nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

NRA has nuke plant volcano checklist, but experts point to eruptions’ unpredictability

dec 14 2017 buclear plants & major calderas and volcanoes.jpg
When it comes to volcanic threats to nuclear power stations, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) requires utilities to do a lot of digging.
The NRA demands that utilities evaluate the potential risks presented by any volcanoes within 160 kilometers of a given plant. That evaluation begins with a look through the written record for any mentions of eruptions plus examining the geological features of the area to determine if there is any chance the volcano will be active again in the future. If a future eruption can’t be ruled out, then the utility must determine whether pyroclastic flows — fast moving clouds of hot gas and volcanic matter — or lava flows could reach the plant. If there is such a risk, then the plant site is labeled unsuitable and the reactors banned from going on line.
In the case of the Sendai nuclear plant’s No. 1 and 2 reactors, it was found that there were five volcanoes with histories of cataclysmic eruptions within the 160-kilometer zone. A “cataclysmic eruption” is one that spews vast amounts of magma, causing large-scale ground subsidence and creating a caldera.
NRA inspectors found that there was “sufficiently little chance” of a cataclysmic eruption that could cause a pyroclastic flow to hit the Sendai plant grounds while the station was in operation. Furthermore, the regulatory body determined that measures to deal with up to 15 centimeters of volcanic ash from the Sakurajima volcano — about 50 kilometers distant — would be enough to maintain plant safety.
The NRA also called on utilities to make preparations to shut down reactors and move the nuclear fuel out of their nuclear plants if there was any sign of an impending cataclysmic eruption detected. Sendai plant operator Kyushu Electric Power Co. assured the NRA that the utility would spot signs of such an eruption by keeping a close watch out for changes in the Earth’s crust caused by magma accumulation, and the regulator accepted this explanation.
However, some volcanologists have pointed out that it is very difficult to predict the timing or scale of a cataclysmic eruption. Furthermore, there is neither a predetermined spot to move the nuclear fuel to nor a set standard for the NRA to order reactor shutdowns.
Across Japan, the Genkai nuclear station’s No. 3 and 4 reactors (which have passed NRA safety inspections ahead of a planned restart), the No. 1 to 3 reactors at Hokkaido Electric Power Co.’s Tomari nuclear plant (where the volcanic risk inspection has nearly been completed), and the No. 2 unit at the Shimane nuclear power station run by Chugoku Electric Power Co. are all close to volcanoes with calderas. However, the NRA has never declared a plant site unfit due to the threat of volcanic activity.
Regarding the Hiroshima High Court’s Dec. 13 decision to order Shikoku Electric Power Co. to shut the No. 3 reactor at its Ikata power plant in Ehime Prefecture, NRA chief Toyoshi Fuketa told reporters, “I am not directly concerned (with the case) so I am not in a position to comment.” He added that the ruling would have “no effect” on NRA inspections.
Hokkaido University specially appointed professor of nuclear reactor engineering Tadashi Narabayashi, meanwhile, said the court decision was the product of “logical leaps.”
“Stopping (reactor) operation based on personal rights requires an imminent danger,” Narabayashi wrote in a comment to the Mainichi Shimbun. “It’s difficult to say that the chance of a cataclysmic eruption, which is thought to happen only about once in 10,000 years, meets that definition. The Ikata plant’s No. 3 unit is protected from falling volcanic material and has an enhanced reactor core cooling system, so there is simply no probability of an incident that would endanger the lives of the people in the city of Matsuyama or Hiroshima.”
Meanwhile, Kobe University magma specialist Yoshiyuki Tatsumi praised the court ruling as “based on scientific knowledge grounded in current volcanology.”
“There is about a 1 percent chance of a cataclysmic eruption in Japan in the next 100 years, so mathematically speaking, one could happen at any time,” he continued. “At present, we do not know what kinds of signs would portend such an eruption. It is also unknown how much magma has built up under Mount Aso (in Kumamoto Prefecture), so the government needs to strengthen its observations there among other measures.”
Advertisements

December 14, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

For 1st time, a high court rules against nuclear plant operations

13 dec 2017 high court halt Ikata NPP.jpg
Lawyers hold up signs outside the Hiroshima High Court on Dec. 13 proclaiming an injunction had been ordered on operations at the Ikata nuclear power plant.
 
For 1st time, a high court rules against nuclear plant operations
HIROSHIMA–A high court for the first time has banned operations at a nuclear power plant.
The Hiroshima High Court issued the injunction in a verdict Dec. 13 that applies to the No. 3 reactor at the Ikata nuclear power plant in Ikata, Ehime Prefecture, operated by Shikoku Electric Power Co.
In the ruling, the high court concluded there was a chance the Ikata plant could be affected by a pyroclastic flow from Mount Aso if an eruption occurred similar in scale to a massive one 90,000 years ago on the southern island of Kyushu.
A computer simulation by Shikoku Electric of the possible effects from an eruption like the one in ancient times showed there was a possibility of a pyroclastic flow reaching the grounds of the Ikata plant.
The high court concluded that the Ikata plant was located in an inappropriate location and that the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s decision that new safety standards had been met was not rational.
The company suspended operations in October to carry out a periodic inspection. If a judicial decision overturning the Dec. 13 high court ruling is not issued, the Ikata reactor will not be able to resume operations–even if the inspection is completed without problems.
For that reason, the latest ruling could affect the government’s plans to resume operations at other nuclear plants more than six years after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
An official with Shikoku Electric Power labeled the court injunction as “extremely regrettable” and lamented the fact that it did not accept the company’s assertion that the plant is safe.
“The verdict is unacceptable,” the official said.
The utility plans to initiate procedures immediately to have the injunction suspended.
The injunction request was made by four residents of Hiroshima and Matsuyama cities. Among the main points of contention before the high court were the rationality of new safety standards approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster; the rationality behind the expected maximum strength of an earthquake for the area; and an evaluation of the effect of volcanic ash on the reactor’s operations.
While district courts have issued injunctions on operations at other plants, higher courts have overturned all those verdicts until now.
For example, the Fukui District Court in April 2015 and the Otsu District Court in March 2016 ordered operations stopped at the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors of the Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture operated by Kansai Electric Power Co., but those verdicts were later overturned.
 
13 dec hiroshima high court nix ikata npp.jpg
Lawyers hold up banners with messages such as, “Injunction issued,” following a Hiroshima High Court order to suspend operation of the No. 3 reactor at Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata Nuclear Power Plant, in Hiroshima’s Naka Ward, on Dec. 13, 2017.
High court orders Shikoku Electric to halt Ehime nuclear reactor
HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) — The Hiroshima High Court on Wednesday revoked a lower court decision and ordered the suspension of a nuclear reactor in western Japan, dealing a blow to the government and utilities aiming to bring more reactors back online.
The first high court suspension order in a series of similar injunction requests demanded that plant operator Shikoku Electric Power Co. shut the No. 3 unit of the Ikata power plant in Ehime Prefecture until the end of September next year.
The ruling blocks the planned resumption in January of the unit, which is currently offline for a regular checkup after it was restarted in August 2016.
Shikoku Electric said the decision is “unacceptable” and plans to file an appeal against it.
The court found it was irrational that the Nuclear Regulation Authority judged that the potential risks associated with a volcanic eruption would not breach the stricter regulations introduced following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.
“Specific threats to the lives and health of residents are anticipated,” the court said.
The latest decision follows the ruling by the Otsu District Court in March 2016 that ordered Kansai Electric Power Co. to suspend two reactivated nuclear reactors at the Takahama plant. The district court decision was later overturned by the Osaka High Court.
The government is looking to produce 20 to 22 percent of the country’s electricity supply with nuclear power by 2030 after the Fukushima nuclear crisis led to a nationwide halt of nuclear plants.
The focal points of the latest decision included whether the estimate by the plant operator of the potential size of an earthquake, a key factor in a reactor’s quake-resistance design, was reasonable, and whether safety screening conducted under the new regulations was credible.
The plaintiffs claimed that in calculating the size of a potential earthquake, the utility underestimated the fact that the reactor lies above the epicenter of an anticipated Nankai Trough mega-quake and that it is located near a geological fault.
They added that the post-Fukushima regulations cannot ensure safety and major damage could occur at the time of an accident or disaster because they were compiled without thoroughly determining the cause of the 2011 disaster.
But Shikoku Electric said that it has ensured safety and there is no danger.
Hiroyuki Kawai, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs said, “Our plea was understood. We could protect the Seto Inland Sea. It is our victory.”
The plaintiffs had said that if the Ikata plant, which faces the Seto Inland Sea, was to be severely damaged, nuclear substances could spread and contaminate the sea.
In March, the Hiroshima District Court had found that the new regulations and Shikoku Electric’s estimates of a possible earthquake and tsunami were reasonable.
The district court had turned down the request to halt the reactor, saying, “There is no specific risk that residents will suffer severe damage due to radioactive exposure associated with an accident.”
Following the checkup, Shikoku Electric was expected to bring the reactor back online on Jan. 22.
The plaintiffs were four residents from Matsuyama in Ehime and Hiroshima on the other side of the Seto Inland Sea. Similar injunction demands have been contested at the Takamatsu High Court, the Oita District Court and the Iwakuni branch of the Yamaguchi District Court.
 
 
Ikata power plant's No.2 reactor, right, and No. 3 reactor
Ikata power plant’s No.2 reactor, right, and No. 3 reactor in Ehime prefecture
Japan’s high court orders suspension of Ehime nuclear reactor
HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) —  The Hiroshima High Court on Wednesday revoked a lower court decision and ordered the suspension of a nuclear reactor at the Ikata power plant in Ehime Prefecture, western Japan.
It is the first high court decision on a series of injunction demands filed with four district courts seeking to halt the No. 3 reactor at the plant, which was restarted in August 2016 but is now offline for a regular checkup.
The focal points of the decision included whether the estimate by the plant operator Shikoku Electric Power Co. of the potential size of a quake, a key factor in a reactor’s quake-resistance design, was reasonable, and whether safety screening conducted under stricter regulations set after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster was credible.
Risks predicted in the event of nuclear accidents and natural disasters such as a volcanic eruption were also contested.
The plaintiffs claimed that in calculating the size of a potential earthquake, the utility underestimated the fact that the reactor lies above the epicenter of an anticipated Nankai Trough mega-quake and that it is located near a geologic fault.
They added that the post-Fukushima regulations cannot ensure safety and major damage could occur at the time of an accident or disaster because they were compiled without thoroughly determining the cause of the 2011 disaster.
But Shikoku Electric said that it has ensured safety and there is no danger.
In March, the Hiroshima District Court had found that the new regulations set by the Nuclear Regulation Authority and Shikoku Electric’s estimates of a possible earthquake and tsunami were reasonable.
The district court had turned down the request to halt the reactor, saying, “There is no specific risk that residents will suffer severe damage due to radioactive exposure associated with an accident.”
Following the checkup, Shikoku Electric was expected to bring the reactor back online on Jan. 22 and resume operations on Feb. 20.
No. 3 reactor will stay offline as key safety issues remain contested
The plaintiffs were four residents from Matsuyama in Ehime and Hiroshima on the other side of the Seto Inland Sea. Similar injunction demands have been contested at the Takamatsu High Court, the Oita District Court and the Iwakuni branch of the Yamaguchi District Court.
 
ikata npp.jpg
A lawyer representing residents who filed an injunction to suspend reactor operations at Ikata nuclear power plant speaks in front of Hiroshima High Court on Wednesday, after the court revoked a lower court decision and ordered suspension of the No. 3 reactor
Hiroshima High Court orders suspension of Ikata nuclear reactor in Ehime Prefecture, revoking district court ruling
HIROSHIMA – The Hiroshima High Court on Wednesday revoked a lower court decision and ordered the suspension of a nuclear reactor at Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata power plant in Ehime Prefecture, dealing a blow to the government and utilities that are aiming to bring more reactors back online.
The high court suspension order — the first in a series of similar injunctions — mandates that the plant operator shutter the No. 3 unit at the Ikata power plant until the end of September next year.
The ruling blocks the planned resumption in January of the unit, which is currently offline for regular checks after it was restarted in August 2016.
Shikoku Electric said the court’s decision is “unacceptable” and plans to file an appeal.
The court questioned a decision by the Nuclear Regulation Authority that potential risks associated with volcanic eruptions would not breach the stricter regulations introduced following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.
“Specific threats to the lives and health of residents are anticipated,” the court said.
The latest decision follows a ruling by Otsu District Court in March 2016 that ordered Kansai Electric Power Co. to suspend two reactivated nuclear reactors at its Takahama plant. The district court decision was later overturned by the Osaka High Court.
The Fukushima nuclear crisis led to a nationwide halt of nuclear plants, but the government is looking to produce 20 to 22 percent of the country’s electricity supply using nuclear power by 2030.
The focal points of Hiroshima High Court’s decision Wednesday included whether estimates by the plant operator, Shikoku Electric Power Co., of the potential size of possible earthquakes, were reasonable, and whether safety screening conducted under stricter regulations set after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster was credible.
Risks predicted in the event of a nuclear accident or natural disasters such as a volcanic eruptions were also contested.
The plaintiffs claimed that in calculating the size of a potential earthquake, the utility had underestimated the fact that the reactor lies above the epicenter of an anticipated Nankai Trough mega-quake, and that it is located near a geologic fault.
They added that the post-Fukushima regulations cannot ensure safety, and that major damage could occur at the time of an accident or disaster because the regulations were compiled without thoroughly determining the cause of the 2011 disaster.
But Shikoku Electric maintains that it has ensured safety and that there is no danger.
Hiroyuki Kawai, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs said, “Our plea was understood. We could protect the Seto Inland Sea. It is our victory.”
The plaintiffs had said that if the Ikata plant, which faces the Seto Inland Sea, was to be severely damaged, nuclear substances could spread and contaminate waters in the area.
In March, the Hiroshima District Court found that the new regulations set by the Nuclear Regulation Authority and Shikoku Electric’s estimates of a possible earthquake and tsunami were reasonable.
The district court had turned down the request to halt the reactor, saying, “There is no specific risk that residents will suffer severe damage due to radioactive exposure associated with an accident.”
Following the checks, Shikoku Electric had been expected to bring the reactor back online on Jan. 22 and resume operations on Feb. 20.
The plaintiffs were four residents from Matsuyama in Ehime and Hiroshima, located on the opposite side of the Seto Inland Sea to the nuclear plant. Similar injunctions have been contested at the Takamatsu High Court, Oita District Court and the Iwakuni branch of Yamaguchi District Court.

December 14, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

China builds refugee camps – prepared for influx should Kim Jong-un’s regime collapse

China building network of refugee camps along border with North Korea https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/12/china-refugee-camps-border-north-korea Document suggests at least five camps are being set up as Beijing prepares for possible influx of refugees should Kim Jong-un’s regime collapse, Guardian, Tom Phillips , 12 Dec 17, China is quietly building a network of refugee camps along its 880-mile (1,416km) border with North Korea as it braces for the human exodus that a conflict or the potentially messy collapse of Kim Jong-un’s regime might unleash.

The existence of plans for the camps, first reported in English by the Financial Times last week, emerged in an apparently leaked internal document from a state-run telecoms giant that appears to have been tasked with providing them with internet services.

The China Mobile document, which has circulated on social media and overseas Chinese websites since last week, reveals plans for at least five refugee camps in Jilin province.

The document, which the Guardian could not independently verify, says: “Due to cross-border tensions … the [Communist] party committee and government of Changbai county has proposed setting up five refugee camps in the county.”

It gives the names and locations of three such facilities: Changbai riverside, Changbai Shibalidaogou and Changbai Jiguanlizi. The New York Times reportedthat centres for refugees were also planned in the cities of Tumen and Hunchun.

A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry declined to confirm the camps’ existence at a regular press briefing on Monday but did not deny they were being built. “I haven’t seen such reports,” Lu Kang told reporters.

The question was purged from the foreign ministry’s official transcript of the briefing, as regularly happens with topics raised by foreign journalists that are considered politically sensitive or inconvenient.

North Korea fortifies part of border where defector escaped

The leaked document contains the name and telephone number of a China Mobile employee who drafted it but calls to that number went unanswered on Tuesday. The construction of the camps appears to reflect growing concern in Beijing about the potential for political instability – or even regime collapse – in North Korea.

Cheng Xiaohe, a North Korea specialist from Renmin University in Beijing, said while he could not confirm whether the document was genuine, it would be irresponsible for China not to make such preparations.

“Tensions are high on the Korean peninsula … it is on the brink of war. As a major power and a neighbouring country, China should make plans for all eventualities.”

Jiro Ishimaru, a Japanese documentary maker who runs a network of citizen journalists inside North Korea and on the Chinese side of the border, said a contact in Changbai county had recently told him that while they had not seen signs of camps being built there, they “had heard there are plans to build a facility”.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have soared this year as the US president, Donald Trump, has stepped up pressure on his North Korean counterpart and Pyongyang has accelerated its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

Trump has baited Kim with the nickname “Little Rocket Man” and threats of military action, while Kim has responded with insults of his own, and a succession of nuclear and missile tests that have brought two new rounds of UN sanctions.

Following its latest intercontinental ballistic missile test on 29 November, Pyongyang claimed the ability to strike anywhere on US soil.

‘Quite backwards’: Chinese tourists gawk at impoverished North Koreans

In an interview with the Guardian in Beijing on Monday, Dennis Rodman, the NBA star turned would-be peacemaker, played down fearsof a catastrophic nuclear conflict and denied Kim, whom he calls his friend, was “going to try and bomb or kill anyone in America”.

“We ain’t gonna die, man, come on, no … It’s not like that,” Rodman insisted, urging Trump to use him as an intermediary to engage with Kim. He described the verbal war between Trump and Kim as “a chess game” that should not be taken too seriously.

Beijing seems less certain. Last week one official newspaper in Jilin, the Chinese province closest to North Korea’s nuclear test site, hinted at that nervousness with a full-page article offering tips on how to react to a nuclear incident.

Iodine tablets, masks and soap were useful allies in the event of such a catastrophe, readers of the Jilin Daily learned.

Additional reporting by Wang Zhen and Justin McCurry in Tokyo.

December 12, 2017 Posted by | China, North Korea, politics international | Leave a comment

Why are aftershocks from North Korea’s nuclear tests still happening?


Why North Korea’s nuclear test is still producing aftershocks, BBC, 11 December 2017  “…….

Why are aftershocks still happening?

According to the USGS, last weekend’s tremors were “relaxation events”. They measured a magnitude of 2.9 and 2.4.

“When you have a large nuclear test, it moves the earth’s crust around the area, and it takes a while for it to fully subside. We’ve had a few of them since the sixth nuclear test,” an official told Reuters.

The “movement of the earth’s crust” is akin to the very definition of an earthquake and scientists say it is only to be expected in the weeks and months after an explosion of that magnitude.

“These aftershocks for a 6.3 magnitude nuclear test are not very surprising,” Dr Jascha Polet, seismologist and professor of geophysics at California State Polytechnic University, told the BBC.

After any tremor of that size, aftershocks with declining magnitude are common, as the rock moves around and releases stress.

The area around the quake site “experiences deformation, and this creates areas of increased and decreased stress, which affects the distribution of aftershocks,” Ms Polet said.

“The fact that the source of the earthquake is an explosion doesn’t change how we expect the energy to redistribute,” geophysicist and disaster researcher Mika McKinnon, told the BBC.

But research on explosions of a similar magnitude as the North Korea nuclear test at the Nevada Test Site in the US where over decades nuclear tests were carried out, has found that the aftershocks of these events were fewer in number and lower in magnitude.

So each location is unique.

Can tremors destroy the test site?

One of the speculations after the September test was that it would damage the tunnel system North Korea has dug into the mountains at its test site.

“The more energy you put into an area, the more unstable it’s going to get,” Mika McKinnon explained.

“The more tests are happening, the more energy there is, the more redistribution of stress and the more rocks will be breaking.”

There have been some indications of individual tunnel collapses, she explained. “Seismic signals that look more like rock fall than anything else. That will happen more and more.”

But, she adds, there is no way of really knowing whether the entire tunnel system will collapse as this is an engineering problem far more than a scientific one.

It is unclear whether this process already has rendered the current test site unusable but North Korea has hinted its next nuclear test could be above ground…….http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-42305161

December 12, 2017 Posted by | environment, North Korea | Leave a comment

Aftershocks 14 weeks after North Korea’s biggest nuclear test

Aftershocks detected 14 weeks after North Korea nuclear test ‘moves Earth’s crust’ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/aftershocks-north-korea-nuclear-test-tremors-punggye-ri-usgs-hydrogen-bomb-mountain-a8101966.html

‘It takes a while for the crust movement to fully subside’, says USGS  Jon Sharman 10 Dec 17 Geologists have detected two tectonic tremors that they say are probably aftershocks from North Korean nuclear tests conducted over three months ago.

The artificial explosion created near a known nuclear testing site in North Korea had “moved the Earth’s crust” and subsequent seismic activity showed the region’s underlying geology settling back down, experts said.

The aftershocks, of magnitude 2.9 and 2.4, were detected at 6.13am and 6.40am GMT on Saturday respectively, said the US Geological Survey (USGS).
Lassina Zerbo, executive secreta

ry of the Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation, said analysts had confirmed that the activity was “tectonic” in origin.

A USGS official said the tremors had occurred near the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, where North Korea conducted its sixth and largest underground nuclear test on 3 September.

“They’re probably relaxation events from the sixth nuclear test,” the official said. “When you have a large nuclear test, it moves the earth’s crust around the area, and it takes a while for it to fully subside. We’ve had a few of them since the sixth nuclear test.”

Pyongyang claimed the September test was of a thermonuclear hydrogen bomb, and experts have estimated it was 10 times more powerful than the US atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

A series of quakes since then has prompted experts and observers to suspect the test might have damaged the mountainous location of its site in the northwest tip of North Korea, where all of the country’s nuclear tests have been conducted.

South Korea’s spy agency told the country’s lawmakers in October that North Korea might be readying two more tunnels at the site.

North Korea hinted its next nuclear test could be above ground after US President Donald Trump warned in September that the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea if it threatened America.

Another possible obstacle to North Korea’s use of Punggye-ri for tests is the nearby active volcano of Mount Paektu, which North Koreans consider a sacred site. Its last eruption was in 1903, and experts have debated whether nuclear testing could trigger another.

North Korea’s official media reported on Saturday that national leader Kim Jong-un had scaled Mount Paektu with senior military officials to “emphasise his military vision” after completion of the country’s nuclear force.

But pictures released by the official KCNA news agency showed him wearing smart black leather shoes and carrying no specialised equipment.

Mr Kim declared the nuclear force complete after the test of North Korea’s largest ever intercontinental ballistic missile last month, which experts said puts all of America within range.

South Korea said Pyongyang still needed to prove it has mastered critical missile technology, such as re-entry, terminal stage guidance and warhead activation, however.

December 11, 2017 Posted by | environment, North Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

South Korea: Moon calls for ‘overwhelming’ military capability against North Korea

Moon calls for ‘overwhelming’ military capability against North Korea, Korea Herald, 
jasonyeo@heraldcorp.com By Yeo Jun-suk : Dec 8, 2017 -President Moon Jae-in urged the military to secure “overwhelming” capability to fend off North Korea’s growing military threat on Friday as South Korea’s Defense Ministry warned against another strategic provocations following its latest missile launch. 

The president also called for an “early and swift” transfer of wartime operational control from the United States to South Korea, suggesting the military should secure capability to lead combined operations in the event of contingency on the Korean Peninsula.

“Based on a robust South Korea-US alliance, we have to work swiftly to meet the conditions for wartime operational control,” said the president during a lunch meeting with some 150 military commanders at the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul.

“Given that North Korea’s missile and nuclear threat has been accelerating at a faster pace than before, the military’s role is more important than ever. You are our last line of defense against North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile threats,” he added. ……http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20171208050060

December 11, 2017 Posted by | South Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

North Korea – open to talks with USA?

North Korea ready to open direct talks with US, says Russia’s Sergei Lavrov https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/07/north-korea-ready-direct-talks-us-sergei-lavrov

Pyongyang ‘wants above all to talk to the US about guarantees for its security’
Lavrov says he informed Rex Tillerson in Vienna on Thursday, Guardian, Julian Borger in Washington, 8 Dec 17North Korea is open to direct talks with the US over their nuclear standoff, according to the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, who said he passed that message to his counterpart, Rex Tillerson, when the two diplomats met in Vienna on Thursday.

There was no immediate response from Tillerson but the official position of the state department is that North Korea would have to show itself to be serious about giving up its nuclear arsenal as part of a comprehensive agreement before a dialogue could begin.

Lavrov conveyed the apparent offer on the day a top UN official, Jeffrey Feltman, met the North Korean foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, in Pyongyang, during the first high-level UN visit to the country for six years. Feltman is an American and a former US diplomat, but the state department stressed he was not in North Korea with any message from Washington.

“We know that North Korea wants above all to talk to the United States about guarantees for its security. We are ready to support that, we are ready to take part in facilitating such negotiations,” Lavrov said at an international conference in Vienna, according to the Interfax news agency. “Our American colleagues, [including] Rex Tillerson, have heard this.”

The diplomatic moves come amid an increased sense of urgency to find a way of defusing the tensions over North Korea’s increasingly ambitious nuclear and missile tests. The standoff reached a new peak on 29 November, when North Korea tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Hwasong-15, capable of reaching Washington, New York and the rest of the continental United States. The missile launch followed the test of what was apparently a hydrogen bomb in September.

Pyongyang has said that current joint exercises by the US and South Korea involving hundreds of warplanes, along with “bellicose remarks” by US officials have “made an outbreak of war on the Korean peninsula an established fact”.

“The remaining question now is: when will the war break out,” a foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

North Korean officials have said in recent informal meetings that they are particularly concerned by the threat of a surprise “decapitation” strike, aimed at killing the country’s leaders and paralysing military command and control systems before Pyongyang could launch its missiles.

The heightened tensions and threatening language have increased fears around the world that the two sides could blunder into war through miscalculation, mistaking war games for a real attack or misreading blurred red lines.

US and North Korean positions are currently far apart, with Pyongyang rejecting any suggestion that its nuclear disarmament would be on the table at any future negotiation. The regime wants the US to recognise it as a nuclear weapons power and cease its “hostile policies” to North Korea, including sanctions and military manoeuvres off the Korean peninsula.

For its part, the US has rejected a “freeze-for-freeze” proposal advanced by Russiaand China, by which North Korea would suspend nuclear and missile tests while the US would curtail its military exercises.

State department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Thursday that direct talks with North Korea were “not on the table until they are willing to denuclearize.”

However, the two sides have had informal contacts this year, involving Joseph Yun, the US special representative for North Korea policy. Those contacts, known as the “New York channel” were cut by the North Koreans after threatening remarks by Donald Trump during the UN general assembly in September. But there have been some recent signs that Pyongyang might be interested in restoring the channel.

At a meeting in Stockholm that brought together western experts and officials from Pyongyang in late November, a North Korean representative appeared to raise, for the first time, the possibility of a channel for military-to-military communication with the US.

“In an informal discussion that we had in Stockholm, an official made an observation that there isn’t at present a way for the US and North Korea to work together to prevent an accident. I thought that was an interesting observation that I had not heard them say before,” said Suzanne DiMaggio, a senior fellow at the New America thinktank who has played a leading role in back-channel contacts with Iran and North Korea, and who attended the Stockholm meeting.

“I think the US would be best served by putting aside the focus on denuclearisation and instead look at ways to prevent accidents, reduce risks and de-escalate. Those to me seem like achievable goals.”

Sue Mi Terry, a former CIA analyst who was director for Korea, Japan and Oceanic affairs at the national security council in the Bush and Obama administrations, said Washington might be amenable to such a military hotline being established.

“I think even this administration recognises that some sort of an open channel is needed for that, not to negotiate but to have a little more transparency,” she said. “I think everyone recognises that is needed.”

Terry, who was deputy national intelligence officer for east Asia at the national intelligence council from 2009 to 2010, said that it was also possible that Yun could re-establish the New York channel with Pyongyang. But she added there was little sign such contacts would lead to substantive negotiations in the current climate.

“This latest test put a big hole in the possibility of negotiation at this moment, she said. “Ambassador Yun might do that but it’s different with the White House. I’m not sure he has strong White House support.”

December 9, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

South Korea hopes to make a profitable industry out of nuclear decommissioning

S. Korea strives to build up nuclear decommissioning industry, By Kim Eun-jung SEOUL, Dec. 8 (Yonhap) — South Korea will ramp up efforts to develop technologies related to nuclear decommissioning as the country’s oldest reactor is undergoing the lengthy, costly process of being dismantled, the energy ministry said Friday.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy launched a consultative body composed of state-run utilities, construction companies and research institutes to put concerted efforts toward developing the nation’s nuclear decommissioning industry,

The ministry said it aims to develop technologies needed to dismantle nuclear reactors by 2021 that will make such sites free of radioactive hazards and establish a research institute to pave the way for entering the global market by 2030…….

A total of 11 reactors will be retired one by one by 2030 as their operational life cycles expire as the government said it won’t extend their operation.

As part of the nuclear phase-out plan, the government is also pushing for an early closure of Wolsong-1, now the nation’s oldest operating reactor, as soon as possible.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), 34 nations have built 611 reactors and 449 were in operation as of April 2017. Among 160 reactors permanently shut down, the decommissioning process has been completed for 19. ejkim@yna.co.kr  http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/news/2017/12/08/95/0200000000AEN20171208001551320F.html

December 9, 2017 Posted by | decommission reactor, South Korea | Leave a comment

Failure of Monju fast-breeder nuclear reactor leaves Japan with a huge spent fuel problem

Japan Times 6th Dec 2017, The operator of the Monju prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor submitted
a plan Wednesday to decommission the trouble-plagued facility located in
Fukui Prefecture. The most recent plan presented to the Nuclear Regulation
Authority lays out a 30-year time frame to complete the project despite a
number of problems that remain unresolved, including where to store the
spent nuclear fuel.

The government had originally hoped the Monju reactor
would serve as a linchpin for its nuclear-fuel-recycling efforts as it was
designed to produce more plutonium than it consumed. But it experienced a
series of problems, including a leakage of sodium coolant in 1995 and
equipment failures in 2012. The plant has only operated intermittently over
the past two decades.
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/12/06/national/nuclear-reactor-operator-submits-30-year-plan-scrap-trouble-prone-monju-facility/

December 7, 2017 Posted by | Japan, reprocessing, wastes | Leave a comment

U.S. ex-envoy Robert Gallucci urges Washington and Pyongyang to consider China’s ‘freeze to freeze’ compromise

Japan Times, 7 Dec 17  KYODO, WASHINGTON – A former U.S. envoy has urged the Washington to  hold talks with Pyongyang without preconditions to break the impasse over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile threats.

“I am of the view that the two sides should agree to have ‘talks about talks’ without any preconditions,” Robert Gallucci, chief negotiator for the now-defunct 1994 nuclear freeze struck with North Korea, said in an interview.

 Gallucci’s view is at odds with U.S. President Donald Trump’s policy of imposing “maximum pressure” on North Korea in concert with the international community to compel the hermit country halt its provocative acts and engage in credible talks for denuclearization.

Gallucci also questioned Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s emphasis on pressuring North Korea, pointing out Abe’s insistence that now is not the time to talk to the country, given that it hasn’t changed its provocative behavior.

“I can’t believe refusing to talk with North Korea is in the best interests of Japan,” he said, referring to Abe’s resolve to address Pyongyang’s abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s. “I think an effort at lowering tensions would be. That he does not see it that way, I regret.”………

In a separate interview, Joshua Pollack, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California, said he does not believe pressure and sanctions alone will achieve the Trump administration’s goal of denuclearizing North Korea.

Pollack described the relationship as a seemingly endless cycle of provocations and pressure.

“Both countries are stuck in this loop where we increasingly are looking for additional increments of punishment and pressure, and they’re looking for additional increments of pressure through a sense of danger,” he said…….https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/12/07/national/politics-diplomacy/u-s-ex-envoy-robert-gallucci-urges-washington-pyongyang-consider-chinas-freeze-freeze-compromise/#.Wint99KWbGh

December 7, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

North Korea says nuclear war on Korean Peninsula inevitable

‘Established fact’: North Korea says nuclear war on Korean Peninsula inevitable https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/12/07/established-fact-north-korea-says-nuclear-war-korean-peninsula-inevitable/929796001/   Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY A nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula is inevitable because of threatening military drills by South Korea and the United States, North Korea’s foreign ministry said in comments carried by the official Korean Central News Agency late Wednesday.

December 7, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Proposal for Japan to ‘rent’ nuclear weapons from USA

Will Japan ‘rent’ nukes from US to counter North Korean threat?

‘Dual key’ nuclear weapons-sharing with Washington would save Tokyo trouble of developing own arsenal, protect alliance,  Asia Times,  DOUG TSURUOKA DECEMBER 6, 2017 , “……the unthinkable has become publicly thinkable. There’s widespread debate in Japan about whether the country should go nuclear – either by developing its own arsenal, or sharing such weapons with the US under a “dual key” arrangement, popularly known as “rent-a-nukes,” to counter the growing threat from North Korea……. http://www.atimes.com/article/will-japan-rent-nukes-us-counter-north-korean-threat/

December 7, 2017 Posted by | Japan, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Environmental dangers from North Korea’s nuclear bomb tests

WILL NORTH KOREA’S KIM JONG UN DESTROY THE ENVIRONMENT WITH HIS NUCLEAR BOMBS? http://www.newsweek.com/will-north-koreas-kim-jong-un-destroy-environment-his-nuclear-bombs-729609  BY JANISSA DELZO North Korea’s pursuit in successfully launching a long-range nuclear missile brings about a number of questions. Among them: How would the bombs affect the environment?

Although Kim Jong Un has yet to impact the United States’ physical environment, his nuclear tests have already caused extensive damage on his own soil. Testing at the country’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility has caused a majority of the trees—about 80 percent—in the area to die, according to defectors from the region. The defectors, who were interviewed by The Research Association of Vision of North Korea, also noted that the underground wells no longer had water, according to a report published in Chosun Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper.

Another notable concern is the bomb’s potential to contaminate the area with radioactive material. Although North Korean government radiation levels came back normal in September, there’s the still risk of future leaks, especially if more tests are conducted, Chinese scientists told the South China Morning Post.

The scientists warned that another nuclear test under Mount Mantap could cause it to collapse and suffer a radiation leak.

“We call it ‘taking the roof off’: If the mountain collapses and the hole is exposed, it will let out many bad things,” Wang Naiyan, former chairman of the China Nuclear Society and senior researcher on China’s nuclear weapons program, told the South China Morning Post.

Radiation also would impact other forms of life.

“In areas where humans are killed or injured by radiation, the same lethality for animals would be expected. If large herds of farm animals were affected, poor sanitation could become a significant problem,” authors of the book Effects of Nuclear Earth-Penetrator and Other Weapons wrote.

The authors noted that plants would get hit hard too, especially pine and spruce, which are among the species that are the most sensitive to radiation.

“It is conceivable that forests could be killed, which in turn could result in forest fires. The demise of the pine forest near the Chernobyl plant was one notable example of this effect,” the authors, who are part of the National Academies of Sciences, wrote.

Earth’s ozone layer would also take a large hit from nuclear blasts, according to a 2006 study. Climate scientists who conducted the research found that the extent of damage capable of nuclear weapons could impact the Earth for decades.

“Nuclear weapons are the greatest environmental danger to the planet from humans—not global warming or ozone depletion,” Alan Robock, a coauthor of the study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, told The Guardian.

December 7, 2017 Posted by | environment, North Korea | Leave a comment

Living with a nuclear North Korea – a better idea than panicking into nuclear war

Why can’t we live with a nuclear North Korea?, The Week,  Gracy Olmstead  6 Dec 17 How do you “solve” the North Korea problem? This question has dominated U.S. foreign policy discussions for years. Former President Barack Obama warned President Trump before his inauguration that the small, poor, nuclear-armed country could pose the most urgent foreign policy challenge of his presidency.

Despite extensive economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure, North Korea continues to advance its military power. Last week, North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could potentially reach the entire continental U.S. American politicians are scrambling to figure out how to respond.

Unfortunately, the first and primary position on the part of most U.S. policymakers has been panicked overreaction. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told CNN, “If we have to go to war to stop this, we will. If there’s a war with North Korea it will be because North Korea brought it on itself, and we’re headed to a war if things don’t change.”…….

North Korea is an oppressive and dictatorial country, one that has committed a plethora of human rights atrocities against its citizens, and which uses propaganda and antagonism to anger its opponents on the world stage. We know this. But while concerning, this new step by North Korea is neither unexpected nor revolutionary. The fundamentals of the situation remain unchanged. Policymakers need to take a deep breath.

Calling for war or military strikes to remove their nuclear capabilities is a counterproductive and dangerous policy. U.S. resources and presence in the region are already considerable — as American University scholar Joshua Rovner explains, “The best way to deter nuclear powers from using their arsenals to act more conventionally aggressive is by maintaining local conventional superiority. This enhances deterrence without risking escalation, which in turn reduces questions about credibility and alleviates stress on alliances.”

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in opposes preventive strikes in response to North Korea’s recent tests, and has expressed some concern that the U.S. might act prematurely. “We must stop a situation where North Korea miscalculates and threatens us with nuclear weapons or where the United States considers a pre-emptive strike,” he said at a recent emergency meeting in Seoul.

Attempting to overthrow or undermine North Korea’s regime would have massive implications for South Korea, as well as for China and North Korea’s vulnerable citizenry. In this instance, preventive military action would result in a bevy of unintended consequences, yet nobody in the Trump administration talks about this…….

Calling for war or military strikes to remove their nuclear capabilities is a counterproductive and dangerous policy. U.S. resources and presence in the region are already considerable — as American University scholar Joshua Rovner explains, “The best way to deter nuclear powers from using their arsenals to act more conventionally aggressive is by maintaining local conventional superiority. This enhances deterrence without risking escalation, which in turn reduces questions about credibility and alleviates stress on alliances.”

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in opposes preventive strikes in response to North Korea’s recent tests, and has expressed some concern that the U.S. might act prematurely. “We must stop a situation where North Korea miscalculates and threatens us with nuclear weapons or where the United States considers a pre-emptive strike,” he said at a recent emergency meeting in Seoul.

Attempting to overthrow or undermine North Korea’s regime would have massive implications for South Korea, as well as for China and North Korea’s vulnerable citizenry. In this instance, preventive military action would result in a bevy of unintended consequences, yet nobody in the Trump administration talks about this.

…….”Maximum pressure” will not work with North Korea. The U.S. must instead consider a strategy that acknowledges North Korea’s purpose and personality — and one that inspires confidence and respect in our allies, most especially South Korea, whose confidence in us seems to have been shaken by recent events…….

Although a nuclear North Korea is far from ideal, descending into panic will not serve U.S. interests abroad, and it won’t keep America safe. The Trump administration must consider the dangerous ramifications of their belligerent stance toward North Korea, before they make a catastrophic miscalculation. http://theweek.com/articles/740247/why-cant-live-nuclear-north-korea

December 6, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

United Nations’ political chief makes rare visit to North Korea

U.N. political chief makes rare visit to North Korea for ‘wide-ranging’ discussions, Japan Times, AP, AFP-JIJI, KYODO, STAFF REPORT

The U.N.’s political chief, and America’s highest-ranking national in the U.N. Secretariat, arrived in North Korea on Tuesday to begin a rare four-day visit at the invitation of Pyongyang, for a “wide-ranging” discussion on policy issues “of mutual interest and concern.”

The trip comes a week after the isolated regime launched its most powerful missile to date, and during a massive joint air exercise by the U.S. and South Korea on the Korean Peninsula involving 230 aircraft and 12,000 American troops.

 The highest-level U.N. official to visit North Korea in more than six years, U.N. Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman had met with China’s Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong on Monday before setting off for North Korea’s capital the next day, according to U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric. Feltman was later confirmed to have arrived in Pyongyang, after being seen earlier Tuesday in a U.N.-flagged car at the Chinese capital’s international airport from which North Korea’s Air Koryo operates flights.

Asked whether Feltman would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Dujarric said that his current schedule included meetings with Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, Vice Minister Pak Myong Guk, diplomats and U.N. staff for “wide-ranging” discussions.”………

Feltman’s visit comes at a time of heightened tensions between North Korea and South Korea, Japan and the United States, sparked by the reclusive country’s frequent missile launches and recent nuclear test, and particularly by its latest long-range ballistic missile launch.

Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump have traded insults and engaged in escalating rhetoric in recent months……..https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/12/05/asia-pacific/politics-diplomacy-asia-pacific/u-n-political-chief-jeffrey-feltman-heads-north-korea-rare-visit-tensions-soar/#.WicB7NKWbGg

December 6, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, politics international | Leave a comment