy Central)

Monday, August 4, 2008

China to upgrade nuclear power development target

China plans to make nuclear power generation account for more than 5 pct of the country's installed power capacity by 2020, up from the previous goal of 4 pct, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

China will speed up the construction of nuclear power plants in the coastal areas and draw up plans for the inland regions, said Zhang Guobao, director of the newly-established National Energy Bureau.

The development of nuclear power is a prominent part of the country's energy policy, especially amid rising crude oil prices and global warming, Zhang said.

Currently, China has 11 operational nuclear generators with a combined installed capacity of 9.08 mln kw, only 1.3 pct of the country's total.
(Source: Quamnet.com)

Big powers renew sanctions threat after inconclusive nuclear talks

The six powers holding nuclear talks with Tehran threatened Monday to pursue new punitive action against Iran if it does not accept their offer of incentives to freeze uranium enrichment operations, the US State Department said.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana earlier Monday held what a spokesman described as "inconclusive" talks with Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, after Tehran missed a deadline to respond to the compromise offer.

State Department spokesman Gonzago Gallegos said Jalili told Solana that Tehran would provide a written response to the proposed trade and economic incentives on Tuesday.

Senior diplomats from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China discussed the latest developments by telephone Monday and agreed to push for new action against Iran if it continued holding out.

"We agreed that in the absence of a positive response, we have no choice but to pursue further measures," Gallegos said.

"We are disappointed that we have not yet received a response from Iran as requested in Geneva on July 19," he said, referring to a meeting of senior officials from the six powers with Iran at which the incentive offer was made.

The United Nations has imposed three sets of sanctions against Iran over the nuclear dispute and is mulling a fourth round of measures.

Tehran has steadfastly refused to suspend its uranium enrichment activities, which it says are aimed only at producing fuel for nuclear power production.

The United States and its allies fear the program is a cover for developing nuclear weapons.

A spokesman for Solana said in Brussels that further contacts between the EU and Iran "are not ruled out in the coming days".

But he did not mention any pledge by Jalili to provide a written response on Tuesday to the big powers' proposal.

Iranian state-run television meanwhile reported that in the Solana-Jalili telephone conversation, "both sides agreed to continue talks."

"They also emphasized that preserving this path (talks) needs a positive and constructive atmosphere," the television report said without elaborating.

The United States had demanded that Iran meet a deadline of last weekend to respond to an international package of incentives aimed at persuading Tehran to freeze uranium enrichment amid warnings of new sanctions.

But an EU diplomat said on Friday: "If it's in 16 days instead of 14 it's not a problem. We are not obsessed with a date."

Iran had earlier dismissed talk of the deadline as "media speculation."

Solana presented an offer of economic and trade incentives in mid-June, while Iran has put forward its own proposal, an all-embracing package of suggestions to resolve the problems of the world, including the nuclear issue.

Monday's talks were the first contact between the two sides since Geneva.

Along with its regional ally Israel, Washington has warned that the option of military action against Iran remains open if Tehran sticks to its defiant line.

Amid the continued tensions, Iran announced on Monday that it had successfully test-fired an anti-ship missile with a range of 300 kilometers (180 miles) that it had developed with homegrown technology.

"No enemy vessels would be able to escape it within a 300-kilometer radius from the borders of Iran," the commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said on state television.

Iran has in recent months frequently boasted of developing new weapons and military hardware but the claims have often met with skepticism from Western defense analysts.

World oil prices -- which have been driven to record levels by worries over a possible military strike on OPEC's number two producer -- were mixed on Monday.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for September delivery, fell 16 cents to 124.94 dollars a barrel in electronic trading, reversing earlier gains.

(Source: AFP)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

British Energy, EDF fail to strike takeover deal

The future of nuclear power generator British Energy was uncertain on Friday after talks for a multi-billion-dollar takeover by French power giant EDF broke down.

In Paris, the head of Electricite de France, the biggest nuclear power generator in the world, said that "financial conditions" had not yet been met for acquisition of British Energy.

A source told Dow Jones Newswires that the two companies may decide to restart talks but added that EDF did not intend increasing its offer.

The BBC reported that major shareholders in British Energy, Invesco and Prudential, were holding out for a higher price owing to the surging cost of fuels.

Meanwhile Britain's Business Secretary John Hutton told the public broadcaster that the government was "disappointed" at the failure to reach a deal.

Britain's Labour government owns more than a third of British Energy but wants to sell its stake.

"We are disappointed by the failure to reach an agreement overnight," Hutton told BBC radio. "I think it would have been a good fit."

He added: "It's up to the board now and EDF to see if there is any way that this gap can be bridged."

British Energy said in a short statement to the London Stock Exchange that "advanced discussions with a party have continued but without agreement to date," leading to a sharp drop in its share price early Friday.

Speaking at a press conference in Paris, EDF chairman and chief executive Pierre Gadonneix said that talks had ended overnight without an agreement on a takeover by the group, in which the French state is the majority shareholder.

"Following in-depth discussions, and after hearing the demands of all sides, we deem that the financial conditions allowing a major development in Britain by EDF have not currently been met," he said.

Gadonneix added that, in light of a trend towards nuclear power in several markets, EDF -- which Friday declared a 12.2-percent drop in half-year profits to 3.08 billion euros -- intended to play a leading role.

EDF, as the world's biggest nuclear power supplier and already Europe's number one electricity producer, had been widely expected to confirm that a deal had been struck to buy British Energy, which has a market value of 12 billion pounds (15.5 billion euros, 24 billion dollars).

A source close to talks with British Energy had told AFP on Thursday that the French group's directors had backed a takeover.

The bid was said to have been in the form of either a cash-only deal worth 765 pence per share or a cash option worth 700 pence a share plus shares.

The offer was aimed at the British government's 35.2 percent stake in British Energy. Under takeover rules, any bid for the government stake would trigger an offer for the rest of group.

In European stock market trading on Friday morning, British Energy's share price was showing a fall of 4.18 percent to 699 pence on London's FTSE 100, which was down 0.31 percent.

EDF dropped by 0.89 percent to 55.45 euros on the Paris CAC 40, which was 0.41 percent lower.

British Energy provides almost one fifth of Britain's electricity and owns and operates eight nuclear power stations.

Last month, British Energy said that a series of takeover proposals received from unnamed parties had undervalued the company.

The government, meanwhile, wants to see a renewal of its nuclear-power generating capacity and the assets owned by the group are seen as a springboard for any such effort.

"The future of new nuclear in the UK doesn't depend on this particular (EDF) deal," Hutton added during his interview with the BBC.

"I think we are absolutely committed to new nuclear power and if this deal is not able to go through for whatever reason, we will be looking at plans to make sure we can continue with our foot on the floor because Britain needs these new nuclear power stations."

Britain's governing Labour Party called nuclear power an "unattractive" option as late as 2003, but has changed its mind as energy costs soar, initiatives against climate change intensify and North Sea oil and gas stocks dwindle.

It also follows an increasing global trend towards atomic power, which currently provides about 16 percent of the world's electricity.

(Source: AFP)

Shedding light on nuclear Iran

When physicist Akbar Etemad goes through Iranian customs, he presents both French and Iranian passports, and tells the guards, "I don't like you. I am against you. But this is my country. I have the right to come and to talk to my people."

As nuclear czar to the late deposed Shah, the Swiss-educated Dr. Etemad headed the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran from 1974 until just before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Today he lives in Paris, and serves as honorary co-chair of Iranians for Peace, a non-partisan group that lobbies against foreign-- that is, American or Israeli--military intervention in Iran.

So the customs officers tend to give him a pass. He may be at odds with the Islamist dictatorship of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but he is still a patriotic Iranian.

Yesterday, before addressing an Iranian cultural conference in Toronto, Dr. Etemad explained in an interview why he thinks a nuclear armed Iran would make for a more secure Middle East.

He said the United States has "manipulated the whole public opinion of the world that Iran is dangerous if they get the bomb. Nobody asks why should Iran use the bomb. You never get the nuclear weapon to use it. You get the nuclear weapon to protect your security.

"That is why Israel doesn't want it, because Israel wants to be the only superpower of the region. Iran is a big country, it's a very powerful country, and if Iran has a nuclear weapon, Israel would lose his supremacy in the region. And that is a problem for the Americans, and for that they accuse Iran of this, of that. Now, let me see, how about Pakistan? Is that a democratic regime? Pakistan is worse than any other Islamic country. But nobody's concerned about Pakistan. Pakistan has become the privileged ally of Americans in the region. Now, how is that? Is the Pakistani bomb cleaner than the Iranian?" he said.

Dr. Etemad's comments come two weeks after historic talks in Geneva between the Iranian regime and U. S. State Department envoy William Burns, at which a two-week deadline was given to Iran to stop efforts to enrich uranium in exchange for substantial aid for a civilian nuclear energy program. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has refused, saying he will not forsake his country's right to conduct independent nuclear research.

It is this kind of ultimatum, Dr. Etemad said, that kept the West in the dark about Iran's nuclear ambitions all along.

In the mid-1970s, Dr. Etemad was the prime mover of Iranian nuclear research. Nuclear enery was increasingly attractive globally because of the cost of oil, and within Iran, energy consumption was rising at more than 10% a year. In this climate, he said the Shah had a principle that "oil and gas are too precious to be burnt for producing electricity."

There were plans for 20 power reactors, but in 1977, when Jimmy Carter became U. S. president, his nuclear skepticism led to demands for strict international safeguards. The result was a complete divorce of the West from the Iranian nuclear program, even before the 1979 hostage crisis severed diplomacy with the United States.

"It forces the countries to do it themselves, and the Western countries have no control over it. This is exactly what has happened in Iran since the revolution.... Nuclear energy is a long-term process. You cannot just go out and make nuclear power plants," Dr. Etemad said.

"We did not accept [conditions imposed by the 'Club of London' nuclear countries], we did not want to have anything to do with the Americans, and until the revolution, the Americans did not have any role to play in our program.... Everybody thought that the Shah was the puppet of the Americans at the time, and this was not true."

Today, there is one nuclear power plant in Iran, 14 years in the making, which Dr. Etemad said is expected to start up this year. Started as a German project, it is now sponsored by Russia, whose own interests have sometimes led to strict conditions and long delays, mostly due to the weapons threat.

"They are negotiating with the Americans," he said.

On the weapons side, Iran is thought to be about two years away from developing a nuclear bomb, which has made it an electoral issue in America, most famously when U. S. Republican presidential candidate John McCain sang "bomb Iran" to the tune of the Beach Boys' Barbara Ann.

"As an Iranian, I am bothered a lot and humiliated that every day they say we are going to bomb your country," Dr. Etemad said. "If Ahmadinejad says something, everybody reacts to that. If the Americans and the Israelis say they are going to bomb Iran and so on, nobody cares, because public opinion has been manipulated."

He thinks the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been so disastrous that "they would never dare to attack Iran," but if they did, it would have unplanned results. The Iranian dissidents would join in solidarity with the governing regime, he said, and Turkey would go Islamist.

Despite his suspicion of Mr. McCain as a hawk, he also derides Democratic candidate Barack Obama's pledge to meet with Ahmadinejad as "symbolic."

"You cannot talk with Ahmadinejad in that way. They have to start to talk to each other at the political level. That means the ministers of foreign affairs, for example, or the ambassadors.... It's not a matter of one day or two days' discussion," he said. "The [United Nations] sanctions are hurting the Iranian people, in their lives. But the government, they don't care about that. The Americans, they are absolutely mad in doing this. They are playing into the hands of Ahmadinejad. He likes that because it gives him more power in Iran to say that we are being attacked by foreigners, we are under threat and so on. But who is suffering? The Iranian people."

Dr. Etemad said the fact that al-Qaeda fighters are thought to be hiding in the mountains of northwest Pakistan shows that America will indulge hostile nuclear dictatorships as long as it is in their interests.

"It is a political perception. It is not a value judgment," he said.

(Source: National Post)

Friday, August 1, 2008

EDF May Sell U.K. Nuclear Sites to Win British Energy

Electricite de France SA, the world's largest owner of nuclear power stations, may sell U.K. atomic sites to gain approval for the purchase of British Energy Group Plc, two people with knowledge of the talks said.

The British government will ensure Paris-based EDF allows fair competition among developers of reactors after buying the U.K.'s largest nuclear plant owner, according to the people, speaking yesterday, who declined to be identified because the negotiations are private. Francois Molho, a spokesman for Electricite de France in Paris, declined to comment.

The French utility is close to an accord to buy British Energy, including the British government's 35.7 percent stake, for about 12.5 billion pounds ($24.8 billion), three people said this week. Gaining control of the East Kilbride, Scotland-based, company, which operates eight U.K. atomic plants, would give EDF most of the sites on which new ones can be built amid a British nuclear revival.

``There is no guarantee that EDF will have exclusive use of the sites,'' said Florence Roche, a fixed-income credit analyst at Societe Generale SA in Paris. Without that exclusivity, it makes the deal even more expensive, she said yesterday. ``At the level of valuation reported by press, the assets are not very attractive.''

U.K. Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks said in a Bloomberg Television interview on April 17 that Britain is wary of a monopoly company or business group having control of all new nuclear power stations in Britain. The government, which is reviving nuclear power to replace older plants due to shut down, is identifying suitable sites for new reactors.

Nuclear Report

A report produced for the government by Jackson Consulting recommended that any new capacity should be developed first at one of the country's existing nuclear sites. Those are owned by British Energy and the U.K. Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, an agency set up to run and clean up older plants.

Those locations already have much of the infrastructure required and grid connections, and local communities may be more likely to have the required skill base.

EDF recently bought land adjacent to the Wylfa power station, owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, as a backup plan in case it misses out on British Energy. The French power producer has said it wants to build as many as five nuclear reactors in the U.K.

Centrica Role

British Energy in November signed an agreement with the national grid operator to connect six new nuclear reactors on four southern England sites to the country's power transmission network from 2016.

Centrica Plc may acquire about 25 percent of British Energy as part of the transaction, the people said. The takeover may be discussed by Electricite de France directors at a board meeting today, they added.

EDF said today it will hold a press conference in Paris at 8:45 a.m. local time tomorrow. Francois Molho, a spokesman for the company, declined to comment on the reason for the previously-unscheduled event. EDF also releases earnings tomorrow.

The proposed price EDF may offer is about 775 pence a share, two of the people said this week. That's 8 percent above yesterday's close of 720 pence and 27 percent more than March 14, the trading session before British Energy said it may receive an offer. On July 29 Dow Jones reported EDF would offer 765 pence a share for the government's stake, citing a person familiar with discussions on the deal.

Contingent Value

The Financial Times reported today that part of the EDF bid will be in the form of contingent value rights, securities which have future payouts dependent on the performance of British Energy after it has been taken over. It said these securities are less well-known to U.K. investors than to those in the U.S. and continental Europe, and may complicate negotiations.

The Financial Times said EDF's proposed bid includes an all-cash alternative, which would be at a lower level than the potential value of the option of cash plus CVRs.

EDF rose 1.59 euros, or 2.9 percent, to 55.88 euros at 12:55 p.m. in Paris trading. British Energy fell 3.5 pence, or 0.5 percent, to 716.5 pence in London.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on June 22 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, that he backs new atomic plants to meet demand. Brown favors nuclear power because it emits less carbon dioxide, the gas blamed for global warming, than gas and coal-fed stations.

New Plants

Among the first in line to acquire potential reactor sites in the U.K. may be GDF Suez SA, the world's second-largest utility by market capitalization.

Chief Executive Officer Gerard Mestrallet has said the Paris-based company wants to own and operate ``third- generation'' reactors in western Europe and would be interested in developing generators in Britain.

Suez SA, which combined with Gaz de France SA on July 22, has held talks with British Energy on possible sites for new atomic plants, Mestrallet has said. Suez announced May 23 it had ended talks on a possible bid for British Energy to focus on completing the long-planned merger with Gaz de France.

GDF Suez and Electricite de France are backing the European Pressurized Reactor design developed by Areva SA for new generators.

(Source: Bloomberg)

Hainan to construct nuclear power plant

A nuclear power plant will be built in Hainan Province, which suffers from power shortages and relies heavily on coal, officials said on Tuesday.

The plant in Changjiang county, west Hainan, will consist of two pressurized water reactors, each with a capacity of 650 megawatts. More than 70 percent of the plant's equipment will be manufactured in China, vice-governor Fang Xiaoyu said.

It will be built by China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC).

"The National Developmental and Reform Commission approved preliminary work on the Changjiang nuclear project on July 18," Fang said.

Developing nuclear power is the best choice for Hainan's sustainable development, he said.

"The Changjiang nuclear project will boost Hainan's efforts to become an ecological province and boost its need for more power supply," Fang said.

Hainan has been suffering from power shortages since 2006, mainly due to its slow expansion of coal and gas-fired power plants.

The province was hit by power shortages totaling 390 megawatts last year.

"It was the most severe power shortfall Hainan had experienced since 1992," Lin Huifu, director of the provincial department of development and reform, said.

"Developing nuclear power is the only solution to our energy shortage," Lin said.

The provincial leadership first decided to develop nuclear energy in 2005. Earlier this year, Vice-Premier Li Keqiang expressed his support for a Hainan nuclear plant.

CNNC has already spent more than 16 million yuan ($2.3 million) on feasibility studies.

Li Jinying, director of CNNC's comprehensive planning department, said: "CNNC will formally start building the plant by the end of next year, and it is expected to come into operation in late 2014."

As the world's second-largest energy user, China has 11 nuclear reactors in use but they account only for 1.3 percent of its total generating capacity.

China aims to raise its nuclear power capacity to 40 gigawatts, or 4 percent of the total by 2020, but top energy officials suggested earlier this year that the goal should be revised to more than 5 percent.

(Source: China Daily)

Brazil revives nuclear power plant

A government-controlled firm is forging ahead with plans to resume expansion of Brazil's nuclear power program.

The Brazilian government has authorized the company, Electronuclear, to go back to work on the nation's third nuclear power plant.

Work on the Angra 3 reactor, near Rio de Janeiro, has been stalled for 22 years by a lack of money and political issues.

But the administration of President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva is turning to nuclear power to meet electricity needs that are growing with the country's booming economy.

"Things have changed a lot, and today it's clearer to everyone that nuclear energy has a role to play in the Brazilian electrical system, just like the other forms of producing electricity, which can't be dismissed," said Leonam Guimaraes, an Electronuclear spokesman.

Brazil is the 10th-largest energy consumer in the world, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. It's the third-largest consumer in the Western Hemisphere, behind the United States and Canada.

The two operational nuclear power plants in Brazil supply about 3 percent of the nation's electricity, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The other countries in the Western Hemisphere that use nuclear power to generate electricity are Mexico (where nuclear power generates 5 percent of electricity), Argentina (7 percent), Canada (16 percent) and the United States (19 percent), according to the atomic agency.

France generates more electrical power with nuclear reactors than any other nation (78 percent), followed by Lithuania (72 percent), Slovakia (57 percent) and Belgium (54 percent), the agency said.

Brazil's two reactors went into use in 1985 and 2000. They supply about half the electrical power used in the state of Rio de Janeiro, according to Electronuclear.

Electronuclear plans to begin construction work on Angra 3 in February and hopes that it will generate electricity by 2014, when Brazil will host the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament.

Environmental activists say authorities have not adequately planned an effective response in the event of an accidental release of radiation from Angra Three.

They also warn that building a third plant could adversely affect the environment, but Electronuclear has pledged to comply with each of 60 conditions the Brazilian government set in granting the country a license to restart work on the third reactor.

(Source: CNN)