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Japan’s nuclear regulator caves to industry interests yet again–Gives nearly 40 year old reactor a green light before the aging safety review even completed

5 October 2016, Tokyo – Today, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has again exposed itself as industry-captured by giving the Mihama 3 reactor owned by Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) a green light under post-Fukushima guidelines — clearing the way for restart — even before the regulator has completed its ageing-related safety review. The safety risks of age-related degradation can be enormous.

Mihama.jpg

 

The Mihama 3 reactor is like a vintage 1976 car that’s been driven at top speed for nearly 4 decades — and then sat idle for more than 5 years. Major safety components wear out, designs become outdated, and extended disuse creates yet another set of safety problems. Worse, it’s already been in a major accident 12 years ago due to a high-pressure pipe rupture that killed 5 workers. Most people wouldn’t just load up the kids in a car like that and speed off on a road trip. Yet, KEPCO and the NRA are trying to do just that, and they haven’t finished looking under the hood to see if the engine is alright. Unlike old cars, if an old reactor has a major accident, the victims can number in the hundreds of thousands and the crash site can extend for hundreds of kilometers. It’s nothing short of reckless, and puts the lives and livelihoods of families throughout the region at unnecessary risk,” said Kendra Ulrich, Senior Global Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Japan.

Nuclear power plants are enormously complex, and safety-related components are only subject to normal age-related degradation. Constant irradiation of major components embrittles the metal, leading to an increased likelihood of potentially catastrophic failure during operation or emergency shutdown.

The Mihama 3 reactor is also located in the seismically-active Wakasa Bay region. The deep concerns over inadequate seismic assessments for the KEPCO’s Ohi reactors – also located in Wakasa Bay – pushed former NRA commissioner and seismologist, Kunihiko Shimazaki, to challenge the regulator directly. Although the NRA dismissed his concerns, the agency admitted that they could not reproduce the figures submitted by KEPCO in their assessment and so could not independently verify their accuracy. The same potentially faulty seismic assessment method was applied to Mihama 3. 

The restart of aging reactors in Fukui has caused concern in surrounding prefectures. On 23 August, the Kyoto Governor Keiji Yamada said of the potential restart of the Takahama 1&2 reactors, “ . . .we should be extremely wary when it comes to aging nuclear reactors.”(1)

The restart of Mihama 3 is currently being challenged in court as a part of an umbrella lawsuit against all Fukui reactors. Greenpeace staff are plaintiffs in a case against KEPCO’s aging Takahama 1 & 2 reactors, also in Wakasa Bay.

Notes:

  1. Kyoto governor doesn’t accept Takahama 1, 2 reactor restart(京都府知事、容認せぬ姿勢 高浜原発1・2号機) Kyoto Newspaper on 23 August 2016 (accessed on 4 October 2016) 
  2. Tomorrow, 6 October 2016, the Sendai 1 reactor in Kagoshima will be taken offline for scheduled maintenance. The newly-elected Kagoshima governor has repeatedly demanded the Sendai reactors be shut down for further safety checks. Due to his ongoing opposition to the operation of the reactors, it is unlikely that Sendai 1 will restart again before the end of 2016. 

http://www.greenpeace.org/japan/ja/news/press/2016/pr201610051/

NRA grants aging Mihama reactor 20-year extension

OSAKA – The Nuclear Regulation Authority gave a green light Wednesday to extending the life of Kansai Electric Power Co.’s 40-year-old Mihama No. 3 reactor in Mihama, Fukui Prefecture, by 20 years.

The ruling was certain to provoke questions in Kansai and elsewhere about whether the NRA is lax on safety concerns.

Safety work related to the extension still needs to be carried out and is expected to take years to complete. Kepco hopes to restart the reactor sometime after the summer of 2020.

Wednesday’s decision marks the second time the NRA has approved extending the life of a 40-year-old reactor to 60. It previously approved restarting Kepco’s Takahama No. 1 and 2 reactors, which are 42 and 41 years old, respectively.

Under new guidelines adopted after the Fukushima triple meltdown in 2011, operators must decide whether to decommission units or apply to the NRA for a one-time, two-decade-maximum extension once a plant becomes 40 years old.

Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa and neighboring Shiga and Kyoto prefectures have expressed safety concerns over reactors that are more than 40 years old and questioned the necessity of restarting old reactors.

Obtaining local political consent for a restart could thus prove tougher for Kepco than might be the case for a younger reactor. Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada has already expressed wariness over the decision to restart the Takahama No. 1 and 2 reactors.

Citizens’ groups in and around Mihama are also expected to seek temporary injunctions in local district courts to halt the restart, which could mean a further delay in plans to turn it back on.

Greenpeace Japan criticized Wednesday’s decision. In a statement, Senior Global Energy Campaigner Kendra Ulrich said Mihama No. 3 was like a vintage 1976 car that was driven for four decades but has sat idle for more than five years, and that restarting it now puts the lives of people in the Kansai region at risk.

Major safety components wear out, designs become outdated, and extended disuse creates yet another set of safety problems,” Ulrich said. “Worse, there was a major accident 12 years ago due to a high-pressure pipe rupture that killed five workers.”

Currently, five reactors that are more than 40 years old and one that is 39 years old are to be scrapped over the coming decades, including Kepco’s Mihama No. 1 and 2 reactors.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/10/05/national/nra-grants-aging-mihama-reactor-20-year-extension/#.V_UlRSTKO-e

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October 5, 2016 - Posted by | Japan | , , ,

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