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Groups fear no nuclear debate in Niigata governor’s race

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Participants in an anti-nuclear gathering in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, raise placards demanding the abolition of nuclear power plants on Sept. 3.

NIIGATA–Anti-nuclear groups are pleading with Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida to rescind his decision not to run for re-election, seeing him as the “last bastion” to block the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.

The groups fear that the absence of Izumida in the Oct. 16 Niigata gubernatorial election, whose official campaigning starts on Sept. 29, will cause a dearth in debate among candidates on the safety of the multiple-reactor nuclear plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. in the prefecture.

Governor (Izumida) is not aware of his value,” said Kunio Ueno, 66, secretary-general of the organizing committee for a gathering of anti-nuclear groups held in Kashiwazaki on Sept. 3.

Eighteen groups, based in and outside Niigata Prefecture, set up the organizing committee for the gathering and demanded the decommissioning of reactors at the plant.

We will not allow candidates in the gubernatorial election to conceal a point of contention,” their declaration read. “We will make the issue of the nuclear power plant the biggest point of contention.”

Outside the site of the gathering, several citizens groups collected signatures to ask Izumida to run in the election.

On Aug. 30, Izumida, 53, who is in his third term as Niigata governor, announced he will not seek re-election, citing a report in a local newspaper that was not related to the nuclear issue.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority is currently conducting screenings toward the restart of reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.

But Izumida has insisted that the causes of the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, also operated by TEPCO, must be verified before reactor operations can resume in his prefecture.

As of now, only Tamio Mori, 67, mayor of Nagaoka in Niigata Prefecture, has announced he will run in the governor’s race.

On the issue of whether to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, Mori has only said, “I will strictly examine it based on protecting the security and safety of people in the prefecture.”

About 1,300 people took part in the Sept. 3 gathering.

Sayaka Sakazume, 32, of Niigata city, said: “It will be a problem for me if there are no candidates I can vote for based on my thoughts against the reactor restarts. I want a political situation in which we can choose a candidate.”

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201609040026.html

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September 5, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Treated Fukushima Water Safe for Release, Tepco Adviser Says

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Tepco has more than 600,000 tons of treated water at site

Government has final decision on what to do with the water

Treated water from Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc.’s wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant north of Tokyo is safe to be released under controlled circumstances into the nearby Pacific Ocean, an independent adviser to the utility said.

It is much better to do a controlled release in my view than to have an accidental release,” Dale Klein, the adviser and a former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said in an interview in Tokyo. “I get nervous about just storing all that water when you have about a thousand tanks. You have all the piping, all the valves, everything that can break. ”

More than five years after the meltdowns at Fukushima, Tokyo-based Tepco continues to struggle to contain the radiation-contaminated water that inundates the plant.

About 300 metric tons of water — partly from the nearby hills — flow into Fukushima’s reactor building daily, mixing with melted fuel and becoming tainted, according to the company’s website. For perspective, that’s roughly the amount of water contained in one lane of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

The water is currently pumped out of the buildings and purified, lowering its radioactive content with a system called Advanced Liquid Processing System, or ALPS. The treated water, which still contains a radioactive element known as tritium, is then stored in one of roughly 1,000 tanks at the site.

Water Challenges

What to do with the treated water remains a headache for Tepco. The utility was urged by the International Atomic Energy Agency in May 2015 to consider discharging the water into the ocean. In early 2014, Klein, the Tepco adviser, criticized the company’s progress in managing the water situation, saying at the time that the task distracted Tepco from other important challenges associated with the cleanup.

Tepco will cooperate with the government, local authorities, and fishermen regarding what to do with the tritium water, spokesman Tatsuhiro Yamagishi said by phone. As of July 28, Tepco stored 668,352 tons of treated water at the Fukushima plant, while 188,462 tons of untreated water was waiting in a second set of tanks to be processed by ALPS, according to Tepco’s Yamagishi.

The government agency overseeing handling of the treated water hasn’t decided whether to go ahead with an ocean release because it needs to “weigh any potential impact on society,” according to an official who asked to not be named, citing internal policy.

I hope the government will help move towards a decision,” Klein said.

Nuclear power plants routinely and safely release dilute concentrations of tritiated water, according to the the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Release of the “water will not be a safety issue, but it will be an emotional issue,” Klein said. “A lot of people are not going to know what tritium is and they’re just going to perceive that the water is glowing in the dark.”

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-09-05/treated-fukushima-water-safe-for-release-tepco-adviser-says

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September 5, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | Leave a comment

Kyushu Electric nixes governor’s request to halt Sendai nuclear plant

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Kyushu Electric President Michiaki Uriu, left, hands over the company’s response to Kagoshima Governor Satoshi Mitazono on Sept. 5.

Kyushu Electric nixes governor’s request to halt nuclear plant

KAGOSHIMA–Kyushu Electric Power Co. on Sept. 5 knocked back a request by Kagoshima Governor Satoshi Mitazono to immediately shut down its Sendai nuclear power plant in light of recent earthquakes in the region.

Mitazono, who was elected in July on a campaign pledge to suspend the reactor operations for a safety review, submitted his request to Kyushu Electric on Aug. 26, citing concerns about active faults around the facility.

Michiaki Uriu, president of Kyushu Electric, delivered the company’s response to Mitazono in person at the Kagoshima prefectural government office.

He said the two reactors at the Sendai nuclear plant would continue to generate electricity until mandatory safety inspections are carried out later this year.

The utility did, however, promise to give stronger backing to the prefectural government’s review of evacuation plans and provide more information about the plant to local residents in the event of a natural disaster or nuclear accident.

Uriu told Mitazono, “We understand your concerns in all seriousness and plan to take steps to reduce the anxiety felt by Kagoshima residents.”

Mitazono expressed dismay at Kyushu Electric’s decision and indicated he may submit another request to shut down the plant “if the need arises.”

“I strongly requested that in the wake of the earthquakes in Kumamoto the nuclear plant should be stopped for another inspection,” Mitazono said. “I wish you could abandon the mind-set that nuclear plants are infallibly safe.”

In his August request, Mitazono called for an immediate suspension of the nuclear plant operations and a further safety examination on grounds that residents of Kagoshima had become more concerned after a series of earthquakes from April hit Kumamoto Prefecture bordering Kagoshima to the north.

Kyushu Electric argued that the prefectural governor does not have the legal authority to suspend nuclear plant operations, which the utility said were vital for stable corporate performance.

The company also feared that if it went along with the request it could jeopardize operations at other nuclear plants around Japan.

The Sendai plant’s No. 1 reactor will undergo a periodic safety inspection from Oct. 6, and the No. 2 reactor from Dec. 16.

Kyushu Electric said the inspections will incorporate seven factors asked for by Mitazono, including the reactor pressure vessel.

The utility also said it will undertake special additional inspections covering aspects not included in the governor’s request, such as whether bolts on equipment had loosened.

The company pledged to provide additional vehicles to the 16 that elderly residents can use to evacuate in the event of an accident at the plant. The offer represents the company’s commitment to providing support for the planned revision of evacuation plans.

But it rejected Mitazono’s request for a study of active faults in the vicinity of the Sendai plant on the grounds that a considerable number of such studies had already been conducted.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201609050044.html

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The No. 1 and No. 2 reactors are seen at the Sendai nuclear power plant in Satsumasendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, in this photo taken from a Mainichi helicopter.

Kyushu Electric rejects governor’s call to suspend nuclear reactors

KAGOSHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) — Kyushu Electric Power Co. on Monday rejected a request by the governor of Kagoshima Prefecture in southwestern Japan to immediately suspend operations of two reactors at its Sendai nuclear plant there.

In a meeting at the prefectural government office, the utility’s president, Michiaki Uriu, handed Gov. Satoshi Mitazono a written rejection, seeking to gain understanding about its claim that the safety of the facility will be proved through a regular checkup scheduled to be held as early as October.

Mitazono will scrutinize the paper and consider his government’s response. Although a governor has no legal power to suspend the operation of reactors, he could still repeat his request by issuing a statement if he finds the utility’s response unsatisfactory.

In the checkup, Kyushu Electric plans to examine its reactor vessels and a facility for keeping spent nuclear fuel as sought by the prefecture.

The company does not plan to hold any new probe into possible active faults near the plant, saying it has already thoroughly checked them and is ready to explain the survey results to the governor.

In late August, Mitazono demanded that Kyushu Electric immediately suspend the plant’s Nos. 1 and 2 reactors to verify their safety, the first such move by the head of a prefecture since the 2011 nuclear crisis at the Fukushima plant.

Mitazono, who was elected on an antinuclear platform in July, cited growing local worries about the plant’s safety after powerful earthquakes devastated nearby Kumamoto Prefecture and its vicinity in April.

In September 2014, the Sendai plant passed tougher safety standards for nuclear plants in Japan introduced in the wake of the Fukushima crisis, leading to the restart of Nos. 1 and 2 reactors in August and October last year, respectively.

The No. 1 reactor will suspend operations from Oct. 6 and the No. 2 reactor from Dec. 16 for the regular checks that will take about two months to complete.

Currently, the two Sendai reactors and another reactor at Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata plant in western Japan are operating in Japan after passing the post-Fukushima safety checks.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160905/p2g/00m/0dm/043000c

 

September 5, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Only 10% of population returns to Fukushima town

naraha 4 sept 2016

 

Monday marks one year since the lifting of an evacuation order for Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, that was imposed following the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

However, less than 10 percent of the town’s registered population has returned.

The number of new housing built in the town this year reached 296 in June, 4½ times more than last year’s total. However, among Naraha’s registered population of 7,300, only 681 people had returned to live there as of Friday, according to the municipality.

Residents who have resumed farming, the town’s key industry, are also limited in number.

According to the Naraha government, about a quarter of the households were involved in farming before the accident. However, planting has resumed in only about 20 hectares of rice paddies this year, about 5 percent of the town’s farming area before the accident.

Shuko Watanabe, a 55-year-old cattle breeder in the town, restarted work in July, becoming the first farmer to start breeding for beef among the about 40 farmers who used to be in Naraha.

He breeds five Japanese black cattle while continuing to mainly live in Iwaki, also in the prefecture. Although he only has half the cattle he did before the accident, Watanabe thinks resuming work will encourage others to return to the town.

According to a Reconstruction Agency survey, about 8.4 percent of the 2,000 households that responded said they intend to return early. About 34.7 percent said they will return when certain conditions are met.

Combined with the 7.6 percent of the town’s population that has already returned, about half of the households intend to return.

http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003193419

September 5, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | Leave a comment

JCFC steel in troubled French reactor also used in 13 Japanese nuclear power plants

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Thirteen Japanese nuclear reactors were constructed with steel made by the same domestic company that produced material used in a French power plant that has come under scrutiny after anomalies were found in the structure of its reactor vessel.

Six utilities used steel from Japan Casting & Forging Corp. (JCFC), they all said in separate statements Friday. The company was identified by Japanese authorities last month as having supplied steel to the Flamanville nuclear plant, developed by Electricite de France SA and Areva SA, where the French safety authority last year found weaker-than-expected steel.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority asked utilities last month to examine reactor parts made by the same companies that supplied the Flamanville facility. Utilities must now evaluate whether their reactor pressure vessels meet national standards and report the results to the regulator by Oct. 31.

It’s just to be sure,” said an NRA official.

JCFC said it has thrown away steel parts that lead to weaker products, adding that its steels have cleared the safety criteria.

The Japanese facilities affected include Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai No. 1 and 2 reactors in Kagoshima Prefecture, the company said Friday. The plant was restarted last year and is facing opposition from a new governor who has demanded they be temporarily shut for inspections.

Reactors now in operation don’t need to be shut down, Yoko Kobayashi, an official with the NRA’s planning division, said Friday. The affected utilities are now required to submit manufacturing reports and past evaluation results, she said.

The steel scrutiny is the latest hurdle for the nuclear power industry since the 2011 Fukushima disaster and could hamper the government’s goal of having it account for as much as 22 percent of its energy mix by 2030.

Local court challenges have threatened reactor operations, and even those restarted under new post-Fukushima safety rules have faced a rocky road. Only three of the nation’s 42 operable reactors are online.

Parts made by JCFC met rigorous standards requested by the utilities, and the company will provide support going forward, JCFC official Seigo Otsubo said Friday.

EDF and Areva are conducting additional tests to determine whether the anomalies present a safety issue. The two companies said in April that the submission of their report to French regulators about the Flamanville reactor has been delayed until year-end.

EDF has also determined that steam generator channel heads at 18 French reactors contain anomalies similar to those at Flamanville, Autorite de Surete Nucleaire, the safety regulator, said in June.

According to statements from the utilities, the domestic reactors made with steel from JCFC include: units 2 and 4 at the Fukushima No. 2 power plant run by Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc.; unit 2 at the Takahama power plant and units 1 and 2 at the Oi power plant, both run by Kansai Electric Power Co.; reactors 2, 3 and 4 at the Genkai plant and reactors 1 and 2 at the Sendai plant run by Kyushu Electric Power Co.; reactor 2 at the Ikata plant run by Shikoku Electric Power Co.; reactor 1 at the Shika plant managed by Hokuriku Electric Power Co.; and reactor 2 at the aging Tsuruga plant run by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/09/04/national/jcfc-steel-troubled-french-reactor-also-used-13-japanese-nuclear-power-plants/#.V8x3Fa3KO-c

September 5, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Monju and the nuclear fuel cycle

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Media reports that the government is finally weighing whether to pull the plug on the Monju fast-breeder reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, due to the massive cost needed to restart the long-dormant facility, should come as no surprise. Once touted as a “dream reactor” for an energy-scarce country that produces more plutonium than it consumes as fuel, Monju has been a nightmare for national nuclear power policy for the past two decades. The sole prototype reactor for this kind of technology has been in operation a mere 250 days since it first reached criticality in 1994. It has mostly been offline since a 1995 sodium coolant leak and fire. Its government-backed operator has been declared unfit by nuclear power regulators to run the trouble-prone reactor, and the education and science ministry, in charge of the project, has not been able to find a viable solution.

More than ¥1 trillion in taxpayer money has so far been spent on Monju, and maintenance alone costs ¥20 billion a year. Restarting the reactor under the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s new safety standards would cost another several hundred billion yen, including the expense of replacing its long-unused fuel as well as its aging components — though there would still be no guarantee that it would complete its mission of commercializing fast-breeder reactor technology.

The Abe administration may think that writing off the ill-fated costly project, even with the projected ¥300 billion cost of decommissioning the facility over 30 years, will help win more public support for its policy of seeking to reactivate the nation’s conventional reactors — most of which remain idled in the wake of the 2011 meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima No. 1 plant — once they’ve cleared the NRA screening. Public concerns over the safety of nuclear energy remain strong after the Fukushima disaster, with media surveys showing a large portion of respondents still opposed putting the idled reactors back online.

If it is going to decide to decommission the Monju reactor, however, the government should also rethink its pursuit of the nuclear fuel cycle — in which spent fuel from nuclear power plants is reprocessed to extract plutonium for reuse as fuel. Monju, which runs on plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, has been a core component of the program. As Monju remained dormant for more than 20 years, the government and power companies have shifted the focus of the policy to using MOX fuel at regular nuclear power plants. The No. 3 reactor at Shikoku Electric Power’s Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture, which resumed operation in August, runs on MOX fuel. The government apparently thinks the Monju program is no longer essential to the policy.

But the nuclear fuel cycle itself has proven elusive, and some say the policy has already collapsed. It is still nowhere in sight when the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture — another key component in the program and whose construction began in 1993 — will be ready for operation.

After its scheduled completion in 1997 has been delayed by more than 20 times due to a series of technical glitches and other problems, its construction cost has ballooned three times the original projection to ¥2.2 trillion.

If indeed the Rokkasho facility is completed and starts reprocessing spent fuel from power plants across the country, the Ikata power plant is currently the only one in operation that consumes plutonium-uranium fuel. It’s not clear how many more will be up and running in the years ahead given the slow pace of restarting the idled reactors, and the Rokkasho facility operating without a sufficient number of reactors using MOX fuel would only add to Japan’s stockpile of unused plutonium — which has already hit 48 tons.

If it’s the cost problem that’s finally spelling doom for the Monju project, the government and power companies should also consider the cost-efficiency of the nuclear fuel cycle program, including the extra cost of reprocessing spent fuel into MOX fuel. They should also think about whether the program is compatible with the government’s stated policy — though its commitment may be in doubt — of seeking to reduce Japan’s dependency on nuclear power as an energy source.

Monju has drifted on for years after its future was clearly in doubt. A decision now to terminate the project seems sensible. Such a decision should also prompt the government to stop and consider whether its nuclear fuel cycle still makes sense.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2016/09/04/editorials/monju-nuclear-fuel-cycle/#.V8x28K3KO-c

September 5, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

News Navigator: How far has decontamination progressed in Fukushima?

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The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about the decontamination of areas that were heavily exposed to radiation in the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

Question: What is the situation right now with the decontamination of areas that were exposed to radioactive materials in the Fukushima nuclear incident, where residents were ordered to evacuate?

Answer: In April 2012, areas that were under evacuation orders were separated into three categories based on annual radiation exposure dosages. Decontamination work has not been carried out in areas of the Fukushima Prefecture towns of Okuma, Futaba, Namie, Tomioka, and the prefectural villages of Iitate and Katsurao and the city of Minamisoma — classified as “difficult-to-return zones” with annual radiation exposure dosages topping 50 millisieverts — save for a few areas that were decontaminated on a trial basis.

Meanwhile, in “restricted residence zones,” where the annual radiation exposure dosage is between 20 and 50 millisieverts, and in “preparing for lifting of evacuation order zones,” which have annual radiation exposure dosages of 20 millisieverts or lower, the government is aiming to have decontamination completed by March 2017.

Q: Why haven’t “difficult-to-return zones” been decontaminated?

A: In addition to the fact that all residents had evacuated, it was determined immediately after the disaster broke out that decontamination efforts would be ineffective because of the high levels of radiation there. However, radiation has the property of decreasing as time passes. Indeed, according to measurements taken by an airplane that was released by the Nuclear Regulation Authority in February this year, radiation levels had gone down significantly. And in some areas, where decontamination was attempted on a trial basis, there was some success.

Q: How much does radiation go down through the decontamination process?

A: According to the Environment Ministry, in a trial decontamination of the Akougi district in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture — designated a “difficult-to-return zone” — radiation levels went down by half. However, a ministry official explains that radiation levels there cannot be brought down to zero because even if the area is decontaminated, radiation seeps in via rain and other means.

Q: What is done with the waste that results from decontamination?

A: The Environment Ministry estimates that 16 million to 22 million cubic meters of radioactively contaminated waste will result from decontamination work. That waste will be stored temporarily in municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture, then transported to interim storage facilities in the prefectural towns of Okuma and Futaba. However, only 5 percent of the entire land area needed for storing radioactive waste had been secured as of late July. (Answers by Hanayo Kuno, Science and Environment News Department)

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160903/p2a/00m/0na/001000c

September 5, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , | Leave a comment

The end of the line for Japan’s super expensive nuclear reprocessing project?

Monju has drifted on for years after its future was clearly in doubt. A decision now to terminate the project seems sensible. Such a decision should also prompt the government to stop and consider whether its nuclear fuel cycle still makes sense.

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flag-japanMonju and the nuclear fuel cycle
 http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2016/09/04/editorials/monju-nuclear-fuel-cycle/#.V8yFTFt97Gg Media reports that the government is finally weighing whether to pull the plug on the Monju fast-breeder reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, due to the massive cost needed to restart the long-dormant facility, should come as no surprise. Once touted as a “dream reactor” for an energy-scarce country that produces more plutonium than it consumes as fuel, Monju has been a nightmare for national nuclear power policy for the past two decades.

The sole prototype reactor for this kind of technology has been in operation a mere 250 days since it first reached criticality in 1994. It has mostly been offline since a 1995 sodium coolant leak and fire. Its government-backed operator has been declared unfit by nuclear power regulators to run the trouble-prone reactor, and the education and science ministry, in charge of the project, has not been able to find a viable solution.

More than ¥1 trillion in taxpayer money has so far been spent on Monju, and maintenance alone costs ¥20 billion a year. Restarting the reactor under the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s new safety standards would cost another several hundred billion yen, including the expense of replacing its long-unused fuel as well as its aging components — though there would still be no guarantee that it would complete its mission of commercializing fast-breeder reactor technology.

The Abe administration may think that writing off the ill-fated costly project, even with the projected ¥300 billion cost of decommissioning the facility over 30 years, will help win more public support for its policy of seeking to reactivate the nation’s conventional reactors — most of which remain idled in the wake of the 2011 meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima No. 1 plant — once they’ve cleared the NRA screening. Public concerns over the safety of nuclear energy remain strong after the Fukushima disaster, with media surveys showing a large portion of respondents still opposed putting the idled reactors back online.

If it is going to decide to decommission the Monju reactor, however, the government should also rethink its pursuit of the nuclear fuel cycle — in which spent fuel from nuclear power plants is reprocessed to extract plutonium for reuse as fuel. Monju, which runs on plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, has been a core component of the program. As Monju remained dormant for more than 20 years, the government and power companies have shifted the focus of the policy to using MOX fuel at regular nuclear power plants. The No. 3 reactor at Shikoku Electric Power’s Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture, which resumed operation in August, runs on MOX fuel. The government apparently thinks the Monju program is no longer essential to the policy.

But the nuclear fuel cycle itself has proven elusive, and some say the policy has already collapsed. It is still nowhere in sight when the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture — another key component in the program and whose construction began in 1993 — will be ready for operation.

After its scheduled completion in 1997 has been delayed by more than 20 times due to a series of technical glitches and other problems, its construction cost has ballooned three times the original projection to ¥2.2 trillion.

If indeed the Rokkasho facility is completed and starts reprocessing spent fuel from power plants across the country, the Ikata power plant is currently the only one in operation that consumes plutonium-uranium fuel. It’s not clear how many more will be up and running in the years ahead given the slow pace of restarting the idled reactors, and the Rokkasho facility operating without a sufficient number of reactors using MOX fuel would only add to Japan’s stockpile of unused plutonium — which has already hit 48 tons.

If it’s the cost problem that’s finally spelling doom for the Monju project, the government and power companies should also consider the cost-efficiency of the nuclear fuel cycle program, including the extra cost of reprocessing spent fuel into MOX fuel. They should also think about whether the program is compatible with the government’s stated policy — though its commitment may be in doubt — of seeking to reduce Japan’s dependency on nuclear power as an energy source.

Monju has drifted on for years after its future was clearly in doubt. A decision now to terminate the project seems sensible. Such a decision should also prompt the government to stop and consider whether its nuclear fuel cycle still makes sense.

September 5, 2016 Posted by | Japan, reprocessing | Leave a comment

USA and China formally ratify Paris climate agreement

logo Paris climate1Flag-USAflag-ChinaUS joins China in ratifying Paris climate agreement in ‘turning point’ for planet , ABC News 4 Sept 16 America and China have formally joined the Paris climate change agreement, with US President Barack Obama hailing the accord as the “moment we finally decided to save our planet”.

The move by the world’s two biggest polluters is a major step forward for the 180-nation deal, which sets ambitious goals for capping global warming and funnelling trillions of dollars to poor countries facing climate catastrophe.

Mr Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping handed ratification document to United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon, who said he was now optimistic the agreement will be in force by the end of the year.

Mr Ban described the two leaders as far-sighted, bold and ambitious.

“China and the United States represent nearly 40 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

“Now by formally joining the Paris agreement your have added powerful momentum to the drive for the agreement to enter into force this year.”

Mr Obama said history would show that the Paris deal would “ultimately prove to be a turning point, the moment we finally decided to save our planet”……..http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-04/us-joins-china-in-ratifying-paris-climate-agreement/7812366

September 5, 2016 Posted by | China, climate change, USA | Leave a comment

Coal lobby is urged to copy tactics of the tobacco lobby!

spin-corporate.Here we go again: Fossil fuel industry takes a play from Big Tobacco’s playbook http://www.dailyclimate.org/t/1692193038704125011  August 31, 2016 by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)

Last year, coal mining executives attending the annual meeting of the Rocky Mountain Coal Mining Institute were treated to a presentation on the future of American mining titled:“Survival Is Victory: Lessons From the Tobacco Wars.”  As the title implies, the presentation laid out a path for the fossil fuel industry to weather a barrage of lawsuits and new safety and health regulations, modeled on the efforts of the tobacco industry in the 90s and early 2000s.  (See John Schwartz’s story in The New York Times.)

Richard Reavey, the Cloud Peak Energy vice president who delivered the presentation, described the similarities between what Big Tobacco went through and the challenges facing coal today as “remarkable and eerie.” (We should take his word for it. Before working for Cloud Peak, a mining company, Reavey was an executive at tobacco giant Philip Morris for 17 years, according to his LinkedIn profile.) His advice to the coal execs: do what tobacco did and “cut a deal while we are still relevant.” After all, “a much more heavily regulated tobacco industry is still viable and profitable.”

Ironically, Reavey’s presentation on these similarities between tobacco and fossil fuel strategies has a much deeper parallel.

For decades, cigarette makers hid from the public and from policymakers the scientific evidence they had of their product’s dangers. The Justice Department brought, and ultimately won, a civil racketeering lawsuit against the major tobacco companies for carrying out that fraud. Today, researchers often compare this tobacco fraud on the public to the fossil fuel industry’s suppression of its research on the dangers of carbon pollution.

Dr. Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University has written about the pattern followed by both industries: hiring their own scientists to churn out favorable research; creating (and bankrolling) front groups to sow doubt in the public debate about scientific consensus, while obscuring the hand of the industry; and even attacking and harassing individual scientists whose work may discredit the industry propaganda. Professor Mann himself has been the target of vexatious “investigations” and efforts to intimidate and harass him, including death threats—just for producing peer-reviewed academic research shedding light on the effects of increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Dr. Robert Brulle of Drexel University has documented an intricate propaganda web of climate denial, with over one hundred organizations, from industry trade associations to conservative think tanks to plain old phony front groups. The purpose of this sophisticated denial apparatus, he says, is “a deliberate and organized effort to misdirect the public discussion and distort the public’s understanding of climate.” These are tactics that were developed, tested, and proven effective by the tobacco industry—and in some cases the very same front groups were involved.

Public lawyers demanded that the “tobacco files”” behind this fraud be made a public record. A recentanalysis by the Center for International Environmental Law of millions of documents from these tobacco industry archives reveals close collaboration over the better part of a century between cigarette manufacturers and oil producers on research, lobbying, and public relations.  The new bookPoison Tea, by Climate Nexus Executive Director Jeff Nesbit, chronicles this same relationship.

In the book and film Merchants of Doubt, Drs. Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway identify spin doctors, spokespeople and even scientists-for-hire who were involved in the tobacco and now fossil fuel campaigns. Not only has the energy industry recycled tobacco’s strategies and front groups, it’s redeploying some of the same personnel, like Mr. Reavey, the coal convention presenter.

Sharon Eubanks, lead counsel on behalf of the United States in United States v. Phillip Morris, the federal tobacco litigation, has said she believes the government could make a case against fossil fuel producers very similar to the one she led against tobacco under federal civil racketeering laws.  That’s not just because coal companies are openly taking cues from tobacco’s legal and regulatory fight.  It’s because mounting evidence indicates that, like tobacco, the fossil fuel industry may have engaged in a deliberate, protracted fraud to mislead the public, to protect their profits, to the peril of us all.

September 5, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, Reference, spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

Less than 10% of citizens return to Fukushima town Naraha

flag-japanOnly 10% of population returns to Fukushima town, September 04, 2016 The Yomiuri Shimbun Monday marks one year since the lifting of an evacuation order for Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, that was imposed following the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

However, less than 10 percent of the town’s registered population has returned.

The number of new housing built in the town this year reached 296 in June, 4½ times more than last year’s total. However, among Naraha’s registered population of 7,300, only 681 people had returned to live there as of Friday, according to the municipality.

Residents who have resumed farming, the town’s key industry, are also limited in number……http://www.the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003193419

September 5, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016, Japan, politics | Leave a comment

French Unionists take legal action to stop Hinkley nuclear power project

legal actionflag-franceEDF representatives file legal challenge in France over Hinkley Point Five union members in France are seeking to annul decision on £18bn project to build nuclear reactors, Guardian,  in Paris . Tensions over Britain’s proposed nuclear power station at Hinkley Point have flared again in France as five worker representatives on the board of the French power company EDF filed a challenge to overturn the company’s controversial decision to build the nuclear reactors.

The employee representatives believe EDF’s chief executive “did not communicate crucial information about a major project” he was aware of before the 28 July meeting at which the board of directors approved the £18bn project to build Britain’s first new nuclear reactors in decades, their law firm told Agence France-Presse.

The five union board members have filed a complaint with the Paris commercial court seeking to annul the decision because the Jean-Bernard Levy had not shared essential information with all board members.

The complaint also protests against the participation of several directors “with conflicts of interests”, according to the law firm Alain Levy. The challenge claims that some of the EDF board members who voted in favour of Hinkley Point represent companies that are EDF customers and could benefit from the UK contract. French firms Bouygues and Vallourec have denied that members of their boards who are also on the board of EDF had a conflict of interest in their Hinkley Point vote………

The nuclear reactors carry huge risks for both France and Britain. EDF will assume the upfront costs, which unions say could jeopardise the firm’s survival, while Britain has committed to pay a price twice current market levels for the power generated by the plant……..

A date for a Paris court hearing should be set on 5 September.

EDF is also being sued by its Works Council, which also wants to annul the vote because it argues it had not received the necessary documents from management to give non-binding preliminary advice to the company. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/aug/31/edf-representatives-file-legal-challenge-in-france-over-hinkley-point

September 5, 2016 Posted by | France, Legal | Leave a comment

At G20, British PM Theresa May confirms that UK is reviewingHinkley nuclear project

G20 Summit: May confirms Hinkley nuclear power station security being reviewed It comes on the eve of a crucial bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Independent Joe Watts and Ted Jeory Political Editor

text Hinkley cancelledTheresa May has confirmed that her officials are reviewing security around the Hinkley nuclear project in which the Chinese government is involved.

The Prime Minister signalled while speaking at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou that security would be a component in work to review the Hinkley scheme. It comes as Mrs May prepares for her first meeting with President Xi Jinping of China, and just hours after she failed to answer a direct question on whether she trusted the Chinese government.

A full withdrawal from the project could spark a major diplomatic row, severly damaging the “golden era” relations with China that Mrs May claims she wants.

The Independent has already reported how Mrs May’s officals were said to be looking for a way out of the deal. ……http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/g20-theresa-may-xi-jinping-hinkley-nuclear-security-review-a7224786.html

September 5, 2016 Posted by | politics international, UK | Leave a comment

Kazakhstan, nuclear testing, and the nuclear fuel bank

The cost of nuclear testing, News 24 South Africa 2016-09-04 Carien Du Plessis, City Press Johannesburg – There isn’t much to see at the former Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons test site in eastern Kazakhstan’s flat, outstretched grasslands. Much of what was there was destroyed by radioactive bombs.

The former Soviet Union government conducted 465 nuclear tests in an area the size of Gauteng between 1949 and 1989, much of it in secret and some of it underground.

It left unknowing citizens ill and newborn babies deformed. Special social grants are still given to residents of surrounding areas who suffer from above-average rates of cancer.

On Wednesday, a delegation of nuclear abolition campaigners, physicists, parliamentarians, peace activists and former military leaders travelled to the formerly top-secret Semipalatinsk Test Site, called The Polygon, as part of a nuclear disarmament conference in the capital, Astana.

Twenty-five years ago, this site was closed by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, shortly after the Soviet Union’s collapse and Kazakhstan’s independence. Kazakhstan returned the 1 400 nuclear weapons to Russia.

In 2009, that day, August 29, was declared the International Day Against Nuclear Tests by the UN.

The site is a 40-minute drive from a small town called Korchatov, built with gulag labour and which housed about 20 000 engineers, physicists, military personnel and nuclear support workers in its Soviet heyday.

It now sports a National Nuclear Centre to support the Kazakhstan government’s policy of the peaceful use of atomic energy.

At the old test site, a handful of concrete control towers, which resemble giant shark’s fins, surround a small water-filled crater, where once stood a tower from which nuclear explosions were launched. The site is still dangerously radioactive, and delegates wear plastic bag shoe covers and white safety masks. Touching the soil or plants is forbidden………..

On Monday, at a government-sponsored conference themed Building a Nuclear Weapon-Free World, Nazarbayev, now in the 27th year of his presidency, told attendees: “Kazakhstan is making every effort to ensure peace throughout the Earth over a quarter century. We have initiated many new ideas for the strengthening of global security.”

There were, however, no high-level delegates from nuclear powers at the conference………

Kazakhstan’s large investment in preaching to the converted comes a year ahead of the opening of the $150 million nuclear fuel bank, under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Developing nations are critical of the plan because they believe this bank will keep them from acquiring nuclear technology for peaceful use.

Proponents, however, reckon the enriched uranium bank will help nuclear non-proliferation by preventing countries from developing enrichment processes themselves, and using them for nuclear weapons.

Experts say the increasing use of nuclear power will lead to more countries using this power bank. It will also help put the 17 million-strong nation of Kazakhstan, which by 2050 wants to be among the top 30 global economies, on the world’s political map.

It’s not by chance that the oil, gas and uranium-rich country is beautifying Astana with fancy new infrastructure for the thousands of international visitors expected here for Expo 2017, themed around the future provision of clean energy.

Activists, however, expressed reservations about such a nuclear fuel bank and its uses.

Jackie Cabasso, a nuclear abolition activist for 30 years from Western States Legal Foundation, spoke out against nuclear energy at the conference. She told City Press afterwards: “With accidents like Fukushima [in Japan in 2011], it just is not safe enough.” http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/the-cost-of-nuclear-testing-20160904

September 5, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Taxpayers left with costs of mines cleanup as coal companies go bankrupt

questionAs coal companies sink into bankruptcy, who will pay to clean up their old mines? Peabody is the latest to make big promises to a bankruptcy judge. VOX   on September 2, 2016, In the context of US capitalism, corporate bankruptcy has become less an admission of failure or a final chapter than a kind of R&R, a chance to shed some flab and come back stronger. As anyone who has followed Donald Trump’s career knows, a big company declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy is like Lindsay Lohan checking into rehab. They’ll be back.

So it is with Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private coal company, which entered bankruptcy back in April. It is currently undergoing its bankruptcy spa treatment — shedding workers and retirees, their health and pension benefits — and preparing to get back to work (or so it hopes).

 In the case of Peabody and other coal companies, however, there’s another sort of flab, er, liability at issue, for which there is less precedent in bankruptcy court: namely, environmental remediation obligations.

Put more simply: Who’s going to pay to clean up all those old mines?

Coal companies promise to pay for mine cleanup, really and for true

The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 says that coal companies have to clean up old mines and reverse their environmental damage, costs which can run to the hundreds of millions. Before they receive a permit for a new mine, coal companies have to prove that they can afford to clean it up. They do so by posting a bond.

These days, however, coal companies rarely have to meet this requirement. Instead, they are allowed to “self-bond,” which amounts to promising the states they operate in that they can pay for mine cleanups.

This cozy arrangement between coal companies and state regulators is longstanding, but it has come under increased scrutiny lately, as coal companies have tried to use bankruptcy to squirm out of those obligations. Wyoming just struck a deal with (bankrupt) Arch Coal to “accept up to $75 million in place of the company’s $486 million in bonding obligations.” That means if Arch Coal liquidates, Wyoming is first in line to collect at least $75 million in assets.

 Who will cover the $411 million in remaining cleanup costs? Taxpayers.

And it’s not an isolated case; there’s a lot of dough at stake. In addition to the $9 billion in mine cleanup costs already outstanding under the Abandoned Mine Land Program(covering mines abandoned before 1977), “officials estimate that roughly $3.6 billion in self-bond liabilities could fall to taxpayers.”

That would amount to a $3.6 billion subsidy to big coal, the latest (maybe the last?) in a century-long tradition of subsidies.

Worries about self-bonding led WildEarth Guardians and other environmental groups tofile a petition to the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) in March, asking the agency to ensure that “companies with a history of financial insolvency are not allowed to self-bond coal mining operations.”……..http://www.vox.com/2016/9/2/12757074/coal-bankruptcy-mine-cleanup

September 5, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, ENERGY, politics | Leave a comment