Michele Kearney's Nuclear Wire

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

Saturday, December 4, 2010

2nd UPDATE: NRC: No Environmental Impact From Indian Point Relicensing

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--The federal nuclear regulator said Friday no environmental impact exists to prevent Entergy Corp.'s (ETR) Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York from operating an additional 20 years.
The report, issued by the staff of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC, is the latest development in an ongoing battle over the future of the plant that supplies, on average, roughly a quarter of the power for New York City and Westchester County, according to company statisticshttp://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20101203-713055.html
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American Competitiveness - Stephen Chu and Others Sound the Alarm

American Competitiveness - Stephen Chu and Others Sound the Alarm

Stephen Chu (energy secretary) sounded an alarm with Is the Energy Race our new “Sputnik” Moment? (30 page presentation)

For over a century, America has led the world in innovation.
Today, that leadership is at risk.

In the last 15 years, Chu said, China has gone from 15th place to 5th in international patents and from 14th place to 2nd place in published research articles. Of fifty or so nuclear reactors under construction around the world, thirty are in China. China just surpassed the U.S. with the world's fastest supercomputer, has a 220-mph rail line that is the fastest in the world, and has broken ground on a rail network almost four times larger than the next most developed rail country, France

China has installed the highest voltage and capacity, lowest loss HVDC (800kV) and HVAC (1,000 kV) lines, and plans an integrated HVDC/HVAC backbone.
• Broken ground on 30 nuclear reactors out of ~ 50 world-wide.

Recently China is raising its 2020 nuclear generation target to about 114 GWe. This would be more than the United States unless the united states builds (or uprates) about 14 GWe of new nuclear power.

There are many more figures from a report-
Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5 (2010) a report on American Competitiveness by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS)

Thirty years ago, ten percent of California’s general fund went to higher education and three percent to prisons. Today, nearly eleven percent goes to prisons and eight percent to higher education.

China is now second in the world in its publication of biomedical research articles, having recently surpassed Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, Canada and Spain.

The United States now ranks 22nd among the world’s nations in the density of broadband Internet penetration and 72nd in the density of mobile telephony subscriptions.

In 2009, 51 percent of United States patents were awarded to non-United States companies.

The World Economic Forum ranks the United States 48th in quality of mathematics and science education.

Of Wal-Mart’s 6,000 suppliers, 5,000 are in China.

There are sixteen energy companies in the world with larger reserves than the largest United States company.

China has now replaced the United States as the world’s number one high-technology exporter.

In 1998 China produced about 20,000 research articles, but by 2006 the output had reached 83,000 … overtaking Japan, Germany and the U.K.

Eight of the ten global companies with the largest R&D budgets have established R&D facilities in China, India or both.

During a recent period during which two high-rise buildings were constructed in Los Angeles, over 5,000 were built in Shanghai.

Chu is calling for a resurgence in Research and Development

What America’s innovation could produce:
• Affordable electric vehicle batteries with 500-mile range.
• Transformative approaches to lowering the cost of bio-fuels.
• Abundant, domestic fuel produced directly from the sun.
• Solar PV energy at 1/4th the fully installed cost.
• Dramatically reduce carbon capture and storage (CCS) costs
• Design by computer simulation that will eliminate costly development cycles.

Fuels from Sunlight Hub aims to develop and demonstrate a manufacturable solar-fuels generator that will produce fuel from the sun 10 times more efficiently than current crops. If successful, this Energy Innovation Hub would set the stage
for a direct solar fuels industry.

There are difference between the Sputnik event of 1957 and today’s “Sputnik Challenge”:
1. While we are competing for leadership in energy innovation, we have much to gain by cooperating with China, India and other countries.
2. In the next two decades, China will build new infrastructure equivalent to the entire U.S. 80% of India’s infrastructure in 2030 does not exist today.
3. These countries present us with new markets, a laboratory for innovation.
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China spending $511 billion to build up to 245 nuclear reactors


China spending $511 billion to build up to 245 nuclear reactors

According to Michael Kruse, consultant on nuclear systems for Arthur D. Little, the Chinese are ready to spend $511 billion to build up to 245 reactors.

Money is not an issue, which is different from the rest of the world. The Chinese have the capacity to deliver and they are deadly serious about achieving it,” says Steve Kidd, director of strategy and research at the London-based World Nuclear Association, the industry trade group.

President Hu Jintao wants non-fossil fuels to produce 15 percent of China’s energy by 2020. Although the Chinese have spent plenty on wind turbines and solar panels, only a buildup of nuclear power can make that target reachable.

“Developing clean, low-carbon energy is an international priority,” says Zhao Chengkun, vice-president of the China Nuclear Energy Association. “Nuclear is recognized as the only energy source that can be used on a mass scale to achieve this.”
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Friday, December 3, 2010

UN atomic watchdog approves nuclear fuel bank

http://www.nuclearpowerdaily.com/reports/UN_atomic_watchdog_approves_nuclear_fuel_bank_999.html Vienna (AFP) Dec 3, 2010 The UN atomic watchdog on Friday voted to set up a nuclear fuel bank, under its auspices, to allow countries access to nuclear energy without risking the spread of atomic weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-member governing board approved a United States-sponsored proposal for a 150-million-dollar (112-million-euro) fuel bank, with 28 countries in favour.
No country voted against the resolution, but six developing countries -- Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, South Africa, Tunisia and Venezuela -- abstained.
One country's delegation, Pakistan, chose to be absent when the vote was held in a gesture showing it was disassociating itself from the project.
The resolution was based on an original proposal by former IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, but which ran into stiff resistance last year.
Developing nations saw it as a way for the existing western nuclear powers to curtail other countres' right to acquire and develop nuclear technology of their own for peaceful purposes.
The resolution stipulated that only countries whose supplies were halted for political reasons and which had a clean non-proliferation record would access to the bank.
But such conditions were rejected by Pakistan, one of only a handful of nations which refuse to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
"We are thus obliged to disassociate ourselves from such specific elements of the draft resolution," said Pakistan's ambassador Khurshid Anwar. Accordingly, the Pakistan delegation was absent when the vote was held.
Among those countries in favour, the EU said such a fuel reserve "can bring benefits for energy security and for non-proliferation, without distorting the existing well-functioning market."
Possessing the uranium-enriching technology used to produce fuel for nuclear power plants is a major proliferation concern because it can also be used to manufacture the fissile material for an atomic bomb.
The proponents of the fuel bank believe that such a mechanism will mean that the increasing number of nations interested in using nuclear power to meet their growing energy needs can still do so without having to possess the sensitive uranium-enrichment technology.
Earlier this week, Russia already announced that it had created the world's first such fuel bank in Angarsk.
The Rosatom state atomic energy corporation said the Siberian fuel reserve would have enough material to refuel two civilian nuclear power plants. It too will also operate under the auspices of the IAEA.
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U.S. Sees Greater North Korea Nuclear Threat

VIENNA—The Obama administration told the United Nations nuclear watchdog that North Korea likely has built more than one uranium-enrichment facility, significantly raising the proliferation threat posed by the secretive communist state.
U.S. and European officials are pressing the International Atomic Energy Agency to better scrutinize Pyongyang's potential role in sharing its nuclear technologies with third countries. But the U.N. agency's ability to monitor Pyongyang is limited: North Korea kicked out the IAEA's inspectors in 2009.http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704377004575650960600657360.html
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China raises 2020 nuclear capacity target by 62 per cent to 114 GW

Published: Dec 3, 2010
China has reportedly raised its target for the construction of new nuclear reactor to 114 GW by 2020, a 62.8 per cent rise on an earlier target of 70 GW.
The figures released by the National Development & Reform Commission represent a significant increase from a prior target of 70 GW issued last May by Zhang Guobao, head of China’s National Energy Administration, according to an American Nuclear Society blog.
Reuters reported that the China Nuclear Energy Association, headed by Zhao Chenkun, said that the 70 GW target is too low. China currently has a reported 23 reactors under construction and another 140 on drawing boards in various stages of readiness to proceed. Chinese nuclear energy officials, however, later said that 80 GWe was a more likely target.
According to the China Daily, Geng Zhicheng, a spokesman for the commission, told a nuclear energy conference in Beijing that if this target (114 GW) is met, nuclear power will account for just 7 per cent of the nation’s estimated need for 1600 GW of power by 2020.
According to Steve Kidd, of the World Nuclear Association, speaking at the same conference, China has targeted increasing total non-fossil energy to 15 per cent of the total by 2020.


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PSE And G's Linden Solar Farm Turns A Brownfield Green

PSE and G is developing the four ground-mounted solar farms on PSE and G-owned properties in Linden, Yardville (4.4 megawatts), Edison (2 megawatts) and Trenton (1.3 megawatts). Each will be among New Jersey's largest solar farms. The sites will utilize crystalline solar panel technology and have monitoring and communications functionality.
http://www.solardaily.com/reports/PSE_And_G_Linden_Solar_Farm_Turns_A_Brownfield_Green_999.html Linden NJ (SPX) Dec 02, 2010 Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE and G) is marking construction of its Linden Solar Farm on the doorstep of PSEG's Linden Generating Station. The 3.2-megawatt facility is one of four ground-mounted solar farms that PSE and G is developing as part of its $515 million Solar 4 All program. It is one of three solar farms being built on former brownfields that have been returned to a useful role. The Linden farm is one of more than 20 solar projects that PSE and G is developing through its Solar 4 All program, with a total investment of more than $140 million that will create almost 300 jobs and provide New Jersey with 30 megawatts of solar-generated power.
"The Linden Solar Farm shows how the benefits of solar power extend far beyond just producing clean, carbon-free electricity," said Al Matos, PSE and G's vice president of renewables and energy solutions.
"This project exemplifies PSE and G's environmental commitment and its leadership position in renewable energy. We are giving new life to a once-contaminated site."
"With our solar arrays here in Linden, as well as those in Edison and Trenton, we are helping to turn brownfields green - and give these long-dormant sites a new purpose," Matos continued.
"By the end of this year, these three solar farms will be providing enough electricity to power about 1,000 average-sized homes, while creating jobs and helping New Jersey to become a major player in the renewable energy sector."
The Linden Solar Farm will comprise 11,484 solar panels covering a little more than 10 acres of PSE and G property and will be connected directly to the electric grid for the benefit of all PSE and G electric customers. The solar farm will produce enough electricity to power about 525 average-sized homes.
PSE and G is developing the four ground-mounted solar farms on PSE and G-owned properties in Linden, Yardville (4.4 megawatts), Edison (2 megawatts) and Trenton (1.3 megawatts). Each will be among New Jersey's largest solar farms. The sites will utilize crystalline solar panel technology and have monitoring and communications functionality.
In addition, PSE and G is building a 1-megawatt solar system on the roof of its Central Electric headquarters in Somerset, N.J., and a 700-kilowatt solar system at its Edison Training and Development Center facility in Edison, N.J. There also are four solar systems built on the grounds of five Newark Public Schools as part of the Solar 4 All program.
The 20-plus projects under development will produce enough energy to power about 4,900 homes and eliminate 23,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions - the equivalent of removing nearly 2,800 cars from the road for one year.
PSE and G is using leading solar energy companies to help deploy solar farms across the state to help drive New Jersey's economic growth in this sector. Advanced Solar Products, a premier developer of solar energy projects, is responsible for the deployment of the Linden project.
State regulators approved PSE and G's Solar 4 All program in July 2009. The program involves a $515 million investment in 80 megawatts of solar power, creating green jobs and vastly increasing the amount of renewable energy capacity in the state of New Jersey
The program's first segment consists of installing up to 40 megawatts of pole-attached smart solar units in neighborhoods on utility poles in PSE and G's service territory, which includes the state's six largest cities and roughly 300 rural and suburban communities. This is the largest pole-attached solar installation in the world, with the smart solar units connected directly into PSE and G's electric distribution system.
The second segment of the Solar 4 All program focuses on 40 megawatts of centralized solar facilities, such as the Linden Solar Farm and other solar sites on PSE and G owned or leased properties.
The financial benefits that Solar 4 All produces - federal tax investment credits, sale of the energy and capacity, as well as monetizing the solar environmental credits (SRECs) - are returned to PSE and G electric ratepayers to reduce the overall cost of the program.
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Geopolitical Briefing: Japan's nuclear industry

We have published a new members-only Geopolitical
Briefing, entitled "Critical Decisions Looming for
Japan's Nuclear Industry".


Japan is advancing with plans to reprocess spent
nuclear fuel and boost its external nuclear exports.
These decisions will impact the conduct of Japan’s
global non-proliferation diplomacy.
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April 16, 2010 Thorium One Seeks $23 million in Funding to Develop and Commericalize Thorium Plutonium MOX Fuel by 2020

Cleantech.com reports Thorium One, a Vancouver, Canada-based company is attempting to fund ($23 million) the development of a new fuel design—called Thorium Plutonium MOX—that it says can be used in existing infrastructure for nuclear reactors in the production of nuclear energy that does not create bomb-usable waste.

A private company in Europe initially developed the design for the fuel, funded with about €20 million, primarily from an undisclosed wealthy individual. But the company, which Bryan declined to name, didn’t have the ability to commercialize the technology. The European company has agreed to partner with Thorium One, under certain conditions, allowing it to benefit from Bryan’s background as an accountant and founder of a mining company, as well as other financial and operational expertise within Thorium One. If the merger is completed, the combined 30-employee entity would operate a fully-funded testing and permitting process to advance the technology, with test time on reactors already booked, Bryan said. Fuel testing is expected to begin in October.

Initially, the company is looking to raise about €17 million ($23 million) in the next 30 months for fuel testing and permitting. The company is building a prototype and testing it in a test reactor. Bryan thinks the technology can be commercially viable in less than nine years.

Two undisclosed utility customers are interested in purchasing the fuel when it is permitted for use, he said. One of these utilities led the consortium that designed the fuel.

Thorium One faces competition in the space from companies such as Mclean, Va.-based Lightbridge (Nasdaq:LTBR), a nuclear energy firm formerly called formerly Thorium Power, which is developing proliferation resistant fuel technology also using thorium. In addition, it offers integrated advisory services for existing and emerging nuclear programs

Further Reading A Thorium report from Norway (2008)
51 page report on Thorium based nuclear reactors from the University of Surrey. (2008)

One of the reasons which disqualified thorium-uranium breeders as compared to uranium plutonium breeders was, the non-existence of a 233U stockpile to start with. NOTE: There is 1000kg of U-233 in the United States, which thorium proponents have been campaigning to stop from being destroyed. [Kirk Sorensen and others have presented different plans to start a Thorium fuel cycle] By contrast the PWR, BWR heavy water, and graphite moderated reactors were producing large amounts of plutonium. The advent of thorium-plutonium MOX fuels would change the picture; 233U could be burned in standard reactors without entailing the production of large amounts of plutonium or minor actinides. [K. Balakrishnan, S. Majumdar, A. Ramanujam and A. Kakodkar, the Indian Perspectives on Thorium Fuel Cycles. Thorium Fuel Utilization: Options and Trends, IAEA-TECDOC- 1319, Vienna: IAEA, 2002, 257-265]

A PWR burning uranium-plutonium MOX incinerates ~ 544kg of plutonium per year for the simplicity of the argument, we assume here a “fully MOGED PWR” however, only third of fuel a PWR is “MOXed”. A “fully MOGED PWR” PWR loaded with thoriumuranium MOX should produce approximately 280kg of 233U per year while it incinerates approximately 800kg of plutonium, producing about 20% less minor actinides.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sahara desert project aims to power half the world by 2050

Sun over sahara desertImage via Wikipedia PhysOrg.com) -- A joint project by universities in Algeria and Japan is planning to turn the Sahara desert, the largest desert in the world, into a breeding ground for solar power plants that could supply half the world’s electrical energy requirements by 2050.
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China Nuclear Boom Sees Reactor Builders Risk Know-how for Cash

What brought the Chinese to the Hyatt on Nov. 24 and 25 was a hunger for the latest technology, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its Dec. 6 issue. What brought the foreigners was money: According to Michael Kruse, consultant on nuclear systems for Arthur D. Little, the Chinese are ready to spend $511 billion to build up to 245 reactors.More at link:
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France likely to set up nuclear plants in India

NEW DELHI - India and France are expected to sign agreements to set up two nuclear power plants in India and jointly develop satellites to study climate change during President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit to the South Asian country.
External Affairs official T.P. Seetharam said Wednesday that the two sides also are expected to discuss upgrading nearly 50 French Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft currently being used by the Indian air force.
Defense relations between India and France have deepened over the last few years with Paris offering to sell New Delhi artillery and tanks.
Sarkozy arrives Saturday in Bangalore.


House Passes Gordon's Nuclear Energy Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed Congressman Bart Gordon’s bill to ensure robust research and development efforts in the United States nuclear industry.

“Nuclear power will need to remain a component of America’s energy portfolio, whether our goal is energy independence or responsible climate policy,” said Gordon, who chairs the House Committee on Science and Technology. “This bill invests in research to develop nuclear power technologies that are more efficient, more cost effective and more secure.”
Gordon’s bill, the Nuclear Energy Research and Development Act of 2010, promotes work on Small Modular Reactors, reactors that are significantly smaller and present much lower up-front costs than large traditional nuclear power plants. SMRs have the potential to increase the safety and reliability of nuclear generation while making it more cost effective for nuclear energy providers.
The bill also authorizes research into technologies to prolong the life of the United States' 104 existing commercial reactors, which currently provide 20 percent of the country's power and 70 percent of its emissions-free power.
This bill also devotes resources to addressing the safety issues associated with storage and disposal of nuclear waste. A new fuel cycle research program at the Department of Energy will take a comprehensive approach to safe waste management, including reprocessing technologies and advanced storage methods.
Gordon has been a leader on responsible nuclear waste disposal policy, opposing efforts to process other countries’ nuclear waste in Tennessee and passing the Radioactive Import Deterrence Act to limit imports of foreign waste.
The Nuclear Energy Research and Development Act was based on broad bipartisan efforts from the Committee of Science and Technology.
“When I became the Committee’s chairman in 2007, I wanted it to become the committee of good ideas and consensus,” said Gordon. “This bill is just one of the legislative accomplishments we’ve achieved by working in that spirit.”
In the current congress, Gordon has championed legislative efforts from tornado research to oil spill cleanup technology to national cybersecurity. The House reauthorized Gordon's landmark bill the America COMPETES Act earlier this year to protect America’s economic competitiveness by investing in research and science, technology, engineering and math education.http://www.dnj.com/article/20101201/NEWS01/101201026/1002/House+Passes+Gordon%E2%80%99s+Nuclear+Energy+Bill
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Record-High Greenhouse Gas Concentrations


The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, for instance, has risen by about 40 % since pre-industrial times. Within the last few years, the average annual increase has been 0.5 %. http://www.terradaily.com/reports/Record_H...ations_999.html Geneva, Switzerland (SPX) Dec 02, 2010 The increase in carbon dioxide concentrations is also seen in the measurements made by the Finnish Meteorological Institute at the Pallas station, where the annual increase has been 2.0 ppm. The increase continued last year, too. These measurements also reflect the impact of seasonal variation: forests act as effective carbon sinks during the growing season, whereas in the autumn and winter the soil is a source of carbon.
The Finnish Meteorological Institute has participated in the GAW programme since 1994. The GAW measurement station maintained by the Institute is located on the peak of Sammaltunturi mountain in the Yllas-Pallastunturi National Park. At present, corresponding measurements are also made at a station set up in Tiksi, in Siberia.
The GAW programme of the WMO has measurement stations in about 50 countries all over the world. These stations monitor long-term changes that take place in the chemical and physical properties of the atmosphere.
Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW), established by the World Meteorological Organization, is a global programme for monitoring the atmosphere. The programme plays a central role in monitoring greenhouse gases that affect climate change.
The latest observations from GAW stations indicate that the concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases have reached new records despite the economic slowdown and the international action taken to reduce them.
The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, for instance, has risen by about 40 % since pre-industrial times. Within the last few years, the average annual increase has been 0.5 %.
The amount of methane has also been rising again since 2007. The increase stems from tropical and Arctic regions where temperatures have been warmer than normally.
In fact, the increasing methane emissions from Arctic regions have been listed as a major concern because the melting of northern permafrost areas may release great volumes of methane into the atmosphere.
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FuelCell Energy To Build Small Scale Direct FuelCell Power Plant

Diagram of a Proton exchange membrane fuel cel...Image via Wikipedia

Due to their highly efficient power generation, lack of pollutants and quiet operation, fuel cell power plants are well-suited for commercial buildings located in urban environments.
http://www.energy-daily.com/reports/FuelCell_Energy_To_Build_Small_Scale_Direct_FuelCell_Power_Plant_999.html Danbury CT (SPX) Dec 02, 2010 FuelCell Energy will jointly develop a small-scale Direct FuelCell (DFC) power plant with its South Korean partner, POSCO Power. The power plant will target the fast-growing commercial applications market segment, particularly in Asia.
POSCO Power will fund the $5.8 million program in stages as performance milestones are reached, with an initial funding of $2.9 million for design and development of a smaller scale fuel cell stack.
Due to their highly efficient power generation, lack of pollutants and quiet operation, fuel cell power plants are well-suited for commercial buildings located in urban environments.
Fuel cells efficiently generate power using an electrochemical process that does not involve combustion. The lack of combustion results in virtually zero pollutants and quiet operation.
Fuel cell generated power can make use of available clean energy incentives, and can compete favorably with commercial and residential electricity rates in many regions of the world.
"FuelCell Energy's DFC products have been demonstrated as a dependable, ultra-clean solution," said Ben Toby, Vice President of Global Business Development for FuelCell Energy. "With this announcement, POSCO Power and FuelCell Energy seek to build on their partnership to enter into a previously untapped market segment, which has the potential to drive significant volume."
FuelCell Energy's core DFC power plant product line consists of the 300 kilowatt DFC300, the 1.4 megawatt DFC1500, and the 2.8 megawatt DFC3000. The DFC3000 is scalable for utility-size applications of multiple megawatts.
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China secures the lead in renewable energy

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
http://www.energy-daily.com/reports/China_secures_the_lead_in_renewable_energy_999.html Beijing (UPI) Dec 1, 2010 China is now the leader in the global renewable energy market, a report by Ernst & Young says. The report, released Tuesday, comes a day after U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, urging a push in American innovation in clean energy, warned that China's clean energy successes represent a new "Sputnik Moment" for the United States.
"A new world is emerging in the clean energy sector with China now the clear leader in the global renewables market," the Ernst & Young report states.
Issued quarterly since 2003, the report assigns a numerical ranking to 30 global renewable energy markets by scoring renewable energy investment strategies and resource availability.
The United States, which had top ranking on the index since November 2006 until China took the lead in September 2010, is now 5 points behind China, the authors said.
"Since reaching (the) top spot in our Index in September, China has opened up a healthy gap from other markets," Ben Warren, energy and environmental infrastructure advisory leader at Ernst & Young, said in a statement. "Cleantech, including renewable energy, represents a significant part of the country's future economic growth plans."
China, which has also surpassed the United States as the world's biggest consumer of energy, spent a record $10 billion on its wind power industry in the last quarter, the report states. That represents nearly half of the global total of about $20.5 billion invested in new wind projects.
The report says half of the wind turbines expected to come online this year around the world will have been manufactured in China.
"The level of wind energy being deployed in China shows what can be achieved with a carefully planned energy and industrial policy that elevates cleantech to a national strategic level," said Warren.
The report also said China's solar industry is fast becoming "of great importance" in the global marketplace.
China is the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases. The International Energy Agency says China has $375 billion in investment plans over the next 10 years in wind, solar, nuclear and biomass projects.
Ernst & Young said South Korea, Romania, Egypt and Mexico are also rising fast as their governments allocate more resources to renewable energy.
Korea leads the new entrants to secure the 18th position in the index. Last month Seoul said the country would invest $36 billion in renewable energy by 2015 to boost its exports of clean energy sources and technology.

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Russia opens world's first nuclear fuel bank

http://www.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=247854211242866212 Moscow (AFP) Dec 1, 2010 Russia announced Wednesday that it had created the world's first international atomic fuel bank as part of a global effort to curb the spread of nuclear arms to nations such as North Korea and Iran. The Rosatom state atomic energy corporation said the Siberian fuel reserve -- which will operate under the auspices of the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear watchdog -- will have enough material to refuel two civilian nuclear power plants.
"The purpose of this facility is to reduce the risk of other countries processing their own uranium to a minimum," former Foreign Intelligence Service chief Gennady Yevstafyev told AFP. "This will dramatically improve control over the proliferation of nuclear weapons."
The Angarsk bank is the first of about a dozen facilities proposed by various nations following the 2003 discovery of covert enrichment activity in Iran.
The plant now stores 120 tonnes of low-enriched uranium (LEU) that has been enriched to between two and 4.95 percent. Scientists say it can satisfy the electricity needs of a 12-million-strong city for up to a year.
The fuel is considered safe because the weapons-grade uranium desired by nations seeking to build nuclear weapons must be enriched to at least 90 percent.
The IAEA approved the Russian reserve's creation at a historic but contentious two-day meeting in November.
The type of fuel stored in Angarsk is used by most of today's civilian nuclear power plants. Russia first proposed the idea to the IAEA in September 2007 amid fears here that supply cutoffs could be used by Western nations for political purposes.
"This bank was created under the Russian president's initiative to form a global nuclear energy infrastructure (that would ensure) reliable compliance with the nuclear weapons non-proliferation regime," Rosatom said in a statement.
Then-president Vladimir Putin first forwarded the nuclear fuel bank initiative in January 2006 amid a resumption of nuclear dialogue between Russia and the United States.
Moscow and Washington signed their own peaceful nuclear cooperation deal -- known as the 123 Agreement -- two years later and the two sides then both pushed for the bank's approval at the IAEA.
The idea was backed by 23 of the 35 IAEA members at the Vienna meeting but opposed by countries such as Brazil and Pakistan that are just beginning to establish their own nuclear programmes.
"The main problem with nuclear energy is that countries try to develop their own nuclear fuel cycles," Yevstafyev said in reference to the independent production and enrichment of uranium -- an ability perfected by a limited group of states.
"And this cycle is then turned around and focused on developing nuclear weapons. This plant should help stop that."
The Angarsk announcement comes one week after Russia and the IAEA signed a separate agreement on developing a joint training programme for nuclear experts who could then be employed at the various facilities across Russia.
Officials here have voiced fears that they no longer have the scientists and experts they did in the Soviet era to safely operate the country's vast network of nuclear facilities.
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Iran, Syria in spotlight at UN atomic watchdog meet

Flag of the International Atomic Energy Agency...Image via WikipediaIran's disputed nuclear drive will top the agenda of a meeting of the UN atomic watchdog this week, a prelude to the resumption of long-stalled talks between Tehran and world powers. The International Atomic Energy Agency convenes for its traditional year-end board meeting at its Vienna headquarters on Thursday and Friday, with the latest report on its long-running investigation into the Islamic republic's nuclear activities set to dominate debate.
Those discussions will effectively serve as a curtain-raiser to a much higher-level round of talks in Geneva three days later where Iran is to sit down with the so-called P5+1 grouping of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany for the first time in over a year.
The IAEA has been investigating Iran's nuclear programme for eight years now to try and establish whether it is entirely peaceful as Tehran claims or whether it masks a covert drive to build a bomb as western powers believe.
In his latest report, circulated to IAEA member states last week, watchdog chief Yukiya Amano complained that Iran was defying UN Security Council resolutions and pressing ahead with uranium enrichment, even if the activities appeared to have run into some sort of technical problems recently.
Iran is under four sets of UN sanctions over its refusal to suspend enrichment of uranium, which can be used to make nuclear fuel or, in highly extended form, the fissile core of an atom bomb.
And the sense of unease in the Middle East was underlined by the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables in which the Saudi king was described as pushing Washington to take military action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Earlier this week, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad admitted that some of the equipment in the enrichment process had been damaged by a computer malware amid speculation the activities were the target of a cyber-attack.
But he nevertheless insisted that Iran's "right to enrich uranium and produce (nuclear) fuel... is non-negotiable."
The exact agenda of the December 6-7 talks in Geneva is not clear: while the world powers want to focus on the enrichment issue, Tehran wants a wider discussion that includes regional security issues.
The last round of negotiations deadlocked in October 2009.
In addition to Iran, the IAEA's 35-member board of governors will also discuss the agency's latest report on alleged illicit nuclear activities in Syria.
Damascus is accused of building an undeclared reactor at a remote desert site called Dair Alzour until it was bombed by Israeli planes in September 2007.
The IAEA has been investigating the allegations since 2008 and has already said that the building bore some of the characteristics of a nuclear facility.
UN inspectors also detected "significant" traces of man-made uranium at that site, as yet unexplained by Damascus.
In addition, the watchdog has also requested access to three other locations allegedly functionally related to Dair Alzour, but so far to no avail.
Diplomats close to the IAEA say agency chief Amano is growing increasingly impatient with Syria's stonewalling and could soon start pushing for a so-called "special inspection" in Damascus, a rarely-used tool that allows UN inspectors to request more intrusive access to sites. If Syria were to block that request, it could face referral to the UN Security Council.
North Korea will also be on the IAEA agenda, even if UN inspectors have been barred from the reclusive stalinist state.
Earlier this month a US scientist revealed he had been shown a new uranium enrichment plant equipped with at least 1,000 centrifuges at the North's Yongbyon nuclear complex outside the capital Pyongyang.
The news heightened international concern that the communist regime -- which has conducted two nuclear weapons tests -- could produce highly-enriched weapons-grade uranium on top of the plutonium already in its possession.
Finally, the IAEA board is set to discuss a US-backed proposal for a nuclear fuel bank, which countries could turn to if their regular supplies were cut.
Diplomats said they expect the board to adopt the proposal.http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Iran_Syria_in_spotlight_at_UN_atomic_watchdog_meet_999.html

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Belarus to eliminate highly-enriched uranium stocks

The ex-Soviet state of Belarus announced Wednesday it would eliminate its stocks of highly-enriched uranium by 2012, following talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Clinton won the pledge from Belarus Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov after talks on the sidelines of the OSCE summit in the Kazakhstan capital Astana.
"Foreign Minister Martynov announced that Belarus has decided to eliminate all of its stocks of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and intends to do so by the next nuclear security summit in 2012," said a joint statement.
"The United States intends to provide technical and financial assistance to support the completion of this effort as expeditiously as possible."
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs called the move "a significant step forward" and Clinton praised "a sign of progress in efforts to advance nuclear security and non-proliferation."
"This removal represents a significant, as I said, step for President (Barack) Obama's worldwide effort to secure nuclear material," Gibbs said  More at: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Belarus_to_eliminate_highly-enriched_uranium_stocks_999.html
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Russia to increase missiles unless shield agreed: Putin

Putin's remarks also come amid uncertainty about the fate of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), signed this year by US President Barack Obama and Medvedev.

Moscow (AFP) Dec 1, 2010 Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Moscow will build up its "striking forces" including nuclear weapons to ensure security if a joint decision on missile defence fails. Putin's remarks came shortly after President Dmitry Medvedev warned in his annual address of a possible new round of the arms race if the sides do not agree on the European missile defence shield.
If Russia's proposals on the European system "are met with negative answers only" while additional threats appear, "Russia will have to ensure her own security," Putin said, according to previewed excerpts of an interview with CNN's Larry King released Wednesday.
"Striking forces" would include "new missile, nuclear technology," he said. "This is not our choice, we do not want that to happen," but this is what will happen "if we do not agree on a joint effort there," Putin said.
The full interview will air at 9:00 pm Eastern Time in the United States, or 0500 GMT.
Russia and NATO agreed to deepen missile defence cooperation at last month's summit in Lisbon.
Medvedev warned at the time that the positive response of Russia to a missile defence shield in Europe depended on the quality of cooperation between Moscow and the Alliance.
The Wall Street Journal reported that NATO leaders late last month rejected a proposal from Medvedev to unite Russia's missile defenses with a shield being built by the West.
A few hours before Putin's interview, the Russian defence ministry said its new RS-24 ballistic missile would allow Russia to bypass missile defence systems.
"The entry into service of the RS-24 will reinforce the strategic capacity of striking forces in the matter of bypassing anti-missile defence systems, therefore consolidating the nuclear deterrent," spokesman Igor Shevchenko was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
Putin's remarks also come amid uncertainty about the fate of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), signed this year by US President Barack Obama and Medvedev.
START restricts the US and Russia to a maximum of 1,550 deployed warheads, a cut of about 30 percent from a limit set in 2002.
The Russian lower house of parliament, the State Duma, has indicated it will ratify the treaty only after its ratification by the US Senate.
The agreement, a top Obama foreign policy initiative, replaces a previous accord that lapsed in December 2009 but ratification has been held up by opposition Republicans.
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