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Kagoshima governor under fire after effectively accepting restart of nuclear reactor

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Kagoshima Governor Satoshi Mitazono on Nov. 28 explains to the prefectural assembly why he has requested a budget to form a committee of experts on nuclear power generation.

Governor under fire as Sendai nuclear reactor likely to restart

KAGOSHIMA—Anti-nuclear activists are castigating Governor Satoshi Mitazono, saying the politician has retreated from his campaign promises regarding the planned restart of a nuclear reactor in the prefecture.

Despite stressing that he would take a hard look at safety issues, Mitazono’s actions on Nov. 28 indicate that Kyushu Electric Power Co. will be allowed to restart the No. 1 reactor at its Sendai plant on Dec. 8 as was expected.

What he had done over the past months now appears to be a mere publicity stunt,” said Yukio Taira, chief of a confederation of labor unions in Kagoshima Prefecture.

Taira withdrew his candidacy in the governor’s race in July after he and Mitazono agreed on many policy measures toward a temporary halt of operations at the nuclear plant in Satsuma-Sendai.

Mitazono on Nov. 28 submitted to the prefectural assembly a budget proposal for establishing an expert panel on nuclear power generation–a centerpiece of his campaign pledges.

I will make a comprehensive judgment on how to respond when the panel releases its findings of the utility’s reports on ‘special checks,’” Mitazono told the assembly session, referring to the reactor restart plan.

However, given that a governor does not have the legal authority to order a halt, the No. 1 reactor will probably already be running by the time those findings are released.

The assembly is expected to vote on the budget request for the panel on Dec. 16. Kyushu Electric is scheduled to release the outcome of its special checks in early January.

The utility agreed to carry out the additional checks in response to the new governor’s concerns. These inspections, including checking bolts fastened on barrels containing nuclear waste, are nothing new and have been done in the past, according to Kyushu Electric.

Two reactors at the Sendai plant were the first in the nation to go online under new nuclear safety regulations set up after the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima Prefecture.

The No. 1 reactor has been shut down for maintenance since October. The No. 2 reactor is scheduled to be taken offline in December for a routine inspection.

Mitazono, a former TV journalist, was elected on campaign promises to take a “strong response regarding a reactor restart if the envisaged committee deems the plant unsafe.”

Concerns over the safety of the nuclear complex arose when roads and other infrastructure were damaged in a series of powerful quakes that began rattling neighboring Kumamoto Prefecture in April.

After gaining support from anti-nuclear groups, Mitazono won the race against the incumbent, who was seen as friendlier toward nuclear power generation.

But after he took office, Mitazono appeared to back off from his campaign promises.

He did request an “immediate halt” of plant operations to Michiaki Uriu, president of Kyushu Electric, in late August and early September.

After the company refused the governor’s requests, Mitazono decided not to pursue the issue, saying a governor does not have the legal authority to demand a halt to operations.

He tried to assuage public concerns about the safety of the plant, citing the extra special checks the utility promised to conduct.

Taira said Mitazono has rejected repeated requests for a meeting with him and other anti-nuclear activists. They have asked Mitazono to quickly establish the expert panel for possible action to counter Kyushu Electric’s reactor restart plans. But the governor did not reply.

Mitazono also did not submit a budget request for the expert panel in the September session.

When asked by reporters, Mitazono merely kept saying he would establish the panel “as soon as possible.”

He is breaking the campaign promise if he allows the resumption of the plant without obtaining the conclusion of the panel,” Taira said.

According to one source, the governor told an informal gathering of members of the Liberal Democratic Party, the largest group in the assembly, that he shares the LDP’s direction in nuclear power policy.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201611290066.html

Kagoshima Governor Satoshi Mitazono on Nov. 28 explains to the prefectural assembly why he has requested a budget to form a committee of experts on nuclear power generation,

Kagoshima governor effectively accepts restart of nuclear reactor

KAGOSHIMA — Gov. Satoshi Mitazono on Nov. 28 effectively expressed his approval for the restart of the No. 1 reactor at the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant in Satsumasendai, which is undergoing inspections.
The governor said that he will draw a conclusion on operation of the No. 1 reactor after the completion of special checks that are concurrently being performed by the plant’s operator, Kyushu Electric Power Co. Since the special checks include items that are to be completed after the reactor is scheduled to resume operation on Dec. 8, the governor’s comments indicate that he accepts reactivation of the reactor.

In a prefectural assembly meeting on Nov. 28, the governor presented a supplementary budget draft for December that earmarked 3 million yen to set up an inspection committee to probe the safety of the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant and the appropriateness of evacuation plans. In explaining this, he stated, “We will have the inspection committee verify and confirm a report on the result of the special check to be submitted by Kyushu Electric Power Co. and make a comprehensive decision based on its conclusions.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161129/p2a/00m/0na/008000c

December 1, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima aftershock renews public concern about restarting Kansai’s aging nuclear reactors

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KYOTO – The magnitude-7.4 aftershock that rocked Fukushima Prefecture and its vicinity last week, more than five years after the mega-quake and tsunami of March 2011, triggered fresh nuclear concerns in the Kansai region, which hosts Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Mihama plant in Fukui Prefecture.

The aftershock came as the Nuclear Regulation Authority approved a two-decade extension for Mihama’s No. 3 reactor on Nov. 16, allowing it and two others that have already been approved to run for as long as 60 years to provide electricity to the Kansai region.

Residents need to live with the fact that they are close to the Fukui reactors, which are at least 40 years old. Despite reassurances by Kepco, its operator, and the nuclear watchdog, worries remain over what would happen if an earthquake similar to the one in 2011, or even last week, hit the Kansai region.

Kyoto lies about 60 km and Osaka about 110 km from the old Fukui plants. Lake Biwa, which provides water to about 13 million people, is less than 60 km away.

In addition to Kepco’s 40-year-old Mihama No. 3, reactors 1 and 2 at the Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui are 42 and 41 years old, respectively.

In the event of an accident, evacuation procedures for about 253,000 residents of Fukui, Shiga, and Kyoto prefectures who are within 30 km of the plants would go into effect.

But how effective might they be?

The majority does not live in Fukui. Just over half, or 128,500, live in neighboring Kyoto, especially in and around the port city of Maizuru, home to a Self-Defense Forces base. Another 67,000 live in four towns in Fukui and about 58,000 live in northern Shiga Prefecture.

Plans call for Fukui and Kyoto prefecture residents to evacuate to 29 cities and 12 towns in Hyogo Prefecture and, if facilities there are overwhelmed, to Tokushima Prefecture in Shikoku. Those in Shiga are supposed to evacuate to cities and towns in Osaka Prefecture.

In a scenario put together by Kyoto Prefecture three years ago, it was predicted that tens of thousands of people would take to available roads in the event of an nuclear accident. A 100 percent evacuation of everyone within 30 km of a stricken Fukui plant was estimated to take between 15 and 29 hours, depending on how much damage there was to the transportation infrastructure.

But Kansai-based anti-nuclear activists have criticized local evacuation plans as being unrealistic for several reasons.

First, they note that the region around the plants gets a lot of snow in the winter, which could render roads, even if still intact after a quake or other disaster, much more difficult to navigate, slowing evacuations even further.

Second is the radiation screening process that has been announced in official local plans drawn up by Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures.

While automobiles would be stopped at various checkpoints along the roads leading out of Fukui and given radiation tests, those inside would not be tested if the vehicle itself has radiation levels below the standard.

If the radiation is above standard, one person, a “representative” of everyone in the car, would be checked and, if approved, the car would be allowed to continue on its way under the assumption that the others had also been exposed to levels below standard. This policy stands even if those levels might be more dangerous to children than adults.

Finally, there is the question of whether bus drivers would cooperate by going in and out of radioactive zones to help those who lack quick access to a car, especially senior citizens in need of assistance.

None of the concerns about the evacuation plans is new, and most have been pointed out by safety experts, medical professionals and anti-nuclear groups.

But with the NRA having approved restarts for three Kansai-area reactors that are over 40 years old, Kansai leaders are responding more cautiously to efforts to restart Mihama No. 3 in particular.

It is absolutely crucial that local understanding for Mihama’s restart be obtained,” said pro-nuclear Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa in July, after a local newspaper survey showed that only about 37 percent of Fukui residents agree with the decision to restart old reactors.

Shiga Gov. Taizo Mikazuki, who is generally against nuclear power, was even more critical of the NRA’s decision to restart Mihama.

There are major doubts about the law that regulates the use of nuclear reactors more than 40 years old. The central government and Kepco need to explain safety countermeasures to residents who are uneasy. People are extremely uneasy about continuing to run old reactors,” the governor said earlier this month.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/11/27/national/fukushima-aftershock-renews-public-concern-restarting-kansais-aging-nuclear-reactors/#.WDu8kFzia-d

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A turbine at the No. 3 reactor of Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Mihama plant in Fukui Prefecture is seen on Nov. 16.

November 28, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment