Monthly Archives: August 2015

Tochigi town residents rally against selection as candidate site for final disposal of radiation-tainted waste

The Japan Times | JIJI, KYODO | August 29, 2015

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Local residents protest Saturday against the government’s choice of the town of Shioya, Tochigi Prefecture, as a candidate site for the final disposal of some of the radiation-tainted waste resulting from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. | KYODO

About 2,700 residents of Shioya, Tochigi Prefecture, gathered Saturday to oppose the central government’s choice of the town as a candidate site for the final disposal of some of the radiation-tainted waste resulting from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The residents adopted a resolution urging the plan be scrapped. Among those taking part was Mayor Hirobumi Inomata from Kami, another candidate site in Miyagi Prefecture.

In Tochigi Prefecture, designated waste that contains more than 8,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram is currently stored at about 170 different locations on a temporary basis.

For final disposal, the Environment Ministry selected state-owned land in Shioya at the end of July, but the plan has since met strong local opposition.

In 2012, another city in Tochigi Prefecture, Yaita, which borders Shioya, was selected as a candidate site for final waste disposal. However, the government was later forced to reconsider the decision due to fierce local opposition.

The state is planing to build landfill facilities for final disposal in five prefectures — Tochigi, Miyagi, Chiba, Gunma and Ibaraki prefectures — which lack the capacity to dispose of such waste at existing facilities.

In a related move Friday, three nuclear plant makers denied responsibility for the March 2011 Fukushima meltdown at the first hearing on a lawsuit seeking damages from the companies.

Representatives from Toshiba Corp., Hitachi Ltd. and General Electric Co. sought to dismiss the damage claims in Tokyo District Court.

The claims were lodged by about 1,400 people in Japan, including Fukushima residents, and 2,400 people from other places with nuclear plants, such as South Korea and Taiwan.

According to the plaintiffs, the plant makers insisted they have no obligation to compensate for damage from the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, referring to the law on nuclear damage compensation, which stipulates that only power suppliers have responsibilities for nuclear accidents.

The plaintiffs claim that the law, which gives nuclear plant makers immunity from compensation claims, violates the Constitution and therefore is invalid. Under the product liability law and other laws, they are demanding payment of ¥100 each.

Meeting with the press after speaking in court, Kazue Morizono, a 53-year-old resident of Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, said she hopes the lawsuit will clarify responsibility for the nuclear accident.

Hoping for domestic reform, Iranian activists back nuclear deal

Reuters | Dubai | Bozorgmehr Sharafedin and Sam Wilkin

Iranians celebrate on the streets following a nuclear deal with major powers, in Tehran July 14, 2015.  REUTERS/TIMA

Iranians celebrate on the streets following a nuclear deal with major powers, in Tehran July 14, 2015. REUTERS/TIMA

Iranian pro-democracy activists, lawyers and artists have thrown their weight behind last month’s nuclear deal with world powers, hoping it will lead to a promised political opening that President Hassan Rouhani has so far failed to deliver.

Dozens of prominent figures, many of whom have spent time in jail and faced travel or work bans, have recorded short video clips on social media sites this week praising the July 14 accord that will lift international sanctions from Iran in exchange for strict curbs on its nuclear program.

“These video messages show that those who have paid the highest prices for the cause of democracy and human rights in Iran are supporting the deal,” Mohammadreza Jalaeipour, a pro-democracy activist who organized the campaign said.

Many of the videos implored the U.S. Congress to approve the deal in a vote due next month, arguing that it offers the best hope of promoting democracy in Iran and is not a capitulation to Iranian hardline factions to which they, too, are opposed.

“War and sanctions create crisis, and crisis is the death of democracy, the death of peace and human rights,” film director Jafar Panahi, who has received accolades abroad but seen his work banned in Iran, noted in his video.

Human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has represented opposition politicians and activists, said it was “unrealistic” to hope that the deal would automatically resolve civil rights issues in Iran, but that it was still a step forward.

“We are hopeful that the same approach that was adopted by the Iranian government to resolve international animosity, can be used to resolve differences within the country,” she told Reuters by telephone from Tehran.

Opposition Republican lawmakers in Congress have vowed to sink the deal but need to recruit dozens of Democrats reach the two-thirds majority needed to override President Barack Obama’s veto. Some hardliners in Iran’s parliament have also opposed the deal, but have no legislative power to reject it.

REFORMISTS EXCLUDED

Reformists have been excluded from Iranian politics since 2009, when the authorities put down pro-democracy demonstrations after a disputed presidential election, arrested several leaders, and barred candidates from subsequent elections.

Some of those who appear in this week’s videos have paid a high price for their activities.

Jalaeipour spent five months in solitary confinement, Panahi was banned from making films and forbidden from traveling in 2010, while Sotoudeh was sentenced to six years in jail in 2010 and banned from practice.

At the 2013 election, reformists turned out in force to elect Rouhani, a pragmatic insider who promised to lift social and political restrictions. But the United Nations noted in March that the rights situation remains dire.

The video campaign suggests many Iranian reformists hope and expect that Rouhani, who championed the nuclear talks, can finally fight for political reform against hardline factions that dominate the judiciary and security establishment.

“Rouhani has focused on external engagement, but now will be expected to use the political capital to fulfill his other promises,” Jalaeipour told Reuters.

“Hardliners in Iran have benefited, and civil society has suffered, from the standoff with the West.”

 

Sino-Russian Alliance to Counterbalance US-Japan Military Buildup

Sputnik News | 25.08.2015

Russo-Japanese relations may go into a nosedive if Moscow chooses to form a security coalition with China in the light of the US’ BMD deployments in Japan, Indian expert M. K. Bhadrakumar suggests, adding that Vladimir Putin’s upcoming visit to China signals a future significant reconfiguration in the Far Eastern region.

A cooling in relations between Moscow and Tokyo are linked to the release of the new Guidelines for US-Japan Defense Cooperation on April 27, 2015 that envisages the deployment of the US ballistic missile defense systems (BMD) in Japan, former Indian Ambassador and expert in foreign affairs Melkulangara K. Bhadrakumar underscores.

The document originated from the 1979 Cold War era doctrine of the military cooperation between Washington and Tokyo aimed against Soviet Russia. The Guidelines were updated in 1997, after the collapse of the USSR. Remarkably, the doctrine has got a second wind after being revised this April.

“The backdrop of the latest revision of the document, under way since 2013, is no doubt provided by ‘assertive’ China. But there are profound implications for Russia, too. To be sure, Japan is now going to play a more active role in supporting the US-led operations globally,” Bhadrakumar elaborated in his article for Asia Times.

“Specifically, the Guidelines emphasize the importance of US-Japan cooperation in the field of ballistic missile defense or the BMD. The US, in fact, has begun deploying the BMD system in Japan,” the Indian expert stressed.

According to the expert, Russia no longer considers the US-Japan alliance as a “stabilizing factor” or a “balancer” in the region. Furthermore, the US-sponsored project of Japan’s BMD is regarded as a substantial threat to Russia’s Far East. It should be noted that Article 12 of Russia’s military doctrine specifically refers to the threat posed by the country’s neighbors equipped with BDM hardware.

“Japan foots the bill. Washington and Tokyo may take the line that they do not envision Russia as a threat to Japan and that the US-Japan alliance does not target Russia as such, but in the present climate of Russian-American relations, Moscow is not going to be lulled into complacency,” Bhadrakumar remarked.

To complicate matters further Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pushed ahead new legislation that would allow Japanese troops to fight overseas, for the first time since the Second World War.

In light of this the Kremlin has carried out a series of steps aimed at ensuring Russia’s security.

Particularly, Moscow accelerates rapprochement with Beijing. China’s President Xi Jinping was Putin’s “guest of honor” on Victory Day on May 9, the expert noted. At the same time Putin is preparing to attend China’s celebrations in Beijing on September 3.

The leaders agreed to form a common economic space on the continent through linking the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union with the China-led New Silk Road project.

The expert pointed to the fact that the two powers also agreed to hold joint military drills in the Asia-Pacific.

These are the signs of substantial reconfiguration in the region, according to the Indian experts.

In addition, regardless of Japan’s vocal displeasure, Russia has sped up modernization of military and civilian infrastructure on the Kurile Islands.

“Today, the Russian build-up around the Kurile Islands has a much bigger calculus insofar as it is in anticipation of the full-scale opening of the so-called Northern Sea Route…  Russia’s Arctic policy demanded that the Kurile Islands get elevated to the frontlines of the country’s defense and national security. Russia can be expected to steadily strengthen its military presence around the Kurile Islands and develop its infrastructure and port facilities, no matter what it takes,” Bhadrakumar elaborated.

The expert remarked that Russia’s strong strategic presence in the Arctic provides the country with an unbeatable advantage: access to all the oceans of the world.

Russo-Japanese relations are obviously getting cooler, he noted, while Sino-Russian cooperation is on the rise.

“Putin’s forthcoming visit to Beijing next week becomes an important signpost of the emergent strategic realignment in the Far East,” Bhadrakumar concluded.

China believes N. Korea’s denuclearization possible

Yonhap | 2015/08/26

SEOUL, Aug. 26 (Yonhap) — China believes that North Korea’s denuclearization is possible through resuming the now-suspended six-party talks, China’s top envoy to South Korea said Wednesday.

The remarks were made during a closed-door meeting between Amb. Qiu Guohong and Rep. Moon Jae-in, chairman of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, in Seoul, said the party’s spokesman Kim Sung-soo.

Guohong said that “China believes that quickly resuming the six-party talks will solve the North Korean nuclear issue and make the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula possible,” according to Kim.

The six-party talks involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States have been suspended since late 2008 due to Pyongyang’s backtracking on a past agreement to abandon its nuclear weapons program in exchange for economic and political concessions.

As to Moon’s request that China play an active role in resuming the talks, the ambassador responded that Beijing is making efforts to narrow the differences between the U.S. and North Korea.

The two also agreed that the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the same goal pursued by both countries.

The ambassador said that the inter-Korean deal struck on Tuesday would play a big role in easing tensions between the two Koreas.

“I believe that the South and the North will understand each other better and keep the cooperation from now on. China will pay attention and show support so that the two Koreas can achieve reunification in a peaceful way,” the ambassador said.

The ambassador welcomed Moon’s planned visit to China in October to attend a regional meeting of parliamentarians and meet senior Chinese officials.

Moon plans to join a session of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties to be held in Beijing from Oct. 14-16. Sponsored by the Communist Party of China, the meeting will take place under the theme of “Rebuilding the Silk Road.”

It would be Moon’s first trip to China as leader of NPAD, coming at the invitation of Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress.

Russia’s railway-based missile system may get radar protection

TASS | August 26, 2015

The railway-based system armed with Yars inter-continental ballistic missiles may enter duty in Russia in 2019

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Garmon small-size radar

© ITAR-TASS/Stanislav Krasilnikov

 

ZHUKOVSKY /Moscow Region/, August 26. /TASS/. The Garmon small-size radar may be used to provide protection for the railway-based strategic ballistic missile complex, being recreated in Russia, the first deputy CEO of the radio-electronics concern KRET, Igor Nasenkov, told the media.

“The radar can be used to provide protection for the most sensitive mobile facilities, for instance, the railway-based strategic missile complex. The Defense Ministry declared the resumption of work on this complex just recently,” Nasenkov said.

Garmon is a batch-produced radar already being supplied to the Russian armed forces.

The railway-based complex armed with inter-continental ballistic missiles Yars may enter duty in 2019. The strategic missile force expects it will remain operational at least till 2040. Each train will carry six missiles and be equivalent to a regiment in status. Each division of Barguzin trains will consist of five regiments.

Russian Strategic Missile Forces: constantly on standby

Processing spent nuclear fuel becoming an urgent issue for China

Want China Times | Staff Reporter | August 29, 2015

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The Tianwan Nuclear Power Station during construction, in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, Dec. 24, 2014. (File photo/CNS)

China’s restart of new nuclear power projects brought attention back to the issue of handling spent fuel, which is projected to reach over 100 tons a year in 2020, according to the National Business Daily.

China approved its first nuclear power project in December 2014 after a suspension following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, and the speed of approvals has picked up since, the newspaper said.

According to the China Nuclear Energy Association, a total of 25 nuclear reactors have entered commercial operations with a combined installed capacity of 23 gigawatts (GWs), as of the end of June.

The country’s target to achieve an installed capacity of 58GW of nuclear power is expected to create more than 1,000 tons of nuclear waste a year, the newspaper said.

“The processing of spent fuel is an urgent issue,” said Wu Wangsuo, dean of the School of Nuclear Science and Technology in Lanzhou University, who added that China needs to at least be able to handle the country’s own waste.

It China cannot establish an industry to process the spent fuel, the country will face the problem of finding space to store the nuclear waste, according to the newspaper.

China National Nuclear has built the country’s only facility to store spent fuel outside a power plant before further processing, but designing and building a processing plant that can extract uranium from the spent fuel will take over 10 years, the newspaper added.

The ability to process spent fuel will also help China export its nuclear technology, since it will be part of the negotiations for countries that are unable to handle nuclear waste, said Li Yingfa, a former senior engineer at the Nuclear Power Institute of China.

The Chinese government set up a fund for processing spent fuel in July 2010 for investment in the transportation, storage and handling of the waste and 0.026 Chinese yuan (US$0.004) of the price per kilowatt-hour paid by the grid to nuclear power plants is set aside for the fund, according to the newspaper.

Concerns have been raised over the lack of sufficient funds for the construction of a processing plant, while one industry insider said the government’s rule of not handing out the funds when an unapproved project is in a preparatory phase makes it impossible for any project to begin.

IAEA and Kazakhstan agree to create nuclear fuel bank

WNN | 27 August 2015

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Kazakhstan today signed an agreement to set up a low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel ‘bank’ in Oskemen, Kazakhstan.

IAEA LEU Bank agreement signing - 460 (IAEA)
Idrissov and Amano following the signing of the agreement (Image: IAEA)

Operated by Kazakhstan and expected to start operations in 2017, the IAEA LEU Bank will be a physical reserve of LEU – the basic ingredient of nuclear fuel – and act as a supplier of last resort for the Vienna-based agency’s Member States in case they cannot obtain LEU on the global commercial market or otherwise.

The facility is also seen as an important part of international efforts to prevent nuclear non-proliferation – as a way to dissuade countries from building enrichment facilities that might be misused to purify uranium to weapons-grade levels.

The agreement was signed in Astana by IAEA director general Yukiya Amano and Kazakhstan’s foreign minister Erlan Idrissov. The Kazakh government said today that the signing ceremony was attended by representatives of UN Security Council members, including China, France, Russia, the UK and the USA, as well as representatives of donor countries for the project – the European Union (EU), Kuwait, Norway and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“I am confident that the IAEA LEU Bank will operate safely and securely, in line with the applicable IAEA nuclear safety standards and nuclear security guidance,” Amano said, according to an IAEA statement.

In addition to the Host State Agreement, the ceremony included the signing by Amano and Kazakhstan’s energy minister Vladimir Shkolnik of a related technical agreement, and a contract between the IAEA and Kazakhstan’s Ulba Metallurgical Plant. The three documents comprise the legal framework for the IAEA LEU Bank.

“A lot of work must still be done, but after the signing of the relevant documents today, the legal framework is fully in place and we can move ahead with full-scale implementation,” Amano said.

The IAEA LEU Bank will host up to 90 tonnes of LEU, sufficient to run a 1000 MWe light-water reactor. The Ulba Metallurgical Plant has been handling and storing nuclear material, including LEU, safely and securely for more than 60 years.

The establishment and operation of the IAEA LEU Bank is fully funded through $150 million of voluntary contributions from the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the USA, the EU, the UAE, Kuwait, Norway and Kazakhstan. Their contributions will cover the cost of the facility for the first ten years of operation, Amano said.

Kazakhstan’s leadership

Following the signing of the agreement, Thomas Countryman, US assistant secretary of state for international security and non-proliferation, said the fuel bank “is not the first place you go to for nuclear fuel”, but is “specifically in case there is a sudden disruption in that supply”. Kazakhstan “can play a very important role in giving that insurance to countries around the world,” he said.

The IAEA Board of Governors authorized the establishment and operation of the IAEA LEU Bank in December 2010. In July 2011, Kazakhstan offered to host the IAEA LEU Bank in response to the agency’s request for Expressions of Interest. Since 2011, Kazakhstan and the IAEA have been working on the technical details for the establishment of the IAEA LEU Bank and have negotiated the Host State Agreement governing the establishment and hosting of the bank.

In June 2015, the IAEA and Russia signed an agreement allowing transit of LEU and equipment through Russian territory to and from the IAEA LEU Bank.

“As the world’s largest uranium producer, with expertise in peaceful nuclear technology, Kazakhstan is well suited to hosting the IAEA LEU Bank,” Amano said today.

Kazakhstan hosts more than 15% of global uranium reserves, but has no nuclear power plants of its own.

The safety and security of the IAEA LEU Bank will be governed by Kazakhstan’s legal and regulatory requirements, and will meet the applicable provisions of the IAEA’s safety standards and security guidance documents. The LEU will also be subject to IAEA safeguards.

International security

Other assurance of supply mechanisms established with IAEA approval include a guaranteed physical reserve of LEU maintained by Russia at the International Uranium Enrichment Centre in Angarsk, and a UK assurance of supply guarantee for supplies of LEU enrichment services. The USA also operates its own LEU reserve.

US National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price said yesterday that the American Assured Fuel Supply, along with the similar programs by Russia and the UK, complement the IAEA’s LEU Bank. Price said that US President Barack Obama “appreciates” Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s “important leadership on non-proliferation spanning more than two decades”. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Central Asian country voluntarily gave up its nuclear arsenal.

According to Reuters news agency, former US Senator Sam Nunn said in a speech after the signing of the agreement today that the IAEA LEU Bank “will enable and encourage peaceful uses of nuclear energy, while reducing the risks of proliferation and reducing the risks of catastrophic terrorism”. Nunn is co-chairman and CEO of Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI). One of NTI’s supporters, US billionaire investor Warren Buffett, contributed $50 million to “jumpstart” the project, Nunn said.

Amano said today, that in line with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear program, signed in July, Iran might in the future offer part of its own LEU stocks for the bank. Inventory for the bank will be bought through open tenders, he said.

On 25 August, Amano sought approval for extra funding of €9.2 million ($10.6 million) per year for the IAEA’s “special arrangement” with Iran, which he stressed “would not serve as a precedent”. Amano made his request to the agency’s Board of Governors at a meeting convened to consider the UN Security Council’s resolution 2231, namely, its request for the IAEA to undertake verification and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA.

Today’s ceremony was also attended by Andrew Weber, principal advisor to the US secretary of defence for matters concerning nuclear, chemical, and biological defence programs between May 2009 and October 2014.

Weber said the new fuel bank reduces the possibility for countries to develop nuclear weapons. “It gives them an international, neutral, reliable supply of low-enriched uranium for power reactors, so they don’t have to develop their own enrichment capacity that could be misused to produce the fuel for nuclear weapons. So it takes that off the table and as a result it makes everyone in the world safer,” Weber said.

“If this fuel bank had existed ten years ago, perhaps Iran would not have pursued uranium enrichment even to low-enriched uranium for peaceful use in its power reactors. They would have had a reliable, international supply devoid of politics under UN and IAEA auspices.”

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News