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Japan to release contaminated Fukushima water into sea

Tokyo: Japan will release more than one million tonnes of contaminated water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear station into the sea, the government said, a move opposed by countries like South Korea and China.

The first release of water will take place in about two years, giving plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) time to begin filtering the water to remove harmful isotopes, build infrastructure and acquire regulatory approval.

Japan has argued the water release is necessary to press ahead with the complex decommissioning of the plant after it was crippled by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami, pointing out that similarly filtered water is routinely released from nuclear plants around the world.

Nearly 1.3 million tonnes of contaminated water, or enough to fill about 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools, is stored in huge tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi plant at an annual cost of about 100 billion yen ($912.66 million) — and space is running out.

Tepco plans to filter the contaminated water to remove isotopes, leaving only tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen hard to separate from water. Tepco will then dilute the water until tritium levels fall below regulatory limits, before pumping it into the ocean.

Tritium is considered to be relatively harmless because it does not emit enough energy to penetrate human skin and other nuclear plants around the world routinely pump water with low levels of the isotope into the ocean.

South Korea expressed “serious concerns that the decision could bring a direct and indirect impact on the safety of our people and surrounding environment.” It called on Japan to provide more information about the planned water release and said it would step up its own radiological measuring and monitoring.

Fishing unions in Fukushima have urged the government for years not to release the water, arguing it would have a “catastrophic impact” on the industry.

China hit out at Japan’s move as “extremely irresponsible”.

“This approach is extremely irresponsible and will seriously damage international public health and safety and the vital interests of the people of neighboring countries,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on its website.

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Rouhani says lifting sanctions only way to save Iran N-deal

Tehran: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urged the United States to lift sanctions to save the nuclear deal, which is also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the official IRNA news agency reported.

“JCPOA is by no means renegotiable, and the only way to protect and revive it is to remove sanctions by the United States,” Rouhani said in a telephone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Iran’s gradual retreat from its nuclear obligations is due to the US withdrawal from the JCPOA as well as the “inability” of Britain, France and Germany to fulfill their nuclear commitments, Rouhani said, stressing that Iran will re-embrace its obligations immediately if other parties of the deal adhere to their undertakings.

Iran’s recent suspension of the voluntary implementation of the additional protocol of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is within the framework of the law passed by the Iranian parliament, he said.

In the meantime, “our cooperation with the IAEA continues and we have never left the JCPOA,” he stressed.

On February 23, Iran stopped implementation of the voluntary measures including the IAEA Additional Protocol, as envisaged in the JCPOA, which are beyond safeguard agreement. (CGTN News)

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Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile ’10 times limit’

Tehran: Iran now has more than 10 times the amount of enriched uranium permitted under an international agreement, the UN’s nuclear watchdog said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile had reached 2,105 kg (4,640 lb) – well above the 300 kg agreed in 2015, the BBC reported.

Iran insists its nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.

It comes after Iran gave IAEA inspectors access to one of two suspected former nuclear sites.

The agency said it would take samples at the second site later this month.

Last year, Iran began deliberately and publicly reneging on commitments it had made under the international nuclear accord, signed in 2015 by Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US.

This included the production of more enriched uranium than it was allowed – although only at enrichment levels far below that required for use in atomic weapons.

To manufacture a nuclear weapon, Iran would need to produce 1,050 kg of 3.67 per cent enriched uranium, but would then need to further enrich that to 90% or more, according to US-based advocacy group the Arms Control Association.

Last week, Iran said it had agreed “in good faith” to let weapons inspectors access sites to resolve outstanding issues related to nuclear safeguards.

The IAEA had criticized Iran for not answering its questions about possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities at the two locations, and denying it access.

In the latest statement, the global watchdog said Iran had “provided agency inspectors access to the location to take environmental samples”.

“The samples will be analyzed by laboratories that are part of the agency’s network,” it added.

Iran stopped abiding by a number of commitments last year in retaliation against US sanctions reinstated by President Donald Trump when he abandoned the deal.

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Iran says it’s ready to work with atomic watchdog after UN rebuke

Tehran: Iran said it is committed to collaborating with the International Atomic Energy Agency, days after the United Nations watchdog adopted a resolution calling for additional inspections at the country’s nuclear sites.

“Iran is ready to continue to accept the IAEA’s legal inspections,” President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday in a cabinet meeting broadcast on state TV. “Iran is ready to maintain close cooperation with the IAEA within legal frameworks.”

The resolution calls on Iran to allow inspections at two sites that may have hosted low-level nuclear activities two decades ago. Tehran rejected the resolution and said it would deliver an “appropriate response.” Its envoy to the IAEA warned that the agency risked “destroying” the Islamic Republic’s nuclear deal with five world powers.

The 2015 accord has already been severely compromised by the Trump administration’s withdrawal two years ago and imposition of bruising sanctions. Rouhani said his country isn’t waiting to see the outcome of the US presidential election in November, and is “ready to negotiate the moment the White House and the US Congress decide to leave their misguided path and return to the P5+1 group” of nations that signed the agreement.

He didn’t say what the substance of those negotiations would be. (Hindustan Times)

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