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Nuclear plants must take threat of volcanic ash more seriously

The Takahama nuclear power plant in Takahama, Fukui Prefecture 
November 27, 2018
The Nuclear Regulation Authority will reassess the safety risks posed by possible natural disasters to certain nuclear power plants that have been declared to be fit for operation under the new safety standards.
The nuclear watchdog’s unusual decision has been prompted by recent discoveries of new facts concerning possible effects of volcanic eruptions on the Mihama, Oi and Takahama nuclear power plants operated in Fukui Prefecture by Kansai Electric Power Co.
It is a totally reasonable decision based on the principle of putting the top priority on safety in regulating nuclear plants.
Initially, Kansai Electric asserted that volcanic ash posed no threat to the safety of the three nuclear plants. Its claim was based on its own estimate of the amount of volcanic ash that would fall on the plants.
Using research findings and geological surveys as well as simulations of eruptions of Mount Daisen, a volcanic mountain in Tottori Prefecture located about 200 kilometers from the plants, the Osaka-based utility estimated that the nuclear compounds could be coated with up to 10 centimeters of ash from a major volcanic eruption.
The NRA accepted the company’s assessments of volcanic hazards for these plants and allowed the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at both the Oi and Takahama plants to come back online.
After the NRA’s safety screenings, however, a 30-cm ash layer from an eruption of Mount Daisen that occurred 80,000 years ago was discovered in Kyoto, 190 km from the mountain.
Kansai Electric argued that the thickness of ash from the mountain cannot be estimated accurately because ash from other sources was mixed in.
But the NRA confirmed that the layer of volcanic ash from the mountain is 25 cm thick through its own on-site inspection and other research, concluding that the eruption was greater in scale than the utility’s estimate of a maximum possible incident.
These developments have led to the regulator’s unusual decision to reassess the risks posed by volcanic ash fall to the safety of the plants.
A massive fall of volcanic ash could cause a malfunction of the emergency power generation system at a nuclear power plant and cut off the power supply, which is crucial for preventing a severe nuclear accident during a natural disaster.
The new findings have made it inevitable to re-evaluate the estimate of maximum possible volcanic ash fall for each nuclear plant and consider the necessity of additional safety measures.
One important component of the new tighter nuclear safety standards introduced after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster is the so-called “back-fit” system, which applies the latest safety requirements to existing reactors.
The NRA acted on this new rule when it decided to reassess the threats posed by volcanic eruptions to the safety of the nuclear plants by incorporating the implications of the newly discovered facts.
The body should adopt the same stance toward safety risks posed by other natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunami.
But the NRA has also decided not to order the utility to suspend the operations of the four reactors, at least for now, because there is a certain safety margin in the measures to deal with volcanic ash fall taken at the three nuclear plants in Fukui Prefecture.
But it should not hesitate to order the shutdowns of these reactors if more new facts are discovered with risk implications for them.
Bodies of scientific knowledge concerning earthquakes, tsunami and volcanic eruptions change constantly due to new findings from research and surveys.
Kansai Electric Power’s response to the new discovery deserves to be criticized as an attempt to escape from an inconvenient new fact.
Electric utilities operating nuclear plants need to make constant efforts to gather the latest information and face new facts concerning the safety of their nuclear plants in a humble and honest manner.
The back-fit system was introduced to ensure the safety of nuclear plants in this nation as a policy response to the lessons learned from the catastrophic accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. This should never be forgotten.

December 6, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

If USA dumps the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) – Putin threatens arms race

Putin threatens arms race if US dumps nuclear treaty – Andrew  Roth in Moscow

Russia would also build new medium-range missiles if the US were to do so, says president

Vladimir Putin has threatened that Russia will develop new missiles banned by the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty if the US exits the pact and pursues an arms buildup of its own.

The Russian president’s remarks came one day after the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said Moscow was in “material breach” of the cold war-era treaty and issued a 60-day ultimatum for Russia to correct the alleged violations. Otherwise, he said, the US would quit the 1987 accord, considered a milestone in reducing the threat of a nuclear war in Europe.

In Moscow on Wednesday, Putin told journalists the US had provided “no evidence” of Russian violations, and threatened an arms race if the US sought to develop new medium-range missiles after exiting the treaty.

“Apparently, our American partners believe that the situation has changed so drastically that the US should also have such weapons,” Putin said in remarks carried by the Interfax news service. “What response is our side to give? A simple one: then we’ll do the same.”

The arms treaty, signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, banned ground-launched missiles with a range between 500-5,500km. The US and Nato have said that tests of a new Russian cruise missile, designated 9M729, violate the treaty.

The US effort to exit the treaty was spearheaded by John Bolton, Donald Trump’s hawkish national security adviser.

According to a leaked memo published by the Washington Post, Bolton has ordered the Pentagon to “develop and deploy ground-launched missiles at the earliest possible date”.

While it would take a substantial length of time to develop an entirely new missile, existing medium-range weapons in the US arsenal, such as sea-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles, could be adapted for ground launch more quickly, arms experts said.

However, Nato allies would have to agree unanimously to have any new missile deployed in Europe.

The standoff comes amid a buildup of Russian and Nato forces in Europe, including nuclear forces. Nato claims that Russia has deployed nuclear-capable missiles to Kaliningrad, and on Wednesday the Russian military confirmed it had deployed powerful new anti-ship missiles to Crimea following last month’s maritime clash with Ukraine.

December 6, 2018 Posted by | politics international, Russia, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

UK tax-payers, not the nuclear industry, will pay for the new safeguards regime, post Brexit !

ENDS Report 3rd Dec 2018 , Government confirms it will fund post-Brexit nuclear regime. The nuclear
industry will not have to fund the creation of a new safeguards regime
after Brexit, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
has confirmed.

December 6, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, politics, safety, UK | Leave a comment

Fukushima court case- former mayor of Minamisoma angry at Tepco, as his city seeks damages

Former mayor expresses anger at Tepco in trial over Fukushima crisis, KYODO, A former mayor of a city hit by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis told a court on Wednesday that he wants to express his “anger” on behalf of citizens who had to flee their homes due to the disaster and whose lives are still filled with uncertainties.

Katsunobu Sakurai, who was mayor of Minamisoma at the time the crisis erupted, testified before the Fukushima District Court in a lawsuit filed by 151 people seeking ¥3.7 billion ($32.7 million) in damages from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. They say the nuclear accident destroyed their communities due to the evacuations.

Sakurai was chosen among U.S. Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2011 after sharing the city’s predicament and calling for support via YouTube in the wake of one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters.

Following the accident, part of the city was designated as an evacuation zone where the 151 people, comprising 47 households, used to live. Most of the city is no longer subject to evacuation orders.

Sakurai said the city was forced to arrange evacuation buses on its own amid a lack of information from the central government, and that he “felt bitter and angry” after learning that the government helped arrange transportation for some other municipalities.

He also said the city’s residents are reluctant to return due to the slow progress of decommissioning the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

“They think they might have to evacuate again,” Sakurai said.

Sakurai had been the city’s mayor until losing his seat in an election in January.

The Minamisoma residents filed the damages suit in 2015 for their losses and changes to their hometown as a result of the nuclear accident, triggered by a major earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

December 6, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nuclear companies think that Japan’s nuclear power plans are unrealistic

50% in nuclear industry: Energy plan for 2030 is ‘unrealistic’, By NORIYOSHI OHTSUKI/ Senior Staff Writer, December 5, 2018 Half of companies in the nuclear industry doubt the government’s goal of having nuclear power account for 20 to 22 percent of Japan’s energy supply by fiscal 2030, according to a survey.The reasons for their skepticism relate mainly to difficulties restarting or building reactors under stricter safety measures taken after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.

The survey was conducted in June and July by the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, whose members include electric power companies that operate nuclear plants.

The forum contacted 365 companies in the nuclear industry, such as equipment manufacturers, and received responses from 254, or 70 percent.

According to the results, 50 percent of the companies said the government’s nuclear energy goal for fiscal 2030 is “unachievable,” compared with only 10 percent that said it is “achievable.” Forty percent said the attainability is “unknown.”

An estimated 30 reactors must be operating to reach the target, but the resumption of reactor operations has been slow since all of them were shut down after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

“Only nine reactors were restarted in the more than seven years after the accident in Fukushima,” Akio Takahashi, president of the forum and former senior official at Tokyo Electric Power Co., said at a news conference. “I guess respondents think it’s difficult (to achieve the goal) given the current pace (of the restarts).”

Tougher nuclear safety standards were set after the Fukushima disaster, forcing utilities to spend more on upgrading their reactors or keeping aging units operational.

Asked why they thought the government’s nuclear goal was unrealistic, 48 percent of the companies said, “There are no plans in sight to build or replace nuclear reactors.”

Thirty-three percent cited the delays in restarting idle reactors, while 16 percent said, “No progress can be seen in regaining trust from the public.”

December 6, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, Japan, politics | Leave a comment

Saudi Arabia renews nuclear energy ties with Argentina as pressure over Khashoggi rises

December 6, 2018 Posted by | politics international, Saudi Arabia, SOUTH AMERICA | 1 Comment