Michele Kearney's Nuclear Wire

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

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Reactor-maker Areva backs Kuwait, France investment

PARIS - Areva's supervisory board approved a 900-million-euro ($1.19 billion U.S.) capital increase that will see Kuwait taking a near five-per-cent stake in the state-owned French nuclear reactor maker.
Saturday's decision concluded months of talks plagued by political and industrial setbacks as France weighed its funding options for a state-controlled company it regards as a showcase of the country's technological expertise.
Areva's board members formalized proposals announced by the French government on Friday, which will see the Kuwait Investment Authority, or KIA, invest 600 million euros and France inject another 300 million euros in the nuclear group.
This should help Areva fund a 12-billion-euro investment plan needed to develop a new generation of nuclear reactors and expand its operations worldwide at a time when higher oil prices have led several countries to reconsider nuclear power plans.
France and the KIA agreed on a shareholders' pact, under which KIA has to remain in Areva's capital for at least 18 months and the French government commits to floating ordinary shares on the market during the first half of 2011.

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/technology/Reactor+maker+Areva+backs+Kuwait+France+investment/3963281/story.html#ixzz17qyMqnOa

Egypt to take bids on first nuclear plant

Bidding for the first of four nuclear plants Egypt intends to build will open soon


The countdown is on for the founding of four Egyptian nuclear power plants dedicated to peaceful purposes that are to be build in the north coast area of Al-Dabaa as of early next year.
According to Hassan Younis, minister of power and electricity, the bid invitation for the first power plant is to be out “either by the end of this year or by early next year”.http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/1658/Egypt/Politics-/Egypt-to-take-bids-on-first-nuclear-plant.aspx
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USA and Czech Republic sign joint declaration

The USA and the Czech Republic have signed a joint declaration on civil nuclear power that will strengthen commercial relations between the two countries and help to develop new nuclear energy opportunities, the US Department of Commerce (DoC) has announced. The declaration was signed by US commerce secretary Gary Locke and Czech minister of industry and trade Martin Kocourek as well as US energy secretary Steven Chu. The agreement expresses both nations' commitment to commercial cooperation on existing and future nuclear projects as well as encouraging cooperation in science and research, including training and human resource development.
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At least one nuclear deal with Russia is in the clear Posted By William Tobey

Posted By William Tobey

China backs Iran's nuclear ambitions, official says

China backs Iran's nuclear ambitions, official says

Iran has the right to develop a nucle industry, said Yang Jiechi, China's foreign minister.  -More-

Senate Hawks Push Obama on ‘Zero Enrichment’ for Tehran by Ali Gharib


US Energy generation additions in 2010 were mostly coal and natural gas


For the first 11 months of 2010, a total of 16,500 MW of capacity came online in the USA:

6,682 MW of coal; [73.6% capacity factor 2007]
6,016 MW of natural gas; [combined cycle 42% capacity factor]
3,119 MW of wind; [36% capacity factor]
454 MW of biomass and waste products;
150 MW of solar;
50 MW of geothermal and
23 MW of hydro. [36% capacity factor]

Also for the first 11 months of 2010, 2,300 MW of capacity retired:
1,879 MW of natural gas;
287 MW of coal;
87 MW of renewable
and 25 MW of oil

Net additions were first 11 months of 2010
6395 MW of coal
4137 MW of natural gas
3,119 MW of wind;
454 MW of biomass and waste products;
150 MW of solar;
50 MW of geothermal
23 MW of hydro.
-87MW renewable
-25MW of oil

Estimated US nuclear fleet capacity increased to 92 percent last week from 89 percent. Four units came back online from refueling, leaving two units refueling during the fall 2010 outage season. Millstone 2 shut down briefly “after a circulating water pump shut down during condenser water box backflushing

2009 US energy additions

In 2009, nuclear capacity increased 249 MW, due to a combination of uprates (technical modifications of existing units) and other net capacity adjustments.
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Navy: Dahlgren Railgun test is successful


the Navy has the goal of using the railgun to fire 200 nautical miles with Mach 7 velocity using 64 megajoules with full deployment to ships in about 2020-2025.

The Office of Naval Research said railgun achieved a world-record 33-megajoule shot. That energy measurement means the Navy could fire projectiles at least 110 miles.
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Friday, December 10, 2010

How are we reducing greenhouse gas emissions from urban mobility?

Forty percent of all road transport CO2 emissions come from urban mobility, according to the European Commission. Many projects aim to reduce greenhouse emissions while simultaneously improving mobility.http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-12-greenhouse-gas-emissions-urban-mobility.html

Assessing the seismic hazard of the central eastern United States

As the U.S. policy makers renew emphasis on the use of nuclear energy in their efforts to reduce the country's oil dependence, other factors come into play. One concern of paramount importance is the seismic hazard at the site where nuclear reactors are located.
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EDF seeks U.S. partner French-owned Unistar says its not under foreign control

 Though they are searching for a U.S. partner to help build a third reactor at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Lusby, executives of foreign-owned Unistar Nuclear Energy made their case Wednesday that they do not need one in order to comply with federal law, which prohibits foreign ownership or control of U.S. nuclear facilities. More at:
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Leaked Cable Illuminates China's Complex Ties With Myanmar

In one cable, from January 2004, an expatriate businessman reported rumors of a nuclear reactor being built near a Myanmar river. ...

Security of Supply By Richard (Rick) Mills Ahead of the Herd As a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information

Below are five examples of production shortfalls looming or already existing:

Today, there are some 441 nuclear power reactors operating in 30 countries. These 441 reactors, with combined capacity of over 376 Gigawatts (One GWe equals one billion watts or one thousand megawatts), require 69,000 tonnes of uranium oxide (U3O8).

According to the World Nuclear Association, about 58 power reactors are currently being constructed in 14 countries. In all there are over 148 power reactors planned and 331 more proposed. Each GWe of increased capacity will require about 195 tU per year of extra mine production – three times this for the first fuel load. Let's also consider the fact that no one builds a $4 to $6-billion dollar reactor just to watch it go idle. They will order one or perhaps several year’s worth of fuel supply to guarantee it doesn’t.

In 2008, mines supplied 51,600 tonnes of uranium oxide concentrate containing 43,853 tU, which means mining supplied roughly 75% of nuclear utility power requirements. The remaining supply deficit used to be made up from stockpiled uranium held by nuclear power utilities, but their stockpiles are pretty much depleted. Mine production is now primarily supplemented by ex-military material - the Megatons to Megawatts program which ends in 2013 - the Russians have stated that the agreement will not be renewed. 

More at link:
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Asia's nuclear ambitions A senior partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe in Hong Kong discusses the background and status of nuclear power in Asia.

By Christopher Stephens | 10 December 2010

What is the status of nuclear energy in Asia today?
Nuclear energy generates about 14% of all electricity worldwide, but only about 1% in Asia. Yet, Asia's economies, and therefore its energy demands, are the fastest-growing in the world. So far, only Japan, China, Korea, India and Pakistan have nuclear-generated power.
What affect will the development of nuclear energy have on fossil fuels?
Coal is abundant throughout Asia, principally sourced from China, Indonesia, Australia, Vietnam and Russia. Natural gas prices have fallen during the past year, but long-term availability and pricing of all natural resources remains a concern and a matter of national economic security throughout the region. Coal will likely remain the leading fuel supply for the foreseeable future. The role of nuclear energy is not to supplant coal -- at least not in the medium term -- but to play a larger role in the broader mix of energy solutions.
What are the environmental considerations in nuclear versus coal?
There are more than 50,000 fossil-fuelled plants in the world today, including coal, oil and natural gas. Each year, these plants generate nearly 30 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide -- the principal greenhouse gas. By 2030, non-OECD countries alone will account for almost 60% of global energy consumption and emit about the same quantity of CO2 as today's global total. Today, coal generates about 41% of the world's electricity. By 2030, that will be 44% -- a larger proportion of worldwide generation that itself will increase by 77%. Nuclear power creates heat through fission, rather than combustion, and emits no carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide or sulphur dioxide (which forms acid rain). The 400 nuclear power plants in the world effectively reduce carbon emissions by 2.5 billion tonnes every year.
How does nuclear compare to other clean energy alternatives?
In most developing countries, the objective is to achieve a baseload power generation that can feed major industrial and commercial centres and provide at least minimum supply to rural areas. Wind, solar, geothermal and biomass fuels are neither economically or operationally effective to meet baseload electricity demand. The price of natural gas -- also a fossil fuel -- is high and volatile. Hydropower is efficient and effective, but already nearly fully developed. Nuclear is the only remaining alternative. As a result, 11 countries in Asia now have nuclear energy programmes or plans.
Who are the major players in the nuclear energy sector?
Traditionally, western players like Westinghouse of the US, Areva of France and Toshiba, Mitsubishi and Hitachi in Japan dominated the market. Together, American, French and Japanese companies have built more than 70% of the world's nuclear reactors. More recently, however, Atomenergomash, the nuclear machinery arm of Russia's Rosatom, as well as Korea’s Doosan Heavy Industries and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, are aggressively pursuing a wide range of projects across Asia. And, inevitably, China is now offering globally competitive reactor technology, project management and financing in an effort to become a market leader.
What are the biggest challenges in financing nuclear plants?
The biggest challenge in financing nuclear power is the upfront capital costs. In nuclear energy projects, the term “overnight capital costs” is used to capture the engineering, equipment and materials procurement and construction (EPC) costs and the owner's costs in land, infrastructure, site work, interconnection, licensing, project management and administration, plus contingency, but excludes interest charges during construction.
The overnight capital cost of a new nuclear plant ranges from $1,500 to $5,800 per kilowatt (kW) with an OECD world median of $4,100/kW. OECD costs for a black coal plant range from $897 to $2,700/kW. Overnight capital costs vary widely from country to country, largely on the basis of EPC costs, project management and experience in the country. Phase 1 of the Sanmen nuclear plant in Zhejian, China will comprise two 1,250 megawatt (MW) units that will generate 17.5 billion kWh of electricity for a total project cost reportedly of $5.3 billion.  Phase 1 of the Ninh Thuan nuclear plant in central Vietnam will generate 2,000MW and cost about $8 billion.
Another factor is the longer construction time required for nuclear plants. Today, the construction period for a nuclear plant is about five to eight years, compared to two years for a gas or coal plant. The longer construction time and higher capital costs means nuclear projects require more total investment and a longer period during which that capital is at risk. These risk factors contribute to investors' determination of required returns on their equity and debt.
What are the other variables in assessing these deals?
Other variables include discount rates, the mix of equity and debt in the project, interest rates, construction periods, plant life, taxes, inflation, depreciation rules and overnight capital costs, as well as the allowance for contingencies. And contingencies are no small risk either. Delays and cost overruns at the Olkiluoto nuclear project in Finland have ballooned project costs from €3 billion ($4 billion) to €5.7 billion and extended the construction time from four to eight years.
You mention all these costs. Where are they incurred?
The engineering, equipment procurement and construction (EPC) costs comprise about 85% of the project's total overnight capital costs. These are comprised of direct and indirect costs. The direct costs are about 70% of the total, and include the costs of equipment, labour and the materials required to assemble and install the equipment.
In most of the Asian countries targeted for nuclear development, much of the equipment would be imported, so shipping and insurance costs and project management become important. About 50% of the EPC costs are attributable to the nuclear reactor and turbine equipment – the most significant of the imported equipment.
The indirect costs are about 30% of the total EPC costs, and include engineering, supporting labour and supervisory costs.
At the back-end, the decommissioning costs of a nuclear plant are also significant, and the owner or operator has to establish reserves for them.  Decommissioning a nuclear plant involves a range of special procedures because of the possible presence of radioactive or fissile materials in the equipment, premises or site.
Where does nuclear catch up with alternative fuel supplies?
Operating costs are where nuclear catches up to its coal and gas counterparts. Of course, nuclear plants have to account for higher costs needed for waste disposal and reserves for decommissioning. But fuel costs and other operating costs are significantly lower for nuclear than for coal or gas.
For nuclear, uranium has to be processed, enriched and fabricated into fuel elements. About half these costs are attributable to the enrichment and fabrication processes. Spent fuel also has to be reprocessed, separated and disposed.
According to the OECD, however, the operating costs of a coal-fired plant are about three times as high as nuclear, and a gas combined-cycle plant is about four to five times higher, even after taking into account the higher fuel and waste management costs of a nuclear plant.
What is the typical lifespan of a nuclear project?
Plant life expectancy is the other factor where nuclear catches up to fossil fuel plants on the economics. Nuclear plants today are expected to operate for 60 years or more as compared to 30 to 40 years for a coal or gas plant.
And this is where Asia holds a considerable advantage. The centralised determination of policy-making and the co-ordination of the entire supply chain and financing enable some of these countries to accommodate larger capital costs by defraying them over a longer-term than might be tolerable in the West. The closer ties between government policy-makers, project sponsors, off-takers and lenders also enables them to work more effectively towards longer-term goals of energy security, cost-efficiency in baseload power generation and minimising environmental impact. During that life span, the full economic benefits of a nuclear plan far outweigh the benefits from coal or gas, even before taking into account the savings and social benefits offered by nuclear in terms of impact on the environment and public health.
But, in the West -- particularly in the US or UK where much of the power generation sector has been privatised -- it is more difficult for investors to make investment/return decisions over such a long time span. Merchant and public generators and their lenders have greater pressures for shorter-term returns, and the government role is merely supportive through tax incentives, loan guarantees and public financing. It works, but it's more complicated and less efficient.
The author of this article, Christopher Stephens, is a senior partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe in Hong Kong.
© Haymarket Media Limited. All rights reserved.
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The pressure is on for the government to roll out the country’s nuclear strategy and decisions are expected to be made within a year about the technologies and vendors for the country’s R300-billion expansion of nuclear capacity.

The favoured option of the draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2010 calls for the first new nuclear station to come on stream in 2023. With a lead time of at least 12 years, decisions will have to be made soon.

The IRP 2010 calls for six new nuclear stations, each with a capacity of 1600MW. The government is understood to favour a "fleet strategy", meaning that a single vendor could supply the technology for decades to come.

Opinion remains divided on the suitability of nuclear for the country’s energy mix. Supporters say it can supply baseload power but opponents say that it continues to carry too many risks and is not preferable to renewables such as wind and solar.

Public participation in the draft IRP 2010 is winding down -- the deadline for written submissions on all electricity generating technologies under consideration expires on Friday.

The implementation of the new energy policy will then begin in earnest.

The IRP proposes that nuclear energy should provide 14% of South Africa’s total electricity generating capacity by 2030. Nuclear is seen as the best replacement for coal and the way to provide most of the country's baseload requirements when ageing coal-fired stations are decommissioned to meet South Africa's carbon emission reduction targets.

'Time is very tight'
The department of energy expects the IRP to be promulgated by February, after which the government's nuclear procurement process will begin.

"Time is very tight, but it would be equally inappropriate to rush into nuclear without public participation," said Ompi Aphane, the department's deputy director general for electricity, nuclear and clean generation.
  More at link.
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Indonesia Could be Major Regional Player in Nuclear Power: IAEA Official Jennifer Jett

Jakarta. Indonesia is well positioned to develop nuclear power should it choose to, an international nuclear energy official visiting Jakarta said on Friday.

Glyn Davies, in his first trip to Indonesia as United States representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) this week, said that Indonesia is among nations with the best nuclear infrastructure in Southeast Asia.

He said this infrastructure included research reactors and trained personnel.

“Indonesia is a regional leader, in fact to such a great extent that other countries sometimes come to Indonesia and poach the talent that’s here — the physicists and the others that have been built up over the decades,” he said. More at link:
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Global Insights: One Step Forward, One Back for Nuclear Nonproliferation By: Richard Weitz | Column

Two developments this week illustrated the "one step forward, one step back" nature of global nuclear nonproliferation efforts. On the one hand, Iran announced further progress in its domestic nuclear program, increasing Tehran's potential ability to make nuclear weapons. On the other, the IAEA voted to establish the first completely multinational nuclear fuel bank.
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Obama Administration May Allow Nuclear Into Clean Energy Policy SustainableBusiness.com News

The Obama Administration indicated it is willing to include nuclear power--and possibly "clean" coal--in a policy definition of clean energy. It's a compromise that could bring Republicans to the table to draft comprehensive energy legislation.
Renewable energy advocates and environmentalists have long opposed the inclusion of nuclear power generation and so-called clean coal technologies with renewable resoureces like wind, solar and geothermal. 
In the past, Republican lawmakers at the state level have attempted to make nuclear and clean coal elligible technologies to meet Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) requirements. 
At a conference on nuclear power in Washington D.C. this week, Energy Secretary Steven Chu endorsed that very idea. He said a broader definition recognizes the political reality that different regions have different energy preferences. 
Read New York Times coverage at the link below.
Website: www.nytimes.com/cwire/2010/12/08/08climatewire-the-administration-explores-a-clean-energy-s-54861.html?partner=rss&emc=rss
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Taiwan confirms mass producing cruise missiles

http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Taiwan_confirms_mass_producing_cruise_missiles_999.html Taipei (AFP) Dec 9, 2010 Taiwan has confirmed for the first time that it is mass-producing cruise missiles, despite fast warming ties with China. "Mass production of indigenous weapons like the ones under the code names of 'Chichun' (Lance Hawk) and 'Chuifeng' (Chasing Wind) is very smooth," Deputy Defence Minister Chao Shih-chang told parliament Wednesday.
"The problems with key parts and components that had previously stalled the manufacturing have been tackled," he said in reply to queries raised by legislator Lin Yu-fang.
The Chichun project refers to the Hsiungfeng 2E cruise missile, Taiwan's answer to the US-made Tomahawk. Chuifeng is a project to develop the island's long-anticipated supersonic anti-ship missile.
Chao declined to specify the range of the missiles or the number to be put into service.
"Surely the cruise missiles will be able to boost Taiwan's self-defence capabilities," Alexdander Huang, a professor of Tamkang University in Taipei, told AFP.
"But that's it. Taiwan is unlikely to use such weapons to take the first strike against the targets on the mainland."
The cruise missiles could be launched from land or sea, and would be capable of hitting airports and missile bases in southeast China, as well as cities such as Shanghai and Hong Kong, local media said.
Taiwanese experts estimate China's People's Liberation Army currently has more than 1,600 missiles aimed at the island.
Tensions across the Taiwan Strait have eased since Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang came to power in 2008 on a platform of beefing up trade links and allowing in more Chinese tourists.
However, China still refuses to renounce the possible use of force against the island in its long-stated goal of re-taking Taiwan, which has ruled itself since the end of a civil war in 1949.
The Pentagon said in an annual report to Congress earlier this year that China's military build-up against Taiwan has "continued unabated" despite improving political relations.

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China, North Korea stand fast despite US anger

China, North Korea stand fast despite US anger

Seoul (AFP) Dec 9, 2010 Communist allies North Korea and China proclaimed their unity Thursday as the North's leader Kim Jong-Il held his first meeting with a senior Chinese envoy since the region's worst crisis in years erupted. China's most senior foreign policymaker Dai Bingguo visited Pyongyang as pressure intensifies on Beijing to rein in its neighbour, after North Korea's deadly shelling of a South Korean island inflamed tensions on the peninsula.
The top US military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, accused China of aiding and abetting the hardline Kim regime's "reckless behaviour".
Pyongyang and Beijing, allies during the Korean War, stand firmly together, their official media said.
"The two sides reached consensus on bilateral relations and the situation on the Korean peninsula after candid and in-depth talks," said a brief report from China's Xinhua news agency, datelined Pyongyang, after Kim and Dai met.
North Korea's official news agency said the delegations discussed "issues of mutual concern" and efforts to improve friendly relations.
It marked the first time that Kim has met a senior foreign official since the North's shock artillery attack on the border island, and since his regime startled the world by showing off a sophisticated new nuclear programme.
China is North Korea's sole major ally and sustains its shaky economy with fuel and food aid. More at link.
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WikiLeaks: Fears Myanmar building nuclear program

Pakistan media retract fake WikiLeaks story lambasting IndiaIslamabad (AFP) Dec 10, 2010 - Leading Pakistani newspapers on Friday retracted an explosive story that used fake US diplomatic cables to brand Indian generals "genocidal" and accuse New Delhi of sponsoring militants. The News claimed on Thursday that cables released by WikiLeaks showed Indian spies were supporting Islamist militants in Pakistan's northwest tribal region of Waziristan and the southwestern province of Baluchistan. Datelined from Washington, the newspaper told how US diplomats thought of one Indian general as "incompetent" and a "geek", and of another as "self-obsessed, petulant and idiosyncratic" and "barely tolerated" by subordinates. It likened another to late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic "with regard to butchering Muslims through war crimes" in Indian-held Kashmir.

But on Friday The News wrote that "on further inquiries, we learnt from our sources that the story was dubious and may have been planted." The News said the report originated from some local websites "known for their close connections with certain intelligence agencies". A variety of Pakistani newspapers carried the report on Thursday, crediting the story to the Islamabad-based Online news agency, where a receptionist on Friday refused to put through telephone calls from AFP to senior editors. English-language newspaper The Express Tribune also published a front-page retraction, saying it "deeply regrets publishing this story without due verification and apologises profusely for any inconvenience". India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947 and Pakistan's powerful military establishment continues to see India as its primary threat, despite a Taliban insurgency along the Afghan border.
http://www.spacewar.com/reports/WikiLeaks_Fears_Myanmar_building_nuclear_program_999.html Washington (AFP) Dec 9, 2010 Dockworkers and foreign businessmen have seen evidence of alleged secret nuclear and missiles weapons sites being built deep in the Myanmar jungle, a leaked US diplomatic cable said Thursday. "The North Koreans, aided by Burmese workers, are constructing a concrete-reinforced underground facility that is '500ft from the top of the cave to the top of the hill above'," according to the cable, published by the British daily The Guardian.
The cable from the US embassy in Rangoon was among those released Thursday by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, and quoted a Myanmar officer who said he had witnessed the North Korean technicians helping the construction work.
One foreign businessman told the embassy that he had seen reinforced steel bar, larger than for just a factory project, being shipped on a barge. While dockworkers also told of seeing suspicious cargo.
A cable dating from August 2004 revealed information from a Myanmar officer in an engineering unit who said surface-to-air missiles were being built at a site in a town called Minbu in west-central Myanmar.
He said some 300 North Koreans were working at the site, although the US cable noted this was improbably high, The Guardian said.
The military junta in Myanmar has dismissed reports of its nuclear intentions and brushed aside Western concerns about possible cooperation with North Korea.
But in July US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed worries about military ties between the two countries saying a ship from Pyongyang had recently delivered military equipment to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
"We continue to be concerned by the reports that Burma may be seeking assistance from North Korea with regard to a nuclear program," she said.
A June documentary by the Norwegian-based news group Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) said Myanmar was trying to develop nuclear weapons, citing a senior army defector and years of "top secret material."
The DVB documentary gathered thousands of photos and defector testimony, some regarding Myanmar's network of secret underground bunkers and tunnels, which were allegedly built with the help of North Korean expertise.
According to another leaked US cable from 2009, a well-placed source in the Myanmar military government said General Thura Shwe Mann had visited North Korea in 2008.
But the source backtracked later insisting the talks were only exploratory.
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Pact Lifts Limits on Civilian Nuclear Projects With Russia By PETER BAKER

U.S. Pact to Share Civilian Nuclear Tech With Russia Clears Congress
A U.S. pact with Russia on civilian nuclear power has cleared what the New York Times today called "its final hurdle" in Congress. The agreement would allow Russia to reprocess spent nuclear fuel from the U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman was quoted as saying the "agreement represents a major step forward in U.S.-Russian civil nuclear cooperation. It enhances cooperation on nonproliferation" and "creates new commercial opportunities for Russian and American industry."

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Russia scholar Matt Rojansky said the agreement was "potentially far more significant" than the New Start arms treaty: "It delivers on the promise of reset because it taps into fundamentally shared interests, benefits both sides and enables the U.S. and Russia to lead together on nuclear security." A spokeswoman for Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., said he opposed the deal, saying Russia continued to "train Iranian nuclear physicists, supply sensitive nuclear technology to Iran, and give secret instruction on Russian soil to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard."
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San Diego Gas & Electric Breaks Ground on Sunrise Powerlink Project - Governor calls Sunrise Powerlink example to nation

San Diego Gas & Electric Breaks Ground on Sunrise Powerlink Project
San Diego Gas & Electric has broken ground for its 117-mile, $1.9-billion Sunrise Powerlink. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger praised the project as an example to the nation, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Schwarzenegger said the huge potential for sun and wind generation in the California deserts was dependent on transmission: "If you don't have the transmission lines you have nothing. You don't even get the investors to invest." The project, he said, would "carry enough renewable energy [from the Imperial Valley to San Diego] to reduce greenhouse gas emissions one million tons a year."

KGTV quoted SDGE Chairman and CEO Jessie Knight Jr. as saying: "Today's ceremony marks the culmination of more than five years of study and planning for a transmission line critically needed to increase reliability and help meet our goal of 33 percent renewable energy by 2020." San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob was quoted as saying: "Today's deplorable and premature celebration is an insult to the fire-prone communities that will live in constant fear if this line is built. This is not a done deal."
KGTV (San Diego, Calif.), Los Angeles Times Greenspace blog, San Diego (Calif.) Union-Tribune, Dec. 9.
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DEEP-WATER DRILL SIGNS IMPROVING Oil and gas industry cautiously predicting brighter outlook in 2011 DRILLING: BP underscored dangers of deep water


The Houston Chronicle
December 5, 2010
Exclusively in your print edition
After dual setbacks of a recession and the BP spill, the oil and gas industry is seeing signs of a global rebound in deep-water drilling, even as the outlook remains cloudy in the Gulf of Mexico.
The optimism comes from the convergence of several bullish trends, including continued strength in crude oil prices, renewed growth in global energy demand and ongoing exploration success in both established and emerging deep-water basins around the world.
Many projects delayed by this year's six-month ban on deep-water drilling in the Gulf are also ready to move forward.
No one is predicting a sudden surge in deep-water activity, a prospect that is all but impossible given equipment constraints and years-long lead times required for projects.
But industry officials and analysts are cautiously predicting business will increase in 2011, and say the long-term outlook remains bright for deep-water oil and gas exploration and production - a forecast that could be good news for Houston, a major global hub for the business.
"In contrast to the regulatory uncertainty that hangs over the Gulf of Mexico, the commitment to the deep water remains strong outside the United States," said Daniel Yergin, chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Prize, an oil industry history. "If anything, it is only getting stronger."
In recent years, oil and gas companies have pushed farther into deep-water areas as higher commodity prices created greater incentive to explore, improved drilling and imaging technology put new fields in play and opportunities on land become more scarce.
Deep-water production, which didn't even exist before 1989, has surged since. By 2008, when crude prices reached a record $147 a barrel, more oil and gas was discovered in deep water than in onshore and shallow-water exploration combined.
But the deadly BP accident this year painfully underscored potential dangers of deep-water drilling and gave critics ammunition to advocate for greater regulation. Now, industry fears reform efforts will lead to a big rise in operational and insurance costs, making the U.S. Gulf a less attractive place to invest.
"The continuing unclear regulatory environment will likely delay any chance of returning to normal in the U.S. for quite some time," Louis Raspino, CEO of Houston-based offshore drilling contractor Pride International, said during a quarterly earnings conference call last month.
Active rigs at 6-year low
This year, the number of active deep-water floating rigs worldwide fell to its lowest point since 2004, according to ODS-Petrodata.
The decline came as still-weak economic conditions forced companies to scale back exploration spending around the world, and a government-imposed moratorium on deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico brought activity to a standstill.
The ban was in response to BP's Macondo well blowout April 20 that killed 11 workers and caused the nation's worst oil spill. And though the ban was lifted Oct. 12, Interior Department regulators have not yet approved any permits for wells affected by it. Delays have come as officials wade through new offshore safety and environmental rules imposed after the accident.
Producers have all but given up on winning permits before year end. A top Shell official last week even expressed doubt about hitting a company goal of resuming work in the deep-water Gulf by the first quarter of next year. Meantime, at least five of the 33 deep-water rigs working when the moratorium began have left the Gulf.
Adding more salt in the wound for industry, the White House on Wednesday reversed itself on a plan, announced in March, to open more U.S. waters to offshore drilling.
The Interior Department said the decision to keep prohibiting drilling along the Atlantic Coast and in the eastern Gulf would give regulators more time to strengthen offshore safety requirements.
Yet, despite the move, industry officials say they see a wealth of opportunity with prospects before them today in the Gulf and around the world. That's due to continued success in deep-water hot spots including Brazil and West Africa, as well as in emerging offshore areas including Indonesia, the Black Sea, India and eastern Africa.
Confidence slowly rising
Through October, the industry had announced 23 deep-water oil and gas discoveries, one fewer than at the same point a year ago, according to Quest Offshore Resources in Sugar Land.
And companies plan to drill 40 additional prospects outside the U.S. Gulf by the end of the year, firm analyst Matt Pickard said.
In November alone, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. announced three deep-water discoveries, in Brazil, West Africa and Mozambique. "We've had an excellent run of success," said Bob Daniels, senior vice president of worldwide exploration at Anadarko, which is based in The Woodlands.
Yet, perhaps in a sign of lingering cautiousness, the company plans to hold exploration spending at roughly 25 percent of its 2011 capital budget, Daniels said.
Oil company customers are slowly growing more confident, helping "move the market in the right direction," Terry Bonno, vice president of marketing at Transocean, the world's largest offshore drilling contractor, said last month in a conference call.
Likewise, ODS-Petrodata expects the pace of deep-water rig chartering should accelerate in the next 12 months.
The ongoing fallout from the BP oil spill, however, could mean fewer of those rigs will be working in the Gulf of Mexico.
Industry experts say the oil and gas industry is beginning to see signs of a global rebound in deep-water drilling:
23 The number of deep-water oil and gas discoveries announced by the industry through the end of October, one fewer than at the same point a year ago.
40 The number of additional deep-water oil and gas prospects outside the U.S. Gulf that companies plan to drill by the end of the year.
3 The number of deep-water discoveries - in Brazil, West Africa and Mozambique - announced in November alone by Woodlands-based Anadarko Petroleum Corp.
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As oil reaches a two-year high, is $100 oil around the corner?

As oil reaches a two-year high, is $100 oil around the corner?

By Phaedra Friend Troy

Reaching two-year highs near $90 a barrel, the price of oil has rallied this week in trading.

While oil and the New York Mercantile Exchange reached above $89 a barrel Friday, oil climbed above the $90-mark for North Sea Brent crude futures, based largely on Arctic weather.

Friday morning, the price of oil bobbled a bit on the NYMEX due to less-then-stellar jobs news. Nonetheless, the plummeting value of the dollar has helped to buoy the price of oil, as traders look to invest in a hard commodity as an inflation hedge.

A Bearish Take on Oil Prices

Ignoring the typical fundamentals of supply and demand, the price of oil has been trading on economic factors, such as jobs, the housing market, the value of the dollar and manufacturing numbers, for some time.

Leading energy analyst Phil Flynn argues that quantitative easing is to blame for the high price of oil. He stresses that the US Federal Reserve has been protecting the price of oil to support the idea that the economy is improving.

“The market was still reeling from the biggest peak to valley demand drop in the history of the global oil market, and a major drop in prices could signal that the economy was going in the wrong direction,” he explained. “The Fed then had step in to stop the oil price drop or risk other markets getting caught up in a deflationary contagion.”
Is $100 Oil Coming?

Bearish in his beliefs, Flynn does does not think the market can bear $100 oil, despite others’ predictions.

“We heard from oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens in January predict a return to $100 a barrel, and Barclays prediction in April, and the perennial bulls Goldman Sachs with the latest call,” he said. “Yet despite strong rallies, oil has fallen short of $100; and in fact, we have risked on more than one occasion a major sell off in oil price.”

Because the fundamentals are not supporting it, Flynn argues that the current price of oil is too high. He sees oil getting close to $100 a barrel, but thinks the push will fall short.

“The price of oil should be lower, but the world’s central bankers are making it clear that they will do everything they can to make sure that that does not happen,” he said.
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Scientists Forecast New Atom Smashers To Keep Europe Leading In Nuclear Physics

File image.
http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Scientists_Forecast_New_Atom_Smashers_To_Keep_Europe_Leading_In_Nuclear_Physics_999.html Brussels, Belgium (SPX) Dec 10, 2010 Europe needs new particle accelerators and major upgrades to existing facilities over the next ten years to stay at the forefront of nuclear physics, according to the European Science Foundation (ESF), which launches its 'Long Range Plan 2010' for nuclear physics. Nuclear physicists are working to understand the origin, evolution and nature of matter that constitutes nearly 100 per cent of visible matter in the universe. As the home of GANIL, GSI, CERN and a wide network of closely collaborating facilities, Europe is world-leader in the field.
During the decade ahead researchers are going to build on tackling the big questions: how did matter in the Universe evolve into what we see today and whether this knowledge can be used to help solve energy, health and environmental problems.
"Nuclear physics projects are 'big science', with large investments and long lead times that need careful planning and strong political support," said Guenther Rosner, Chair of the Nuclear Physics European Collaboration Committee (NuPECC) of the ESF.
"We can already see where Europe needs to be targeting funds to stay at the forefront. In particular, we need to both upgrade our major facilities and invest in new central research infrastructures offering more intense antimatter and rare isotope beams."
The report details three major routes forward for nuclear physics, all of which will require powerful new accelerator facilities. It proposes a concrete roadmap for upgrading existing, and building new, powerful nuclear physics facilities so that funding agencies can target their support.
Rosner comments: "This is an immensely important and challenging task that requires the effort of both theoretical and experimental scientists, funding agencies, politicians and the public."
Nuclear technology offers a source of low-carbon energy as well as its use in medical diagnosis and cancer therapy, security detectors, materials studies and artefact analysis.
Nuclear physics trains people in advanced techniques that are transferred to these industries. Enhancing this skills base will ensure that these organisations continue to have access to the expertise they need.
The 'NuPECC Long Range Plan 2010 - Perspectives of Nuclear Physics in Europe' results from a collaboration of the entire European nuclear physics community. It is available online,
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