Monthly Archives: June 2016

India, Westinghouse in ‘advanced’ talks to close nuclear deal

Reuters | Washington | Valerie Volcovici | June 1, 2016

Visitors look at a nuclear power plant station model by American company Westinghouse at the World Nuclear Exhibition 2014, the trade fair event for the global nuclear energy sector, in Le Bourget, near Paris October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

Visitors look at a nuclear power plant station model by American company Westinghouse at the World Nuclear Exhibition 2014, the trade fair event for the global nuclear energy sector, in Le Bourget, near Paris October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

Toshiba Corp’s Westinghouse Electric and India are in “advanced discussions” for the company to build six nuclear reactors there, the country’s ambassador to the United States said on Wednesday, ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s planned visit to Washington next week.

A deal with Westinghouse would be the first such contract reached under the 2008 U.S.-India civil nuclear accord.

“There is a very detailed and advanced negotiation between Westinghouse and India,” Ambassador Arun Singh told reporters. “The issues that remain to be worked out are related to cost and financing.”

Progress on the deal to build six AP-1000 nuclear reactors is one of the key developments anticipated during the June 7-8 visit by Modi to Washington, where he will be hosted by President Barack Obama for a final summit before the U.S. presidential election in November. Modi will address both houses of Congress.

The United States and India agreed in 2008 to cooperate in the civil nuclear arena, but there have been no agreements yet to build any plants.

Reuters reported Tuesday that Westinghouse and India reached a breakthrough after officials said it will relocate the planned project in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. The original site proposed for the multi-billion-dollar project, in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, faced local opposition.

Another obstacle had been to bring India’s liability rules into line with international norms, which require the costs of an accident to be channeled to the operator rather than the maker of a nuclear power station.

That issue had been largely resolved to the satisfaction of the U.S. government in January 2015 after the United States and India reached a “breakthrough understanding” on nuclear cooperation.

Singh told reporters “to the best of my knowledge” insurance was no longer an issue in the discussions.

Westinghouse had hoped to clinch a deal to build six nuclear reactors in India by the end of March, during Modi’s last Washington trip to attend a global nuclear summit.

U.S. lawmakers ratified the civil nuclear accord three years after it was struck in 2005, as part of an attempt to deepen the strategic relationship with India, but have expressed growing dismay over its failure to yield follow-on deals for U.S.-based reactor makers.

(Amends source of background information in paragraph 6.)

(Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by David Gregorio)

 

Japan’s new law on funding plutonium reprocessing

IPFM Blog | Tatsujiro Suzuki and Masa Takubo | May 26, 2016

On 11 May 2016, Japan’s parliament passed a “Law Regarding Implementation of Reprocessing, etc. of Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Generation” (our translation). The new law is to go into effect within six months. Its stated primary objective is to assure continued funding for reprocessing and MOX fuel fabrication even if nuclear utilities go bankrupt after Japan’s market for electric power is fully liberalized.

The new law amends the 2005 “Law regarding Deposit and Management of the Reserve Funds for Reprocessing, etc. of Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Generation” and has three basic features:

  1. It establishes the Spent Fuel Reprocessing Organization, a government-approved entity responsible for collecting funds required for reprocessing and MOX fuel fabrication (Article 10.14; although the law provides for the possibility of multiple “Organizations,” there will most probably be only one). This Organization will contract out actual reprocessing and MOX fuel fabrication operations to Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL), which has built the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant and is completing the adjacent MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility.
  2. It requires Japan’s nuclear utilities to pay “contributions” to the Spent Fuel Reprocessing Organization every fiscal year to cover the expected cost for reprocessing of all spent fuel they generated in the previous fiscal year and for turning the resulting separated plutonium into MOX fuel (Article 3.7). The contributions will be based on the amount of the electricity generated.
  3. It requires that the Spent Fuel Reprocessing Organization’s reprocessing plan be approved by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) (Article 45), who is also responsible for approving the establishment of the Organization (Article 17).

The new law also has other several features that buttress Japan’s commitment to plutonium separation:

  1. It provides for the funding of reprocessing of all spent fuel and producing MOX fuel from all plutonium, while the previous law covered only the funding for the Rokkasho reprocessing plant. The funds that the utilities have voluntarily been setting aside for reprocessing spent fuel not to be dealt with by the Rokkasho plant will now be transferred to the Organization. This means that the new system will provide for a commercial reprocessing plant beyond Rokkasho, despite the fact that there currently appears to be no prospect for building another commercial plant.
  2. The new law gives the government stronger authority over the reprocessing business. The purpose of the law is “steady implementation of reprocessing,” making it possible for the government to force utilities to reprocess all their spent fuel.
  3. Finally, the law forces Japan’s utilities to continue separating plutonium regardless of future plutonium consumption plans. There is nothing in the law to enforce Japan’s “no plutonium surplus policy.”

Concerned about the inflexibility of the law and lack of consideration of Japan’s plutonium balance, Japan’s parliament added a required review of the law in three years instead of the five years originally proposed by the government and adopted a supplementary resolution that includes the following conditions:

  1. When the situation changes, the government must review and take necessary measures, taking into account the views expressed during the parliamentary debate.
  2. Direct disposal and spent fuel storage options must be developed to secure flexibility in spent fuel management. However the law which prohibits direct disposal of spent fuel remains in force.
  3. Given Japan’s stated commitment “not to possess plutonium without purpose for use,” the Minister of METI shall not approve any reprocessing plan violating this principle.
  4. Before approving a reprocessing plan, the Minister of METI must obtain the advice of Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC). JAEC is supposed to review the annual “plutonium usage plan” submitted by the utilities to check the balance of plutonium supply and demand before reprocessing takes place. However, the utilities have not submitted a new plan since 2010.
  5. A scheme must be established to assess the implications and impacts of Japan’s reprocessing program from a broad perspective, including taking into consideration its implications for international security.
  6. The government must take stronger responsibility for enhancing spent fuel storage capacity and tackling the challenges concerning final disposal of high level waste.
  7. Reprocessing should proceed with sincere dialogue with local communities to obtain understanding and cooperation. This condition is considered necessary as any change in the current reprocessing program may trigger opposition from Aomori prefecture, which hosts the Rokkasho reprocessing plant.

These conditions, however, are not legally binding and it is not clear if they will be effective in establishing a balance between plutonium separation and use in Japan.

FULL May 27 IAEA IRAN REPORT

Arms Control Law | Dan Joyner | May 28, 2016

Readers will likely have read media reports today summarizing the IAEA’s latest official report on Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA and Security Council Resolution 2231, which was presented to the IAEA Board of Governors today. A full copy of the IAEA report has, fortunately, been provided to ACL in the interests of transparency by a source in Vienna. You can find it at the link below.

The five page report finds that Iran is upholding its commitments under the JCPOA, and has been cooperating with IAEA inspectors. It concludes:

The Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities and locations outside facilities where nuclear material is customarily used (LOFs) declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement. Evaluations regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities for Iran remained ongoing.

Noticeably absent, of course, is any consideration of whether the other parties to the JCPOA, including particularly the U.S., are abiding by their JCPOA commitments. I think this would actually make for more interesting reading.

Iran Report May 27 2016