From Volume 38, Issue 13 of EIR Online, Published Apr. 1, 2011
Asia News Digest

India: No Option But To Use Fission Power

March 20 (EIRNS)—Speaking to the news media on March 20, Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said: "What has happened in Japan is very serious. We will have to learn appropriate lessons and whatever additional safeguards, additional precautions are required we must take, but I don't believe India can abandon its nuclear energy (program)."

Ramesh was apparently responding to the increasing noises made by the anti-nuclear brigades, demanding abandonment of power generation through nuclear fission. The Wall Street Journal on March 18 cited experts saying that one immediate impact will be the delay of projects and the escalation of costs in India. "How many more warnings do we need before we finally grasp that nuclear reactors are inherently hazardous?," Greenpeace said in a release from New Delhi earlier this week.

"The nuclear industry always tells us that situation like this cannot happen with modern reactors, yet Japan is currently in the middle of a potentially devastating nuclear crisis. Nuclear power will always be vulnerable to the potentially deadly combination of human error, design failure and natural disaster," Greenpeace said.

India's Nuclear Power Corporation (NPC) director G. Nageshwar Rao, at a news briefing, pointed out on March 19 that, because of recurring power shortages in India, which cause power outages in some nuclear power plants, the Indian reactors were built with passive cooling systems, which do not depend much on instrumentation, as do those in Japan. For instance, pressure relief valves function without operator control and despite any loss of auxiliary power. Rao also said the Indian reactors have adopted the third-generation safety design features, in terms of the various passive safety features backing up the active safety systems, ensuring that the core is always filled with water containing boron, and the temperature of water would remain well below the limits.

India To Provide Technology for Developing African Agriculture

March 25 (EIRNS)—At a recently-held conference in New Delhi, a new partnership emerged among three important organizations—the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), and International Agriculture Consulting Group (IACG)—to engage with Africa in providing solutions and helping the region exploit its potential in food and agriculture through country- and region-specific interventions and strategies, involving public-public and public-private partnerships, and providing backward and forward linkages, besides research and development support.

This partnership could counter the Bill Gates Foundation's major ingress into Africa, where the Gates-lent money is promoting so-called small-scale, self-sustaining agriculture. By contrast, at the New Delhi conference, Dr. M.J. Khan, president of the IACG and Agriculture Today Group, focused on the necessity to meet the challenge of feeding the growing population, and the need for collective global efforts to address the food security concerns. ICAR director Dr. S. Ayyappan added, "Among the untapped regions with vast potential, Africa offers the scope and opportunity for the world community to engage in agriculture development and not only meet the challenge of global food security, but also hold out hope to millions of poor people."

China Moves Ahead with HTR: Nuclear 'Workhorse' for Economic Development

March 24 (EIRNS)—China will start building an HTR demonstration plant at Rongcheng, Shandong province, in April. "The world's first high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor" will be installed at Rongcheng, Cui Shaozhang, deputy general manager at Huaneng Nuclear Power Development Co., announced March 22 in Singapore. The plant will contain two 250MW high-temperature gas-cooled pebble-bed reactors.

Chinese plans to build commercial-scale HTR reactors are a year or so behind schedule, so this is a vital next step.

The HTR operates at a very high temperature, over 950°C, providing more efficient electricity generation than current nuclear plants, and potential use of the extreme heat for various industrial processes. Lower-temperature heat produced by these reactors could be applied to water desalination—an urgent requirement in China—and efficient heating for cities. "Modular" HTR reactors, of the size of the one being built in Shandong, could be located near cities and near the ocean, for both processes.

Construction of the demonstration plant, which will include time to work out any uncertainties in the technology, aims for feeding electricity to the national power grid in about 2015. Tsinghua's experimental reactor underwent a successful test in July 2010. The project will both demonstrate the HTR's economic viability, and its key advantage, safety. HTR plants do not require special emergency systems; they use inert helium for the cooling system, and cooling is independent of any external power source. Reactor cores will be able to withstand temperatures exceeding 1,600 C for several hundred hours without melting down, China Business News reported, based on an exclusive interview with Mu Zhanying, president of China Nuclear Engineering Group Co.

Despite Tsunami of Hysteria, Asia Continues Nuclear Programs

March 22 (EIRNS)—For all the lying hysteria expended by the international press over Japan's Daiichi nuclear situation, no minds have been changed in Asia. Asia had been spearheading a worldwide nuclear renaissance before the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and it still is today.

South Korea is the latest country to confirm its nuclear program. It forcefully announced Tuesday that it remains among the saner nations of the world in regard to nuclear power.

"There is no change in the government's plan for expansion of nuclear power plants," said Yun Choul-ho, president of the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety. "We believe there is no alternative to nuclear energy at this stage, and instead we can take this opportunity for reviewing nuclear safety, as well as for expanding exports of nuclear technology," he said. As with other countries, the government plans a comprehensive check-up on the safety of nuclear power plants in Korea, even though South Korea does not have the earthquake issues that Japan faces.

South Korea also has ambitious plans for the export of nuclear technology to the rest of the world, including engineering, construction, operation, and training. It has already won a prize, three-reactor deal from the UAE, and is looking for contracts in Turkey and Jordan, among other areas.

China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia in East Asia are all going forth with their nuclear plans, but have announced, as expected, some form of additional safety review. Thailand and the Philippines, which were hesitant before, remain hesitant.

South Korea Responds to North's 'Ring of Fire' Request

March 23 (EIRNS)—South Korea has positively responded to a North Korean request earlier this week to discuss responses to a possible Mt. Baekdu eruption. The South's state-run weather agency, which has responsibility in matters of this type, delivered a call through the liaison officials of the two countries for a meeting next Tuesday in the South Korean border city of Munsan.

"We have accepted North Korea's proposal to hold talks on the issue," the official said on the condition of customary anonymity. "More importantly, we proposed that experts of the two sides meet so that they can properly evaluate the extent of possible volcanic activity at Mount Baekdu."

Located on the border between North Korea and China, Mount Baekdu is the highest point on the Korean Peninsula and Manchuria, standing at 2,744 meters (9,000 feet). Its name meaning "white-headed mountain," Baekdu is also considered a sacred symbol of ancestry by both South and North Koreans. Local experts have long said that the mountain, which last erupted in 1903, may have an active core threatening the entire peninsula and far beyond.

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