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India joins the panic to sell costly, impractical, nuclear power to Africa and Middle East

January 27, 2020 Posted by | India, marketing | Leave a comment

2020 Olympic events worryingly close to radioactive areas

In an Olympic year, Japan faces decision over contaminated Fukushima water Aaron Sheldrick  OKUMA, Japan (Reuters)24 Jan 2020, – At the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant north of Tokyo, workers in protective suits are still removing radioactive material from reactors that melted down after an earthquake and tsunami knocked out its power and cooling nearly nine years ago.

On an exclusive tour of the plant, spread over 3.5 million square meters (865 acres), Reuters witnessed giant remote-controlled cranes dismantling an exhaust tower and other structures in a highly radioactive zone while spent fuel was removed from a reactor.

Officials from Tokyo Electric, which owns the plant, also showed new tanks to hold increasing amounts of contaminated water.

About 4,000 workers are tackling the cleanup, many wearing protective gear, although more than 90% of the plant is deemed to have so little radioactivity that no extra precautions are needed. Photography was highly restricted and no conversations were allowed with the workers.

Work to dismantle the plant has taken nearly a decade so far, but with Tokyo due to host the Olympics this summer – including some events less than 60 km (38 miles) from the power station – there has been renewed focus on safeguarding the venues…….

The buildup of contaminated water has been a sticking point in the cleanup, which is likely to last decades, and has alarmed neighboring countries. In 2018, Tepco said it had not been able to remove all dangerous material from the water – and the site is running out of room for storage tanks.

Officials overseeing a panel of experts looking into the contaminated water issue said in December choices on disposal should be narrowed to two: either dilute the water and dump it in the Pacific Ocean, or allow it to evaporate. The Japanese government may decide within months, and either process would take years to complete, experts say……..

Athletes from at least one country, South Korea, are planning to bring their own radiation detectors and food this summer.

Baseball and softball will be played in Fukushima City, about 60 km (38 miles) from the destroyed nuclear plant. The torch relay will begin at a sports facility called J-Village, an operations base for Fukushima Daiichi in the first few years of the disaster, then pass through areas near the damaged station on its way to Tokyo.

In December, Greenpeace said it found radiation “hotspots” at J-Village, about 18km south of the plant.

When Tokyo won the bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared that Fukushima was “under control” in his final pitch to the International Olympic Committee.

In 2016, the Japanese government estimated that the total cost of plant dismantlement, decontamination of affected areas, and compensation would be 21.5 trillion yen ($195 billion) – roughly a fifth of the country’s annual budget at the time.

(Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick: Editing by Gerry Doyle) https://mobile.reuters.com/article/amp/idUSKBN1ZK0CV?__twitter_impression=true

January 25, 2020 Posted by | environment, Japan | Leave a comment

Mayor in Kyushu admits to ‘bribe’ from company in nuclear business

January 25, 2020 Posted by | Japan, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

India – a case study in regulatory capture by the nuclear industry

In a Season of Impetuous Lawmaking, whither Nuclear Safety? The Leaflet SONALI HURIA, January 22,2020
In this piece, the author while discussing the issues around nuclear safety, debates on why it is important to re-examine the proposed Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill for better regulation, transparency, and liability. SINCE returning to power last year with an overwhelming majority in the 2019 general elections, the Modi-led government has passed a series of legislations in rapid succession without any credible dialogue both within and outside Parliament – …………even as there has been exceptional eagerness to push these amendments and pass new legislation, including notifying the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 despite intense country-wide protests and a raging debate on its underlying intent, there are urgent issues, such as, nuclear safety, which remain in indefinite suspension.

The UPA-II government, under Dr Manmohan Singh, had introduced the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) Bill in the Lok Sabha on 07 September 2011, aimed at replacing India’s existing nuclear regulator, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) with a purportedly improved and more autonomous Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) which would have the mandate to ‘regulate nuclear safety and activities related to nuclear material and facilities’.

The Bill, however, which had been referred to the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests, did not come up for discussion before the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha, and subsequently, lapsed. The Standing Committee had reportedly endorsed the Bill with only minor suggestions for changes, while two members of the Committee from the CPI(M), gave dissent notes, arguing that the Bill provided ‘no substantive autonomy’ to the proposed NSRA. According to available information, in April 2017, the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh, in a written response to a question in the Lok Sabha had stated that a ‘fresh Bill’ similar to the earlier NSRA Bill, was ‘under examination’……….India’s nuclear regulatory framework has long been criticized for being so thoroughly enmeshed within the government structure so as to render its requisite independence, practically meaningless. Nuclear safety in India has been the remit of the AERB, which was set up in November of 1983 by an executive order of the Secretary of the DAE under Section 27 of the Atomic Energy Act, 1962, with modifications made in April 2000 to “exclude all BARC facilities from (its) oversight, (following) the declaration of BARC as a nuclear weapons laboratory”.

The AERB has had the dishonourable reputation of being subservient to India’s exclusively public sector operators, which it is required to monitor, and is also acknowledged as suffering from an acute lack of independence from industry and government.

As things stand, the AERB is responsible for monitoring the safety of the various nuclear facilities operated by agencies such as, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), which fall under the purview of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). However, the Board is required to report to the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), whose chairman is the Secretary of the DAE and one of whose members is the Chair of the NPCIL, and which overall, comes under the direct control of the Prime Minister of India. Thus, the regulatory board reports to the very agency it is required to assess and monitor in the interest of public safety.   

 Moreover, the AERB frequently draws upon the ‘expertise’ of scientists and engineers provided by the DAE – “almost 95% of the members in AERB’s review and advisory committees are drawn from among retired employees of the DAE, either from one of their research institutes like the Bhabha Atomic Research Center or a power generation company like the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd.” –  thus, calling into question the AERB’s functional autonomy.

Dr A Gopalakrishnan, the former Chairman of the AERB has been at pains to explain how the present institutional setup makes nuclear safety regulation in India a ‘mere sham’ and that for the AERB to function effectively, the DAE’s hold on the Board needs to be urgently done away with. In 1995, during Dr Gopalakrishnan’s tenure as the nuclear regulator, the AERB had prepared a comprehensive ‘Document on Safety Issues in DAE Installations’ – a report detailing nearly 130 safety issues across India’s nuclear installations with 95 of them having been designated ‘top priority’, to which the first reactions from the NPCIL and BARC according to Dr Gopalakrishnan, were of denial and questioning AERB’s own technical expertise to review safety matters.

A 2012 Performance Audit Report on the AERB prepared by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) and submitted to the Indian Parliament labelled the AERB a ‘subordinate office, exercising delegated functions of Central government and not that of the regulator’.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) scrutinizing the CAG report in 2013 castigated the Regulatory Board for failing to prepare a ‘comprehensive nuclear radiation safety policy despite a specific mandate in its constitution order of 1983’. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Peer Review of India’s Nuclear Regulatory Framework in 2015 was also categorical in asserting that the AERB was in need of being separated from ‘other entities having responsibilities or interests that could unduly influence its decision making’.

As has been pointed out by MV Ramana, physicist and author of The Power of Promise, there have been accidents of ‘varying severity’ at several of the nuclear facilities being operated by the DAE, yet the regulatory board has frequently been seen downplaying the seriousness of such incidents, “postponing essential repairs to suit the DAE’s time schedules, and allowing continued operation of installations when public safety considerations would warrant their immediate shutdown and repair”. The charade of the AERB’s professed independence is further underscored by its conspicuous silence on the recent cybersecurity breach at the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tirunelveli District in Tamil Nadu in October 2019.

It is these glaring frailties of the nuclear regulatory framework coupled with the obdurate insistence of the Central government to massively expand its activities along the entire nuclear fuel cycle, despite unsettled safety concerns, a long-standing and vociferous people’s resistance against uranium mining and nuclear energy projects, and concerns surrounding the health, environmental, economic, and democratic costs of this expansion, that make imperative, the need for a fiercely independent and non-partisan nuclear regulator.

Does the proposed NSRA fit the bill?

The NSRA Bill, 2011 upon its introduction, had failed to invoke any enthusiasm among independent experts, nuclear sector watchers, and civil society actors, and instead, was met with grim scepticism given that among other things, it made light of the principle of ‘separation’ as required under Article 8 of the IAEA Convention on Nuclear Safety to which India is a State Party.

The NSRA Bill provides for the establishment of a ‘Council of Nuclear Safety’, headed by the Prime Minister and comprised of five or more Union Ministers, the Cabinet Secretary, Chairman of the AEC, and other ‘eminent experts’ nominated by the Central government, which in turn, will constitute ‘search committees’ to select the Chair and Members of the proposed Regulatory Authority. Moreover, under Article 14 of the Bill, the Chairperson and Members of the NSRA can be removed by an order of the Central government.

Dr Gopalakrishnan argues that the Bill makes only an ornamental show of granting independence to the NSRA by requiring the Authority to report to the Parliament instead of a government department, ministry or official. Concomitantly, however, the Bill also unambiguously provides for the supersession of and the assumption of ‘all the powers, functions and duties’ of the Authority by the Central Government, if in its ‘opinion’ the Authority fails to function in concert with the provisions of the proposed Act, and, requires the Authority to seek approval of the central government prior to initiating any interaction with nuclear regulators of other countries and/or international organizations ‘engaged in activities relevant to…nuclear/radiation safety, physical security of nuclear material and facilities, transportation of nuclear and radioactive materials and nuclear and radiation safety and regulation’.

Article 20 (q) of the Bill mandates the NSRA to ‘discharge its functions and powers in a manner consistent with the international obligations of India’. This provision, argues Dr Gopalakrishnan is deeply worrisome for it “could mean, that if the Prime Minister has promised the French President in 2008 that India would buy six European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs)…(this) unilateral and personal commitment…will now (be) labelled ‘India’s international obligation’, and the NSRA cannot question, even on strong safety grounds, the setting up of those six EPR units, since that will violate the said clause of the Bill” – this might prove disastrous for both, public and environmental safety in the long term.

Experts argue that far from separating the regulator from the government, these provisions contained in the NSRA Bill will only mean absolute government control over nuclear regulation, including over appointment and dismissal procedures, thus, opening the way for ‘pliant technocrats’ to occupy prominent positions within the Authority.

The proposed Bill is also fuzzy on the question of which nuclear facilities will fall under the purview of the NSRA – it empowers, for instance, the central government to exempt “any nuclear material, radioactive material, facilities, premises and activities” from the jurisdiction of the Authority, on grounds of ‘national defence and security’. ……….

These and other provisions of the Bill are a stark reminder that the DAE has no love lost for transparency and public oversight – take, for instance, Article 45 which requires the Chairperson, Members, and other employees of the Authority to sign a ‘declaration of fidelity and secrecy’ “to not communicate or allow to be communicated to any person not legally entitled to any information relating to the affairs of the Authority”. It is for these reasons that the former nuclear regulator, Dr Gopalakrishnan has described the proposed NSRA Bill as an exercise in ‘boxing in’ nuclear regulation “from all sides by government controls, diktats, and threats of retaliation”, thus making it even more emaciated than the existing nuclear regulator – the AERB. …..https://theleaflet.in/in-a-season-of-impetuous-lawmaking-whither-nuclear-safety/

 

January 23, 2020 Posted by | India, politics, Reference, safety | Leave a comment

$123 billion the cost of safety measures for Japan’s nuclear stations

Costs for managing Japan’s nuclear plants to total 13 trillion yen,  https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/01/8722fafaff9b-costs-for-managing-japans-nuclear-plants-to-total-13-trillion-yen.html
KYODO NEWS – Jan 15, 2020   The total costs to implement government-mandated safety measures, maintain facilities and decommission commercially operated nuclear power plants in Japan will reach around 13.46 trillion yen ($123 billion), a Kyodo News tally showed Wednesday.

The amount, which could balloon further and eventually lead to higher electricity fees, was calculated based on financial documents from 11 power companies that own 57 nuclear reactors at 19 plants, as well as interviews with the utilities.

Two years after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, the Japanese government introduced new safety standards which made measures against natural disasters and major accidents mandatory for restarting reactors.

The power companies have been given the option of either maintaining their idled nuclear power plants and restarting them once they had implemented the required safety measures, or decommissioning their plants. But it has become clear either choice required massive costs.

Of the total costs, 5.4 trillion yen was for safety measures implemented as of last month at 15 power plants they are trying to restart.

Decommissioning costs for 17 reactors belonging to nine nuclear power plants, which were deemed too expensive to implement safety measures for, totaled around 849.2 billion yen.

As the estimated costs for decommissioning the No. 1 to No. 4 reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. differ, they were not included in the figure.

Maintenance costs, which will not only apply to restarted plants in operation but also to idled ones and those in the process of being decommissioned, are required for 54 reactors at 17 plants.

Those under construction were excluded. In the six years from fiscal 2013, when the new regulations were introduced, they totaled around 7.2 trillion yen.

The costs include labor, repairs and others considered nuclear power plant expenses as shown in each company’s annual securities report. But plant depreciation costs and a reserve for dismantling facilities were subtracted as they overlapped with some expenses for safety measures and decommissioning.

Maintenance fees will be required every year moving forward and are expected to continue to grow from the annual costs of around 1 trillion yen across the 11 utilities.

The total costs could further rise by several hundred billion yen as money needed to construct anti-terrorist facilities, also required under the new safety standards, was not included in the figures of some of the companies.

The majority of the 17 reactors at nine power plants slated for decommissioning are aging and they also include four at the Fukushima Daini complex, which local officials requested to be scrapped.

January 23, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, Japan, safety | Leave a comment

North Korea abandoning talks with “hostile” USA

January 23, 2020 Posted by | North Korea, politics international | Leave a comment

Hiroshima High Courtorder Ikata nuclear reactor to be halted

n-ikata-a-20200118-870x573A group of people supporting residents opposed to running the No. 3 reactor at the Ikata nuclear power plant applaud Friday outside the Hiroshima High Court after Shikoku Electric Co. was ordered to suspend the unit.

Shikoku Electric again ordered to halt Ikata nuclear reactor over volcano risk

Jan 17, 2020

The Hiroshima High Court on Friday revoked a lower court decision and ordered Shikoku Electric Power Co. to suspend its only operable nuclear reactor in Ehime Prefecture because its preparations for a potential eruption of Mount Aso are inadequate.

The utility has previously claimed the reactor is safe to run because it would have enough advance warning of an eruption to take safety measures.

The high court also said the Nuclear Regulatory Agency’s regulations were unreasonable.

The ruling marks the second time the high court has ordered a halt of the No. 3 reactor at the Ikata nuclear power plant.

The reactor had been shut for regular maintenance work since late December and was likely to restart within a couple of months, but now must remain idled pending an appeal. Shares in the company, which didn’t disclose the court’s reason for issuing the order, plunged on the news, ending the day down 6 percent at ¥957.

The move is the latest in a series of setbacks for an industry still struggling to recover from the Fukushima nuclear disaster nearly nine years ago, with less than a fifth of the nation’s reactors having received approval to operate.

Residents near reactors have been filing numerous lawsuits against nuclear power operations in recent years, leading to some temporary closures. Utilities have generally been successful in getting rulings against them overturned on appeal.

In a statement, Shikoku Electric said the decision by the Hiroshima High Court is “extremely regrettable” and pledged to “promptly file an appeal so that the order can be revoked as soon as possible.”

In making its decision, the court considered whether the operator and the NRA’s regulations and risk estimates for a potential eruption at the caldera of Mount Aso, about 130 km away, were adequate.

Last March, three residents of nearby Yamaguchi Prefecture who had lost a case against the Ikata reactor in the Yamaguchi District Court were appealing the decision made by the Iwakuni branch. The lower court ruled the Ikata plant could continue operating because the probability of a big eruption occurring during the reactor’s life span was low, and the NRA’s safety standards were adequate.

The reactor is currently idled for scheduled inspections and the removal of spent mixed-oxide fuel was completed on Wednesday. It is expected to be restarted on April 27.

A previous order forcing a halt in operations was issued by the Hiroshima High Court in December 2017, citing the risk of Mount Aso erupting. The same court then overturned the decision in September 2018 on appeal, and Shikoku Electric restarted the reactor a month later.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/01/17/national/shikoku-halt-ikata-reactor-volcano-risk/?fbclid=IwAR3WLt50R097oHK1rQ4ivgKp5juFONfBxaIbvZKR0PTDU1f6nkj7i_K_qEE#.XiHvCiNCeUm

hjhlmùùThe plant lies near an active faultline, the court ruled.

Japan court halts nuclear reactor restart citing volcano, earthquake risks

17 Jan 2020

TOKYO: A Japanese nuclear reactor near a fault line must remain shut because of the risk of its being struck by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, a high court ordered on Friday (Jan 17).

All nuclear power stations were shut down after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident following a catastrophic tsunami, and many remain closed.

The Japanese public has turned against atomic power, despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe insisting the nation needs nuclear plants to power the world’s third-largest economy, and the court decision was a boost for the country’s anti-nuclear movement.

The move by the Hiroshima High Court reversed a lower court decision in March that would have allowed the reactor at the Ikata nuclear plant in western Japan to resume operations.

The plant’s operator, Shikoku Electric Power, wanted to resume work at the reactor, which had been halted for routine inspections, and said it will appeal the high court’s ruling.

The case was originally lodged by residents of a neighbouring region who complained the utility failed to properly evaluate the risks posed by a local volcano and seismic faultlines.

High court presiding judge Kazutake Mori revoked the lower court ruling that paved the way for the reactor to come online.

Mori said there was an active fault line near the plant and safety assessments had been insufficient, national broadcaster NHK said.

He also argued it was not logical to assume that volcanic eruptions can be predicted far in advance, as assumed under the national standards for operating nuclear reactors, according to NHK.

“There is a fault line within 2km from the nuclear plant but Shikoku Electric has not conducted thorough surveys, and the way the Nuclear Regulation Authority reached its assessment that there was no problem contained errors and inadequacies,” the judge said, according to NHK.

Shikoku Electric criticised the ruling and stressed the scientific merit of the firm’s argument that it was safe to operate the reactor.

“After closely examining the decision, we will file a petition of objection so that the injunction will be cancelled as soon as possible,” the utility said in a statement.

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/japan-court-halts-ikata-nuclear-reactor-restart-volcano-quake-12274482

January 21, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

No long-term prospects in Japan for reusing, storing spent MOX fuel

hhlmùùA spent nuclear fuel rod is seen stored in a pool at the No. 3 reactor building at the Ikata Nuclear Power Plant in the Ehime Prefecture town of Ikata on Jan. 14, 2020

January 15, 2020

There are no prospects that spent mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel, made by reprocessing spent nuclear material, can be further reprocessed and reused for nuclear power generation in accordance with the Japanese government’s energy policy. Storing such fuel for a long period has thus raised safety concerns.

Shikoku Electric Power Co. showed work to replace and store MOX fuel in the No. 3 reactor building at its Ikata Nuclear Power Plant to media outlets on Jan. 14.

It was the first time that the company has removed spent MOX fuel since it began to use MOX fuel — produced by extracting plutonium and other reusable nuclear materials from spent nuclear fuel and mixing them with uranium — for commercial power generation at the plant.

An employee operated a crane to extract MOX fuel rods, each of which is about 4.1 meters long and weighs some 700 kilograms, from the reactor core and transfer them into a storage pool one by one inside the reactor building.

According to the company, work to extract spent nuclear fuel rods began on the evening of Jan. 13, and will have removed 16 rods by Jan. 16. In early March five new rods will be inserted into the core. The firm will keep cooling down spent MOX fuel in the pool for more than 10 years.

However, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has expressed concerns that the storage of spent MOX fuel in the pool over such a long period is highly dangerous. In case of a power blackout, the temperature of the water in the pool could not be maintained at a certain level and it would become unable to cool the fuel just as was the case with the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

“From the viewpoint of safety, it’s undesirable that a large number of such rods are preserved,” said NRA Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa.

Furthermore, spent MOX fuel generates heat about three to five times that generated by ordinary used nuclear fuel. In case of trouble with a cooling system, such MOX fuel would be far more dangerous than conventional spent nuclear material.

Nevertheless, an employee of an electric power company confessed that the firm “has no leeway to think about what it should do after cooling down spent MOX fuel.”

Pools holding spent fuel at nuclear power plants are almost full, and utilities operating atomic power stations are struggling to find places to store the material.

The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC) intends to use MOX fuel in 16 to 18 nuclear reactors across the country. Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (TEPCO) and Chubu Electric Power Co. had planned to use MOX fuel in the No. 3 reactor at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Niigata Prefecture, and the No. 4 unit at the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant in Shizuoka Prefecture, respectively.

However, such fuel is being used at only four reactors — Ikata’s No. 3 reactor, the No. 3 and 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture and the No. 3 unit at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai complex in Saga Prefecture.

If MOX fuel is used at more reactors, the amount of spent material will keep increasing. However, utilities are dealing with the problem by shifting fuel whose heat generation volume has declined to facilities where the spent fuel is air-cooled.

The government is aiming to reprocess spent MOX fuel to reuse it in an effort to “effectively utilize resources.” If spent nuclear fuel including MOX fuel were to be disposed of as radioactive waste, the government’s atomic power policy based on the assumption that spent nuclear fuel should be reused would waver.

Japan and France are the only countries in the world that are still working on the extraction of reusable nuclear materials from spent MOX fuel. Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy will have allocated a total of 1.4 billion yen from state budgets in fiscal 2019 and 2020 for basic research on reuse of spent MOX fuel, and will earmark more funds through fiscal 2024.

However, it remains to be seen how far such technology can be developed in the foreseeable future.

“There have been no research achievements enabling the commercial use of the technology,” said an official of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.

Even if the technology to reuse spent MOX fuel is developed, there is a possibility that sufficient funds will not be secured to put it into commercial use unless idled nuclear power stations are restarted steadily because massive amounts of money are needed just for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. Many atomic power stations remain offline because safety regulatory standards for such facilities have been stiffened following the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear crisis in March 2011.

An official of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy said the reprocessing and reuse of spent MOX fuel is not a priority.

“There is approximately 19,000 metric tons of ordinary spent nuclear fuel that hasn’t been reprocessed in Japan, and priority is placed on reprocessing such material into MOX fuel. The volume of spent MOX fuel is extremely small, and we’re not working fast enough to consider how to reuse such fuel,” said the official.

(Japanese original by Yuichi Nakagawa and Ryoko Kijima, Matsuyama Bureau, and Suzuko Araki, Riki Iwama and Yuka Saito, Science & Environment News Department)

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200115/p2a/00m/0na/029000c

January 21, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Costs for managing Japan’s nuclear plants to total 13 trillion yen

KYODO NEWS Jan 15, 2020

The total costs to implement government-mandated safety measures, maintain facilities and decommission commercially operated nuclear power plants in Japan will reach around 13.46 trillion yen ($123 billion), a Kyodo News tally showed Wednesday.

The amount, which could balloon further and eventually lead to higher electricity fees, was calculated based on financial documents from 11 power companies that own 57 nuclear reactors at 19 plants, as well as interviews with the utilities.

Two years after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, the Japanese government introduced new safety standards which made measures against natural disasters and major accidents mandatory for restarting reactors.

The power companies have been given the option of either maintaining their idled nuclear power plants and restarting them once they had implemented the required safety measures, or decommissioning their plants.

But it has become clear either choice required massive costs. Of the total costs, 5.4 trillion yen was for safety measures implemented as of last month at 15 power plants they are trying to restart.

Decommissioning costs for 17 reactors belonging to nine nuclear power plants, which were deemed too expensive to implement safety measures for, totaled around 849.2 billion yen. As the estimated costs for decommissioning the No. 1 to No. 4 reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. differ, they were not included in the figure.

Maintenance costs, which will not only apply to restarted plants in operation but also to idled ones and those in the process of being decommissioned, are required for 54 reactors at 17 plants. Those under construction were excluded.

In the six years from fiscal 2013, when the new regulations were introduced, they totaled around 7.2 trillion yen.

The costs include labor, repairs and others considered nuclear power plant expenses as shown in each company’s annual securities report. But plant depreciation costs and a reserve for dismantling facilities were subtracted as they overlapped with some expenses for safety measures and decommissioning.

Maintenance fees will be required every year moving forward and are expected to continue to grow from the annual costs of around 1 trillion yen across the 11 utilities.

The total costs could further rise by several hundred billion yen as money needed to construct anti-terrorist facilities, also required under the new safety standards, was not included in the figures of some of the companies.

The majority of the 17 reactors at nine power plants slated for decommissioning are aging and they also include four at the Fukushima Daini complex, which local officials requested to be scrapped.

gjmjijpFile photo taken from a Kyodo News helicopter on May 30, 2019, shows the No. 3 (L) and No. 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture, central Japan.

The total costs to implement government-mandated safety measures, maintain facilities and decommission commercially operated nuclear power plants in Japan will reach around 13.46 trillion yen ($123 billion), a Kyodo News tally showed Wednesday.

The amount, which could balloon further and eventually lead to higher electricity fees, was calculated based on financial documents from 11 power companies that own 57 nuclear reactors at 19 plants, as well as interviews with the utilities.

Two years after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, the Japanese government introduced new safety standards which made measures against natural disasters and major accidents mandatory for restarting reactors.

The power companies have been given the option of either maintaining their idled nuclear power plants and restarting them once they had implemented the required safety measures, or decommissioning their plants. But it has become clear either choice required massive costs.

Of the total costs, 5.4 trillion yen was for safety measures implemented as of last month at 15 power plants they are trying to restart.

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/01/8722fafaff9b-costs-for-managing-japans-nuclear-plants-to-total-13-trillion-yen.html?fbclid=IwAR1Dt0fClXdOC7-hL7RaoOetUQ_U85LtGxMJDtkz0ROthXu7JeCt0T98uj0

January 21, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Work begins to remove spent MOX fuel at Ikata nuclear plant in Ehime

n-ikata-a-20200116A pool containing used mixed-oxide fuel that was removed from reactor No. 3 of the Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime Prefecture on Tuesday

January 15, 2020

MATSUYAMA, EHIME PREF. – Shikoku Electric Power Co. has started removing nuclear fuel, including spent mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel, from a nuclear reactor in western Japan.

The work at the No. 3 reactor at the company’s Ikata nuclear plant in Ehime Prefecture, which began late Monday night, is the first time used MOX fuel, a blend of plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel and uranium, has been removed from any commercial nuclear power plant in Japan excluding tests.

A total of 157 fuel assemblies, including 16 MOX fuel assemblies, will be removed. The work is expected to continue through Thursday.

The work was originally scheduled to start at 12 a.m. Monday, but was delayed as the firm was investigating an incident that occurred during preparation work Sunday, in which a control rod was removed from the reactor by mistake and was re-inserted seven hours later.

Japan is not equipped to reprocess spent MOX fuel. Shikoku Electric, therefore, will store the MOX fuel at the power plant for the time being.

In March, five new MOX fuel assemblies will be installed in the reactor.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/01/15/national/remove-spent-mox-fuel-ikata-nuclear-plant/?fbclid=IwAR3kQnIHHsb5FKyUzIDnyNeEeuV0B9D92KKTL1W0FRoof-Fvs7AtArtO_nA#.Xh9AAiNCeUk

January 21, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Control rod mistakenly removed from Ikata reactor in Ehime during maintenance

n-ikata-a-20200114-870x582Reactor No. 3 at the Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime Prefecture in April 2018

Jan 13, 2020

MATSUYAMA, EHIME PREF. – During recent maintenance work at the Ikata nuclear power plant that was to include the country’s first removal of spent mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel following full-scale “pluthermal” power generation, a control rod was removed from the reactor by mistake, according to Shikoku Electric Power Co.

The incident involving reactor No. 3 at the plant in Ikata, Ehime Prefecture, caused no loss of control of the nuclear reaction in the unit and no radioactive materials were released, the company said Sunday. The reactor has been shut down since Dec. 26 to perform the maintenance work.

To remove fuel assemblies during the inspection, it was necessary to raise the apparatus at the top of the reactor from which fuel is suspended. While raising the apparatus, a control rod was also lifted out of the reactor along with the fuel assemblies, Shikoku Electric stated.

Control rods are used to suppress nuclear fission, and are inserted in order to halt a nuclear reactor. According to the power company, for fission to be allowed to occur within the reactor, it is necessary to adjust the concentration of boron within the reactor coolant in addition to removing the control rods.

According to Shikoku Electric and prefectural authorities, one of the 48 control rods in the unit was lifted out of the reactor containment vessel accidentally at around 1:20 p.m. Sunday together with the upper part of the apparatus that holds fuel assemblies in place from above and below.

As the apparatus was lifted by crane, a worker noticed that the control rod had also been raised out of the containment vessel. Around seven hours later, the control rod was reinserted into the reactor.

Because the crane’s weight sensor had shown a value typically seen when the control rods are disconnected, the control rods were determined to have been detached from the apparatus and the crane was raised, Shikoku Electric said.

The company had planned to start removing the spent MOX fuel assemblies, which contain a blend of plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel and uranium, from the reactor at 12 a.m. Monday. The work is now expected to be delayed due to the company’s investigation into the incident involving the control rod.

Shikoku Electric also announced last Tuesday that in October 2017 it mistakenly conducted an inspection of an emergency air supply filter in the main control room of reactor No. 3 without removing all the fuel from the reactor as stipulated in the safety regulations.

The operation to extract the MOX fuel assemblies is the first such removal to be performed at any commercial nuclear power plant in Japan since an initiative on pluthermal power generation using the mixed fuel was announced in 1997, according to Shikoku Electric.

The government and power firms are promoting pluthermal power generation as part of the nuclear fuel cycle featuring the extraction of plutonium from spent nuclear fuel for reuse. Shikoku Electric started pluthermal power generation in 2010 using 16 MOX fuel assemblies installed in the Ikata No. 3 reactor.

The company had been planning to remove all of them during the reactor maintenance, which is to continue through April 27. The firm will consider reusing the spent MOX fuel, which is expected to be stored at the power plant for the foreseeable future due to a lack of reprocessing facilities in this country.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/01/13/national/control-rod-mistakenly-removed-reactor-ikata-nuclear-power-plant-shikoku-electric/?fbclid=IwAR26fuJ4S34WZT7T1jHuzcGaDUHsu4PFFFOcx1lnP98888igdM5OAsuUvd4#.XhzeHiNCeUk

January 21, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

China’s nuclear ghost city 404 – a personal story

404: The City Left Behind by China’s Nuclear Ambitions,  https://www.wired.com/story/404-the-city-left-behind-by-chinas-nuclear-ambition/20 Jan 2020,
An artist goes looking for his past in a Cold War ghost town.   Li Yang grew up in what he thought was a boring town. It was called 404, like the error code, and sat a couple hours from the nearest city, in the sun-beaten Gobi Desert of western China. There was no commercial movie theater—just a zoo with a handful of cages, several small video game arcades, and a skating rink that eventually closed. To Yang, it seemed small and backwards. He dreamed of the day he’d leave and “see the big, outside world,” he says.

But despite the humdrum, 404 wasn’t exactly boring: It was once part of a massive nuclear weapons base in the People’s Republic of China. In 1955, following threats of nuclear attacks from the United States, Chairman Mao Zedong resolved to stock his own atomic arsenal.

The USSR promised to provide blueprints and a prototype for a bomb, and as part of the quest, helped build the Jiuquan Atomic Energy Complex, dubbed Plant 404. Though an ideological squabble caused the Soviets to withdraw just after construction started, China plowed forward. The site hosted the nation’s first nuclear reactor, which generated an estimated .9 tons of weapons-grade plutonium between 1966 and 1984, as well as plutonium processing factories and nuclear warhead workshops. (Later, the complex was converted for use by the civilian nuclear industry.)

China staffed its war complex with the country’s finest scientists, technicians, and other workers, who lived in a closed settlement absent from most maps. Yang’s grandparents and parents moved there in 1958, leaving their home in Beijing to forge a new one on a windy frontier a thousand miles away. At its height, Yang’s parents told him, the town had a population of some 50,000 people.

But by the time Yang was a kid, the population had dwindled. He remembers just about 100 kids in his grade. After dinner, people chatted under a statue of Chairman Mao in the square and took strolls. “Some walked around in the park, others along the half-mile main road,” Yang says. “Because the city was so small, people might meet each other several times in one night, until they were too embarrassed to say hello.”

Yang finally got his wish to leave in 2003, enrolling in college in Sichuan province and eventually settling in Beijing. But as he got older, he started to miss 404 and the simplicity of life there. He couldn’t move home if he wanted to, though. In the mid-2000s, according to Chinese media, residents seeking a better quality of life voted to relocate their housing to the more desirable city of Jiqyuguan.

Yang’s nostalgia grew so strong, though, that in 2013 he packed a couple cameras in his car and drove back to 404 to photograph what remained. The guards let him in since he’d lived there. The town wasn’t entirely empty—some people chose to stay, Yang says—but it was eerily quiet. Yang wandered his old haunts on foot, memories flooding back as he visited his old elementary school classroom, the public baths where he used to shower, and even his family’s former house, now demolished. One of two poplar trees he had planted out front was dead.

He returned three more times to produce the images in his series 404 Not Found. To Yang, they represent the home of his childhood—“the place I want to go back to but can’t,” he says. For others, they’re a fascinating glimpse at a remote town born from geopolitical strife during a period in Chinese history not often seen—however dull it might have seemed to the teenagers who lived through it.

A book on the series is out from Jiazazhi Publishing Project.

January 21, 2020 Posted by | China, environment, PERSONAL STORIES, wastes | Leave a comment

New report: China soon to join countries where renewables are cheaper than coal

Oil Price 19th Jan 2020, In September of last year Oilprice reported an incredible milestone for renewable energy when solar and wind power became cheaper than coal in most of the world. Now, a new report released this week by Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables has heralded another milestone: China will soon be added to that list of countries in which coal is no longer more economical than renewable energy.

https://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Renewable-Energy/Could-Renewables-Overtake-Coal-In-China.html

January 21, 2020 Posted by | China, renewable | Leave a comment

Radioactive micro-particles still a hazard to the Olympics in Japan

Nukewatch 10th Jan 2020. Hundreds of thousands of people—athletes, officials, media, and spectators—will flood into Japan for the 2020 Olympics.
But radiation exposure dangers from the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe have not ended since the meltdowns and explosions spread radioactive contamination over large areas reaching down to Tokyo and beyond.

Soon after the start of the meltdowns in 2011, experts began warning of exposure to radioactive micro-particles or “hot particles”—a type of particle that poses a danger unaccounted for by regulatory agencies. In order to understand the special danger posed by these particles at the Olympics and beyond, we mustfirst understand the current state of radiation exposure standards.

http://nukewatchinfo.org/fukushimas-hot-particles-in-japan-their-meaning-for-the-olympics-and-beyond/

January 20, 2020 Posted by | environment, Japan | Leave a comment

Japan’s Olympics – recovery for Fukushima? rescue for the nuclear industry?

Can Japan’s ‘Recovery Olympics’ heal  Fukushima’s nuclear scars?fFukushima’s power plant. Three nuclear reactors melted down, spewing radioactive particles into the air. Jan. 14, 2020,  By Keir Simmons, Yuka Tachibana and Henry Austin, FUTABA, Japan — Nine years after “Fukushima” became synonymous with nuclear disaster, the area will help kick off the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo by hosting the opening ceremony’s torch relay near its devastated power plant.

But this symbol of rebirth — part of a planned renaissance for a region ravaged by the strongest earthquake in Japan’s history and deadly tsunami that engulfed entire communities — raises questions of whether nearly a decade is enough time to recover and make the area safe.

Officials in Japan told NBC News they were hopeful that the games, which open on July 24 and have been dubbed the country’s “Recovery Olympics,” would convince skeptics that the answer is yes.

“It’s an opportunity for Japan to change people’s perception, people’s view of Fukushima,” said Naoto Hisajima, the director general of disarmament, nonproliferation and science for Japan’s Foreign Ministry. “The Olympic torch will pass through Fukushima, and there’re going to be Olympic events in Fukushima.”

………  Three nuclear reactors melted down, spewing radioactive particles into the air.

Authorities acted quickly, scrubbing buildings and removing about 4 inches of soil and vegetation from the surrounding area. That lowered radioactivity to levels that are safe for people to be in contact with, according to Dr. Claire Corkhill of the U.K.’s University of Sheffield.

Corkhill’s team is helping plant operators come up with a plan to dispose of the highly radioactive melted cores — the parts of the power plant’s nuclear reactors that contained fuel components, like uranium and plutonium, that generated the heat to produce the power.

They are so toxic that only remotely controlled robots can get to them, but the robots are unable to remove them because “the intense radiation tends to fry their circuits,” she said.

Corkhill said that it will take decades to completely shut down the plant and that the operators still don’t know how to reach the cores.

Space to store the 1 million tons of water — equal to 400 Olympic-size swimming pools — that must be pumped through the reactor to keep the fuel cool is also running out, she warned.

While the water has been treated to remove most of the most dangerous radioactive components, traces of tritium remain.

Japanese authorities have suggested releasing the water slowly into the sea over a number of years, which Corkhill said was standard practice for power stations around the world.

It’s “the most feasible option at the moment,” she said.

Many residents are doubtful, however — particularly fishermen and women who test every catch for radiation…..

Sean Bonner and Azby Brown are part of environmental organization Safecast, which gives Geiger counters to Fukushima residents, as well as other people across Japan, to take radiation readings. It then collates the data and publishes them live on their website, which is an open source for radiation information.

Brown described trust as a “nonrenewable resource.”

“Once you’ve lost it, you don’t get it back,” Bonner said. “So we see our system as a side effect of people desperate to find something they can trust, because they’re not trusting information from the news. They’re not trusting information from authorities or institutions.”

While the cleanup continues, some areas remain off limits. Two miles from the plant, the town of Futaba remains uninhabited. Radiation levels are so high that former residents have to seek special permission to enter the town.

Katushide Okada, 75, said he had run a rose garden in the town since he was 23.

“We left with only what we were wearing,” he said. “We haven’t been able to go home since.”

Okada, who now lives in Tsukuba, about 130 miles to the south, in Ibaragi Prefecture, added, “This is a manmade disaster.”

Radiation hotspots have been found in J-Village, the starting point of the Olympic torch relay, according to Greenpeace.

After conducting its own tests, Greenpeace said radioactive contamination still remained in the parking lot and the nearby forests at the Olympic sports complex in Fukushima Prefecture. …….. Keir Simmons and Yuka Tachibana reported from Futaba, Japan, and Henry Austin from London.  https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/can-japan-s-recovery-olympics-heal-fukushima-s-nuclear-scars-n1114361

January 20, 2020 Posted by | Japan, politics | Leave a comment