Michele Kearney's Nuclear Wire

Major Energy and Environmental News and Commentary affecting the Nuclear Industry.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Reforming the NPT to include India By A. Vinod Kumar

Reforming the NPT to include India
By A. Vinod Kumar | 1 May 2010

* A renewed debate is taking place in India about whether or not it should reconsider its stance on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
* For decades now, New Delhi has refused to join the treaty, which it considers flawed and discriminatory.
* Realistically, however, India won't consider becoming a NPT member until the treaty is significantly revamped.

For decades now, India has obstinately resisted the idea of joining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), claiming that the treaty is both flawed and discriminatory. Thus, India, a country with a nuclear weapons arsenal, has long stood outside of the nonproliferation regime. Yet recent government statements seem to indicate that New Delhi is rethinking its stance on the treaty--a very timely discussion, given the upcoming 2010 NPT Review Conference, at which reforming the treaty to reflect current security considerations is likely to be a topic of deliberation.

The first sign of an Indian change of heart came about six months ago when New Delhi officially responded to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1887, which (among other things) exhorts all non-state parties to join the NPT and thereby "universalize" it. India's permanent U.N. representative wrote to the Security Council the day after the resolution: "India cannot accept calls for universalization of the NPT. . . . [T]here is no question of India joining the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state." While this might sound like an outright rejection, the statement actually hinted that India could consider joining the NPT--as something other than a non-nuclear weapon state, of course.

Such a possibility was corroborated last November by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he indicated to CNN's Fareed Zakaria that India would be willing to join the NPT if invited as a nuclear weapon state--the first time an Indian head of government had expressed a desire to join the treaty. Taking a cue from Singh, a debate on the virtues of joining the NPT has now blossomed in New Delhi's strategic circles.

Yet, in some ways, Singh's discussion with Zakaria did more to reveal the paradoxes in India's nuclear diplomacy and philosophy than to actually confront them. For example, it's telling that just hours after Singh's statement, his own Congress party disavowed it and rejected any possibility of joining the NPT. Beyond an innate opposition to the NPT, such sentiments demonstrate the predominant thinking in India that few realistic opportunities exist to join the NPT under a true recognition of the nation's nuclear weapon status--the most likely culprit for New Delhi's perplexing behavior in international nuclear matters. To wit, India frequently projects itself as a responsible nuclear weapon state in total adherence with NPT principles, while at the same time clamoring for a Nuclear Weapons Convention that could overturn the NPT.

Along these lines, when the 2000 NPT Review Conference was in session, India's foreign minister declared to the country's Parliament: "Though not a party to the NPT, India's policies have been consistent with the key provisions of [the] NPT that apply to nuclear weapon states. . . . The NPT community needs to understand that India cannot join the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state."

Ultimately, India seems to want two things: (1) to showcase its nonproliferation record and (2) to gain legitimacy for its nuclear weapons. And for a time--most especially during the negotiations for the U.S.-India nuclear deal, which brought India much closer to the nonproliferation regime than ever before--it appeared as though New Delhi's odd posturing regarding the NPT was going to pay off.

But in recent months much has changed. In particular, President Barack Obama's determination to revive nuclear disarmament efforts has put new pressure on India to join the NPT. For instance, in July 2009 the Group of Eight proposed greater controls on the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies to non-NPT states. Despite assurances from Washington that the proposed restrictions weren't aimed specifically at India, New Delhi has felt the NPT looming larger than ever before.

To understand how India might be brought into the NPT, we need to look closely at New Delhi's approach to the treaty. India maintains that the NPT is discriminatory because of an imbalance between the obligations of the five recognized nuclear weapon states under the treaty (the United States, Russia, Britain, France, and China) and the countries the treaty classifies as non-nuclear weapon states--i.e., everybody else. New Delhi also feels that the NPT is discriminatory because of its rigid structure, which denies nuclear weapon state status to countries that tested nuclear weapons after 1968, which, by definition, leaves New Delhi out of the exclusive NPT weapons group. (India tested its first nuclear device in 1974.)

Since its second round of nuclear testing in 1998, New Delhi has consistently rejected demands to accede to the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state, implying that India endorses the NPT's raison d'être but will only consider joining the treaty when it's allowed membership as a nuclear weapon state. Naturally, this raises the question of whether New Delhi would continue to treat the NPT as discriminatory if it were granted nuclear weapon state status. In any case, the possibility of India joining the NPT as a nuclear weapon state seems remote because the nonproliferation regime doesn't want to expand the official nuclear club for fear of encouraging other nuclear aspirants.

Nor is it feasible to think India would ever join the treaty as a non-nuclear weapon state, which would mean adhering to a comprehensive safeguards agreement that would force India to open up all its nuclear-related facilities (military included) to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Thus, New Delhi will only seriously consider becoming an NPT member if the treaty is restructured to integrate non-signatory states such as itself in a manner that recognizes its nuclear weapons.

Various proposals to reform the NPT have been discussed in recent months. One recent proposal calls for a revision of the 1968 cutoff date for nuclear weapon state status in order to include India. However, such arguments don't take into account the fact that India considers the 1974 test a peaceful nuclear explosion and not part of a weaponization effort. If the cutoff date were pushed to 1998, it would automatically make Pakistan eligible for any concession given to India, creating another layer of complexities.

Other constructive proposals include a special protocol to allow India (and Pakistan and Israel, the other two NPT non-signatories with nuclear weapons) to function as if they were NPT nuclear weapon states. Although not formally NPT members, they would be treated on par with the United States, Russia, Britain, France, and China but retain their existing safeguard arrangements. The question is whether such a move would enhance the nonproliferation regime or merely be symbolic.

It's also possible that a third category (e.g., "state with nuclear weapons" or "advanced states with nuclear technological capability") could be added to the NPT. These states would qualify for such a designation by meeting certain benchmarks--a la their nonproliferation track record. Precedents for this type of an arrangement exist. Look, for instance, at the makeup of the IAEA Board of Governors or the Annex II countries of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, or even the description of India as a 'state with advanced nuclear technology capability" in the July 2005 joint statement by President George W. Bush and Singh, which facilitated the U.S.-India nuclear deal. The nonproliferation regime could work on similar definitional frameworks, which should be limited to India, Pakistan, and Israel and prevent loopholes for defection.

Will it happen? Legally it certainly can be attained. According to Article VIII of the NPT, an amendment conference can be called with support from one-third of the treaty's members. Actual approval would require a majority of the state parties, including the nuclear weapon states and those countries that are members of the IAEA Board of Governors. Politically, however, it will be a bit trickier. It's likely that many state parties would resist because such adjustments could be seen as preferential treatment for a select few.

Nonetheless, it isn't impossible--especially if India were to campaign for such an amendment. Unfortunately, notwithstanding Singh's affirmation, the current mood within the Indian establishment is to ignore the NPT for the moment and explore other avenues to engage with the nonproliferation regime. But interesting proposals from the NPT community could change the Indian attitude.

Washington has certainly given hope to such a transformation. In an October 2009 speech at the U.S. Institute for Peace, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of a future in which India will be "a major player at the table" in nonproliferation efforts. "India we see as a full partner in this effort, and we look forward to working with [New Delhi] as we try to come up with the twenty-first century version of the NPT," she said, seemingly indicating U.S. interest in fostering ways in which to include non-NPT states such as India in the nonproliferation regime. Similarly, in remarks PDF at a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace event in March, Susan Burk, President Obama's special representative for nuclear nonproliferation, said the question of universal adherence to the NPT could be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, thus alluding to a dialogue with India on its NPT accession.

Now it's up to New Delhi to decide whether or not it wants to play along.



US non-proliferation agenda caught in web of contradictions The Hindu - Narayan Lakshman

US non-proliferation agenda caught in web of contradictions The Hindu - Narayan Lakshman

On the eve of the next big nuclear-related event of the Obama presidency, the United States' non-proliferation engine is shuddering dangerously, indeed running the risk of choking itself in a web of contradictions.



Joint venture launched for Chinese fast reactor

Joint venture launched for Chinese fast reactor 30 April 2010
A joint venture company has been officially established for the construction of China's first commercial-scale fast neutron reactor, near Sanming city in Fujian province.

The joint venture - Sanming Nuclear Power Co Ltd - was established by China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC), Fujian Investment and Development Corp and the municipal government of Sanming city. CNNC holds a majority stake in the venture. A ceremony, attended by company officials and local dignitaries, was held on 28 April to mark the joint venture's inauguration.

The joint venture is officially launched (Image: CNNC)

According to a statement from CNNC, a site survey at Sanming was completed in 2007, while a preliminary feasibility study was completed in 2008. Proposals were submitted in 2009 to build a demonstration fast reactor at Sanming in cooperation with Russia. A comprehensive feasibility study into the construction of the Sanming fast reactor was launched on 23 April during the first general meeting of the project partners.

In October 2009, a high-level agreement was signed for Russia to start pre-project and design works for two commercial 800 MWe fast neutron reactors in China, with construction due to start in August 2011. The agreement, signed with Russia's AtomStroyExport by the China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE) and the Chinese Nuclear Energy Industry Company (CNEIC) - a CNNC subsidiary responsible for technology imports - followed a call a year earlier by the Russian-Chinese Nuclear Cooperation Commission for construction of a demonstration fast reactor similar to the BN-800 unit being built at Beloyarsk in Russia and due to start up in 2012. Earlier in 2009, St Petersburg Atomenergopoekt said it was starting design work on a BN-800 reactor for China, with two proposed at coastal sites. The project is expected to lead to bilateral cooperation on fuel cycles for fast reactors.

Russia and China are already cooperating on one fast reactor, a small 65 MWt sodium-cooled unit known as the Chinese Experimental Fast Reactor at the China Institute of Atomic Energy near Beijing. OKBM Afrikantov is leading a Russian collaboration to build the unit, which is nearing completion.

Commercial-scale fast reactors based on it were envisaged but these may now give way to the Russian BN-800 project, which would be the first time commercial-scale fast neutron reactors have ever been exported. While thermal-spectrum nuclear reactors are the mainstay of atomic energy at the moment, by about 2040 future fuel cycles based on fast-spectrum reactors could extend uranium supplies for many centuries. While several leading nuclear nations have developed prototypes with varying levels of success, only Russia is currently committed to their commercial use.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News



Friday, April 30, 2010

Nuclear industry to hire for growth, retirements

Nuclear industry to hire for growth, retirements

Associated Press Writer

ATLANTA -- The Southern Co. believes it can break ground on the country's first nuclear plant in 30 years, but it will need a new generation of workers to run it.

Plans for building a wave of nuclear reactors would create a need for 12,000 to 21,000 new workers ranging from specially trained maintenance crews to nuclear physicists and engineers. The need for labor is compounded since more than a third of the country's existing nuclear workers will be eligible for retirement in four years.

To cope with the demand, nuclear power firms nationwide are partnering with more than 40 community colleges on a new curriculum designed to train entry level workers and give them a head start when it comes to finding a job.

In Georgia, Augusta Technical College began accepting applications in April from students interested in a two-year course to prepare them for entry-level jobs at the Southern Co.'s expanded Plant Vogtle and elsewhere.

If the Atlanta-based Southern Co. wins federal approval to build the reactors, the company hopes they will be fully operational by 2017 and provide 850 local jobs. Power companies have submitted 17 applications to build and operate nuclear reactors across the country, from Texas and Michigan to Missouri and South Carolina.

"We're putting together work force development pipelines," said Andrew Bouldin, who helps coordinate recruiting for Southern Co.'s nuclear subsidiary. "The technical colleges have a good track record of teaching technical education, and it's a great way to make sure we have technically savvy candidates."

Nuclear power companies have not faced a large need to hire workers for decades. All the nation's 104 operating reactors won permission to build by 1978. By the late 1970s, the industry was stalling because a bad economy cut the overall need for electricity and soaring interest rates made nuclear plants expensive to build.

In 1979, a nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania turned public sentiment against the industry. Hiring dwindled as companies shied away from new reactors. Meanwhile, safety improvements required after the accident caused delays in plants where building was under way, further reducing the need for new employees.

Many of the workers who were hired during that period are approaching the end of their careers. A 2009 survey by the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute showed 38 percent of industry workers will be eligible for retirement by 2014.

"It's not worrisome, but it's something we need to plan for," said Carol Berrigan, the institute's senior director of industry infrastructure. "We haven't had the need to bring people in because we were pretty much fully staffed for quite some time."

One need is for workers who can monitor control systems, perform routine maintenance and check for radiation. Nuclear plants need far more of these technicians than higher-level plant operators, said Bruce Meffert, who launched a training program in 2004 at Linn State Technical College in Missouri.

Utilities once had better success hiring staff from the U.S. Navy, which trains sailors for its nuclear-powered fleet. However, the size of the fleet has shrunk, and the Navy now pays better retention bonuses to keep its skilled workers, Meffert said.

He began the program after an official at power utility AmerenUE told him about the difficulty of finding new radiation protection workers. The firm operates a nuclear power plant in Missouri.

"There just weren't schools that put out people that met the requirements," Meffert said.

Given the lack of training programs, officials with the Nuclear Energy Institute worked with Meffert and other educators to create a standard, two-year curriculum that will be offered at more than 40 community colleges nationwide. Besides fulfilling basic state requirements in the liberal arts, students take classes in mathematics, electrical engineering technology and learn about mechanical controllers, nuclear reactors, radiation protection and the utility industry.

The first students are set to graduate in May from pilot programs at Chattanooga State Technical Community College in Tennessee and Salem Community College in New Jersey.

Latricia Lloyd, 48, enrolled in Chattanooga after a battery maker outsourced her sales job and cut her pay.

"The nuclear industry is a growth industry right now," she said. "It's a very stable job."

Robert Bumpus, 38, enrolled at Salem Community College because he wanted to enter the nuclear industry after working as a church pastor and a university letter carrier. Power utility PSEG, which operates two nuclear plants near Bumpus' home, gave him a scholarship.

"I feel pretty confident that I'll have the opportunity to start working very soon after graduation," said Bumpus, who has not yet received a job offer but remains optimistic. "I would assume they're going to want a return on their investment."

Analysts say U.S. colleges and universities provide a more reliable supply of engineers and other nuclear scientists, although the number of graduates fluctuates with the industry's ups and downs. Professors credit increased U.S. funding with helping boost undergraduate enrollment in nuclear engineering from a low of 480 students in 1999 to 1,933 students three years ago.

Sekazi Mtingwa, a senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, chaired a panel studying the nuclear work force for the American Physical Society. After years of flagging interest, he said more students are studying nuclear science.

"The interest is rising right now," he said. "I think the main thing right now is jobs."

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/04/30/v-fullstory/1605612/nuclear-industry-to-hire-for-growth.html#ixzz0mbllNoCz

China to Build Two Nuclear Reactors in Pakistan, FT Reports

China to Build Two Nuclear Reactors in Pakistan, FT Reports
April 29, 2010, 2:45 AM EDT

April 29 (Bloomberg) -- China has agreed to build two civilian nuclear reactors in Pakistan, the Financial Times reported, citing Chinese companies and unnamed government officials in Beijing and Islamabad.

The Chinese government gave approval for the construction of at least two 650-megawatt reactors in Chashma in Punjab province, according to the report. The FT didn’t say the agreement was for which phase of construction.

China’s accord to build the reactors in Pakistan heightened concerns about the safety of nuclear equipment in the South Asian nation, which is battling Taliban militants in the northwest. U.S. President Barack Obama won commitments from 46 nations, including China and Pakistan, to lock down nuclear material and keep it out of the hands of terrorists after a two- day summit in Washington ended April 14.

China and Pakistan signed an agreement to finance two 340- megawatt nuclear reactors in Chashma in February after an initial accord for the construction of the plants was agreed in 2008, China National Nuclear Corp. said in a statement on its Web site on March 1.

The 340-megawatt reactors are to be built under the third and fourth phase of the Chashma project, according to the March statement. The Chinese company, China’s biggest operator of nuclear reactors, constructed the first two reactors in Chashma.

The accord also puts China at odds with India. The two nations, which fought a war in 1962, are trying to boost relations and end years of mistrust and disagreements that include Chinese construction in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

Chen Xibo, spokesman for China National Nuclear, couldn’t be reached on his office and mobile phone for comment. Qin Zhijun, the head of the nuclear power department at the National Energy Administration, China’s top energy planning body, didn’t answer calls to his office telephone.

--Chua Baizhen. Editors: Ang Bee Lin, Ryan Woo.


Japan Companies to Start Overseas Nuclear Business, Asahi Says By Makiko Kitamura

Japan Companies to Start Overseas Nuclear Business, Asahi Says

By Makiko Kitamura

April 29 (Bloomberg) -- The Japanese government and three utilities including Tokyo Electric Power Co. will establish a nuclear power company for overseas business, the Asahi newspaper reported today.

A government-owned fund, Tokyo Electric, Kansai Electric Power Co. and Chubu Electric Power Co. will invest 100 million yen ($1.06 million) in the company to export Japanese technology for building and operating nuclear power plants, the Asahi newspaper said, without saying where it obtained the information.

Toshiba Corp., Hitachi Ltd. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. are also considering investing in the company, which may be established as early as September, Asahi said.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Why Not Start with a Nuclear-Test-Free Zone in the Middle East? Pierre Goldschmidt, Proliferation Analysis

Why Not Start with a Nuclear-Test-Free Zone in the Middle East? Pierre Goldschmidt, Proliferation Analysis

Insisting on the establishment of a Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone in the Middle East is unrealistic and creates counterproductive expectations. A Nuclear-Test-Free Zone, however, would be a step in the right direction.
Full Article



Debating NATO's Nuclear Policy Proliferation Analysis

Debating NATO's Nuclear Policy Proliferation Analysis

Editor's Note: Last week, the foreign ministers from NATO's 28 member states gathered in Tallinn, Estonia, for a two-day meeting. In the first article, Oliver Schmidt, based in Germany, reflects on the NATO talks and the utility of maintaining U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe. In the second article, Lukasz Kulesa, from Poland, discusses how the Obama administration's Nuclear Posture Review might affect NATO's nuclear policy.
Full Article



NPT Review Conference—Not a Make or Break Moment

NPT Review Conference—Not a Make or Break Moment
Deepti Choubey, Q&A
RevConSecretary Clinton will lead the U.S. delegation to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference that kicks off in New York next week. In a video Q&A, Deepti Choubey previews the conference and stresses that it is a chance for all states—not only the United States—to stabilize and strengthen the nonproliferation regime.

While success has traditionally been measured by a universal consensus final declaration, a meaningful statement that all countries agree to would be welcome, but is unlikely at this stage, says Choubey.
Full Article

Small Nuclear Power Reactors

Small Nuclear Power Reactors



Chu calls for direction on energy and climate

Chu calls for direction on energy and climate
29 April 2010

America should follow China's lead in clean energy development, including a big push to support new nuclear, US energy secretary Steven Chu has testified while climate legislation stalls.

Chu said that with the extended authority to guarantee loans for new nuclear power plants, the USA could see "six to nine new reactors in the next few years." This counts the $8.33 billion in loan guarantees already awarded to the partners of the Vogtle project, the $10.17 billion remaining to be allocated and the $36 billion-worth that has been requested for FY2011.

"We need a policy that
matches the scale of
this problem and
that will guide
investments over a
generation: We need to
put a long-term cap on
carbon that ratchets
down over time. Only a
cap on carbon will give
industry the direction
and certainty it needs."

Steven Chu
US Energy Secretary

When testifying to the Senate Energy and Water Development Subcommittee yesterday, Chu noted the investment China has made in renewable energy and ultra high voltage transmission to enable its full exploitation. "They also currently have 20 nuclear power plants under construction and more construction starts are expected soon. China largely missed out on the IT revolution, but it is playing to win in the clean energy race."

"For the sake of our economy, our security, and our environment, America must develop decisive policies that will allow us not only to compete in this clean energy race, but to become the leader in providing clean energy technology to the world," said Chu.

His testimony came just days after political work on energy and climate policy was put aside in favour of other matters.

Chu advocated a three-pronged policy, starting with energy efficiency. Next would come building more clean energy capacity with renewables and nuclear while carbon capture could follow when ready. A fully modernized electricity grid would maximise the potential of renewables and feedback from car batteries and changes in transport are badly needed to lower emissions.

"We need to reinvigorate America's nuclear power industry," said Chu. Aside from the loan guarantee support to help business to borrow the money it needs to build new reactors, "We're also pursuing new technologies, such as small modular reactors, which could serve as drop-in replacements at utility sites too small to accommodate the large present-day nuclear reactors. We see the possibility of significant new American export opportunities."

However, Chu concluded, all this can only come under a stable policy regime that rewards low-carbon development: "We need a policy that matches the scale of this problem and that will guide investments over a generation: we need to put a long-term cap on carbon that ratchets down over time. Only a cap on carbon will give industry the direction and certainty it needs."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News

Enel looks at foreign markets

Enel looks at foreign markets 27 April 2010

The prospect of Enel's involvement in the Kaliningrad nuclear project has been raised by a cooperation deal with a Russian firm.

Kaliningrad is a Russian exclave on the Baltic sea positioned between Poland and Lithuania which Russia's state nuclear industry hopes to use to exports nuclear energy from the two VVER-1200 pressurized water reactors of the forthcoming Baltic nuclear power plant.

For the first time on Russian soil Rosatom is looking for foreign partners to take up to 49% of a nuclear project, and Italian power giant Enel now looks a likely fit. A cooperation agreement was signed by Enel chief Fulvio Conti and Boris Kovalchuk of Inter RAO UES during a meeting of the Italian and Russian prime ministers at Villa Gernetto, the private home of Silvio Berlusconi.

Prime ministers Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi meet the press
after spending time at Berlusconi's villa Inter RAO UES represents a merger of a number of Russian power generators brought together in 2008 and is owned by state holding corporation Rosatom and nuclear operator Rosenergoatom. It will "provide terms and conditions for foreign investors' involvement in the Baltic nuclear power plant." It will also develop plans for the export and distribution of a "significant proportion" of power from the two 1170 MWe reactors. The Polish and Lithuanian markets would appear to be the main targets, ahead of their own plans to develop nuclear power capacity.

Separately, Enel will study the project and "evaluate the conditions and forms of its possible participation into the initiative." The plant is hoped to begin operation between 2016 and 2018.

Elsewhere in Italy

A fusion of interests

Another deal to come from the prime ministerial meeting concerned cooperation into building an Italian-designed fusion reactor called Ignitor. The unit is small at a radius of less than 2 metres and an output of 90 MWt, but would theoretically be able to achieve 'ignition' - the state when the heat produced by fusion reactions is great enough to sustain a plasma of atomic nuclei moving fast enough to fuse. Achieving this kind of steady-state plasma is the main goal of the far larger Iter project (19 metre radius and 500 MWt), and necessary before any kind of reliable fusion power plant is possible.

Politically, the most significant development coming for Italy in the near term will be a June ruling from the supreme Corte Costituzionale (Constitutional Court) concerning appeals from regional leaders against Berlusconi's national nuclear policies, which they say conflict with the need for regions to be involved in energy policy.

While Enel plans with Electricité de France to construct a number of Areva EPR units, the prospect of reviving one of Italy's shut down reactors has surfaced in comments by Senator Guido Possa to financial newspaper IlSole24Ore. Possa said decommissioning the Caorso boiling water reactor, built by General Electric in the 1970s, would cost taxpayers about €500 million while it retains some €1 billion in value.

"I'm wondering why should we renounce such an economic benefit considering that the plant worked for only six years while in the world similar plants operative life has been extended to 60," said Possa. "The operation is technically feasible and it is convenient... as decommissioning activity [to date] has not included the structure and the main equipment."

Nuclear energy an option for Gulf states

Nuclear energy an option for Gulf states


Nuclear policies are at very early stages and their political context clouded, but even oil-rich Gulf nations are considering turning to nuclear to meet their energy needs.

Officials from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - have already announced their interest in a possible shared nuclear program. Speaking in January, Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud Al Faisal said that any nuclear program would be developed "under strict controls and with peaceful intentions, to be an example for any country seeking to adopt the technology without any intention to join the nuclear arms race." In early March, foreign ministers attending the 102nd session of the GCC were briefed on talks held by the GCC secretary general and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), although no details on the outcome of these talks were reported.

Meanwhile, Jordan, which is not an oil producer, has announced plans to build its first nuclear power plant by 2015. According to energy minister Khaled Sharida, the country would like to use nuclear energy for electricity and seawater desalination and his staff are "working on a timetable for implementing the project." During a regional tour to Saudi Arabia, Oman and Jordan, IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei reiterated the Agency's readiness to "help Jordan to benefit from nuclear energy for peaceful purposes" and said that an IAEA team would be dispatched next week to look into Jordan's plans. The Jordanian parliament is expected to vote on a bill on the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes on 18 April.

Even Algeria, Africa's largest gas exporter, is looking into nuclear. Speaking on the eve of the 6th Gas Conference in Qatar, oil minister Chakib Khelil told reporters that that Algeria is planning to build nuclear power stations to meet rising demand for electricity and intends to pass a law later this year to allow the development of nuclear power plants. However, like most other countries in the region, it does not look likely that Algeria will start building a nuclear plant any time soon. "We expect to sign an agreement for a nuclear plant in the next 20 to 25 years," Khelil said.


Kuwait to form nuclear energy commission

Kuwait to form nuclear energy commission
03 March 2009

Kuwait's cabinet has approved a draft project to set up a national nuclear energy commission, the third Middle Eastern country to take steps towards establishing its own nuclear power program in recent months.

In setting up its own nuclear energy commission Kuwait is echoing the UAE in showing further commitment towards its nuclear power plans. The UAE has published its own nuclear energy policy, with plans for three operational nuclear power plants by 2020. It has signed nuclear cooperation agreements with France, Japan, the UK and the USA, and is expected to sign a contract for its first plant later this year.

Meanwhile, Jordan has also been moving towards setting up its own nuclear program. It is expected to sign a cooperation agreement with Russia soon, and according to reports has already initialled a bilateral deal with Russia's Rosatom, while AECL of Canada is exploring the feasibility of deploying Candu reactors in Jordan. Jordan has nuclear cooperation agreements in place with Canada, South Korea, the USA and the UK, and recent exploration agreements with France's Areva and Rio Tinto could herald the mining of the country's known uranium resources.

Nuclear progress for Kuwait, Saudi

Nuclear progress for Kuwait, Saudi
19 April 2010

Ministers from France and Kuwait have signed a cooperation agreement on the development of peaceful nuclear energy in the middle eastern country, while Saudi Arabia has established a new national agency to take the lead role in its nuclear activities.

Sarkozy-Al-Sabah Présidence de la République-P. Segrette)
President Sarkozy welcomes Sheikh Nasser Al Mohammed Al Ahmed Al-Sabah to France. (Image: Présidence de la République-P Segrette)

The Franco-Kuwaiti cooperation agreement was signed in Paris by French secretary of state for cooperation and francophony Alain Joyandet and Kuwait under-secretary for foreign affairs Khalid Sulaiman Al Jarrallah. The agreement will enable the two countries to cooperate across the range of civil nuclear energy applications, including electricity generation, water desalination, research, agronomy, biology, earth sciences and medicine, as well as helping Kuwait to develop its human resources and its spent fuel and waste management.

The bilateral agreement was one of three signed during a state visit by Kuwait's prime minister, Sheikh Nasser Al Mohammed Al Ahmed Al-Sabah, to France. It was described by the French government as a "concrete example" of France's pledge to share its experience with countries wishing to embark on nuclear power programs made at the international conference on access to civil nuclear power held in Paris earlier this year.

Kuwait is one of the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that commissioned a study into the peaceful use of atomic energy in December 2006. In March 2009, it announced plans to set up a national nuclear energy commission, in cooperation with the IAEA, and in January this year the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and Kuwaiti Committee for the Peaceful Usage of Atomic Energy signed an agreement on developing nuclear cooperation and exchanging expertise.

Saudi sets up nuclear 'city'

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is to establish a centre that will take a major role in its moves to set up a nuclear power program. The centre, called the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, was established by a royal order issued by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz on 17 April.

The Riyadh-based 'city' will be tasked with promoting research, making future deals, and overseeing activities related to the use of atomic energy, according to an announcement by the Saudi Arabian government. It will also be the competent agency in charge of fulfilling national requirements in reference to existing and future treaties on nuclear and renewable energy signed by the kingdom, as well as being responsible for supervising works related to nuclear energy and radioactive waste projects.

The initiative will be primarily funded through allocations from the state budget.


How Much Do You Know About the Non-Proliferation Treaty?

How Much Do You Know About the Non-Proliferation Treaty?
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty 40-Year Review Conference will kick off at the UN next Monday. Just how important is it?



When Saudi Arabia Goes Nuclear - Michael Freund, Jerusalem Post

When Saudi Arabia Goes Nuclear - Michael Freund, Jerusalem Post

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Past and Present by Lawrence S. Wittner

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Past and Present by Lawrence S. Wittner



THE ROVING EYE Iran, Brazil and the 'bomb'

Iran, Brazil and the 'bomb'

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva visits Tehran next month and has offered to enrich uranium for Iran. For "full spectrum dominance" hawks this is anathema, and it matters little that there is no consensus among the so-called "international community" on isolating Iran. Lula for his part is adamant that more sanctions on Tehran will open the way for all-out war, not prevent it. - Pepe Escobar (Apr 29, '10)

Report: Mitsubishi Heavy may purchase share in Areva for $430M

Report: Mitsubishi Heavy may purchase share in Areva for $430M
Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is in discussions to acquire an interest of more than 2% in France's Areva for $430 million, according to a newspaper report. The possible transaction is included in Areva's plan to boost capital to finance research and development for new nuclear energy projects. Reuters



Oak Ridge ideal for small reactor, Alexander says

Oak Ridge ideal for small reactor, Alexander says
Energy Dept. is asked to pilot-test small modular reactor
The Department of Energy should consider pilot-testing a small modular reactor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. At a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, Alexander said testing a 125-megawatt nuclear reactor at Oak Ridge would reduce startup costs and help the agency meet 48% of its greenhouse-gas emissions target. Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tenn.)

Areva to work on Californian nuclear plant

Areva to work on Californian nuclear plant
Areva, FNEG to develop advanced nuclear reactor in California
France's Areva signed a agreement to develop a 1,600-megawatt European Pressurized Reactor in California's Central Valley with Fresno Nuclear Energy Group. "Our goal is to create a power-producing infrastructure that combines clean electric energy sources, including nuclear, solar, and future technologies," said John Hutson, president of FNEG, in a statement. Bloomberg Businessweek/The Associated Press

U.S. DOE says $13 bln needed in nuclear loan help

Chu: Nuclear projects need $13B more in federal loan guarantees
The Energy Department would need an extra $13 billion from Congress to award loan guarantees for the construction of three nuclear plants, Energy Secretary Steven Chu told a Senate subcommittee this week. The department granted $8.3 billion in loan guarantees to help Southern add two reactors to an existing facility in Georgia, and the remaining $12 billion would only be enough to fund one more project. Reuters

India's Commercial Fast Breeder Nuclear Reactor Delayed

India to push back startup of fast-breeder nuclear reactor
India's Commercial Fast Breeder Nuclear Reactor Delayed
The startup of India's first fast-breeder nuclear reactor will be likely pushed back by a year. A tsunami six years ago seriously damaged the raft that holds the reactor's civil structure, and it had to be rebuilt, Science and Technology Minister Prithviraj Chavan said. A series of mock tests to check against technical specifications was another factor in the delay, he added. The Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones Newswires

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Putin Proposes Russia, Ukraine Nuclear Energy Merger (Update2)

Putin eyes nuclear energy project with Ukraine
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stated plans to establish a nuclear-power holding company with Ukraine. "We have made massive proposals, referring to generation, nuclear-power engineering and nuclear fuel," Putin said after discussions with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Bloomberg Businessweek

NTPC, Nuclear Power Corp Sign JV

Indian companies forge joint venture on nuclear projects
NTPC struck a deal to start a joint venture with Nuclear Power Corp. of India for the construction of nuclear facilities. NTPC will control a 49% interest, and NPCIL will hold a 51% stake in the venture. The Wall Street Journal

Illinois should lift ban on new nuclear plants - Editorial

Illinois should lift ban on new nuclear plants
A Decatur Herald-Review editorial urges the Illinois legislature to pass a bill that lifts the state's ban on new nuclear plants. State law requires a federal plan for nuclear-waste disposal to be in place before plants may be built. "Nuclear waste is an issue, but it shouldn't stop the state, or the nation, from investing in nuclear power. ... Given the state's position in nuclear-power creation, it would be unwise to sit idly by and allow other states to bid on a new nuclear plant," the editorial argues. Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.)

Senate hopeful in Nev. details plans for Yucca Mountain project; Lowden Attends Pro-Nuclear Energy Meeting In Reno By Phillip Moyer

Lowden Attends Pro-Nuclear Energy Meeting In Reno
By Phillip Moyer
Senate hopeful in Nev. details plans for Yucca Mountain project

Nevada senatorial candidate Sue Lowden said she is committed to revising the Nuclear Waste Policy Act so that it requires the Yucca Mountain project to be prepared for reprocessing nuclear waste into usable fuel, as well as becoming a long-term storage facility for the material. Lowden also believes that the federal government's move to plan for Yucca without input from the state's citizens is the main reason for opposition towards the project. Nevada News Bureau

PGE, Westinghouse Sign Memorandum On Nuclear Cooperation

Westinghouse signs memorandum for Polish nuclear project
Westinghouse Electric has signed a memorandum of nuclear cooperation with Poland's top electric company, Polska Grupa Energetyczna. The deal calls for the companies to conduct a feasibility study for Poland's first nuclear plant, whose initial phase is slated for 2020. The Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones Newswires

S.C. high court allows $9.8 billion project to proceed

S.C. high court allows $9.8 billion project to proceed
The South Carolina Supreme Court has ruled against an appeal by advocacy group Friends of the Earth to block the construction of two nuclear reactors in Fairfield County. The court's decision upheld the ruling made by the state Public Service Commission last year, which allowed SCE&G and Santee Cooper to help finance the $9.8 billion project. Construction is planned to begin in 2013, although SCE&G is waiting for federal approval. A Friends of the Earth spokesman said the group will continue to fight the project and is reviewing its legal options. The State (Columbia,

Global Strikeout Joseph Cirincione, Foreign Policy

Global Strikeout
Joseph Cirincione, Foreign Policy

New weapons systems should always meet three requirements: They should be feasible, needed, and affordable. The proposed Prompt Global Strike program, which according to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been "embraced by the new administration," does not meet any.

Iranian Technocrats, Disillusioned with Government, Offer Wealth of Intelligence to U.S. Joby Warrick and Greg Miller, The Washington Post

Iranian Technocrats, Disillusioned with Government, Offer Wealth of Intelligence to U.S.
Joby Warrick and Greg Miller, The Washington Post

Editor's Note: Some analysts have questioned the factual basis of information being provided by Iranian defectors regarding the country's nuclear program.

Iran's political turmoil has prompted a growing number of the country's officials to defect or leak information to the West, creating a new flow of intelligence about its secretive nuclear program, U.S. officials said.
Full Article

Iran Reactor-Fuel Swap Floated by Brazil, Tied to Cooperation Ali Sheikholeslami, Bloomberg

Iran Reactor-Fuel Swap Floated by Brazil, Tied to Cooperation
Ali Sheikholeslami, Bloomberg

Brazil said it may offer its territory as the site for an exchange of uranium that would provide reactor fuel for Iran, provided the country increases its cooperation with United Nations nuclear inspectors.

Medvedev Says Russia Interested in NATO Proposals on Anti-Missile Defense RIA Novosti

Medvedev Says Russia Interested in NATO Proposals on Anti-Missile Defense
RIA Novosti

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow is interested in cooperation with NATO on issues of anti-missile defense in Europe.

Pakistan Deal Signals China's Growing Nuclear Assertiveness Mark Hibbs, Nuclear Energy Brief

Pakistan Deal Signals China's Growing Nuclear Assertiveness
Mark Hibbs, Nuclear Energy Brief
Contrary to guidelines adopted in 1992 by nuclear equipment supplier states in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), China is poised to export two power reactors to Pakistan.

Guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), representing 46 NPT states, call on parties to the NPT not to supply nuclear equipment to non–nuclear-weapon states without comprehensive IAEA safeguards, including Pakistan. China joined the NSG in 2004.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

* China starts work on Hainan nuclear power plant

China starts work on Hainan nuclear power plant
China National Nuclear began construction of a $2.8 billion nuclear plant in Hainan province that will have a capacity of 1,300 megawatts. The first of two units will start generating power by the end of 2014, the company said. Bloomberg Businessweek

Enel to build Russian nuclear plant with Inter RAO

Enel to build Russian nuclear plant with Inter RAO
Italy's Enel forged a deal with Russia's Inter RAO to construct a 2,340-megawatt nuclear facility in Kaliningrad, Russia, as part of a memorandum of understanding for cooperation on nuclear energy. The plant will use third-generation VVER 1200 technology and is expected to begin operation between 2016 and 2018, the companies said. Reuters

Rethink disposal of nuclear waste By Donald A. Grant

Rethink disposal of nuclear waste

By Donald A. Grant

What if, after all the heated debate over nuclear waste disposal, we learned about a technology that could significantly reduce the amount of waste generated at nuclear power plants?

And what if, after all the contention between supporters and opponents of nuclear power, it turned out that the waste contains valuable nuclear materials that could be recycled using a process that was developed in the United States more than a half-century ago but later banned by President Jimmy Carter in the mid-1970s, on grounds that its use could lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons?

Given that the French and British never followed the U.S. example and continued to recycle nuclear waste safely and efficiently, without the loss of any plutonium that could be misused, isn’t that reason enough to consider reviving this technology? You would think something would be done to learn more about nuclear recycling to see if it could be put to use in the United States once again.

Exactly that is happening now that a national commission is considering what should done with nuclear waste in the wake of President Barack Obama’s decision to cut off funding for construction of an underground repository for nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Energy Secretary Steven Chu directed the commission, co-chaired by former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., and former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, to give serious consideration to the recycling of nuclear waste.

Although it’s commonly called nuclear waste, the material that nuclear power plants produce as a byproduct of electricity is used fuel. About 65,000 tons of used fuel now is stored in engineered water pools and concrete-and-steel casks at the sites of operating nuclear plants and reactors such as Maine Yankee and Yankee Rowe in Massachusetts that have been decommissioned.

The technology for recycling, also known as reprocessing, was developed more than a half-century ago. Uranium and plutonium are removed from used fuel and chemically processed into a mixed oxide fuel that can be used in nuclear plants to produce more electricity. Most countries with nuclear power programs use reprocessing facilities to close the nuclear fuel cycle.

Reprocessing is no panacea. A relatively small amount of high-level radioactive waste that can’t be reprocessed would need to be stored in an underground repository. But upwards of 97 percent of the used fuel is reprocessed. Consequently, only one repository, instead of two or three repositories, would be needed to hold the waste produced over the past 50 years at nuclear power plants and the defense program. This would help resolve the nuclear waste problem and extend global uranium resources.

Recycling would cast the nuclear waste issue in a completely new light. Maine is one of 12 states that have imposed a moratorium on the construction of new nuclear plants until the nuclear waste problem is resolved. Among the other states with bans on new nuclear plants are California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Wisconsin. If reprocessing were revived, it would give states an impetus to rescind their bans. Experts say that nuclear waste could be stored safely at interim sites for another 300 years or until a repository becomes available.

Opponents of nuclear power contend that constructing a nuclear reprocessing facility would be too costly and that there are much cheaper ways than the increased use of nuclear power to supply electricity. Some Greens want to end the use of nuclear power altogether.

Never mind that nuclear plants emit zero carbon dioxide and are the only clean alternative to coal for base-load electricity. Never mind that wind and solar energy are intermittent. Neither produces electricity more than 30 percent of the time. And when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, output drops to zero. Both require backup power from turbines using costly natural gas. By contrast, nuclear plants produce electricity 90 percent of the time.

How would we pay for a reprocessing facility? Since 1982, users of nuclear-generated electricity have paid a small fee into a Nuclear Waste Fund to finance construction of the Yucca Mountain repository. More than $30 billion, with interest, was paid into the fund, of which less than $10 billion was spent on the Yucca Mountain project. Some of the balance could be used to build a reprocessing facility.

That’s not as far-fetched as it might seem to some skeptics. A government facility for reprocessing surplus plutonium from the U.S. weapons stockpile is nearing completion at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The plutonium will be converted into mixed oxide fuel and sold for use at nuclear power plants to generate electricity.

Unless something is done to address the nuclear waste problem, nuclear power will be hobbled for years to come. And that’s something we can ill afford, not with the looming danger of global warming. Reprocessing used fuel is a sensible idea. France and Great Britain are using it to good effect. We should, too.

It would be great to see bipartisan support for reprocessing from President Obama and Republicans in Congress who disagree on almost everything else.

Donald A. Grant is chairman and professor emeritus of the mechanical engineering department at the University of Maine.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Renewable Energy Goals Powering Investment in North American Electricity Transmission

Renewable Energy Goals Powering Investment in North American Electricity Transmission
from SeekingAlpha.com: Home Page by Research Recap
Research Recap submits:

Fitch Ratings expects the growing investment by utilities in U.S. electric transmission infrastructure will continue, with another $23.3 billion in spending expected over the next two years.

Transmission investment has increased steadily over the last ten years, more than doubling between 2000 and 2010. While capital spending by U.S. electric utilities has been rising over the past decade, the share of total capex represented by electric transmission also increased. In addition to the reliability impetus for the initial round of transmission spending, specifically avoiding repeats of the 2003 Blackout, another key driver for future transmission investments will be to bring power from renewable generation to faraway load centers.

Complete Story

Brazil Says It Supports 'Peaceful' Iranian Nuclear Work

Brazil Says It Supports 'Peaceful' Iranian Nuclear Work
from VOA News
Foreign Minister Celso Amorim says Brazil supports expansion of what he calls ‘peaceful nuclear activities’ for Iran's people


NEI: Nuclear sector to gain from federal loan guarantees

NEI: Nuclear sector to gain from federal loan guarantees
Loan guarantees are good for ratepayers, taxpayers and the nuclear industry, according to Leslie Kass of the Nuclear Energy Institute. Speaking before a subcommittee of the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform panel, Kass said that the federal government provides such guarantees for other industries. Meanwhile, Jack Spencer, an analyst at The Heritage Foundation, called for a limited loan-guarantee program to encourage investment in the nuclear sector. The Heritage Foundation/The Foundry blog

PSEG is moving forward with nuclear-construction plans

PSEG is moving forward with nuclear-construction plans
PSEG Nuclear seeks to obtain an early site permit for the construction of a fourth nuclear reactor at the Salem/Hope Creek site in New Jersey, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The agency will hold a meeting next month on details of the review process and public participation. "In terms of PSEG's interest in a new reactor, this would be the first, concrete submittal," NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said. Philly.com (Philadelphia)/The Associated Press (4/23) , The News Journal (Wilmington, Del.)

IHI, Toshiba eye joint venture on reactor components

IHI, Toshiba eye joint venture on reactor components
Japan's IHI and Toshiba are in discussions to start a partnership aimed at building nuclear plant components. "We are now in talks about jointly producing steam turbine casings and nozzles, but nothing has been decided," a Toshiba spokesman said. Reuters

NUCLEAR REPOSITORY: NRC sets June 1 deadline for Yucca Mountain decision Expedited decision may speed closure of waste site

NUCLEAR REPOSITORY: NRC sets June 1 deadline for Yucca Mountain decision

Expedited decision may speed closure of waste site