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AP: Regulators up scrutiny of Fort Calhoun nuclear plant after finding more problems December 16, 2011

December 15, 2011

by legitgov


AP: Regulators up scrutiny of Fort Calhoun nuclear plant after finding more problems 14 Dec 2011 Several new problems have been found at a Nebraska power plant that suffered flood damage earlier this year, federal regulators said Tuesday, so inspectors will be watching the plant north of Omaha even more closely as repairs from flooding are made. The tougher oversight for the Omaha Public Power District plant in Fort Calhoun will likely further delay its restart from early next year until sometime in the spring as it makes repairs from the summer flooding. Fort Calhoun has been shut down since April, when it was being refueled.

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Chevron faces $10.6bn Brazil suit December 15, 2011

Chevron says it got the leak under control on 13 November

Prosecutors in Brazil are demanding $10.6bn (£6.8bn) from US oil company Chevron for environmental damage caused when one of its oil wells leaked off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.

The prosecutors also asked the court to immediately suspend the operations of Chevron and its drilling contractor, Transocean, in Brazil.

Brazil has already fined Chevron $28m for the spill on 8 November.

A Chevron official said the company had not yet been notified of the suit.

The prosecutors who brought the case argued that “Chevron and Transocean weren’t capable of controlling the damages from a spill of 3,000 barrels of oil, which proves a lack of environmental planning and management”.

They also accused Chevron of keeping information from Brazil’s oil regulator, known by its initials ANP.

Chevron has been banned from drilling any new wells for at least three months, while the ANP investigates the spill.

Chevron has accepted full responsibility for the leak.

The company said it had underestimated the pressure of underwater oil deposits while drilling, causing oil to rush up the bore hole and seep into the surrounding seabed.

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China imposes tariff on US car imports

The tension between America and China over international trade escalated on Wednesday when Beijing imposed additional duties on cars imported from the United States.

China‘s commerce ministry accused America’s car industry of “dumping and subsidising”, thereby causing substantial damage to China’s domestic car industry. From Thursday, levies will be charged on larger-engined cars from several manufacturers, some being European firms with factories in the US.

General Motors faces the greatest impact, almost 22% extra on some sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and other cars with engine capacities above 2.5 litres. Chrysler faces a 15% penalty, while a 2% levy will be imposed on BMW, whose US plants make many of the cars it exports to China.

Existing taxes and duties already push up the cost of US imports by 25%, and the new levies make it even more expensive for Chinese consumers to buy American. The move was swiftly attacked in the US. Carl Levin, the Democratic senator for Michigan (which includes the motor city of Detroit), called it an “unjustified” attempt to circumvent international trade laws. “Instead of ending its unlawful trade practices, China is choosing to take further steps that are unauthorised by world trade rules,” he claimed.”The livelihoods of American families and the integrity of global trade law are at stake.”

GM says the levies will have little immediate impact, as it mostly exports lower-power cars to China. Analysts, though, said the decision underlined China’s determination to protect its car industry.

“The move shows that China is always capable of intervening politically in its markets,” Juergen Pieper of Bankhaus Metzler, the German investment bank, told Bloomberg. Georges Dieng, a Paris-based analyst with Natixis Securities, said the levies had been set to “inflict pain on the Americans, above all”. Shares in General Motors fell by over 3%, while BMW’s shares slipped 5%.

China and the US have peppered each other with legal actions and tariffs over the past few years.

Earlier this month, the US International Trade Commission ruled against China’s solar-power industry after an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigation. Last week, the US pledged to take China’s anti-dumping measures against American poultry imports to the World Trade Organisation.

Debbie Stabenow, the junior senator for Michigan, urged the US government to take China’s car levies to the WTO as well. “China relentlessly breaks international trade rules, and seeks to gain an anti-competitive advantage over our companies and workers. America must be equally relentless in fighting back,” she said.

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Iran Shows Footage of Purported US Drone December 9, 2011

Iranian state television on Thursday released the first images of what it said was a U.S. unmanned reconnaissance drone downed on Sunday along Iran’s eastern border after it made a brief incursion into its airspace.  

The footage shows Iranian military officials inspecting an aerial vehicle resembling a high-tech RQ-170 Sentinel drone.  The vehicle appears to be in good shape and with no visible damage.

The chief of the aerospace division of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards, General Ami Ali Hajizadeh, said Iranian forces brought the drone down through a “cyber attack.”  He said the drone “fell into the trap of electronic warfare unit” who then managed to land it with minimum damage.

Also Thursday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Swiss Ambassador to Tehran, Livia Leu Agosti, to protest the drone incident.  The U.S. and Iran do not have diplomatic relations, and Switzerland handles American interests in Iran.  The state television said that the ministry demanded an explanation and compensation from Washington.

U.S. officials have acknowledged the drone’s loss and described the incident as a major setback to the stealth drone program.  They said there are real fears that the Iranians will share the drone technology with China or some other country, but also expressed doubts the Iranians have the expertise to recover any surveillance data from the aircraft.

The drone incident came at a time of heightened political tension over Iran’s controversial nuclear program the West suspects is aimed at developing atomic weapons.  The United States and Israel said they were considering “all options” on Tehran, if diplomacy fails to resolve the dispute.  

During a news conference in Washington Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama said Iran has a clear choice, to end its pursuit of atomic weapons in favor of a peaceful nuclear program or continue to resist global pressure and face increased isolation.  

Mr. Obama said “Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is contrary to U.S. security interests, as well as to the national interests of U.S. allies, including Israel, and Washington will work with the world community to prevent that.”

Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

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Iran shoots down US drone December 4, 2011

Iran‘s armed forces have shot down an unmanned US spy plane that violated Iranian airspace along its eastern border.

An unidentified military official quoted by the official Irna news agency on Sunday warned of a crushing response to any violations of Iranian airspace by US drone aircraft.

“An advanced RQ170 unmanned American spy plane was shot down by Iran’s armed forces. It suffered minor damage and is now in possession of Iran’s armed forces,” Irna quoted the official as saying.

No further details were given.

Iran is locked in a dispute with the US and its allies over Tehran’s alleged nuclear programme, which the west believes is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies the accusations, saying the programme is designed to generate electricity and produce isotopes for medical use.

Tehran said in January it had shot down two other unmanned spy planes over its airspace which were operated by the US.

Iran itself has focused part of its military strategy on producing drones, both for reconnaissance and offensive purposes.

It announced three years ago that it had built an unmanned aircraft with a range of more than 600 miles, far enough to reach Israel.

The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, unveiled Iran’s first domestically built unmanned bomber in August 2010, calling it an “ambassador of death” to Iran’s enemies.

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