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Russia to supply advanced safe fuel for Kudankulam Nuclear Plant

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MOSCOW: New, more advanced and safe fuel will be reloaded into the two running reactors of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project or KNPP and also into the subsequent units being built in Tamil Nadu with the technical assistance of the Russian national atomic power corporation Rosatom, according to a senior company official.
Alexander Ugryumov, Vice President (R&D) of Rosatom’s fuel arm TVEL, told IANS in an interview in Moscow that the company hoped to conclude the final agreements for supply of the new fuel with the KNPP builder, the state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India or NPCIL.
Rosatom is also the equipment supplier for the KNPP, whose first two units of 1,000 MW each have already been commissioned.
Ugryumov said that at the time of negotiating for units 1 and 2, the company only had the international licence for the UTVS fuel loaded into the VVER-1000 type reactors.
“The UTVS fuel was applied to all international projects of Rosatom, including units 1 and 2 of the Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant in China and unit 1 of the Bushehr NPP in Iran,” he said.
“Now we have the licence to sell TVS-2M which is the reference solution for all power units with VVER-1000 reactors which Rosatom builds abroad. From the very beginning, TVS-2M will be loaded into the reactors of Kudankulam’s units 3, 4, 5 and 6.”
Ugryumov said the TVS-2M fuel assembly offers increased uranium capacity, improved heat reliability and enhanced operational safety, while supply agreements have already been reached in principle.
“Upgrading to TVS-2M will help improve efficiency of the Indian VVER units as well as reduce the cost of electricity. Being more robust, with higher stiffness, this fuel bundle does not bow in the reactor and preserves its initial shape, making operations safer and reliable,” he said.
“While UTVS are packed with 490 kg of enriched uranium pellets, TVS-2M bundles weigh 527 kg. For a nuclear plant operator it gives a lot of options in terms of an extension of a fuel cycle length from 250 up to 510 effective full-power days,” the official said.
The new solution is also more efficient in terms of economy.
“This is because you save the amount of money spent on the scheduled outages, while still providing the highest safety standards,” Ugryumov said.
“Secondly, with more uranium mass you will need less fuel bundles to generate electricity, so after the end of the operation there will be less spent nuclear fuel.”
With the expiry of the original 10-year fuel supply agreement for KNPP last year, Mr Ugryumov hoped to have the engineering contract signed this year for the introduction of TVS-2M fuel in the already commissioned first two units at Kudankulam.
“We hope that this year we’ll have the contract signed for the introduction of TVS-2M for Units 1 and 2. The TVS-2M allows the option of shifting the operations from 12-month to an 18-month fuel cycle,” the official said.
“With the advanced fuel, we will have three cycles lasting a total of 54 months, instead of the current duration of 36 months,” he added.
Indo-Russian nuclear cooperation was certain to have figured when Russian President Vladimir Putin invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi for an informal one-day summit at the Black Sea resort of Sochi in the second half of May to discuss the situation arising out of the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and reimposition of sanctions, which is going to affect Indian crude oil imports from the Gulf nation.


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Trump’s 2016 campaign didn’t conspire with Russia, finds Mueller report

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Washington: US Attorney General William Barr has said Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not find proof that Donald Trump or his campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential elections, following which the US president claimed “complete and total exoneration”.

In his four-page letter to the Congress, which was later made public, Brar however said that “while this (Mueller’s) report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him” and sets out evidence on “both sides of the question”.

The investigation had cast a shadow over the Trump presidency for nearly two years with the Democratic leadership alleging that Russian interference helped him in the 2016 polls.

 

Barr said that Mueller found no proof of such a conspiracy “despite multiple offers from Russia-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign”.

“The special counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election,” the attorney general said.

Mueller, in his report, “did not draw a conclusion – one way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction”, Barr told the lawmakers.

“For each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the special counsel views as ‘difficult issues’ of law and fact concerning whether the president’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction,” Barr said, adding Mueller “ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment”.

In the letter, he also said the Department of Justice has determined that there is not sufficient evidence to establish that Trump committed obstruction of justice.

“After reviewing the special counsel’s final report on these issues; consulting with department officials, including the Office of Legal Counsel; and applying the principles of federal prosecution that guide our charging decisions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the special counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense,” the letter read.

“The special counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election,” it said, adding, “the report identifies no actions that, in our judgement, constitute obstructive conduct.”

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Pak PM orders probe into alleged forced conversion, underage marriages of two Hindu girls

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Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered a probe into reports of alleged abduction, forced conversion and underage marriages of two teenage Hindu girls in Sindh province and to take immediate steps for their recovery, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Sunday.

The two girls, Raveena (13) and Reena (15), were allegedly kidnapped by a group of “influential” men from their home in Ghotki district in Sindh on the eve of Holi.

Soon after the kidnapping, a video went viral in which a cleric was purportedly shown soleminising the Nikah (marriage) of the two girls. In a separate video, the minor girls can be seen saying that they accepted Islam of their own free will.

 

In a Twitter post in Urdu on Sunday, Information Minister Chaudhry said that the prime minister has asked the Sindh chief minister to look into reports that the girls in question have been taken to Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab.

Chaudhry said the prime minister has also ordered the Sindh and Punjab governments to devise a joint action plan in light of the incident, and to take concrete steps to prevent such incidents from happening again.

“The minorities in Pakistan make up the white of our flag and all of our flag’s colours are precious to us. Protection of our flag is our duty,” he said.

On Saturday, Chaudhry said that the government had taken notice of reports of the forced conversion and underage marriages of the two girls.

The Hindu community in Pakistan has carried out massive demonstrations calling for strict action to be taken against those responsible, while reminding Prime Minister Khan of his promises to the minorities of the country.

Last year, Khan during his election campaign had said his party’s agenda was to uplift the various religious groups across Pakistan and said they would take effective measures to prevent forced marriages of Hindu girls.

Sanjesh Dhanja, President of Pakistan Hindu Sewa Welfare Trust, an NGO, earlier urged Prime Minister Khan to take note of the incident and prove to everyone that minorities were indeed safe and secure in Pakistan.

“The truth is minorities suffer from different sorts of persecution and the problem of young Hindu girls being kidnapped at gunpoint and forced to convert to Islam or get married to much older men is widespread in Sindh,” he said.

Dhanja said the Hindu community had staged several sit-ins in Ghotki district after which police reluctantly registered FIR against the accused persons. The Hindu community leaders have claimed that the accused belonged to the Kohbar and Malik tribes in the area.

Following the incident, an FIR was filed by the girls’ brother, alleging that their father had an altercation with the accused sometime ago and on the eve of Holi they armed with pistols forcibly entered their home and took the sisters away.

A Pakistan Muslim League-Functional MPA Nand Kumar Goklani, who had initially moved a bill against forced conversions, urged the government to get the law passed immediately.

Hindus form the biggest minority community in Pakistan. According to official estimates, 75 lakh Hindus live in Pakistan. However, according to the community, over 90 lakh Hindus are living in the country. Majority of Pakistan’s Hindu population is settled in Sindh province where they share culture, traditions and language with their Muslim fellows.

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ISIS terrorists emerge from tunnels to surrender to US forces after Caliphate fails

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Baghouz: Dozens of ISIS group militants emerged from tunnels to surrender to US-backed forces in eastern Syria , a day after their “caliphate” was declared defeated.

Syria’s Kurds warned that despite the demise of the proto-state, the thousands of foreign militants they have detained are a time-bomb the world urgently needs to defuse.

An AFP reporter saw dozens of people — mostly men — file out of the battered encampment in the remote village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border to board pickup trucks.

 

“They are IS fighters who came out of tunnels and surrendered today,” Kurdish spokesman Jiaker Amed said.

Some sported thick beards and wore long woollen kaftans over their dark-coloured robes, or a chequered scarf around their faces, as they trudged out of their final hideout under the drizzle.

“Some others could still be hiding inside,” said Amed.

World leaders were quick to hail Saturday’s announcement by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces that the last shred of land controlled by ISIS in Syria had been conquered.

But the top foreign affairs official for the country’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region warned the members captured during the assault still posed a threat.

“There are thousands of fighters, children and women and from 54 countries, not including Iraqis and Syrians, who are a serious burden and danger for us and for the international community,” Abdel Karim Omar told AFP.

“Numbers increased massively during the last 20 days of the Baghouz operation,” he said.

He also warned of the continuing danger posed by ISIS sleeper cells.

The SDF is continuing to carry out operations to rout out any remaining terrorists in the area and uncover possible weapons caches.

“This back-clearance operation will be deliberate and thorough and help ensure the long-term security for the area,” the US-led coalition backing the SDF wrote on Twitter.

As the SDF’s months-long assault closed in against the last ISIS strongholds in the Euphrates Valley, terrorists and their families gradually gathered in Baghouz.


While some managed to escape, many foreigners stayed behind, either surrendering or fighting to the death.

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