Michele Kearney's Nuclear Wire

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

Saturday, November 27, 2010

*Nicholson M, Biegler T & Brook BW. (2010) How carbon pricing changes the relative competitiveness of low-carbon baseload generating technologies

. Energy, doi:10.1016/j.energy.2010.10.039
A new paper by three Australian researchers, published in the international peer-reviewed journal Energy, looks at 16 electricity generating technologies as candidates for meeting future greenhouse emission reduction targets.
The technologies are assessed in terms of their potential to produce reliable, continuous, baseload power. The assessment covers performance, cost and carbon emissions.
Cost, and the impact of carbon pricing on that cost, is analysed on the basis of 15 comprehensive cost studies published over the past decade. Similarly the carbon intensity estimates are based on 14 published studies of life cycle greenhouse emissions from electricity generation. The comprehensive range of authoritative studies analysed (including research from the International Energy Agency, Energy Information Administration, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) means that the results that emerge are reliable, comparable and representative.
For a technology to be considered fit-for-service as a baseload generator it needs to be scalable, have a reliable fuel supply, a low or moderate emissions intensity, and high availability without the need for a large external energy storage facility.
It turns out that technology options for replacing fossil fuels, based on established performance and objective cost projections, are much more limited than is popularly perceived. The review identifies only five proven low-emission technologies that could meet this set of fit-for-service criteria for the supply of baseload power. The technologies are: pulverised fuel coal combustion (PF coal) coupled with carbon capture and storage (CCS); integrated gasification combined cycle coal (IGCC) with CCS; combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) with CCS; nuclear; and solar thermal with heat storage and gas turbines.
Of these five, the only renewable technology is solar thermal with heat storage and gas backup. However, this is the most expensive of the technologies examined and replacing coal with solar thermal power would require a carbon price of over $150 per tonne of emissions.
The paper summarises the joint cost and emissions results in the diagram below. This shows how the assessed cost per megawatt-hour of electricity varies with the technology used and the price set for carbon dioxide emissions. These prices, known as levelised costs of electricity, are the accepted way of expressing the average cost of generating electrical energy over the lifetime of a plant. They are regarded as a good indicator of the average wholesale price the power station owner would need to break even, in financial terms, and can be standardised across different technologies (and so are comparable).
In the diagram, the five fit-for-service technologies are compared with costs for conventional coal-fired generators using pulverised fuel (PF). The point where each line hits the vertical axis on the left is the cost when there is no carbon price, as happens now. It shows that a modern coal power station produces the cheapest power.
As the emission price (e.g., carbon tax) rises, so does the electricity cost. Coal-based power rises fastest because it has the greatest emissions. The points where the line for PF coal crosses the other lines represent the carbon prices where each technology becomes more economic than traditional coal-fired power.
Nuclear stands out as the cheapest solution to provide low-emission baseload electricity over almost the whole carbon price range shown. The next cheapest is CCGT (natural gas) with CCS, which needs a carbon price of just over $30. To justify building either of the two coal technologies (PF or IGCC) with CCS requires a carbon price over $40.
According to international experience, if nuclear energy were adopted in Australia its initial cost (termed ‘first-of-a-kind’) would be about $30 per MWh higher than in the diagram, but would come down to that level as more plants were built.
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Nuclear is the least-cost, low-carbon, baseload power source

Nuclear is the least-cost, low-carbon, baseload power source

This is a press release to accompany a new peer-reviewed paper by Martin Nicholson, Tom Biegler and me (Barry Brook), published online this week in the journal Energy. In subsequents BNC post, I will look at how the media has reacted so far to the story (the good, the bad and the ugly), and also explore the paper’s findings in more depth. For now, here’s the overview. If you want a PDF copy of the paper, email me.
Nuclear is the least-cost, low-carbon, baseload power source
Climate change professor supports nuclear in newly published analysis
When a carbon price that is high enough to drive a technology switch eventually kicks in, only nuclear power will keep the lights on, keep electricity costs down, and meet long-term emission reduction targets, say three Australian authors in a paper published this week in international peer-reviewed journal Energy*.
Introducing a carbon price changes relative technology power costs because rates of carbon emissions differ between technologies.
“In order to understand where our future electricity will come from” says lead author Martin Nicholson, “we need the best possible insights into generating technologies, their costs and their carbon emissions”.

After analysing a wealth of peer-reviewed studies on market needs, technology performance, life-cycle emissions and electricity costs, the researchers conclude that only five technologies currently qualify for low-emission baseload generation. Of these, nuclear power is the standout solution. Nuclear is the cheapest option at all carbon prices and the only one able to meet the stringent greenhouse gas emission targets envisaged for 2050.
Only one of these five qualifiers comes from the renewable energy category – solar thermal in combination with heat storage and gas backup. However, on a cost basis, it is uncompetitive, as are the carbon capture and storage technologies.
Professor Barry Brook, director of climate science at the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute says: “I am committed to the environment, personally and professionally. The evidence is compelling  that nuclear energy must play a central role in future electricity generation. No other technology can meet our demand for power while reducing carbon emissions to meet global targets”.
Martin Nicholson says: “Researching for my book Energy in a Changing Climate made me appreciate the central issues in producing low-emission electrical energy. This new paper supports my view that Australia must prepare immediately for a future where most of its electricity will eventually come from nuclear energy”.
The researchers also note that, given the importance of reducing electricity generator emissions, the need to keep electricity costs down, and the expansion of nuclear power globally, it seems essential that the Australian government rethink its nuclear energy policy.
Contact: Barry Brook  0420 958 400   OR   Martin Nicholson   02 6684 5213http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/11/28/nuclear-is-the-least-cost-low-carbon-baseload-power-source/
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Friday, November 26, 2010

India test-fires nuclear-capable ballistic missile from eastern state of Orissa KATY DAIGLE

India successfully tested a short-range version of its most powerful nuclear-capable missile on Thursday during an army training exercise, the Defense Ministry said.
Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan regularly test missiles, and in some cases give each other advance notice. Ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar said Pakistan was informed ahead of Thursday's test as part of "standard practice."
The upgraded Agni-I — with a 435-mile (700-kilometer) range — was fired from a testing range on an island off the eastern state of Orissa, Kar said.
"The missile followed the trajectory perfectly and reached the designated spot in the Bay of Bengal," where ships witnessed its detonation, Kar said.
The 12-ton missile, developed in India, has an advanced navigation system and can carry payloads of up to 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms).
It has been tested several times in the past, including on March 28 at the same Orissa firing range, as part of ongoing army training to improve skills among defense personnel.
New Delhi has said it developed its current crop of missiles — including the short-range Prithvi missile, the anti-tank Nag missile and the supersonic BrahMos cruise missile — as a deterrent against neighbors China and Pakistan. More at:

Chinese Premier: Russia and China will never become each other’s enemy (again)

News-worthy.info — China’s Premier Wen Jiabao met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin early this week, signing 12 documents on cooperation between the two nations.
The documents signed covered cooperation on aviation, railroad construction, customs, intellectual property protection, culture and also a joint communique. No details of the documents has been released yet.
But Putin divulged that one of the pacts signed was about the purchase of two nuclear reactors from Russia by China’s Tianwan nuclear power plant. Tianwan nuclear power plant is the most advanced nuclear power complex in China.
Wen’s trip to Russia was to follow the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s three-day visit to China last September. During the visit, Medvedev and China President Hu Jintao launched a cross-border pipeline linking, which experts described as linking the world’s biggest energy producer Russia with the largest energy consumer China.
At a press conference, Wen said that Beijing and Moscow partnership has “reached an unprecedented level” and pledged the two countries will “never become each other’s enemy”.
During the cold war, China and Russia – formerly the Soviet Union – had been enemy to one another with China more inclined to the U.S. than to its fellow communist regime in the Soviet Union.
Over the past year, Wen said, “China and Russia strategic cooperative partnership has endured strenuous tests,” adding that the two nations are now more confident and more determined to defend their mutual interests.
“China will firmly follow the path of peaceful development and support the renaissance of Russia as a great power,” he said. More at:


Russia to start work on space reactors

Russia's Energia space corporation is planning to start work next year on standardized space modules with nuclear-powered propulsion systems, RIA Novosti reported. The first launches, with a capacity of 150 to 500 kilowatts, could be made some time in 2020, according to Energia director Vitaly Lopota. Development of megawatt-class nuclear space power systems (MCNSPS) for manned spacecraft is crucial if Russia wants to maintain a competitive edge in the space race, including the exploration of the moon and Mars, said Anatoly Perminov, director of the Federal Space Agency Roscosmos. The project will require funding of some 17 billion roubles ($540 million). Energia earlier said that it is ready to design a space-based nuclear power station with a service life of 10-15 years, to be initially placed on the moon or Mars. It is also working on a concept of a nuclear-powered space tug, which could be used for launching satellites.
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Fuel loading completed at Bushehr

The reactor head of the first reactor at Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant was successfully installed on 23 November, according to Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). This marks the completion of fuel loading, according to a report by the Iranian Students News Agency. Fuel loading activities began on 26 October. Previous reports have indicated that the unit will be grid connected in February 2011. The completion of fuel loading comes alongside continuing concern from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about Iran's enrichment activities. An IAEA report dated 23 November concluded, "While the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran, Iran has not provided the necessary cooperation to permit the Agency to confirm that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities." The report also noted that there was a six-day suspension of uranium enrichment at Iran's Natanz plant, which started on 16 November. Some media sources have linked this to the Stuxnet virus attack, but Iran has officially denied that the virus caused any damage.
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Westinghouse Sold AP1000 Technology Developed With American Taxpayer Assistance to China More than Three Years Ago by Rod Adams

Westinghouse Sold AP1000 Technology Developed With American Taxpayer Assistance to China More than Three Years Ago

by Rod Adams

"It sometimes surprises me just how long it takes the advertiser supported media to recognize an important story. This morning, my Google News Alert indicated that MSNBC and Bloomberg had both noticed that Westinghouse had transferred 75,000 documents relating to the design and construction of AP1000 nuclear reactor plants to China. One of those sources linked to a November 23, 2010 Financial Times report titled US group gives China details of nuclear technology.

Neither one of them linked to a June 2007 article titled China may export technology learned by building modern reactors that warned about the implications of a signed technology transfer agreement that was an integral part of Westinghouse's sale of four AP1000s in March of 2007.

I guess it is not too surprising that this week's reports are being portrayed as news since that early warning appeared on an obscure blog run by a guy who is not part of the mainstream media or a recognized contributor to the business press. There is also the distinct possibility that vain Western business leaders are finally waking up to the fact that it is a bad idea to sell the end results of decades worth of creative thinking to a group of expert copiers who have access to a vast number of extremely poor people willing to work hard for wages that would lead to starvation in most developed countries."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

China Should Remain Prudent in Its Nuclear Fuel Path Mark Hibbs Nuclear Energy Brief, November 22, 2010

Qinshan Nuclear Power PlantAspiring to be a global leader in nuclear power generation by mid-century, China is on the verge of investment decisions that could commit the country to fuel its rapidly growing fleet of nuclear power reactors with plutonium. Should China soon take major and possibly irreversible steps to go that route, the domestic, regional, and global impact of its actions will be profound.
Key Chinese nuclear energy organizations aim to build a series of large fast breeder reactors (FBRs) fueled by plutonium that would be supplied by a commercial-scale spent fuel reprocessing complex. If these projects move forward as their advocates intend, China’s nuclear energy ambitions would match those of Japan and major European nuclear energy-generating countries in fueling reactors with both low-enriched uranium and plutonium. The uranium poses few economic, security, and proliferation challenges. The plutonium, however, does.
Four decades ago, Japan and Europe set out on a similar path that eventually failed to demonstrate commercial viability of plutonium fast breeder programs for reasons of cost, technology, proliferation risk, safety challenges, and political acceptance. Thereafter, reprocessing in Japan and Europe was mostly driven by the need for a short-term solution to the lack of storage space for spent fuel from light water reactors (LWRs). Where storage space for spent fuel has not been an issue, including in the United States, commercial nuclear power programs have opted not to reprocess spent fuel and recycle plutonium.
Although China has thus far moved very cautiously in implementing a nuclear fuel cycle strategy, moving too quickly down its forecasted path could have detrimental effects. It’s unwise for China to commit itself to a rapid deployment of plutonium reactors and premature establishment of commercial-scale reprocessing, as that would burden China’s young nuclear power program with additional safety, security, and proliferation challenges and could prove unnecessarily costly to China.
Much more at: 
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Westinghouse Expects Additional AP1000 Nuclear Reactor Orders From China

Westinghouse Electric Co., owned by Toshiba Corp., expects additional orders for its third- generation AP1000 reactors from China after selling four units three years ago to the world’s fastest-growing nuclear market.
“There are going to be more AP1000s and the success of the current ones will determine that,” Jack Allen, Westinghouse’s president for Asia, said in an interview in Beijing today, adding talks haven’t formally begun. “There are no guarantees. Westinghouse is working very hard with customers here.”
China and India are leading the biggest atomic expansion since the decade after the 1970s oil crisis to cut pollution and power economies. Under a 2007 accord, Westinghouse is jointly building four AP1000 reactors with companies led by China National Nuclear Corp., and has transferred nuclear technology as it seeks to forge a lasting partnership with future rivals.
“It seems entirely reasonable to me to say that the company will get a lot more out of China,” said Rajesh Panjwani, an analyst at CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets in Hong Kong. “Westinghouse has been selling nuclear technology in Korea for almost 20 years and it still needs Westinghouse’s assistance.”
China’s 11 existing nuclear power generating units all use second-generation technology, the official Xinhua News Agency said on July 22. The nation plans at least 60 new reactors by 2020, Xu Yuming, executive director of the China Nuclear Energy Association, said on July 6.More at:
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Sea level rise may affect atomic plants in Tamil Nadu Bombay News.Net

Wednesday 24th November, 2010 (IANS)
The Kalpakkam atomic power station near Chennai in Tamil Nadu may have escaped the fury of the deadly tsunami six years ago, but it need not be second time lucky.

A new study says the Madras Atomic Power Station - as it is formally called - and another station under construction in Kudankulam are at risk of being affected by the anticipated one-metre sea level rise (SLR) as early as 2050 due to climate change.

'A one-metre rise in average sea level will permanently inundate about 1,091 sq km along the Tamil Nadu coast, but the total area at risk will be nearly six times as much,' says the study released in Chennai.

'These nuclear power stations and their associated infrastructure are located just beyond the zone estimated to be directly at risk from storm surges from a 1-metre SLR,' says Sujatha Byravan, senior researcher at the Centre for Development Finance (CDF) in Chennai and principal author of the study.

The Madras Atomic Power Station 1&2 reactors are at elevations of 5-10 metres above current mean sea level, while the Kudankulam nuclear power plant is even higher.

'Nevertheless, both are very close to the shoreline and are of concern because of the risk associated with coastal erosion,' the study says.

The report was co-authored with Rajesh Rangarajan of CDF and Sudhir Chella Rajan, humanities and social sciences professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.

The authors admit that the exact rise in sea level resulting from climate change is highly debatable and that their estimate of one-metre SLR by 2050 is 'conservative'.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change expects a maximum SLR of 59 centimetres by 2100 while the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research suggests a rise in mean sea level of up to 1.4 metres by 2100 and other scientists anticipate SLR of one to several metres, Byravan says.

The study warns that unless advanced planning is made to deal with the impacts of climate change, 'the country is in danger of finding itself in extremely dire circumstances'.

The authors note that major, existing and proposed, economic and infrastructure developments, including ports, power plants, highways and even airports, are being planned very close to the shoreline along India's coast.

The study concentrates on the impact of SLR in India's southern-most state of Tamil Nadu that has a coastline of about 1,076 km - about 15 percent of India's total.

The authors estimate the total replacement value of infrastructure (ports, power plants and major roads) in the state to be Rs.474 billion-Rs.535 billion.

The largest impact will be on the land at risk with an estimated market value of Rs.3,176 billion-Rs.61,154 billion - much higher than the state's annual GDP of Rs.2,500 billion ($54 billion), the study says.

The authors say they used Geographic Information Systems and information available in the public domain to calculate the financial implications of SLR.

They point out that their study provides an 'early warning' of the implications of indiscriminate development close to the shoreline.

Although Tamil Nadu was chosen for the case study, 'its findings will provide the basis for conducting more detailed studies covering larger portions of the Indian peninsula,' the authors say.
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China prepares to export reactors

Starting from French reactors imported in the 1980s, Chinese engineers have developed their own large reactor systems to the point that exports appear possible from 2013.

Zhang Shanming, president of China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC), revealed the company's future export potential to delegates at the China International Nuclear Symposium, organised in Beijing this week by the World Nuclear Association and China Nuclear Energy Association.

Having imported two 900 MWe pressurized water reactors for the Daya Bay nuclear power plant, CGNPC engineers embarked on a development program that led to the CPR-1000 design. The first of these began operation at Ling Ao Phase II in September, while 16 are under construction and many more planned. A domestic supply chain has been built up with each project and now only about ten percent of components need to be imported.

By 2013, Zhang said, a further design evolution will clear certain areas of intellectual property retained by Areva, resulting in a Generation III design called the ACPR-1000 that CGNPC could market in other countries.

The current CPR-1000 design sits roughly between today's mainstream Generation II reactors and the latest Generation III units, with digital instrumentation and control systems and a design life of 60 years. Standard construction time is 52 months, and the unit cost for Chinese units so far has been under CNY 10,000 ($1500) per kilowatt.
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

China admits it is the world's biggest polluter

Carbon Dioxide Emissions in the U.S. and China...Image via WikipediaChina admits it is the world's biggest polluter

by Staff Writers Beijing (AFP) Nov 23, 2010 China acknowledged Tuesday that it is the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter, as it called on the United States to ensure climate change talks opening next week make progress. Speaking at a briefing ahead of the UN talks in Mexico, Xie Zhenhua, China's top climate change official, told reporters: "Our emissions volume now stands at number one in the world.
His comments appeared to be the nation's first public recognition of the fact.
Up to now, Chinese officials had not clearly acknowledged the nation's world-leading emissions, which had nevertheless been confirmed by scientists and international organisations such as the International Energy Agency.
They preferred to emphasise the need to use emissions per capita -- where China is far behind developed countries -- as a benchmark.
The November 29 to December 10 talks in the Mexican resort of Cancun are set to open with deep rifts between developed and developing nations, mainly China and the United States -- the two biggest sources of carbon emissions.
The United States wants China to commit to emissions cuts but Beijing argues that it and other developing nations should be exempt from such curbs as they need to grow their economies and lift people from poverty.
It also notes that the emissions of industrialised, mainly Western, countries over the centuries are historically responsible for the build-up of carbon in the atmosphere.
"We hope the United States will play a leadership role and drive the entire process of negotiations," said Xie, vice director of the National Development and Reform Commission -- China's top economic planning agency.
He announced no new Chinese proposals for the talks but vowed the nation would seek to limit growth in its emissions.
"We will not allow our emissions to increase unchecked. China is taking decisive actions to slow down our emissions so that our emissions peak can come at an early date," he said, without giving a timetable.
He also reaffirmed Beijing's position that developed nations must bear the brunt of efforts to curb emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming and climate change.
"We will absolutely not accept any obligations that go beyond developing countries' abilities," he said.
"Developed countries have historical responsibilities and must assume their obligations. This is something we must adhere to," he said, when asked whether China should take on more of a role at the Cancun summit.
China has set a 2020 target of reducing carbon emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 40-45 percent from 2005 levels. That amounts essentially to a vow of energy efficiency, but its emissions will continue to soar.
It has refused to estimate when its carbon emissions will peak and then begin to fall, although officials have indicated it could take decades.
The talks in Cancun are the latest round of negotiations in a long-running UN effort to forge a global treaty to limit carbon emissions, which are blamed for trapping heat in the Earth's atmosphere.
Xie said the ultimate goal of climate change negotiations should be "a result that not everyone is satisfied with but that everyone can accept."
Scientists say rising temperatures could lead to an increase in catastrophic extreme weather.
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Tidal energy continues to entice

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
http://www.energy-daily.com/reports/Tidal_energy_continues_to_entice_999.html Los Angeles (UPI) Nov 23, 2010 Tapping the Earth's ocean tides for affordable, renewable energy could ultimately meet 10 percent of America's electricity needs, advocates say. While widespread use may be years off, supporters say tides and other hydrokinetic systems, from ocean waves to free-flowing rivers, could eventually provide more electricity than hydropower dams now supply, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.
Last month a company called Ocean Power Technologies connected a small test buoy in the swells off Oahu to the power grid that serves the Marine Corps Base Hawaii, a first for a wave energy device in U.S. waters.
"We have demonstrated that our technology works, that it can survive in harsh ocean conditions and can deliver high-quality power to the grid," Robert Lurie, a vice president of New Jersey-based Ocean Power, said.
Next year the company intends to anchor a larger power-generating buoy in the waves off Reedsport, Ore.
Their ultimate goal, Lurie said, is to build "multi-buoy wave farms" generating enough power to light 50,000 homes.
Tidal power projects or studies are being considered in Hawaii, Washington, Alaska, Florida, California, Oregon and Maine, in New York City's East River, along the Mississippi River and elsewhere.
"These are coastal resources, and most people live along the coasts," Hoyt Battey, a water power expert at the U.S. Energy Department, says. "When you're talking about providing half the power of Alaska or Hawaii, or half the power of New York, that's significant."
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Aiken Tech putting students on fast track to nuclear jobs

With about 48 percent of nuclear industry staffers nearing retirement, they must be replaced, and that will come from programs like those at Aiken Technical College, instructor David Deal told Aiken Rotary Club members Monday.
n 2000, Aiken Technical College began offering a certificate in industrial technology for prospective Savannah River Site employees. By 2008, SRS was requesting a certification program in radiologic technology.

"In 2008-09, a fast-track program was developed," Deal said. "We moved from a semester to a six- to seven-week program. It was the same amount of work, intended to assist SRS's urgent need for certified people.'

Through a provision allowed through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), federal stimulus funds were used to put additional adjunct professors to work at ATC. That has led to the introduction of an associate degree program for radiologic technology - training technicians to produce diagnostic images at SRS and, with the introduction of an revised curriculum, providing that training for a commercial nuclear facility like Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro, Ga.

In 2009, Deal said, ATC registered the program with the Nuclear Energy Institute, which made available such resources as the curriculum to meet specific needs. Earlier this year, the college received grants totaling more than $200,000 for scholarships and to further enhance the curriculum to include more scenario-based activities.

"The key to the program has been the community and industrial partnerships," Deal said. "We've gotten support from the VC Summer plant near Columbia, Bartlett, the Department of Energy, Plant Vogtle, Savannah River Remediation and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions. What got it all started was the seed money provided by the Washington Group."

About 150 students at ATC are enrolled in the program, Deal said. The college had to cap the number, especially with the loss of the stimulus funds scheduled in September 2011. Of the 21 students who have received associate degrees or certificates, 18 are employed in the field and two others are interviewing.

In the near future, Aiken Technical College plans to achieve accreditation for its radiologic technology program. Deal said the college also wants to bring its existing Technical Scholars program to this course of study. Through this program, industry will pay for qualified students' tuition with the expectation that the student will come to work for the company. ATC also intends to introduce an online course to be implemented this spring.

"Most of our students are non-traditional and have jobs," Deal said. "We can't offer all our classes at night, so we're looking at providing most of the courses online, as well. But there were be some mandatory face-to-face meetings."
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Nuclear reactors: We can’t live without them


China Builds French Reactor for 40% Less, Areva Says

Areva SA said the EPR nuclear reactor costs 3 billion euros ($4 billion) to build in China, 40 percent less than the price tag Electricite de France SA has put on building one in Normandy.
Chinese nuclear builders’ grasp of the technology is “very worrying” for European companies, Areva Chief Executive Officer Anne Lauvergeon told a hearing at the French Senate today in Paris. She also said Chinese companies are more efficient.
The third-generation reactor designed by Areva is being built in France, Finland and China at varying budgets and construction schedules. Once considered key to the success of France’s atomic exports, the design has been criticized as too big and costly after the country lost to a Korean group for a $20 billion order in the United Arab Emirates last year.
“The EPR isn’t more expensive than the competition for the same product,” Lauvergeon told senators today. “All of the lessons learned in Finland are being integrated into construction at Taishan. We are simplifying and improving.”
Talks on developing two more of the reactors in China in addition to two already under construction are “near completion,” Lauvergeon said. Areva is also in the final stages of negotiating the sale of two EPRs in India, plus a nuclear fuel contract, she said.More at:

North Korean Uranium Plant Stokes Proliferation Worries Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010

 The seemingly new uranium enrichment facility in North Korea is increasing concerns that the Stalinist state could provide the equipment to recipients such as Iran, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday (see GSN, Nov. 23).
In the last 30 years, North Korea and Iran have deepened their military ties and have cooperated in the creation of new missiles, conventional weapons and submarines. In recent years, multiple North Korean-origin weapon shipments have been seized en route to Iran.
It is believed that Pyongyang -- further impoverished by international sanctions and in need of money -- might try to support Iran's nuclear program as the Gulf state has apparently encountered technical hurdles in its enrichment of uranium (see related GSN story, today).
"We don't know exactly how coordinated it is, but it would be naive to assume that they're not cooperating on centrifuges," said U.S. House Intelligence Committee ranking member Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.).
North Korean officials revealed this month to visiting experts a new high-tech uranium enrichment plant at the Yongbyon nuclear complex. Former Los Alamos National Laboratory chief Siegfried Hecker reported seeing "hundreds and hundreds" of centrifuges; he projected the facility had the potential to annually produce enough bomb-grade material to fuel one warhead.
Pyongyang is currently estimated to possess enough processed plutonium for about six bombs. More at:
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China nuclear body recommends 2020 target of 70 GW

 The China Nuclear Energy Association has recommended the government adopt a 2020 target of 70 gigawatts of nuclear power capacity, but companies in the sector are pushing for more, association Vice-Chairman Zhao Chenkun told Reuters on Wednesday.
China is expected to unveil a development plan for its alternative energy sector in coming months, updating 2020 targets for nuclear energy, and renewables such as hydropower and wind.
The country's rapid expansion of nuclear energy means it is expected to easily surpass the existing target of 40 GW, and officials have said the government could raise that to 80 GW or more. [ID:nTOE68F079] (Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Chris Lewis)

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Kuwait official says new border deal struck with Iraq

http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Kuwait_official_says_new_border_deal_struck_with_Iraq_999.html Kuwait City (AFP) Nov 24, 2010 Iraq and Kuwait have agreed to create a 500-metre (yard) no-man's land on each side of the border and move Iraqi farmers to new homes, a Kuwaiti official said in comments published Wednesday. Under the deal, Kuwait undertook to build up to 50 homes inside Iraq for the farmers living close to the frontier, the Al-Seyassah daily quoted foreign ministry Arab world department chief Jassem Al-Mubaraki as saying.
The agreement stipulates that the two Arab neighbours will each keep a 500-metre strip completely free of any activity except for border police, Mubaraki said.
"The deal was reached during a recent meeting of the Kuwait-Iraq commission headed by the foreign ministry undersecretaries," he said.
In 1993, three years after Iraq invaded Kuwait, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 833 which demarcated the land border between the two nations and granted Kuwait some territory that had previously been held by Iraq.
The two oil-rich nations signed a similar deal in 2006 after Iraqi farmers halted construction of a 200-kilometre (125-mile) irrigation pipeline on the border when Kuwait charged it passed through its territory.
Under that deal, which was never implemented, Kuwait agreed to pay compensation for the Iraqi farmers and deposited the amount with the United Nations.
Mubaraki said the cost of building the replacement homes for the Iraqi farmers would be paid from the compensation.
Kuwait is also demanding the demarcation of maritime borders.
Iraq has been campaigning to be released from the sanctions imposed by the Security Council under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter after now executed dictator Saddam Hussein ordered his troops to invade Kuwait in August 1990.
Kuwait has consistently countered that before being released from the Chapter Seven sanctions, Iraq needs to settle the border issue and pay a further 25 billion dollars due in war reparations, among other demands.
The two nations have agreed in principle on rules for production from border oilfields that have been at the heart of the conflict between them, Kuwaiti Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmed Abdullah al-Sabah said in August.
A number of oilfields lie on the border between the two countries, including Iraq's giant Rumaila field, which extends into Kuwait where it is known as Ritqa.

US stresses Iran's 'continued failure' to comply with IAEA

US sanctions have failed: top Ahmadinejad aideWashington (AFP) Nov 24, 2010 - Despite Western nations tightening the screws on Iran, a top aide to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said increasingly tough sanctions had failed, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. On the eve of fresh negotiations with Western powers tentatively set for December 5, Ahmadinejad confidant Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi said it was time for them to "stop fooling themselves" over the effectiveness of measures designed to pressure Iran into abandoning its uranium enrichment program. Banning Iranians ships from European ports, a fuel blockade against Iran Air, growing financial restrictions and other punitive measures have had "no noticeable effect," he added in an interview with the Post. "The delay in the negotiations has been a good opportunity for the other side to realize the effects of its political decisions."

He also claimed the failure of sanctions had prompted the West to relaunch the long-stalled talks, a direct contradiction of the US position. Iran is under four sets of UN Security Council sanctions over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, which is at the center of fears about Tehran's atomic ambitions. It has also faced military threats and alleged technological attacks on its controversial nuclear program. Tehran and the so-called P5+1 that groups the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany have agreed to return to the negotiating table for the first time since October 2009 for a meeting tentatively scheduled to take place next month in Geneva.

If Western powers do not respond to Iran's request to broaden discussions beyond its nuclear program to also discuss Israel's alleged nuclear weapons stockpile and declare they are committed to nuclear disarmament, Iran would be forced to take a harder position, Samareh Hashemi said. It would mean "they have not chosen the path of friendship," he added. "Not answering these questions will mean they have decided not to commit to nuclear disarmament and support the Zionist regime being armed with nuclear weapons." But the 52-year-old foreign policy expert also said Iranian negotiators will consider proposed changes to a nuclear fuel swap proposal that failed at the talks last year.

Washington (AFP) Nov 23, 2010 The United States Tuesday criticized Iran for its "continued failure" to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, after a new report by the agency said Iran was still refusing to halt uranium enrichment. "We're obviously studying the report, but the key point is that it underscores Iran's continued failure to comply with its international nuclear obligations and also a sustained lack of cooperation with the IAEA," said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.
The IAEA's restricted report, a copy of which was obtained in Vienna by AFP, said Iran was still uncooperative after nearly eight years of attempting to determine if its nuclear program is military or, as Tehran insists, peaceful in its objectives.
The report demands full access to Iran's nuclear facilities, equipment and related documents, and said its uranium enrichment activities inexplicably came to a halt at least one day earlier this month, amid rumors it encountered technical problems.
The nine-page document has been circulated to IAEA member states and will be discussed by the agency's 35-member board of governors at the beginning of December.
Iran is under four sets of UN Security Council sanctions over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, which is at the center of fears about Tehran's atomic ambitions.
Iran and the six world powers involved in nuclear negotiations -- the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany -- have agreed to return to the negotiating table for the first time since the talks stalled in October 2009.
The negotiations will likely resume on December 5 in Geneva, the European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Monday.
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Iran denies problem with uranium enrichment

Iran's nuclear programme suffered one-day outage: IAEAVienna (AFP) Nov 23, 2010 - Iran's uranium enrichment activities came to a complete halt for at least one day this month, a new restricted UN report revealed Tuesday, amid speculation the activities were the target of a cyberattack. "On November 16, no cascades (of uranium-enriching centrifuges at Iran's Natanz enrichment nuclear plant) were being fed with UF6 (uranium hexaflouride)," the International Atomic Energy Agency wrote in a restricted report, a copy of which was obtained by AFP. During a visit on November 5, IAEA inspectors had verified that more than 4,800 such centrifuges were being fed with nuclear material. And almost the same number were up and running again on November 22. There was no indication yet how long the outage lasted, or whether it was longer than just one day, according to a senior diplomat familiar with the IAEA's investigation. The IAEA report did not contain any explanation about the possible reasons for the outage.

And the diplomat also refused to speculate that it was caused by a computer worm, called Stuxnet, that has infiltrated Iran's nuclear facilities recently. Last week, the computer security firm Symantec said Stuxnet may have been specifically designed to disrupt the motors that power gas centrifuges used to enrich uranium. That has given rise to speculation the worm was intended to sabotage nuclear facilities in Iran, especially the Russian-built atomic power plant in the southern city of Bushehr. The report revealed that Iran has now amassed a stockpile of 3,183 kilogrammes of low-enriched uranium in defiance of orders by the UN Security Council to halt all such activity. Low-enriched uranium or LEU can be used to make nuclear fuel, but can also be refined still further to build an atomic warhead.

The West accuses the Islamic republic of seeking to build a bomb, a claim Tehran vehemently denies. The IAEA has been trying to determine for seven years now the exact nature of Iran's nuclear drive, but has so far been unable to say it is entirely peaceful as Tehran claims. Earlier this year, Iran also began enriching uranium to 20 percent, ostensibly for use as fuel in a research reactor that makes radioisotopes for medical treatment. As a result of its decision to move to higher enrichment, the Security Council slapped a fourth round of sanctions on Iran. According to the new report, Iran has since amassed 33 kilogrammes of 20-percent enriched uranium. IAEA inspectors found that while Iran was feeding nuclear material into more and more uranium-enriching centrifuges at its plant in Natanz, the actual daily rate of production of LEU was not increasing significantly. That also could be an indication of possible technical problems, experts say.
http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Iran_denies_problem_with_uranium_enrichment_999.html Tehran (AFP) Nov 23, 2010 Iran denied on Tuesday claims that its sensitive uranium enrichment work has been hit by technical problems and said its nuclear programme has not been harmed by the Stuxnet computer worm. Atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi also rejected allegations by Western powers that Iran lacks the know-how to make nuclear fuel plates and was adamant it would be producing fuel for a research reactor by September 2011.
And he welcomed the International Atomic Energy Agency's latest report on Iran, saying his country had "cooperated" with the UN nuclear watchdog.
An IAEA report obtained by AFP on Tuesday said that "on November 16, no cascades (of uranium-enriching centrifuges at Iran's Natanz enrichment nuclear plant) were being fed with UF6 (uranium hexaflouride)."
There was no indication yet how long the outage lasted, according to a senior diplomat familiar with the IAEA's investigation.
The report did not say what the reasons for the outage might have been.
And the diplomat refused to speculate that it was caused by a computer worm, called Stuxnet, that has infiltrated Iran's nuclear facilities recently.
Computer security firm Symantec said last week that Stuxnet might have been designed to disrupt the motors that power gas centrifuges used to enrich uranium.
That has given rise to speculation the worm was intended to sabotage nuclear facilities in Iran, especially the Russian-built atomic power plant in the city of Bushehr.
Salehi "denied (media) reports and what has appeared in the IAEA report about a one-day halt of enrichment activities in Natanz," the ISNA news agency said.
"In an enrichment plant centrifuges are always being installed, operated, repaired and replaced and this is natural," he said.
He made a similar denial earlier in the day before the IAEA report was made public.
He appeared to be reacting to comments by Olli Heinonen, former IAEA deputy director, who said on Monday that technical problems were slowing down Iran's uranium enrichment.
Centrifuges for enrichment were operating at only 60 percent of capacity and Iran for some reason has removed hundreds of the machines, he said, and "this indicates there is a problem."
In February, Iran started refining uranium to 20 percent purity after a deadlock over a nuclear fuel swap deal drafted by the IAEA and aimed at providing fuel for the Tehran medical research reactor.
Salehi said on Tuesday the enrichment process was continuing apace.
"By the month of Shahrivar next year (September 2011), we will produce fuel for the reactor," he was quoted as saying by IRNA.
He also repeated denials by Iran that Stuxnet had harmed its nuclear programme.
"This virus bumped into a dead-end, a wall, and the enemies could not achieve the goals they had hoped for in the past one and a half years," he said.
Iran has been slapped with four sets of UN Security Council sanctions over its refusal to suspend enrichment.
Enriched uranium can be used as fuel to power nuclear reactors as well as to make the fissile core of an atom bomb. Tehran has repeatedly denied Western accusations that it is working to produce a nuclear bomb.
The IAEA report revealed that Iran has now amassed a stockpile of 3,183 kilogrammes (7,003 pounds) of low-enriched uranium and 33 kilos of 20 percent enriched uranium.
Stalled negotiations between world powers and Iran over Tehran's nuclear programme are now likely to resume on December 5 in Geneva, according to top European Union diplomat Catherine Ashton, for the first time since October 2009.
Referring to the IAEA report, Salehi said it had "improved in comparison with the past and we regard this as a good sign. However, the content is similar to those before."
"There might be different interpretations of cooperation, but Iran will continue to cooperate with the agency within the safeguard agreement and there is no reason to cooperate beyond that," he added.
The report complained that little had changed by way of the IAEA's overall investigation.
It also said Iran was refusing to halt enrichment and to answer questions that the nuclear watchdog has had for the past two years about a possible military dimension to its nuclear work.
The nine-page document has been circulated to IAEA member states and will be discussed by the agency's 35-member board of governors at the beginning of December.
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GOP Senator Cites New Intel, Won't Back New START -- Washington Times

Bond joins Kyl in opposition to nuke treaty with Moscow.

A second leading Republican is opposing Senate ratification of the New START treaty based on classified intelligence that the arms pact cannot be verified and that Moscow is manipulating the treaty to prevent the U.S. from expanding missile defenses.

"New START suffers from fundamental flaws that no amount of tinkering around the edges can fix. I believe the better course for our nation, and for global stability, is to put this treaty aside and replace it with a better one," Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, said in a little-noticed floor statement last week.

Read more ....

More News On the START Treaty

Republican Senator Says Arms Treaty Isn’t Tough Enough -- New York Times
Kit Bond: Scrap New START -- Wall Street Journal
'The Real Problem with START' -- Daniel Harper, Weekly Standard
The Nuclear Treaty Rush -- Wall Street Journal editorial

The Case for Ratifying New Start -- Vice President Biden, Wall Street Journal
Senate GOP stalling on new arms treaty -- Seattle Times editorial
How does GOP justify blocking nuclear arms control? -- Baltimore Sun
Why is the Obama administration linking Israel and New START? -- Josh Rogin, the Cable/Foreign Policy

ANALYSIS-Obama's uphill drive on START treaty -- Reuters
The era of magical thinking -- The Economist
Gates warns of 'significant consequences' if Senate fails to ratify New START treaty -- L.A. Times
New START's Failure Wouldn't Be Fatal -- Andrei Kortunov. Moscow Times
Passage of new START only a matter of time -- Xinhuanet

US lawmakers slam China over North Korea

http://www.spacewar.com/reports/US_lawmakers_slam_China_over_North_Korea_999.html Washington (AFP) Nov 23, 2010 US lawmakers issued hawkish calls on China to do more to restrain "reckless" North Korea Tuesday, charging the sudden peninsular crisis showed that decades of 'appeasing' Pyongyang had failed. After the nuclear-armed state's deadly artillery barrage on a South Korean island, Republicans demanded more pressure on Beijing from the White House, which has already had limited results in pressing China on its currency.
"Two decades worth of attempts to appease this North Korean regime have failed, and further attempts to do so will meet with the same result," said Senator John McCain, the defeated 2008 Republican presidential candidate.
"The Chinese government has perhaps the most influence on North Korea, and for the sake of regional security and stability, I urge China to play a more direct and responsible role in changing North Korea's reckless behavior."
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the incoming Republican chair of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committee, blasted Obama for being "too weak" on North Korea, and also had harsh words for Beijing.
"China, which wields significant influence over North Korea, must stop enabling the regime and join responsible nations in sending an unequivocal message to Pyongyang: abandon your aggressive agenda now," she said.
The committee's current Democratic chairman also singled out Beijing, which US observers see as negligent in using diplomatic influence on North Korea as one of the isolated state's few economic partners.
"I especially urge China to play a more active role in persuading North Korea to stop its belligerence," congressman Howard Berman said.
"China should immediately suspend economic and energy assistance to show Pyongyang that its aggression has consequences."
Republican Senator Sam Brownback, an outspoken critic of human rights violations in North Korea, was more scathing.
"China should be embarrassed that its policy with North Korea is allowing the east Asian region to become destabilized."
Tuesday's congressional reaction was likely calculated as much to hike pressure on the Obama administration for a robust response to North Korea's behavior as motivated by any expectation that it would mould Chinese policy.
But the administration found itself in a delicate situation, with few obvious options to respond to Pyongyang's assault that would not inflame a highly dangerous situation.
The administration was already under pressure over revelations about Pyongyang's nuclear program, with apparent confirmation at the weekend from a US scientist that it had an advanced uranium enrichment plant.
Any attempt to further isolate and censure North Korea through the UN Security Council would require China's acquiescence as a permanent member, so a sharp administration critique of Beijing may prove counterproductive.
US policymakers must also confront the fact -- as a recent attempt to challenge Chinese currency policy showed at the G20 summit -- that Washington's current diplomatic and political leverage over China is limited.
Also, China's overriding goal may be ensuring stability in the North Korean regime during a leadership transition, rather than sharing US and South Korean concern over Pyongyang's military posture and nuclear program.
Publicly, at least, there was no sign of more US pressure on China over Pyongyang Tuesday, as the administration pledged to work slowly through the six-party process, hosted by Beijing, to tackle the latest "provocation."
"I think that's really, frankly, the best way ... by presenting a unified, coherent front to North Korea, to make them aware of their isolation," said Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman.
A senior US official did note that Beijing had a "relationship with North Korea that could be constructive, so we're committed to working with them."
Stephen Bosworth, the US envoy on North Korea in Beijing, said he discussed the assault on the island with Chinese officials and both sides wanted to see "restraint."
The latest North Korean military action follows the sinking of the South Korean navy ship Cheonan in March, which Washington and its allies blamed on Pyongyang.
But Bruce Klingner, a former CIA expert on North Korea now with the conservative Heritage Foundation think-tank, told reporters that China was "part of the problem rather than the solution."
"One of the things that President Obama needs to do is press China to act in a responsible manner ... and to use the leverage that Beijing has with Pyongyang to get them to abide by their denuclearization commitment," he said.
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