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Posts Tagged ‘International Atomic Energy Agency’

Wednesday, October 23, 2013 @ 04:10 PM gHale

The United Nations organization that serves as an intergovernmental forum for scientific and technical cooperation in the nuclear field found malware on some of its computers.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials said some computers appeared infected with malware during the past months, according to Agence France-Presse. However, there’s no evidence any data suffered compromise.

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The malware affected data stored on USB drives used by visitors at IAEA in Vienna. However, the devices did not suffer infection.

The organization said it is continually working on making sure that vital information remains protected against cyber attacks.

Late last year, hacktivists from a group named Parastoo gained access to IAEA systems and stole various pieces of information which they leaked online.

At the time, the hackers demanded an investigation into Israel’s “secret nuclear facilities.”

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 04:08 PM gHale

Japan’s nuclear regulator upgraded the rating of a leak of radiation-contaminated water from a tank the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant to a “serious incident” on an international scale.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority’s latest criticism of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) came a day after the operator of the nuclear plant acknowledged the 300-ton (300,000-liter, 80,000-gallon) leak probably began nearly a month and a half before workers discovered it Aug. 19.

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In a meeting with agency officials and experts Tuesday night, Tepco said radioactivity near the leaky tank and exposure levels among patrolling staff started to increase in early July. There is no sign that anyone tried to find the source of that radioactivity before they discovered the leak.

On Wednesday, regulatory officials said Tepco has repeatedly ignored their instructions to improve their patrolling procedures to reduce the risk of overlooking leakages. They said Tepco lacked expertise and also underestimated potential impact of the leak because underground water is shallower around the tank than the company initially told regulators.

“Their instructions, written or verbal, have never been observed,” said Toyoshi Fuketa, a regulatory commissioner, at the agency’s weekly meeting Wednesday.

Tepco acknowledged they assigned only two workers to check all 1,000 storage tanks at the plant during their twice-daily, two-hour walk without carrying dosimeters, and their inspection results did not end up adequately recorded. Tepco said it will increase patrolling staff to 50 from the current eight.

Earlier this week, Japan’s industry minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, said the government will take over cleanup efforts and allocate funding for long-term contaminated water management projects.

The nuclear authority originally gave a Level 1 preliminary rating – an “anomaly,” to the tank leak. Last week the authority proposed raising that to Level 3 – a “serious incident” – and it made that change after consulting with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The IAEA’s ratings are an effort to inform the international community, and changing them does not affect efforts to clean up the leak by the government and Tepco. The 2011 Fukushima disaster itself rated the maximum of 7 on the scale, the same as the 1986 Chernobyl accident.

“What’s important is not the number itself but to give a basic idea about the extent of the problem,” authority chairman Shunichi Tanaka said at a news conference after the agency’s meeting. “I’ve seen reports that this is a dire situation but that’s not true.”

Tanaka said there is a much larger ongoing problem at the plant: massive amounts of contaminated ground water reaching the sea. But that problem cannot even undergo a rating under the IAEA’s International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale because no one knows exactly how much ground water is escaping, how contaminated it is and what effect it is having on the sea and marine products.

Tanaka said Tepco’s handling of the water leaks was slow, illogical and lacked risk management. Tepco has yet to determine the cause of the latest leak.

The plant suffered triple meltdowns after the massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. TEPCO is putting tons of water into its reactors to cool them and is struggling to contain the resulting waste water.

Thursday, November 29, 2012 @ 04:11 PM gHale

Information stolen from one of a U.N. nuclear watchdog’s former servers is up and viewable on a hacker website.

The stolen information was in a statement by a group calling for an inquiry into Israel’s nuclear activities. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is investigating Iran’s nuclear program.

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The IAEA said the theft concerned “some contact details related to experts working” with the Vienna-based agency but it did not say who might have been behind the action.

The stolen data did not include information related to confidential work carried out by the IAEA, one official said. One of the agency’s tasks is preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

The statement posted in the name of Parastoo (which in Farsi means swallow, the bird, and can also be a woman’s name) included a large number of email addresses and called for the people to whom they belonged to sign a petition for an “open” IAEA investigation into Israel’s Dimona reactor.

The statement dated November 25 and headlined “Parastoo Hacks IAEA” said: “Israel owns a practical nuclear arsenal, tied to a growing military body.”

Middle East experts said Israel has the only atomic arsenal but the country neither confirms nor denies this under a “strategic ambiguity” policy to deter Arab and Iranian foes.

Israel and the United States accuse Iran of seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability, a charge Tehran denies, and said the Islamic state is the main proliferation threat. That was one of the thoughts behind the Stuxnet virus: To delay or end Iran’s nuclear capability.

IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said the agency “deeply regrets this publication of information stolen from an old server that was shut down some time ago”.

Measures are underway to address concern over possible vulnerability in the server, she said.

“The IAEA’s technical and security teams are continuing to analyze the situation and do everything possible to help ensure that no further information is vulnerable,” Tudor said.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012 @ 03:08 PM gHale

The U.S. Homeland Security Department (DHS) signed a pact to deepen nuclear security collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The head of the U.N. Nuclear Security Office, Khammar Mrabit, and the acting chief of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, Huban Gowadia signed the DHS-IAEA Practical Arrangements agreement last week. The agreement is “an important step forward in the enhancement of the global nuclear security framework,” Gowadia said.

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“The Practical Arrangements build upon the extensive collaborative relationship between DHS and the IAEA, outlining the importance of strengthening nuclear security, and denoting four key areas for cooperation,” Gowadia said.

“These areas include: the implementation and development of guidelines for the IAEA Nuclear Security Series of publications that provide international guidelines and best practices related to nuclear security; collaboration on the standards, testing, characterization, and evaluation for nuclear detection instruments; providing expertise to the Nuclear Security Support Centers and Academic Research Initiatives as they pertain to radiation/nuclear detection; and cooperation in the development and review of nuclear forensics related best practices and guidelines.”

The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office oversees multiple U.S. agencies’ activities related to the creation of a global nuclear detection architecture.

The Homeland Security branch and the U.N. nuclear watchdog have been developing a joint work plan on nuclear security collaboration since 2011, Gowadia said.

Monday, March 26, 2012 @ 02:03 PM gHale

The “hydrogen economy” is here and available and could begin commercial production in this decade, a scientist said.

Heat from existing nuclear plants could see use in the more economical production of hydrogen, with future plants custom-built for hydrogen production, said International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Ibrahim Khamis, Ph.D., at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

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“There is rapidly growing interest around the world in hydrogen production using nuclear power plants as heat sources,” Khamis said. “Hydrogen production using nuclear energy could reduce dependence on oil for fueling motor vehicles and the use of coal for generating electricity. In doing so, hydrogen could have a beneficial impact on global warming, since burning hydrogen releases only water vapor and no carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. There is a dramatic reduction in pollution.”

Khamis said scientists and economists at IAEA and elsewhere are working intensively to determine how current nuclear power reactors — 435 are operational worldwide — and future nuclear power reactors could work in hydrogen production.

Most hydrogen production at present comes from natural gas or coal and results in releases of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. On a much smaller scale, some production comes from a cleaner process called electrolysis, in which an electric current flowing through water splits the H2O molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. This process, termed electrolysis, is more efficient and less expensive if water heats to form steam, with the electric current passed through the steam.

Khamis said nuclear power plants are ideal for hydrogen production because they already produce the heat for changing water into steam and the electricity for breaking the steam down into hydrogen and oxygen. Experts envision the current generation of nuclear power plants using a low-temperature electrolysis which can take advantage of low electricity prices during the plant’s off-peak hours to produce hydrogen. Future plants, designed specifically for hydrogen production, would use a more efficient high-temperature electrolysis process or couple with the thermochemical processes, which are currently under research and development.

“Nuclear hydrogen from electrolysis of water or steam is a reality now, yet the economics need to be improved,” Khamis said. He noted some countries are considering construction of new nuclear plants coupled with high-temperature steam electrolysis (HTSE) stations that would allow them to generate hydrogen gas on a large scale in anticipation of growing economic opportunities.

Khamis described how IAEA’s Hydrogen Economic Evaluation Programme (HEEP) is helping. IAEA has designed its HEEP software to help its member states take advantage of nuclear energy’s potential to generate hydrogen gas. The software assesses the technical and economic feasibility of hydrogen production under a wide variety of circumstances.

Thursday, February 23, 2012 @ 05:02 PM gHale

About 3,000 pages of transcripts of conversations recorded in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) operations center after the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster are now open to the public.

These conversations show the difficulty the agency had in responding to the nuclear crisis unfolding halfway around the world.

“I want to be clear, the early hours of the first day or two were very hectic,” said NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko. “There was not a lot of information. Much of what we knew came from a variety of sources — some from the Japanese, some from the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and a great deal from the news media.”

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The transcripts, released in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, showed agency officials struggling to get information about the disaster and trying to ascertain its potential impact on U.S. citizens in Japan, on potential fallout victims in the United States, and on operators of U.S. nuclear reactors of similar design.

The “basic facts” of the disaster are already out there, but the transcripts provide an inside look at the inner workings of a government agency at a key moment in history, an agency spokesman said.

“I don’t know if there were recordings at Three Mile Island,” said NRC spokesman Eliot Brenner, referring to the 1979 meltdown at a Pennsylvania nuclear power plant. “This is a way for us to give the American public a look — a firsthand look — at what we do in a time of crisis.”

The transcripts are of conversations and phone calls at the NRC’s operations center in Rockville, MD.

Jaczko did say the transcripts show the confusion within the agency during the early days of the crisis triggered by the massive earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, but said he believes they reflect well on the agency.

“As challenging as these days were, I have never been more honored to be the chairman of this agency than I was while I was leading the staff in this response,” Jaczko said. “What we’re making public today is in effect a very important historical record, and I’m tremendously proud of the important work here by the staff of the NRC.”

Agency officials said the Fukushima experience demonstrated the “significant limitation” the United States had on getting information about an incident “halfway around the world.”

To view the transcripts click on the NRC web site.

Thursday, November 10, 2011 @ 07:11 AM gHale

By Richard Sale
Israeli concerns over Iran’s potential nuclear program have reached a shrill crescendo of frantic anxiety.

Yet, a dimension of the issue has consistently overlooked the fact American and Israeli officials are heading a team effort to perfect the new Stuxnet worm, called Duqu, that may be able to bring down Iran’s entire software networks if the Iranian regime gets too close to breakout, U.S. intelligence sources said.

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“Stuxnet has not become useless in the least,” said a serving U.S. intelligence official. “It has all sorts of untapped potential.”

Another intelligence official said, “The cyber warfare potential of Stuxnet has by no means been exhausted. It hasn’t demonstrated the full damage it could cause if deployed.”

According to U.S. sources who refused to be named, Duqu software code shares features of the Stuxnet worm that caused such damage to Tehran’s nuclear program. Duqu has two parts, the first of which does reconnaissance of the target, assessing vulnerabilities, and the next is delivery. In the case of Stuxnet, the United States developed the “payload” for the virus, while Israel used much less sophisticated software to deliver the worm to Iranian machines.

The same more primitive delivery method would be used to field Duqu, U.S. officials said.

The original Stuxnet took several individuals working with corporations to develop, and it was very expensive, sources said. The virus entailed exactly duplicating Iran’s operating systems. U.S. officials could not give exact details, but they speculated that implanting the worm into Iran’s machines probably took an Iranian insider willing to participate who gave them the “program logic” used to control the machines.

According to a report by Symantec, this task alone took 10 developers at least six months to refine. It took more time to introduce and download the worm at Iran’s Natanz’s facility near the desert area of Kashan in central Iran. The computer was probably a laptop, one U.S. official said.

In any case, the worm was not designed to steal data or deny access but to damage centrifuges while the operator saw the system operating successfully.

The U.S. official confirmed President Barack Obama’s administration considered using Duqu against computer facilities in Libya, but dropped the idea after a full discussion.

In the meantime, rumors of an Iranian breakout continue to pile up.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report this week said Iran has made computer models of a nuclear warhead and other previously undisclosed details on secret work by Tehran on nuclear arms.

According to the Israeli newspaper, Hareetz, an Israeli official said last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are trying to muster a majority in the cabinet in favor of military action against Iran. Last Friday, President Shimon Peres said he believes Israel and the world may soon take military action against Iran.

French intelligence sources said Iran just tested a “neuron initiator at the Fordo site near Qom. This initiator is technology used to detonate a nuclear bomb. North Korea sold to Iran an MCNNPX2.6.0 computer program that simulates the neutron and photon flows in nuclear processors

The sources went on to say a delegation of North Korea engineers unveiled the program in Iran earlier this year.

But a serving U.S. intelligence official said the new IAEA report deals mainly with “models, mock-ups, and scenarios.”

He said the threat was being overplayed, “It takes a lot of expertise in weapons design to create a weapon small enough to carry a nuclear warhead, and there is no evidence that Iran has that capability.”

A former senior U.S. intelligence official said, “The question of war is a war of nerves, hoping to stampede the United States into a regional war. It is not going to happen.”

Current and former U.S. intelligence officials along with Israeli security and defense branches are vehemently against attacking Iran while Netanyahu and Barak remain in favor. These sources said Netanyahu may have a hard time mustering a majority in the cabinet and in the security cabinet, the only bodies authorized to make the final decision.

But there is clearly an effort by Netanyahu and Barak to persuade the Americans to take the lead on military action, thereby facilitating broader support in the Israeli cabinet for action. Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces are engaged in preparations for the mission.
Richard Sale was United Press International’s Intelligence Correspondent for 10 years and the Middle East Times, a publication of UPI. He is the author of Clinton’s Secret Wars and Traitors.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 @ 02:09 PM gHale

In a move to strengthen global nuclear safety following Japan’s Fukushima disaster six months ago, the U.N. atomic agency’s 35-nation board adopted a new action plan.

The plan, an eight-page document put forward by Director General Yukiya Amano of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is a series of voluntary steps meant to enhance standards worldwide.

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While the plan won approval, it was not without acrimony. “There were a number of critical voices,” one diplomat said about the closed-door discussions, referring to countries that had made clear they wanted firmer action at the international level.

Japan’s Fukushima reactor disaster in March caused countries to rethink nuclear energy on a global basis and calls for more concerted measures, including beefed-up safety checks of reactors, to make sure that type of accident does not recur.

One group of nations — Germany, France, Switzerland, Singapore, Canada and Denmark — voiced disappointment about the final version of the IAEA’s safety plan for not going far enough.

The United States, India, China and Pakistan — all big nuclear countries — were among countries resisting any moves toward mandatory outside inspections of their atomic energy facilities.

Seeking the middle ground, the IAEA appeared to have gradually lowered its ambitions in a series of drafts.

The adopted plan placed more emphasis on the voluntary nature of the measures than earlier versions, also regarding the central issue of nuclear plant inspections organized by the IAEA.

A ministerial meeting in June asked the Vienna-based U.N. agency to draw up the plan to help improve standards in how reactors are able to withstand natural disasters, in how the industry is regulated and in how to respond to emergencies.

The political impact of the massive earthquake and huge tsunami that caused Japan’s crisis was particularly strong in Europe, highlighted by Germany’s move to close all its reactors by 2022 and Italy’s vote to ban nuclear power for decades.

Fuel rods in three reactors at the Japanese complex started melting down when power and cooling functions failed, causing radiation leakage and forcing the evacuation of 80,000 people.

Currently there are no mandatory, international nuclear safety regulations, only IAEA recommendations which national regulators are in charge of enforcing. The U.N. agency conducts review missions, but only at a member state’s invitation.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 @ 01:06 PM gHale

Israel returned hundreds of pounds of nuclear waste from its nuclear reactor in Nahal Sorek to the United States, Israeli officials said.

Shaul Horev, the head of Israel’s Nuclear Energy Commission, discussed the return of the material at the International Atomic Energy Agency ministerial conference on nuclear safety in Vienna Monday.

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Horev did not specify the exact amount returned but estimates report Israel sent back hundreds of pounds of 93 percent enriched uranium used to power the Sorek reactor, according to a published report.

The return took place under a special U.S. government program to prevent nuclear waste — which a user can recycle and make nuclear weapons — from falling into the hands of terrorist organizations.

The Sorek research reactor is a five-megawatt facility donated to Israel by the United States under former president Dwight Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” program, along with nuclear fuel to power it.

The United States stopped supplying enriched uranium for the Sorek reactor as early as 1977 following a law passed by Congress and because Israel was not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011 @ 09:06 AM gHale

It is one thing to say you are ready in case a disaster occurs and it is quite another to actually be prepared.

In the case of Japan, the country falls into the latter category, as they were unprepared for a severe nuclear accident like the tsunami-caused Fukushima disaster. On top of that, the damage was greater than previously thought, the country said Tuesday in a report to the U.N. nuclear agency.

In the report, the government said the core melted in three units and likely breached the inner containment vessels after the March 11 tsunami knocked out the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant’s power and cooling systems. Fuel at Unit 1 started melting hours earlier than previously estimated.

The report, compiled by Japan’s nuclear emergency taskforce, factors in a preliminary evaluation of the disaster by a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). They will submit the report to the IAEA.

The report acknowledged a lack of independence at Japan’s nuclear regulator and promised to improve the safety control system.

The report comes the day after the government’s nuclear officials doubled the estimate of how much radiation leaked from the tsunami-ravaged nuclear plant and said there was greater damage to the reactors than officials previously reported.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said Monday in a report nuclear fuel inside three reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant probably melted through not only the reactor cores but also through the inner containment vessels.

The report Monday said twice as much radiation released into the air than earlier estimated by NISA. That would be about one-sixth of the amount released at Chernobyl instead of the earlier estimate of one-tenth.

NISA said its analysis used a different method than had been employed by the plant’s operator last month and better reflects “reality.”

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