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Unbearable heat in India becoming a major threat to health

In India, summer heat could soon be unbearable — literally

An analysis of South Asia’s biggest cities found that if current warming trends continued, wet bulb temperatures — a measure of heat and humidity indicating when the body can no longer cool itself — will become so high people directly exposed for six hours or more would die.
Somini Sengupta-Seattle Times,  July 18, 2018  
The New York Times

NEW DELHI — On a sweltering Wednesday in June, a rail-thin woman named Rehmati gripped the doctor’s table with both hands. She could hardly hold herself upright, the pain in her stomach was so intense.

She had traveled for 26 hours in a hot oven of a bus to visit her husband, a migrant worker here in the Indian capital. By the time she got here, the city was an oven, too: 111 degrees by lunchtime, and Rehmati was in an emergency room.

The doctor, Reena Yadav, did not know exactly what had made Rehmati sick, but it was clearly linked to the heat. Yadav suspected dehydration, possibly aggravated by fasting during Ramadan. Or it could have been food poisoning, common in summer because food spoils quickly.

Yadav put Rehmati, who is 31 and goes by one name, on a drip. She held her hand and told her she would be fine. Rehmati leaned over and retched.

Extreme heat can kill, as it did by the dozens in Pakistan in May. But as many of South Asia’s already-scorching cities get even hotter, scientists and economists are warning of a quieter, more far-reaching danger: Extreme heat is devastating the health and livelihoods of tens of millions more.

If global greenhouse-gas emissions continue at their current pace, they say, heat and humidity levels could become unbearable, especially for the poor.

It is already making them poorer and sicker.

…….Indeed, a recent analysis of climate trends in several of South Asia’s biggest cities found that if current warming trends continue, by the end of the century, wet bulb temperatures — a measure of heat and humidity that can indicate the point when the body can no longer cool itself — would be so high that people directly exposed for six hours or more would not survive.

In many places, heat only magnifies the more thorny urban problems, including a shortage of basic services, like electricity and water.

…The science is unequivocally worrying. Across the region, a recent World Bank report concluded, rising temperatures could diminish the living standards of 800 million people.

Worldwide, among the 100 most populous cities where summer highs are expected to reach at least 95 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050, according to estimates by the Urban Climate Change Research Network, 24 are in India.

………Delhi’s heat index, a metric that takes average temperatures and relative humidity into account, has risen sharply — by 0.6 degrees Celsius in summer and 0.55 degrees during monsoons per decade between 1951 and 2010, according to one analysis based on data from 283 weather stations across the country.

Some cities are getting hotter at different times of year. The average March-to-May summertime heat index for Hyderabad had risen by 0.69 degrees per decade between 1951 and 2010. In Kolkata, a delta city in the east, where summers are sticky and hot anyway, the monsoon is becoming particularly harsh: The city’s June-September heat index climbed by 0.26 degrees Celsius per decade.

Joyashree Roy, an economist at Jadavpur University in Kolkata, found that already, most days in the summer are too hot and humid to be doing heavy physical labor without protection, with wet-bulb temperatures far exceeding the thresholds of most international occupational health standards. of most international occupational health standards……… https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/in-india-summer-heat-could-soon-be-unbearable-literally/

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July 20, 2018 Posted by | climate change, India | 1 Comment

Japan’s Nuclear Power Plants

https://www.nippon.com/en/features/h00238/ [2018.07.19]  Seven years on from the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, nine reactors are operational in Japan as of July 2018. Unlike the Fukushima Daiichi reactors, all of these are pressurized water reactors and they are based in western Japan.

On March 11, 2011, there were 54 nuclear reactors in operation in Japan supplying approximately 30% of the country’s electric power. However, the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent devastating tsunami that brought disaster to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station transformed attitudes and nuclear energy usage nationwide.

In July 2013, the Japanese government established new regulatory standards for nuclear power plants. To withstand earthquakes and tsunami, new stricter safety regulations must be met, involving huge costs to implement necessary safety countermeasures. Additionally, in municipalities where plants are located, whether operations are allowed to resume has become an election point for local politicians, and residents continue to file injunctions against bringing plants online again. Even if the hugely expensive safety countermeasures are implemented, numerous hurdles remain to be overcome.

As of July 12, 2018, there are five plants with a total of nine reactors that have met the new standards: Ōi and Takahama (Kansai Electric Power Company), Genkai and Sendai (Kyūshū Electric Power Company), and Ikata (Shikoku Electric Power Company). Meanwhile, it has been decided that 19 reactors will be decommissioned.

The nine reactors that have resumed operations are based in western Japan. All of them are pressurized water reactors, thereby differing from the Fukushima Daiichi plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), where the accident occurred. When it comes to nuclear plants that have the same boiling water reactor system as Fukushima Daiichi, reactors 6 and 7 of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa (TEPCO) have passed the new standards review and Tōkai Daini (Japan Atomic Power Company) is now at the final stage awaiting official approval. However, as they are the same types of reactors as Fukushima Daiichi and memories of the huge earthquake are still strong in people’s minds in eastern Japan, it is difficult to gain approval from local residents and municipalities. No plans have been set for restarting them

 

July 20, 2018 Posted by | Japan, politics | Leave a comment

China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) acquires 75% stake in Swedish wind power project

Reuters 18th July 2018 , China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) has acquired a 75 percent
stake in a Swedish wind power project from Australia’s Macquarie Group
and GE Energy Financial Services, state news agency Xinhua reported on
Wednesday. The North Pole wind power project, located in Pitea, Sweden, is
expected to be operational by the end of 2019 with a capacity of 650,000
kilowatts, making it the single largest onshore wind power park in Europe,
Xinhua said.
https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-cgn-sweden/chinas-cgn-acquires-75-percent-of-swedish-wind-farm-xinhua-idUSKBN1K81IC?rpc=401&

July 20, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, China, renewable, Sweden | Leave a comment

Oi nuclear plant ruling reads like it was rendered pre-Fukushima

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A plaintiff and a lawyer hold signs on July 4 criticizing a ruling by the Nagoya High Court’s Kanazawa branch that nullified an injunction to halt operations at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture.
 
July 18, 2018
The Nagoya High Court’s Kanazawa branch declared that the nation, having learned its lesson from the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011, will not make the same mistakes again.
We have our doubts.
The July 4 ruling overturned the Fukui District Court’s decision of four years ago in favor of the plaintiffs, who sought an injunction against Kansai Electric Power Co. to suspend operations of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture.
The plaintiffs have decided against taking their case to the Supreme Court, which will finalize the high court ruling.
The Fukui District Court’s decision to halt operations of the Oi reactors was based on its own study of whether the reactors posed “risks of causing grave situations similar to the Fukushima accident.”
Its main focus was not to judge whether the reactors met the new safety regulations established by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, which was set up after the Fukushima disaster.
In contrast, the high court said it would be “only proper for a court to respect (the NRA regulations)” as they were “established based on the latest scientific and technological expertise of specialists from many fields.”
The court said there was nothing unreasonable in the NRA judgment that the Oi reactors met the new safety regulations. It concluded that the risks posed by the reactors were being controlled to a negligible level by socially accepted standards.
But what lessons has the Fukushima disaster taught us? Don’t they boil down to the fact that we believed in many experts who assured us of the safety of nuclear reactors, only to realize that an “unexpected” disaster could and did occur, causing tremendous damage we have yet to recover from.
The high court ruling read like something from pre-Fukushima days. We could not help feeling the same way every time we come across the view that the nation has more or less learned all the lessons it needed to learn from Fukushima.
One of the hardest lessons we learned–which the high court did not really address–is the sheer difficulty of evacuating citizens safely after a serious accident.
After the Fukushima disaster, local governments within 30 kilometers of nuclear power plants came to be required to establish evacuation plans for residents.
A reactor restart should be decided only after third-party experts determine whether the evacuation plan is appropriate and realistic enough.
This is not how things are being done, however.
The NRA specializes solely in examining the safety of plant facilities and equipment from a technological aspect. The administration merely reiterates that reactors that have passed the NRA’s safety tests should be allowed to restart.
There is a huge procedural flaw here, in that all such reactors are back online once the host local governments give the green light.
The high court did say that ending nuclear power generation is an available option. But it went on to state, “The final decision is not for the judiciary to make. It should be based on a political judgment to be left to the legislature or the administration.”
How have the Diet and the government received the high court ruling?
If they have truly learned lessons from Fukushima, their obvious responsibility should be to clearly present a policy to close nuclear plants and critically examine each case for a reactor restart, taking the evacuation plan set by the local government into account.

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July 19, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Japan’s growing plutonium stockpile fuels fears

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The Fukushima disaster has depressed demand for fuel for other nuclear power plants, but Japan’s plutonium stockpile keeps growing.
 
17 Jul 2018
TOKYO: Japan has amassed enough plutonium to make 6,000 atomic bombs as part of a programme to fuel its nuclear plants, but concern is growing that the stockpile is vulnerable to terrorists and natural disasters.
Japan has long been the world’s only non-nuclear-armed country with a programme to reprocess spent nuclear fuel from its power plants into plutonium.
On Tuesday (Jul 17), a decades-old deal with the United States which allows Japan to reprocess plutonium was renewed, but the pact can be terminated by either side with just six months’ notice.
Plutonium reprocessing is meant to create a new and emissions-free fuel source for resource-poor Japan, but the size of its stockpile has started to attract criticism, even from allies.
Plutonium can be used to create nuclear weapons. Although Japan has vowed the material would never be used for military purposes, it has now amassed vastly more plutonium than it can use, since many of its nuclear plants are still offline after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
Experts warn the growing stockpile could be dangerous in case of a natural disaster, like the earthquake and tsunami that set off the Fukushima meltdown, and is also an attractive target for terrorists.
They also fear the reserve could encourage other regional powers, including China, to press for a similar reprocessing capability, boosting the amount of weaponisable plutonium in Asia.
And some even warn that North Korea could point to the stockpile as an excuse to avoid denuclearising.
This month Japan’s government vowed for the first time to “tackle a reduction in plutonium stocks” but gave no roadmap.
The country’s Atomic Energy Commission reportedly plans a self-imposed cap on the reserve, which now stands at 10 tonnes inside the country, with another 37 tonnes in Britain and France for reprocessing.
COSTLY AND COMPLICATED
“Promising to stop increasing the stockpile is the least they should commit to,” said Tatsujiro Suzuki, former vice chairman of the commission.
“What they really need to do is set a clear goal for reduction,” Suzuki told AFP.
“It’s time for Japan to fully review its nuclear recycling programme.”
The stockpile has attracted concern in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which forced the shutdown of all of the country’s nuclear plants.
Only some have resumed operations, and their fuel requirements fall far short of the stockpile Japan has already amassed.
Despite that, the government has continued work on a decades-long multi-billion dollar project to build a new reprocessing plant, using French and local technology.
Most reprocessing is currently done overseas, mainly in France, and Japan has struggled with technical problems at the new facility.
The planned reprocessing plant, in Aomori in northern Japan, has so far cost around US$27 billion, but the technical problems mean there is no sign of an opening date despite decades of work.
Experts say reprocessing plutonium into fuel is up to ten times as expensive as producing uranium dioxide fuel.
“Japan’s plutonium separation is very costly and has no economic or environmental benefit,” said Frank von Hippel, a Princeton University professor who researches nuclear arms control and policymaking.
REGIONAL RACE
Tokyo’s reprocessing programme also runs the risk of sparking a regional race, warned Thomas Countryman, a former US State Department official for arms control and non-proliferation.
“In the region, it is not in the interest of the United States or Japan or the world to see South Korea or China imitate Japan and enter the field of civilian reprocessing,” he told Japanese lawmakers last month.
“This would increase the risk to nuclear security, that is, the risk terrorists or criminals might divert plutonium, and it would increase regional competition in a technology that offers more risks than it does benefits,” he added.
China is already pushing for its own reprocessing capacity with the help of French and Russian partners, while South Korea has been researching reprocessing technologies but faces objections from environmentalists.
Japan, the only nation in the world to have suffered an atomic bomb attack, insists it would never use its plutonium for military purposes.
The reserves are subject to monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has not raised public concerns about the stocks.
But some activists fear Japan views the stockpile as a way of keeping its options open on nuclear weapons.
“Japan appears be caught up in the idea that in an emergency it can produce nuclear weapons with its reprocessing technology,” said Hideyuji Ban, co-director of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Centre, an anti-nuclear NGO.

July 19, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo accused North Korea of hiding nuclear facilities, enriching uranium

Pompeo accused North Korea of hiding nuclear facilities, enriching uranium: Report , Straits Times, 17 July 18 TOKYO (THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused North Korea of operating secret facilities for the enrichment of uranium when he met senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol during his July 6-7 visit to the country, the Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The US top diplomat’s move appears to underscore Washington’s increasing suspicion that Pyongyang is covertly proceeding with activities that are contrary to denuclearisation, despite its declared commitment to the goal.

It also raises the possibility that even if North Korea starts the process of denuclearisation, the alleged existence of secret facilities will become an issue during the declaration and verification phases.

According to sources knowledgeable about Japan-US-South Korea trilateral talks, Pompeo said at his meeting Kim Yong Chol that Pyongyang was enhancing the production of enriched uranium and also concealing nuclear-related facilities and nuclear warheads.

Citing information that construction activities are under way at a missile plant at Hamhung in the north-eastern province of South Hamgyong to expand the facility, Pompeo stressed that this was not beneficial to US-North Korean relations.

Kim Yong Chol, a top North Korean party official and former spy agency chief with whom Pompeo played a key role in arranging an unprecedented summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12, flatly denied Pompeo’s claim, according to the sources.

Pyongyang has never hidden or operated a secret uranium enrichment site, the North Korean official was quoted as saying.

Kim also reportedly argued that activities at the Hamhung missile plant were part of construction work in preparation for the rainy season, not expansion work.

On July 7, a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman released a statement accusing Washington of showing a “regrettable” attitude at the meeting between Pompeo and the North Korean official……..https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/pompeo-accused-north-korea-of-hiding-nuclear-facilities-enriching-uranium-report

July 18, 2018 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Japan, U.S. extend nuclear pact amid concern about plutonium stockpile

 KYODO NEWS 17 July 18  Japan and the United States extended on Tuesday a bilateral nuclear agreement that has served as the basis for Tokyo’s push for a nuclear fuel recycle policy.

The pact, which entered into force in July 1988, has authorized Japan to reprocess spent fuel, extract plutonium and enrich uranium for 30 years. As neither side sought to review it before the end of the term, it will remain effective, leaving Japan the only country without nuclear arms that is allowed to reprocess spent nuclear fuel.

But the passing of the initial 30-year period raises uncertainty over the future of the pact, now that it can be terminated anytime six months after either party notifies the other.

The United States is seen as concerned about Japan’s stockpiles of plutonium

………Japan has around 47 tons of plutonium, which is enough to produce about 6,000 nuclear warheads.

Of the 47 tons, around 10 tons were stored in Japan and the reminder in Britain and France as of the end of 2016, according to government data.

In early July, Japan clearly stated for the first time in its basic energy plan that it will trim the amount.

Spent fuel from nuclear reactors is reprocessed to extract uranium and plutonium, which is then recycled into fuel called mixed oxide, or MOX, for use in fast-breeder reactors or conventional nuclear reactors.

But following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, most of Japan’s nuclear power plants remain offline as they are required to pass newly established safety regulations……..

The Rokkasho plant, a key pillar of the country’s nuclear fuel recycling policy, will be able to produce around 8 tons of plutonium a year when fully operational. https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2018/07/d0e37985dc1c-japan-us-extend-nuclear-pact-amid-concern-about-plutonium-stockpile.html

July 18, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at Ozawa ‘school’ on need to end nuclear power

Koizumi speaks at Ozawa ‘school’ on need to end nuclear power, Asahi Shimbun ,By TATSURO KAWAI/ Staff Writer, July 16, 2018 

Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi wondered if he was in the right place, appearing at an event for a longtime political rival.

Koizumi was guest lecturer on July 15 at a Tokyo hotel for a political “school” organized by Ichiro Ozawa, the head of the opposition Liberal Party.

“I thought there must have been a mistake because I never expected to be invited here,” Koizumi said, drawing laughs from the crowd.

The two political veterans, who were once on opposite sides in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, have come together in a high-voltage pairing to work toward eliminating nuclear energy in Japan.

In his speech, Koizumi reflected on his long past with Ozawa.

“In the political world, there is a frequent shift in who is one’s friend or foe,” Koizumi said.

His main theme of the lecture was to work against nuclear energy.

Koizumi reiterated that point when he met with reporters after the speech and said, “In order to build momentum for a national movement to do away with nuclear plants, it will be important for politicians like us who have been called conservative to raise our voices.”

Ozawa said he was heartened by Koizumi’s comment and added, “I and the other opposition parties have all made zero nuclear plants our most important policy objective. It is an extremely strong backing to have an individual who once served as prime minister and (LDP) president to talk to the people about doing away with nuclear plants.”

Koizumi also expressed displeasure that his former political protege, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, had not done more on nuclear energy policy.

It is extremely regrettable that the opportunity is being wasted because if the prime minister moved toward zero nuclear plants, the ruling and opposition parties would come together to make that a reality,” Koizumi told reporters.  ……….http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201807160020.html

July 18, 2018 Posted by | Japan, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

Questions: why does USA allow only Japan to reprocess plutonium?

Japan’s ‘plutonium exception’ under fire as nuclear pact extended https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-Relations/Japan-s-plutonium-exception-under-fire-as-nuclear-pact-extended  Beijing and Seoul question why US allows only Tokyo to reprocess, TOKYO — Japan’s nuclear cooperation agreement with the U.S. — the pillar of Tokyo’s nuclear energy policy — renews automatically on Monday after the current pact, which took effect in 1988, expires.

The agreement allows Japan to be the sole non-nuclear-weapons state to use plutonium for peaceful purposes and underlies the country’s policy of recycling spent nuclear fuel.

But the renewal comes at a time when Japan’s “plutonium exception” is increasingly under scrutiny. Instead of negotiating a new pact that could last several decades, Washington and Tokyo chose an automatic extension of the current agreement.

The agreement signed three decades ago stated that after the 30-year period expired, the terms would remain in force but could be terminated by either side with a six months’ notice. Japan worries that without a new long-term agreement, the country enters an “extremely unstable situation,” Foreign Minister Taro Kono has said.

Japan’s neighbors have cried foul over Japan’s plutonium exception. China has said it creates a path for Japan to obtain nuclear weapons. South Korea, which also has a nuclear cooperation agreement with the U.S., has pressed Washington hard to be granted similar freedom on fuel reprocessing.

Countries such as Saudi Arabia that are looking to develop their own nuclear programs have also protested.

Under President Barack Obama, Japan’s plutonium stockpiles — much of which is stored in the U.K. — drew uncomfortable attention in Washington. In March 2016, Thomas Countryman, the then-assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, told a Senate hearing that he “would be very happy to see all countries get out of the plutonium reprocessing business.”

President Donald Trump has shown less interest in preventing nuclear proliferation, but is committed to dismantling North Korea’s nuclear facilities and materials. Resolving the inconsistent treatment afforded Japan’s plutonium stockpile would make it easier to convince Pyongyang to give up reprocessing capabilities as part of its denuclearization, Countryman told Nikkei recently.

The Trump administration appears aware of these arguments. The National Security Council and State Department have requested that Japan reduce its stockpile and otherwise ensure its plutonium is used and managed appropriately. On July 3, Japan’s cabinet approved a new basic energy plan that includes reducing plutonium holdings, aiming to assuage American concerns.

But Japan’s mostly idled nuclear power industry makes working through the stockpile a challenge.At one point after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, all of the country’s reactors were offline. Nine have managed to restart under stricter safety standards adopted in the wake of the meltdowns, but only a few Japanese reactors can run on so-called mixed-oxide fuel containing plutonium.

Regulators have asked utilities such as Shikoku Electric Power and Kyushu Electric Power that are working to restart nuclear reactors to look into consuming plutonium fuel held by other power companies. But this would require potentially difficult negotiations with local governments.

One other option is to pay overseas countries that store plutonium on Japan’s behalf to dispose of them, but that would involve discussion on the international level.

“The only viable option is to explain to the world the steady efforts we are making toward reduction,” said an official at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which is responsible for Japan’s energy policy.

So far, the U.S. has not called on Japan to abandon its plutonium entirely, or to speed up its reduction. And there is little chance the U.S. will end the cooperation agreement, as “Japan’s nuclear technology is indispensable to the American nuclear industry,” according to a Japanese government source.

But Tokyo worries that the Trump administration may apply the same transactional approach it has to other foreign policy issues to the question of Japan’s plutonium.

July 16, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan, reprocessing | Leave a comment

Foreign trainees used to clean up radioactive contamination from Fukushima nuclear plant

At least four firms used foreign trainees to clean up radioactive contamination from Fukushima nuclear plant: ministry, Japan Times, BY SHUSUKE MURAI, STAFF WRITER , 14 July 18  

The Justice Ministry revealed Friday that at least four construction companies have used foreign trainees in radioactive cleanup work related to the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which occurred in 2011.

The interim report of the ministry’s probe, covering 182 companies with foreign trainee programs as of June 29, said one of the four companies, based in Iwate Prefecture, has been banned from accepting foreign trainees for five years.

The other three firms — two in Fukushima Prefecture and one in Chiba Prefecture — are still under investigation. The names of the companies were not revealed.

The ministry plans to compile a full report covering 1,002 companies in eight prefectures, including Miyagi, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Saitama, this fall.

The research started in the wake of a government announcement in March banning the use of foreign trainees in work to remove radioactive contamination. The government says such work is not consistent with the true purpose of the foreign trainee program.

The Technical Intern Training Program was introduced in 1993 with the aim of transferring skills to developing countries. But the scheme has drawn criticism both at home and abroad as a cover for importing cheap labor for the manufacturing, construction and other industrial sectors, where blue-collar workers are in short supply…….

In May, six people under a foreign trainee program were found to have participated in construction work at the Fukushima No. 1 plant despite a ban on trainees working at the crippled facility. Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., the operator of the Fukushima plant, said they were hired by one of its subcontractors and sent to take part in groundwork without receiving any training on how to protect themselves from radiation.https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/07/13/national/least-four-firms-used-foreign-trainees-clean-radioactive-contamination-fukushima-nuclear-plant-ministry/#.W0xBe9IzbIU

July 16, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Half of Fukushima Prefecture residents want radiation monitoring posts to be maintained

Fukushima Minpo News 2nd July 2018, Nearly 50% of residents in Fukushima Prefecture are against a central
government policy to remove some 2,400 posts in the prefecture for
monitoring nuclear radiation from fallout left by the 2011 accident at
Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, according to an
opinion poll jointly conducted by Fukushima-Minpo Co., publisher of the
namesake local daily, and Fukushima Television Broadcasting Co.
http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=901

July 16, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Japan-US nuclear energy pact set to renew automatically in July 2018

 https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20180116/p2a/00m/0na/005000c  (Mainichi Japan) 

July 16, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Restarting Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant would be a huge mistake

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The Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant in Tokai village, Ibaraki Prefecture, which is operated by Japan Atomic Power Co.
July 5, 2018
The Nuclear Regulation Authority has concluded that the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant in Ibaraki Prefecture, operated by Japan Atomic Power Co., meets improved safety standards for a restart.
The watchdog body’s decision effectively paves the way for bringing the idled facility back online.
But a slew of questions and concerns cast serious doubt on the wisdom of restarting this aging nuclear plant located at the northern tip of the Tokyo metropolitan area, given that it is approaching the end of its 40-year operational lifespan.
There is a compelling case against bringing the plant back on stream unless these concerns are properly addressed.
The first major question is how the project can be squared with the rules for reducing the risk of accidents at aging nuclear facilities.
The 40-year lifespan for nuclear reactors is an important rule to reduce the risk of accidents involving aging reactors that was introduced in the aftermath of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011.
Although a reactor’s operational life can be extended by up to 20 years if approved by the NRA, the government, at the time of the revision to the law, said it would be granted only in exceptional cases.
Despite this caveat, Kansai Electric Power Co.’s applications for extensions for its three aging reactors all got the green light.
The NRA has yet to approve the requested extension of the Tokai No. 2 plant’s operational life. But it is obvious that the nuclear watchdog’s approval will cause further erosion of the rule. It will also undermine the regulatory regime to limit the lifespan of nuclear facilities per se.
Local communities have also raised objections to restarting the Tokai No. 2 plant. Some 960,000 people live within 30 kilometers of the plant, more than in any other 30-km emergency planning zone.
The local governments within the zone are struggling to develop legally required emergency evacuation plans to prepare for major accidents.
This spring, an agreement was reached between Japan Atomic Power and five municipalities around the plant, including Mito, that commits the operator to seek approval from local authorities within the 30-km zone before restarting the plant.
Winning support from the local communities for the plant reactivation plan is undoubtedly a colossal challenge, given strong anxiety about the facility’s safety among local residents. The gloomy situation was brought home by the Mito municipal assembly’s adoption of a written opinion opposing the plan.
But Japan Atomic Power is determined to carry through the plan as its survival depends on the plant continuing operation.
The company was set up simply to produce and sell electricity by using atomic energy. Its nuclear reactors are all currently offline, which has placed the entity in serious financial difficulty.
Since the company is unable to raise on its own funds to implement the necessary safety measures at the Tokai No. 2 plant, which are estimated to exceed 170 billion yen ($1.54 billion), Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and Tohoku Electric Power Co., which are both shareholders and customers of the company, will provide financial support.
But TEPCO has been put under effective state control to deal with the costly consequences of the Fukushima disaster.
It is highly doubtful that the utility, which is kept alive with massive tax-financed support, is qualified to take over the financial risk of the business of another company in trouble.
TEPCO claims the Tokai No. 2 plant is promising as a source of low-cost and stable power supply, although it has not offered convincing grounds for the claim.
Some members of the NRA have voiced skepticism about this view.
TEPCO and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which supervises the power industry, have a responsibility to offer specific and detailed explanations about related issues to win broad public support for the plan to reactivate the Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant.
A hard look at the grim situation surrounding the plant leaves little doubt that restarting it does not make sense.
Japan Atomic Power and the major electric utilities that own it should undertake a fundamental review of the management of the nuclear power company without delaying efforts to tackle the problems besetting the operator of the Tokai No. 2 plant.

July 8, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Oi nuclear Plant ‘Safe’ to Operate

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A plaintiff and a lawyer hold signs on July 4 criticizing a ruling by the Nagoya High Court’s Kanazawa branch that nullified an injunction intended to halt operations at the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture.

Court overturns injunction, says Oi nuclear plant safe to operate

KANAZAWA–A high court branch here overturned a lower court order to halt operations of two reactors at a nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture, saying it poses no tangible danger to residents there.
“The danger is within negligible levels in light of social norms,” Presiding Judge Masayuki Naito of the Nagoya High Court’s Kanazawa branch said on July 4, nullifying an injunction against Kansai Electric Power Co., operator of the Oi nuclear plant.
Plaintiffs sought the injunction to block the restarts of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the plant in Oi. They argued that dangers from the plant violated their right to protect their lives and sustain their livelihood.
The Fukui District Court sided with the plaintiffs in 2014, saying the plant was not thoroughly prepared to withstand a powerful earthquake.
The district court focused more on whether a tangible danger existed that could result in a serious accident similar to the one that hit Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in March 2011, not on the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s decision to clear the Oi reactors for operations.
However, the high court said its decision was based on whether the NRA’s new safety regulations were appropriate, and whether the watchdog’s assessment that the two Oi reactors passed the safety regulations was reasonable.
The stricter regulations took effect in July 2013 based on lessons learned from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
“They were established by incorporating the latest scientific and technological expertise,” the high court said of the new standards.
The court supported both the NRA’s regulations and its decision to clear the No. 3 and 4 reactors as meeting the requirements.
Kunihiko Shimazaki, a seismologist and a former NRA member, raised doubts about the safety of the plant as a witness in the court proceedings.
He said the NRA’s current formula for calculating the scope of sway in an earthquake may have underestimated the expected maximum shaking from a powerful earthquake that could strike the plant.
The high court rejected Shimazaki’s argument.
“The extent of the maximum shaking was not underestimated because (the calculations) used an active geological fault zone larger than it should be in reality to provide an extra safety cushion,” the judge said.
The court also supported the NRA’s decision that the Oi reactors meet the new regulations concerning measures against tsunami and volcanic eruptions.
As for evaluating the soundness of nuclear power generation, the court said that is not its role.
“It will be possible to abolish and ban the operation of nuclear power plants in light of the grave consequences of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, but judging on the issue goes beyond the jurisdiction of the judiciary,” the court said. “(The nuclear issue) should be widely debated by the public and left to a political judgment.”

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July 8, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Aging Nuclear Plant Tokai To Restart

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The Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tokai No. 2 Nuclear Power Station, front, and the Tokai Power Station, right back, which is currently being decommissioned, are seen from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter

Nuclear watchdog OKs restart of aging nuclear plant hit by tsunami

The Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tokai No. 2 Nuclear Power Station, front, and the Tokai Power Station, right back, which is currently being decommissioned, are seen from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter
July 4, 2018
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japan’s nuclear watchdog on Wednesday gave the green light to the restart of an aging nuclear power plant northeast of Tokyo, idled since it was hit by the tsunami that caused meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
The Tokai No. 2 plant is the first nuclear plant affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster to have cleared screening by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, part of the steps required before it can actually resume operations.
The plant, located in the village of Tokai in Ibaraki Prefecture, suffered an emergency automatic shutdown of its reactor and was cut off from its external power source following the quake.
After being hit by a 5.4-meter tsunami, one of its three emergency power generators was incapacitated. But the other two remained intact and allowed the reactor to cool down three and a half days after the disaster.
Despite the approval by the NRA, the Tokai plant still needs to clear two more screenings by regulators by November, when it will turn 40 years old, otherwise it could face the prospect of decommissioning.
Tougher safety rules introduced in the post-Fukushima years prohibit in principle the operation of nuclear reactors beyond 40 years. But extending a unit’s life for an additional 20 years is possible if operators make safety upgrades and pass regulators’ screening.
Actual plant operation is unlikely before March 2021 when construction to bolster safety measures is scheduled to be completed. The restart plan also needs to be approved by local municipalities.
The Tokai No. 2 plant, operated by Japan Atomic Power Co., uses a boiling water reactor, the same type as those used at the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi plant, which saw core meltdowns and spewed a massive amount of radioactive materials into the atmosphere in the 2011 disaster.
It is the eighth plant approved of a restart under the stricter safety rules introduced after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis and the second with a boiling water reactor following the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.
The plant’s evacuation plan — which covers 960,000 residents, the largest number of potential evacuees for a nuclear plant in Japan due to its location in a metropolitan area — has yet to be compiled.
The operator filed for a safety screening to restart the plant in May 2014. It predicts a potential tsunami as high as 17.1 meter and expects some 180 billion yen ($1.63 billion) is needed to construct coastal levees and beef up power sources among other safety measures.
Japan Atomic Power solely engages in the nuclear energy business but none of its reactors has been online since the 2011 quake. Given its financial problems, the NRA has asked it to show how it will finance the safety measures and Tokyo Electric Power and Tohoku Electric Power Co. have offered to financially support the company.
 
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Ibaraki citizens demonstrate against the restart of the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant outside the Nuclear Regulation Authority headquarters in Tokyo’s Minato Ward on Wednesday.

Nuclear watchdog OKs restart of aging tsunami-hit Tokai nuclear plant

Jul 4, 2018
Ibaraki unit needs to clear two more screenings by November, when it will turn 40
The Nuclear Regulation Authority on Wednesday gave the green light to the restart of an aging nuclear power plant northeast of Tokyo, idled since it was hit by the tsunami that caused meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
The Tokai No. 2 plant is the first nuclear plant affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster to have cleared screening by the nuclear watchdog. Other steps are still required before it can resume operations.
Due to the quake, the plant in the Ibaraki Prefecture village of Tokai suffered an emergency automatic shutdown of its reactor and was cut off from its external power source.
After then being hit by a 5.4-meter tsunami, one of its three emergency power generators was incapacitated. But the other two remained intact and allowed the reactor to cool down 3½ days after the disaster.
Despite the approval by the NRA, the plant still needs to clear two more screenings by regulators by November, when it will turn 40 years old. If it fails, it could face the prospect of decommissioning.
Following the decision, Ibaraki Gov. Kazuhiko Oigawa told reporters he intends to “closely monitor the remaining screenings” and called on the NRA “to conduct strict examinations.”
Tougher safety rules introduced after the Fukushima disaster in principle prohibit the operation of nuclear reactors beyond 40 years. But extending a unit’s life for an additional 20 years is possible if operators make safety upgrades and it passes screenings.
Actual operation is unlikely before March 2021, when construction to bolster safety measures is scheduled to be completed. The restart plan also needs to be approved by local municipalities.
On Wednesday morning, a group of about 10 citizens protested the restart outside the NRA’s offices in Tokyo’s Minato Ward.
Mika Tsubata, a 47-year-old resident of Tokai who observed the NRA meeting, blasted the decision. “The Tokai No. 2 plant is old and was damaged in the 2011 disaster,” she said. “It’s evident to everyone that (the restart) is highly risky — I don’t think the NRA made the appropriate decision.”
But Eiji Sato, the 69-year-old chair of the village’s chamber of commerce, said the plant’s resumption is key to Tokai’s future. “The village has thrived on nuclear power generation,” he said.
The Tokai No. 2 plant, operated by Japan Atomic Power Co., uses a boiling-water reactor, the same type as those used at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, which suffered core meltdowns and spewed a massive amount of radioactive material into the atmosphere in 2011.
It is the eighth plant to get approval for a restart under the stricter safety rules and the second with a boiling-water reactor, following the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.
The plant’s evacuation plan — which covers 960,000 residents, the largest number of potential evacuees for a nuclear plant in Japan due to its location near a metropolitan area — has yet to be compiled.
“Because of the large number of residents around the plant, compiling effective anti-disaster measures and an evacuation plan in a wide area is a huge challenge,” Oigawa said.
The operator filed for a safety screening to restart the plant in May 2014. It predicts a potential tsunami as high as 17.1 meters and expects ¥180 billion ($1.63 billion) will be needed to construct coastal levees and beef up power sources, among other safety measures.
Although Japan Atomic Power’s sole business is nuclear energy, none of its reactors has been online since the 2011 quake. Given its financial problems, the NRA has asked the utility to show how it will finance the safety measures. Tepco and Tohoku Electric Power Co., which had been receiving electricity from the plant when it was in operation, have offered to financially support the company.
The NRA decided at the meeting to seek industry minister Hiroshige Seko’s views on whether Tepco’s financial contribution could affect the costs of scrapping the Fukushima No. 1 plant and enhancing safety at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

July 8, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , | 1 Comment