The letter, seen by the Guardian, calls for new EU financing mechanisms for nuclear as a low carbon technology, and research and innovation initiatives to deal with the costly and unresolved issues of nuclear waste and decommissioning.
New state aid guidelines are also needed, it says, and these should be based on past EU decisions, including the approval of the UK’s planned Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in Somerset……..
The letter to the commission’s vice president Sefkovic and climate commissioner Miguel Cañete was signed by the Romanian energy minister, Andrei Gerea, on behalf of ministers in seven other countries including the UK, France, Poland, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Slovenia and Slovakia.
The ministers’ core argument is that many countries would not be able to cost-effectively meet EU climate targets and energy security objectives, without bloc support for new nuclear plant builds and the maintenance of existing reactors.
The cost-effectiveness argument is key, as minutes of a commissioner’s discussion seen by the Guardian indicate that the UK’s planned £17.6bn subsidy for Hinkley was cleared by Brussels partly on the basis that it would have been too expensive to organise a competitive tendering process.
The competition commissioner of the time, Joaquín Almunia, told other commissioners that “the specificities of nuclear technology made it impossible to achieve full competition between operators, at least at the time of the HPC project. For a project like the present one, the costs of preparing a project bid are so considerable that it would seem almost impossible to organise an open and transparent bidding process with several bidders.”
The minutes show that the EU decision largely rested on the imputed common interest in advancing nuclear power outlined in the Euratom treaty. But Hinkley’s approval was resisted by the commission’s environment and climate directorates who argued that it called into question the bloc’s ‘technology neutrality’ and would create market distortions.
“This is really about state aid which is supposed to be for new technologies that haven’t proved themselves viable yet. But nuclear energy has had 70 years and still has not been able to prove itself viable, even when the public pays for its waste disposal and decommissioning. It should not be eligible for subsidies,” said Molly Scott Cato, the Green MEP for South West England and Gibraltar………http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/04/uk-joins-romanian-push-for-new-eu-nuclear-aid-package
What Netanyahu left out of his speech to Congress http://warincontext.org/ 03/06/2015
Gary Sick lists five significant omissions: 1. Iran has dramatically reduced its stockpile of enriched uranium. Remember Bibi’s cartoon bomb that was going to go off last summer? Well, it has been drained of fuel, and that will probably continue to be true indefinitely. No mention.
2. Inspections will continue long after the nominal 10-year point, contrary to his claim that everything expires in ten years. No mention.
3. The heavy water reactor at Arak will be permanently modified, so it produces near zero plutonium. Not only did he not mention it, but he listed the reactor and plutonium as one of his threats.
4. His repeated assertion that Iran is actively seeking nuclear weapons ignores the judgment “with high confidence” of both American and Israeli intelligence that Iran has taken no decision to build nuclear weapons. It also contradicts the repeated findings of the IAEA that no materials have been diverted for military purposes.
5. All the major countries of the world are co-negotiators with the United States, so a U.S. congressional intervention that killed the deal will not only affect us but all of our major allies. If we stiff them, there is no reason to believe the international sanctions will hold for long. No mention.
Germany says using tax money for nuclear power ‘out of the question’ BY BARBARA LEWIS AND TOM KOERKEMEIER BRUSSELS Thu Mar 5, 2015 (Reuters) – Using taxpayers’ money to fund nuclear power is “absolutely out of the question”, German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Thursday, in an apparent swipe at British plans to finance new atomic generation.
Gabriel was arriving for talks in Brussels on the European Commission’s proposal for an energy union, which would deepen cross-border cooperation on energy across the 28-member EU…….
“There are countries in the EU that want to support nuclear power with tax money. We think that is absolutely out of the question,” Gabriel said.
“We will not agree by any means that nuclear energy be supported by public money. Nuclear energy is the most expensive kind of generation. It has now been around for 50 years, it is not new and it is dangerous.”
Gabriel did not directly mention Britain’s plans to finance new nuclear generation to be built by French utility EDF at Hinkley Point in southwest England.
The European Commission last year approved state aid for the 16 billion pound ($25 billion) plan, drawing fierce criticism and legal action from those who say the subsidy distorts competition.
On Wednesday, a German energy cooperative announced it would take legal action against Britain’s plan to pay a guaranteed price for power produced at Hinkley Point….. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/05/us-eu-energy-nuclear-idUSKBN0M115Q20150305
The talks will resume on March 15, probably in Geneva, as the latest deadline for agreement looms at the end of the month.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif said a deal was “very close”,telling NBC that he and his team were prepared to carry on working through the Persian New Year celebration of Nowruz starting on March 21. Continue reading
Iran’s Leaders Are Not Suicidal Critics of a nuclear deal claim the regime in Tehran is fanatical. Where’s their evidence?, The Atlantic PETER BEINART MAR 2 2015, “……..Through its proxies, Iran is fighting a regional cold war. And like the United States, U.S.S.R., and China when they were fighting their global cold war, it is doing so in a distinctly non-suicidal way. Iran is seeking to extend its power without doing something so aggressive that it provokes retaliation that imperils the regime’s survival. Iran isn’t doing truly reckless things like invading a Saudi ally in the Persian Gulf or launching chemical or biological weapons at Israel, either directly or through its terrorist proxies. And it never has. This is a regime, after all, that accepted a UN-sponsored ceasefire rather than fight to the death against Saddam’s Iraq and that cooperated with the United States to depose the Taliban.
U.S. deserves ‘benefit of the doubt’ on getting Iran nuclear deal, Kerry says BY WILL DUNHAM AND DIANE BARTZ WASHINGTON Sun Mar 1, 2015 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pressed the case on Sunday for completing nuclear diplomacy with Iran despite Israeli opposition, saying the United States deserves the benefit of the doubt on getting a deal that would prevent any need for military action to curb Tehran’s atomic ambitions.
Two days before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to address the U.S. Congress to warn against an Iran deal, Kerry delivered a stout defense of talks that are entering a critical phase with a key March 31 deadline looming.
Kerry said he hoped Netanyahu’s speech does not turn into “some great political football” but said the Israeli leader is “welcome to speak in the United States, obviously.”
Six powers – the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – are negotiating with Iran toward an agreement to restrain Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for easing economic sanctions. Netanyahu has spoken scathingly about a possible deal and says a nuclear-armed Iran would pose an existential threat to the Jewish state.
Netanyahu was invited to speak by Republican congressional leaders, but they did not inform President Barack Obama’s administration about the speech in advance. Signs are growing that the speech could damage Israel’s country’s broad alliance with the United States.
In an interview with the ABC program “This Week,” Kerry said of the Iran negotiations: “It is better to do this by diplomacy than to have to do a strategy militarily which you would have to repeat over and over again and which everybody believes ought to be after you have exhausted all the diplomatic remedies.”
Kerry said he could not promise that a deal can be reached, but said that “we are going to test whether or not diplomacy can prevent this weapon from being created.”…..http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/01/us-usa-israel-kerry-idUSKBN0LX1HJ20150301
Iran’s Zarif says Netanyahu trying to undermine nuclear talks DUBAI Sun Mar 1, 2015 (Reuters) – Iran’s foreign minister has accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of trying to undermine Iran’s negotiations towards a nuclear deal with world powers in order to distract from the Palestinian question.
Netanyahu is due to speak against a potential nuclear deal between Iran and the United States before U.S. Congress on Tuesday. His planned appearance, on invitation from the Republicans, has angered U.S. officials for its partisan nature and is likely to worsen his already frosty relations with President Barack Obama as well as undermine the wider U.S.-Israel alliance…….http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/01/us-iran-nuclear-zarif-idUSKBN0LX1IJ20150301
Win-win nuclear deal for Rowhani and Obama, Al Arabiya News Friday, 27 February 2015 Iran and the six world powers (known as the P5+1: the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and China) are planning to meet next Monday to finalize the outline for the final accord. The prolonged nuclear negotiations between the two sides resumed last week in Geneva in order to limit Iran’s nuclear program.
The Islamic Republic has added Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) and former foreign minister under the hardline government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Respectively, the United States has brought Ernest J. Moniz, the U.S. energy secretary, to the nuclear negotiations.
The addition of Moniz and Salehi, and the high-level official meetings, reflect the critical stage of the nuclear talks as well as the efforts of both the American and Iranian government to reach a general outline that would preserve their geopolitical, national, and strategic interests……..http://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2015/02/27/Win-win-nuclear-deal-for-Rowhani-and-Obama.html
Major terror attack against India could trigger nuclear war: experts http://www.deccanchronicle.com/150226/world-neighbours/article/major-terror-attack-against-india-could-trigger-nuclear-war-experts PTI | February 26, 2015, Washington: Pakistan may use nuclear weapons against India if the latter goes for a large scale military assault against it in retaliation for a major terror attack emanating from across the border, two top American experts have warned US lawmakers.
Given the presence of a strong government in New Delhi and the pressure on it from Indian citizens in the event of a repeat of 26/11 type terror attack, the ties between the two neighbours have greater danger of escalating towards a devastating nuclear warfare, in particular from Pakistan.
Such a dangerous scenario can only be avoided by the US working with Islamabad to ensure that there is no further large scale terror attack on India emanating from Pakistan, two top American experts. George Perkovich and Ashley Tellis, told members of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committe and Sub committee on Strategic Forces during a hearing yesterday. Continue reading
Potential for transforming relationships with Iran, with nuclear talks, says EU Foreign-Policy Chief
Senior U.S. officials on Monday said there was progress during weekend discussions as Iran and the six powers—the U.S., France, Germany, the U.K., Russia and China—seek to agree on the framework of a final agreement by the end of March. The deadline for the full, detailed agreement is June 30.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said this week that the six powers should know soon whether a deal was attainable. However, officials have warned that significant gaps remain in the diplomacy, which aims to ensure Tehran can’t quickly amass enough material for a nuclear bomb in return for phasing out tough international sanctions.
Asked if she believed the two sides were coming close to a deal, Ms. Mogherini said, “Yes, we are getting close.”…..http://www.wsj.com/articles/iran-six-powers-near-nuclear-deal-1424975896
“The disconnection reflects Iran addressing concerns about its enrichment [of uranium],” said the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), which closely tracks Iran’s nuclear program.
“The disconnection provides additional confidence that Iran is abiding by its commitments under the Joint Plan of Action,” it said, referring to the 2013 agreement………. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2015/Feb-20/288170-iran-has-stopped-questionable-nuclear-centrifuge-testing-iaea.ashx#sthash.P1yKqZWQ.dpuf
SA’s nuclear deal with Russia is far from done, Mail & Guardian 20 FEB 2015 LISA STEYN Money is the big problem with the initial agreement Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson signed last year, given the financial positions of both countries. Russia has emerged as an apparent frontrunner to participate in South Africa’s nuclear build, but selecting the technology is just the first of many challenges that could see a nuclear deal such as this come a cropper.
With the Russian economy in turmoil and the subsequent high cost of borrowing, its ability to raise the funding for its nuclear ambitions in many countries is being called into question – as is its ability to deliver on time.
For South Africa, it is even more of a mystery how the government will provide the loan guarantees that would be required, given that so many have been extended to ailing parastatals such as Eskom and SAA. The state may have hit its limit.
Regardless of which vendor is chosen, the guarantees and the government’s 50% localisation target for the project appear to be insurmountable obstacles, particularly given the challenges faced by the domestic construction industry.
The memorandum of understanding signed between Russia and South Africa last year is far more than a generic agreement, as the government had claimed it is. Rather, it lays the groundwork for government-to-government contracting, in terms that heavily favour Russia, the Mail & Guardian reported last week.
Not only will the agreement be binding for 20 years once in force, but the Russians will also be indemnified from any liability arising from nuclear accidents during the reactors’ life. Russia is also granted a host of regulatory concessions and favourable tax and other financial treatment. The designated competent authorities are South Africa’s department of energy and Russia’s Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation.
But unresolved issues could make the deal unworkable. An industry expert, who did not wish to be named, said: “My own view is I don’t think the guys driving it from the South African side have joined the dots. I don’t have huge confidence in the people running it and that they understand the issues.”
Despite the apparent commitment to forge ahead with Russian technology, the agreement defers a decision about funding.
The Russians are known to have offered South Africa a “build, own, operate” construction deal, according to which Russia would build and run the nuclear station, and sell the power to South Africa at an agreed price. This kind of vendor-assisted financing may be the only way South Africa could afford to go nuclear. But the bigger question now is: Can Russia?
First, sanctions have been imposed on Russia for its military intervention in the Ukraine. Then the oil price tumbled, severely hitting government revenues, which are heavily reliant on oil and gas taxes. Subsequently, the rouble has lost almost 50% of its value since the start of 2014, inflation has soared to 15%, and its sovereign credit rating was cut to sub-investment grade by one agency in January. And, in 2014 alone, $151-billion was taken out of the country.
Some nuclear economists and industry insiders believe this dire state of affairs could affect Russia’s nuclear ambitions, as new builds involve high upfront costs and are extremely sensitive to the cost of financing, which is mainly the interest rates at which the funding is secured…….
The unnamed industry expert, however, expressed concern that Russia might commit itself to a further agreement but not honour it. He said other nations that had signed nuclear deals with Russia, such as Vietnam, India and Turkey, had all experienced delays………….. http://mg.co.za/article/2015-02-19-sas-nuclear-deal-with-russia-is-far-from-done
‘Top secret’ nuclear plan ducks scrutiny Mail & Guardian 20 FEB 2015 00:00 LIONEL FAULL, SAM SOLE & STEFAANS BRÜMMER Bureaucrats driving the new build programme seem comfortable skirting transparency and fair value. In a “top secret” presentation, the energy department has proposed a closed government-to-government procurement of new nuclear power stations instead of a transparent and competitive tender.
If adopted, this would pave the way for the nuclear co-operation agreement it concluded with Russia in September – or “similar” agreements it concluded with France and China after an outcry that it was favouring the Russians – to be implemented without pitting potential suppliers openly against each other.
This flies in the face of public assurances from the government that it would follow a competitive process.
During his State of the Nation address last week, President Jacob Zuma said all countries that bid “will be engaged in a fair, transparent and competitive procurement process to select a strategic partner, or partners, to undertake the nuclear build programme”.
If the mooted six to eight nuclear power stations are built, it will be South Africa’s most expensive procurement yet, at roughly R1-trillion.
The agreement with Russia, revealed by amaBhungane last week, states that the South African government is prepared to give Russia the exclusive rights to its nuclear build programme for a minimum of 20 years. During that time, Russia could block South Africa from procuring nuclear technology from any other country.
The agreement is not yet binding, as it requires the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces to ratify it.
The French and Chinese agreements remain undisclosed.
The energy department’s recommendations on the procurement method are contained in a separate document obtained by amaBhungane. It is marked “top secret” and was prepared for presentation to the national nuclear energy executive co-ordination committee in October 2013. This was a Cabinet committee comprising the ministers and government officials directly responsible for implementing the new nuclear programme and was chaired by President Jacob Zuma………..
Despite the apparent global tendency to conclude nuclear tenders one on one, and behind closed doors, the lack of transparency is likely to jar with what South Africa’s Constitution says about procurement.
According to section 217, “when an organ of state … contracts for goods or services, it must do so in accordance with a system which is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective”……..
History doomed to repeat itself
The last time the government bypassed the Constitution on a major public procurement, the deal went badly wrong…….. The lessons of the Airbus debacle are there to be learned, so it remains to be seen whether section 217 will be bypassed again.
The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources. http://mg.co.za/article/2015-02-19-top-secret-nuclear-plan-ducks-scrutiny
PRAGUE—A plan for central European countries to produce their own nuclear fuel using Russian technology has become another flash point in the debate over the continent’s reliance on Moscow for its energy at a time of frayed relations over the conflict in Ukraine.
To its advocates in the Czech and Hungarian governments, the proposal to construct a fuel-assembly plant somewhere in the region would help countries in the European Union’s east build more nuclear power plants,……http://www.wsj.com/articles/tensions-rise-in-central-europe-over-use-of-russian-nuclear-technology-1424439629
Exposed: Scary details of SA’s secret Russian nuke deal, Mail & Guardian 13 FEB 2015 00:00 LIONEL FAULL The secret nuclear deal our leaders have signed with Russia carries many risks for South Africa. Shocking details of the secret nuclear deal that Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson signed with Russia last year can, for the first time, be revealed. The text, which has been jealously guarded by her department and Russian nuclear company Rosatom, holds many dangers for South Africa.
It creates an expectation that Russian technology will be used for South Africa’s trillion-rand fleet of new nuclear power stations. And by laying the groundwork for government-to-government contracting, it appears designed to sidestep the constitutional requirement for open and competitive tendering.
Once the agreement comes into force, the Russians will have a veto over South Africa doing business with any other nuclear vendor. And it will be binding for a minimum of 20 years, during which Russia can hold a gun to South Africa’s head, in effect saying: “Do business with us, or forget nuclear.”
The agreement confirms the government’s intention to make “Atomic Tina’s” energy department the procuring agent for the nuclear programme rather than Eskom – where the country’s nuclear expertise lies, despite the utility’s travails. Joemat-Pettersson signed the agreement in Vienna on September 21 last year, three weeks after President Jacob Zuma held talks with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, at the latter’s country estate.
It led to an immediate outcry as it appeared that Russia was being favoured over other vendor countries………..
The terms of the agreement lean heavily in Russia’s favour. They:
- Indemnify the Russians from any liability arising from nuclear accidents during the reactors’ life. The agreement says South Africa is “solely responsible for any damage both within and outside the territory of the Republic of South Africa”;
- Hand the Russians a host of regulatory concessions and “special favourable treatment” in tax and other financial matters, but offer South Africa no such incentives; and
- Require Russia’s permission if South Africa wants to export nuclear technology it develops locally as a result of learning from the Russians, thereby hindering government’s aim that the nuclear new-build programme will develop a globally competitive local nuclear industry………..
It was first obtained by South African environmental organisation Earthlife Africa Johannesburg by Russian anti-nuclear activist and head of Ecodefense Vladimir Slivyak, who got it from a source in the Russian foreign ministry. It is in Russian, and includes the signatures of Rosatom’s director general Sergey Kirienko and South African energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson.
A Russian translator commissioned by Earthlife to translate the agreement into English subsequently also found it publicly available on the ministry’s website. amaBhungane has compared Joemat-Pettersson’s signature on the document with her signature on a current document; they are identical. amaBhungane has also commissioned its own translation of the agreement, which is available to download by clicking on the link at the top of this story. – Lionel Faull
The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources. http://mg.co.za/article/2015-02-12-exposed-scary-details-of-secret-russian-nuke-deal
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