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Swelling Decommissioning Costs, Who’s Gonna Pay


The 2016 road report points to inflated decommissioning costs.
Three reactor meltdowns to be decommissioned,
an unprecedented task in the world.
It’s a long journey, to continue to record the series
“The road to decommissioning”.

Five years and half years have passed since the disaster at the Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, among the many technical difficulties, the removal of nuclear fuel remains a challenge.

As the disaster costs keep on rising more than expected, it is becoming extremely difficult to to finance them under the current system.

Not just the increase in labor costs and technology development costs, and the cost of decontamination to enable the residents return, but also the compensation costs, all are significant. Therefore the current « system » to finance those costs has hit a wall.

TEPCO recently complained of the severity of the burden, it seeked from the country a policy to provide additional support. Who is to pay.

God only knows how much those costs will swell, and whose burden will they be.
The overall picture of the disaster costs is already hard to visualize, the sustainable “road to decommissioning” even more.



November 7, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Foreigners Hired at Fukushima Nuke Plant Under Suspected Illegal Contracts


Dressed in protective suits, foreign workers who were engaged in the construction of tanks to hold radioactively contaminated water at the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant pose in this photo taken sometime around May 2014.

About seven foreign nationals worked at the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in 2014 under suspected illegal contracts, sources close to the matter have revealed to the Mainichi Shimbun.

It was reported that the workers — mostly Brazilians — did not receive sufficient guidance on radiation protection as ordered by law before they engaged in work to contain radioactive water at the plant. It is the first time that a post-disaster labor issue involving foreign workers at the plant has come to light.

At the time, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) was pressed to deal with contaminated water emanating from the 2011 nuclear disaster and put in an order for the construction of welded storage tanks with a major contractor. This work was sub-subcontracted to a Tokyo-based welding company. The welding company’s president explained that it “couldn’t fill the spots with a sufficient number of Japanese workers,” so about seven foreign welders were hastily assembled for the job.

Roney Tsuyoshi Ishikawa, 43, a Japanese-Brazilian welder, and other sources told the Mainichi that Ishikawa received the order to build the tanks from the welding firm for 2 million yen per tank. He made contracts with individual foreign nationals and placed welding orders. Ishikawa left the construction site before the job was finished, and the welding company and other parties thereafter gave instructions to the remaining workers.

The Employment Security Act and other regulations ban “disguised contracts” in which workers are given work without official employment or are made to work under the instruction of parties other than those who place the original orders, thereby obscuring the party responsible for safety management.

The president of the welding company told the Mainichi, “As non-regular employees were prohibited from entering the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, I reported to the (first-tier) contractor that they (the foreign workers) were regular employees. It is more efficient to get the work done under contracts.”

According to Ishikawa and others, the foreigners worked at the plant sometime between March and May 2014. Many of those workers were unable to sufficiently read or write in Japanese.

Workers at nuclear facilities normally receive advance guidance on nuclear fuel and radiation and need to pass relevant exams. The exams and textbooks are written in Japanese, but some of the foreign workers in question passed the tests after Ishikawa, who is fluent in Japanese, gave them the right answers by their side.

“There was a tacit understanding amid the rush to combat the contaminated water,” Ishikawa said.

TEPCO refused to reveal the labor situation involving individual foreign laborers when the Mainichi Shimbun reached out for comment, but said it has given guidance to foreign workers “by using English textbooks and having the employer assign interpreters.”





November 7, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Monju scrapping would mean disposing of 760 tons of radioactive sodium, MOX fuel



About 760 tons of radioactive sodium remain in the piping and other equipment of the trouble-prone Monju prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor, which may be ordered decommissioned, Jiji Press learned Sunday.

It has not been decided how to dispose of the radioactive sodium, said sources at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the operator of Monju. If the government decides to scrap the reactor, sodium disposal is expected to be a difficult challenge.

Sodium is used as a coolant at Monju, while water is used at conventional nuclear reactors. Sodium is a tricky chemical element that burns intensely if it comes into contact with air or water.

According to the agency, the Monju reactor has some 1,670 tons of sodium. Radioactive substances are contained in 760 tons of the total as it circulates inside the reactor vessel.

The Monju reactor needs to be drained of the sodium if it is to be demolished.

Radioactive and chemically active sodium has to be sealed in containers. There is no precedent of radioactive sodium disposal in Japan.

We plan to consider the method of disposal if a decision is made to decommission it (Monju),” an official said.

Monju, located in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, is a core facility in Japan’s nuclear fuel cycle policy as the reactor produces more plutonium than it consumes.

More than ¥1 trillion, mostly from state budgets, has been invested in Monju. But the 280,000-kw reactor has operated for only 250 days since it reached criticality, a self-sustained nuclear fission chain reaction, for the first time in April 1994, due to a raft of problems, including maintenance flaws, a sodium leak and fire and attempted coverup.

In November 2015, the Nuclear Regulation Authority advised the government to replace the operator of Monju. The government is carrying out a thorough review of the Monju project, including the possibility of decommissioning the reactor.

The disposal of mixed-oxide, or MOX, fuel used at Monju is another significant issue. The amount of MOX fuel, a blend of uranium and plutonium recycled from spent nuclear fuel, that needs to be disposed of is estimated at 21 tons, but Japan is not equipped to carry out disposal.

One option is to consign the disposal to a foreign country and receive the return of uranium and plutonium after the processing, along with radioactive waste.

But the agency’s cost estimate of ¥300 billion for decommissioning Monju does not include the expense of the overseas entrustment of MOX fuel disposal.

The agency aims to entrust France with the disposal of some 64 tons of MOX fuel that has been used at its Fugen advanced converter reactor, but no contract has been concluded. The Fugen reactor, also in Tsuruga, is slated to be decommissioned.

Spent MOX fuel contains larger amounts of highly toxic radioactive substances than spent uranium from conventional reactors.

The disposal of radioactive sodium and MOX fuel at Monju is emerging as additional difficult challenges for the government at a time when the final disposal site has not been decided for high-level radioactive waste from nuclear plants across Japan.

November 7, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment