Japan’s Nuclear Board sets out safety regulations: nuclear industry working to weaken these
The power industry, which has a more supportive government potentially on its side, has been lobbying heavily against some of the regulations.
During the process, the requirements can be watered down.”
Japan Nuclear Board Offers New Safety Plans, WSJ, By MARI IWATA , January 31, 2013, TOKYO—Japan’s revamped nuclear-safety regulator issued its first proposed safety guidelines, telling utilities they need to plan for “unthinkable incidents,” such as the mammoth earthquake and tsunami that caused the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster.
Under the new rules, power plants will need to have more than a single access to the external grid power and to install enhanced filters to prevent contamination from being released if the reactors need to be vented due to a dangerous buildup of pressure.U.S. regulators, for example, require nuclear plants to have at least two connections to the external power grid. They require filters on some, but not all, venting valves and are weighing whether to adopt rules that would require expensive new filtering systems at 31 U.S. reactors with designs similar to Fukushima Daiichi.
The utilities also will have to plan how to deal with other types of risks previously not considered, such as a terrorist attack or a plane crash, proposing measures such as stronger buildings surrounding the reactor units and having critical backup systems at greater distance.
The new measures, which are subject to public comment, were issued Thursday by the new Nuclear Regulation Authority, set up in the aftermath of the Fukushima accident. The new body was created following criticism that the previous regulator, part of the energy ministry, was too close to the industry. Nuclear-power opponents say the agency’s work so far has shown that the previous cozy relationships, dubbed the “nuclear village,” are still in place.
Some experts said the new regulations sidestep many of the most important questions that will likely determine whether Japan will again have a heavy dependence on nuclear-generated electricity.
One key issue not yet addressed is how to determine whether a plant should be shut down because it sits on an “active” earthquake fault…..Another critical question for the utilities is whether additional equipment must all be installed immediately or over time, a question that could prompt some utilities to close older plants.
Antinuclear activist Takeshi Sakagami, who has been a regular attendee at NRA events and related expert-panel meetings since the agency began in July 2011, says the agency has been largely taken over by bureaucrats who want to restart Japan’s reactors. “Bureaucrats have been drafting the proposed rules and answering questions in the panel meetings,” he said. “It’s already back to the hands of the nuclear village members.”
He pointed out that the authority has held two sessions with power utilities in its discussions about reactor safety regulations, but so far none with residents from around Fukushima nor with antinuclear groups……
The power industry, which has a more supportive government potentially on its side, has been lobbying heavily against some of the regulations. One utility posted a profit and the other, Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.,9501.TO +0.94% has yet to report.
Makoto Yagi, president of Kansai Electric Power Co., 9503.TO 0.00% Japan’s second-largest power utility and previously heavily dependent on nuclear power, said on Jan. 25 that the company will need at least ¥285 billion ($3.15 billion) in additional capital investment to equip its 11 reactors with safety measures required by the new guidelines.
The draft rules are still open to public comment. “It’s not as simple as you might think to evaluate the guidelines at this point,” said Hiromitsu Ino, emeritus professor of the Tokyo University and an expert of raw materials used in reactors. “During the process, the requirements can be watered down.”
The utilities have been hit by higher costs of oil- and gas-fired power plants. Of the nation’s nine utilities that own and operate nuclear-power plants, seven have so far reported losses for the nine months to December…… http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324156204578275690031511384.html
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