Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (TEPCO) has informally decided to decommission the No. 1 reactor at its Fukushima No. 2 Nuclear Power Plant, it has been learned.
In the wake of the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami and ensuing meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in Fukushima Prefecture, local bodies and residents of the area who suffered extensive damage requested that all four reactors at the No. 2 plant also be decommissioned.
TEPCO had avoided stating a clear position on the No. 2 plant’s reactors, but there had been pressure from the government and ruling coalition for it to make a decision. The company accordingly decided to decommission the plant’s No. 1 reactor, which suffered the most damage, and will consider what to do with the other three reactors in the future.
The No. 1 reactor of the Fukushima No. 2 plant began operating in 1982. It was flooded by tsunami on March 11, 2011, and all four reactors at the plant remain idled. The No. 2 plant suffered less damage than the No. 1 plant, and if it passed screening by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, its reactors could be restarted. But the Fukushima Prefectural Government and all 59 local assemblies have asked TEPCO and the government to decommission all reactors in the prefecture.
TEPCO has remained busy handling compensation claims relating to the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the disaster cleanup. If it were to decommission all of the No. 2 plant’s reactors, they would lose value and it would have to write down huge losses. Company president Naomi Hirose has therefore avoided taking a clear position on the issue, saying, “I would like to consider it and make a decision as a business operator.”
Last year, however, officials decided to create a fund to cover the huge cost of handling the nuclear disaster, which is expected to reach 21.5 trillion yen, nearly double the original prediction. There was accordingly pressure from the government for TEPCO to reach an early decision on the fate of the No. 2 plant’s reactors.
The No. 1 reactor at the No. 2 plant is the oldest of the plant’s four reactors. It temporarily lost its cooling functions in the March 2011 disaster, and suffered the most damage among the four reactors. TEPCO believes that by limiting decommissioning to one reactor for the time being, it will be able to hold the decommissioning cost below 100 billion yen, minimizing the impact on company finances and on decommissioning work at the Fukushima No. 1 plant. However, a decision to decommission only one reactor at the No. 2 plant is unlikely to win public approval.
Tokyo Electric Power : Tepco denies it plans to scrap reactor at plant close to crippled Fukushima site
TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo Electric Power Co Holdings on Friday denied a media report that it was set to decommission a nuclear reactor that suffered only minor damage compared with the nearby Fukushima Daiichi plant that was wrecked after a massive quake in 2011.
The Mainichi newspaper reported earlier that Tepco was likely to decommission the No.1 reactor at the Fukushima Daini power plant as it was the worst-hit of the facility’s four reactors after the quake and tsunami, temporarily losing cooling functions.
Local governments have been calling for the decommission of all four reactors at Fukushima Daini. The government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have also pressed Tepco to make a decision on decommissioning the No.1 reactor.
Dozens of reactors elsewhere in Japan are still going through a relicensing process by a new regulator set up after the Fukushima disaster in 2011, the world’s worst since Chernobyl 25 years previously, highlighted regulatory and operational failings by the country’s nuclear utilities.
Six years after outbreak of crisis, Fukushima nuclear workers continue to face slander, discrimination: survey
Workers at the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear power plants have faced prolonged periods of stress after suffering slander and discrimination in the six years since the triple reactor meltdown at the No. 1 plant in March 2011, a university survey has found.
Over 10 percent of workers at the plants were slandered or discriminated against after the calamity, and many continue to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, including flashbacks and sleep disorders, the survey found.
The survey covered 1,417 employees for Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. who worked at the No. 1 and No. 2 plants at the time of the disaster.
Of them, 181 people, or 12.8 percent, were slandered or suffered discrimination, according to the survey, which was conducted by a team that included Takeshi Tanigawa, a professor at Juntendo University’s Graduate School of Medicine in Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward.
Just after the nuclear crisis erupted, the workers had a rate of post-traumatic stress disorder 5.7 times higher than other Tepco employees. Even three years later, the rate remained 3.7 times higher.
Taniguchi said anger at Tepco should not be directed at its employees, since they are also part of the reconstruction effort in the Tohoku region. The government, he added, should also support efforts to protect the physical and mental health of Tepco workers involved in the reactors’ decommissioning.
The government is struggling to decide the future of Tepco’s Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant, which has been suspended since the March 2011 disaster.
There have been increasing calls for decommissioning the power plant located just a few kilometers south of the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 installation.
The government has been finding it difficult to reach a clear conclusion on Fukushima No. 2’s fate, as it and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings have been busy dealing with its older counterpart that suffered three reactor meltdowns following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
On Dec. 21, the Fukushima Prefectural Assembly voted unanimously to adopt a resolution calling on the central government to decommission the No. 2 plant “at an early date,” arguing that the facility is an obstacle to the prefecture’s recovery from the 3/11 disasters.
A temporary halt to the cooling system for a spent fuel pool at the No. 2 plant caused by an earthquake in November rekindled fears of another meltdown crisis.
In 2011, the prefectural assembly adopted a petition calling for decommissioning all reactors in Fukushima.
The assembly has also adopted a series of written opinions demanding the decommissioning of the No. 2 plant, which is located in the towns of Naraha and Tomioka.
Demands from local communities “have been ignored by the central government,” one person said.
The central government’s official position is that whether to decommission the plant is up to Tepco.
As the government has already lifted the state of emergency for the No. 2 plant, it has no authority to decide the decommissioning under current regulations.
If an exception were made, the central government could receive a barrage of requests for decommissioning reactors all over the country, sources familiar with the situation said.
“Such a situation would destroy Japan’s whole nuclear policy,” a senior official at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said.
Some people have called for creating a special law on decommissioning Fukushima No. 2, but others have raised concerns that such a step could infringe on Tepco’s property rights, the sources said.
Some officials in the central government have said that no one believes the No. 2 plant can continue to exist.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Cabinet have left room for making a political decision on dismantling the facility, saying that the plant can’t be treated in the same way as other nuclear plants due to fear among Fukushima residents of another nuclear accident.
Since the government effectively holds a stake of more than 50 percent in Tepco, it can influence the company’s policy as a major shareholder.
But Tepco now needs to focus on dealing with the No. 1 plant. A senior company official said that it “cannot afford to decide on decommissioning, which would require a huge workforce.”
The main opposition Democratic Party plans to pursue a suprapartisan law that would urge Tepco to decide to decommission the plant at an early date.
“While understanding calls for early decommissioning, we have no choice but to wait for the No. 2 plant’s four reactors to reach the end of their 40-year lifetimes,” a lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said.
The four reactors launched operations between April 1982 and August 1987.
Following a powerful quake that hit northeastern Japan in the early morning on Nov. 22, 2016. The utility said Nov. 24 that puddles in three of the four reactor buildings at the idled Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant may have formed from water that splashed out of spent-fuel pools during the quake.
An aerial view of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after a strong earthquake hit off the coast of Fukushima on Tuesday. The operator of the plant said there were no abnormalities observed at the plant.
TOKYO — There was no avoiding fearful memories of the Japanese nuclear disaster of 2011 on Tuesday morning after a powerful earthquake off the coast of Fukushima caused a cooling system in a nuclear plant to stop, leaving more than 2,500 spent uranium fuel rods at risk of overheating.
But this time, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the utility that operates three nuclear plants, restored the cooling pump at the Fukushima Daini plant in about 90 minutes. The Daini plant is about 11km south of Fukushima Daiichi, the ruined plant where three reactors melted down five years ago after tsunami waves inundated the power station and knocked out backup generators.
Tepco reported that it never lost power at either the Daini plant or its neighbour to the north after the Tuesday quake, which had a magnitude of 7.4, according to the Japanese weather service.
“We took the regular actions that we should take when handling troubles,” Mr Yuichi Okamura, acting general manager of the nuclear power division at Tepco, said at a news conference on Tuesday.
The company was prepared for big tsunamis, having built sea walls rising to almost 15m at the Fukushima plants and enclosing backup generators in waterproof facilities, Mr Okamura said.
Critics of Tepco, which struggled to keep on top of a crisis that followed the 2011 calamity, said they were relieved that there had been no immediate damage. However, they remained sceptical that the company had done enough to prepare for a disaster on the scale of the earthquake five years ago.
That quake, which had a magnitude of 8.9, set off tsunami waves as high as 40m in some places. In contrast, the highest waves on Tuesday reached only about 1.4m.
“It looks like the right things have been done,” said Mr Azby Brown, director of the Future Design Institute at the Kanazawa Institute of Technology and a volunteer researcher with SafeCast, an independent radiation-monitoring group.
“But you never know until something happens. As far as this morning goes, they did a decent job, but mainly because it wasn’t that big of an earthquake or that big of a tsunami.”
Building higher sea walls, for example, “is all good, but that is like fighting the last war”, Mr Brown said.
“It remains to be seen how well prepared they would be for some other unusual combination of disasters.”
Compared to five years ago, Tepco has improved its communication with the public, reporting information about the cooling pump at Daini almost as it happened on Tuesday morning.
The company also quickly said that it had suspended the treatment and transfer of contaminated water from the Daiichi plant, where an extensive clean-up and decommissioning process is underway. By the evening, those operations had been restored.
“What I can say is today’s response was decent and they seemed to be confident,” said Mr Tatsujiro Suzuki, director of the Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition at Nagasaki University. However, it would be difficult to independently verify Tepco’s claims because the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority depends on the company to release information.
He added that he was not convinced that Tepco was being fully transparent about its decisions, particularly about the clean-up at the Daiichi plant.
“We should be informed fully whether this operation is reasonably done with cost-effectiveness and safety and making sure that the best technology is being used,” Mr Suzuki said.
Mr Daisuke Maeda, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulation Authority, said the agency had offices on the sites of the nuclear plants and worked with Tepco and other utility companies on Tuesday to confirm that the power stations were safe after the earthquake.
Regarding the longer-term situation, nuclear experts expressed concern about the safety of the clean-up operation at the Daiichi plant. The melted cores of three reactors have yet to be removed as they are still too radioactive for workers to approach.
Since the 2011 disaster, groundwater seeps into the reactors daily. The water, contaminated by the melted fuel rods, needs to be treated and stored on site. So far, Tepco has built more than 880 tanks of about 1,000 tonnes each.
The tanks are inspected four times a day to confirm that they do not leak, said Mr Okamura of Tepco.
And in an effort to halt the flood of groundwater into the damaged buildings, the company has built an underground wall of frozen dirt nearly 1.6km long encircling the reactors. The wall is not yet fully frozen, though, and groundwater continues to flow into the reactors.
Critics worry that the sea walls or storage tanks might not withstand a more powerful earthquake or tsunami. And Tuesday’s incident at the Daini reactor showed that quakes can set off problems even at plants that are not operating.
Most of the country’s 54 plants remain closed since the 2011 disaster, but the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to restart most of them.
A majority of the Japanese public is opposed to such a move. Candidates for governor who ran campaigns opposed to the revival have won elections in recent months in two prefectures that host nuclear plants.
According to Japanese daily Nikkei Shimbun, Mr Fumio Sudo, the chairman of Tepco, and Mr Naomi Hirose, the company’s president, were planning to meet on Tuesday with one of those governors, Ryuichi Yoneyama of Niigata, to try to persuade him to support a restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant there.
Mr Sudo and Mr Hirose returned to Tokyo after the earthquake.
Mr Kiyoshi Kurokawa, who oversaw an independent investigation of the Fukushima nuclear accident for the Japanese Parliament, said that building walls and storage tanks failed to solve the underlying problem of an earthquake-prone country relying on nuclear power. Instead, he said, both the government and utility companies should invest in developing alternative sources of power like solar or wind technology.
“I think we expect more of such readjusting plate movements and that has been reasonably predicted, and many volcanic activity and earthquakes have been rampant over the last five years,” said Mr Kurokawa, an adjunct professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies. “So why are we continuing to restart nuclear plants?”
An aerial view of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after a strong earthquake hit off the coast of Fukushima on Tuesday. The operator of the plant said there were no abnormalities observed at the plant.
Japan Probes Nuclear Cooling System Shutdown After Earthquake
Japan is investigating why a cooling system used to store nuclear fuel rods was temporarily knocked offline at Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc.’s shuttered Fukushima Dai-Ni atomic plant after a 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck the same region devastated by a tsunami in March 2011.
The temblor early Tuesday caused water in the pool at the plant northeast of Tokyo to move, according to the utility known as Tepco. Sensors registered the motion as a decline in water levels, triggering an automatic shutdown, the utility said.
One of at least two cooling pumps supplying water to the spent fuel pool at Dai-Ni’s No. 3 reactor was shut around 6:10 a.m. Tokyo time, according to Tepco. The utility started another pump to resume cooling the fuel rods around 7:47 a.m., it said in an e-mailed statement.
More than five years after the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami that wrecked the utility’s Dai-Ichi nuclear plant and resulted in the shutdown of Japan’s atomic fleet for safety checks, just two of the country’s 42 reactors are back in operation. Returning the plants to service is a goal of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government and is critical to Japan’s aim for nuclear to account for as much as 22 percent of its energy mix by 2030.
“The fact that today’s earthquake caused the pumps at the Fukushima nuclear plant to shut down temporarily will certainly not help the government in its goal to restart the reactors,” Daniel Aldrich, a professor and director of the Security and Resilience Studies Program at Northeastern University in Boston, said by e-mail. “Perhaps one interesting change has been Tepco’s transparency about the ongoing problems at the site, including those that occurred during today’s earthquake.”
Fifty-seven percent of the Japanese public oppose resuming operations of the country’s nuclear reactors, while 29 percent approve, according to an Asahi newspaper poll conducted in October.
Japan’s government quickly moved to allay any concerns following Tuesday’s earthquake, which was an aftershock of the magnitude 9 quake five years ago.
Safety is the top priority of Japan’s nuclear industry and the country has the world’s strictest rules for atomic plants, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Tokyo Tuesday.
The stoppage of the system wouldn’t immediately have led to a release of radiation, Suga said. Earthquakes and tsunamis are among possibilities envisaged under new safety standards for nuclear plants issued by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority since the 2011 disaster, he said.
Power would need to be cut for about a week before temperatures in the spent-fuel cooling system would reach the upper safety limit, according to Yutaka Ikoma, a spokesman at the regulator. Temperatures would rise about 0.2 degrees Celsius per hour without the cooling system, reaching 65 degrees Celsius in about seven days, according to the spokesman.
Japan mulls legislation requiring local government approval for restarting Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant
The underside of the No. 3 reactor pressure vessel at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, is seen in January 2014.
The Japanese government is considering legislation to oblige Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to obtain approval from local governments if it applies for restarting its Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power station, Jiji Press learned Friday.
The legislation is also expected to stipulate that the plant be decommissioned if Tepco fails to win such approval and is unable to submit an application for its restart within three years after the law takes effect, sources said.
It will be a special measure under the nuclear reactor regulation law, which does not require local government approval for restarting reactors.
The government aims to submit the legislation to the extraordinary session of the Diet that will be convened on Monday, the sources said.
All the No. 1 to No. 4 reactors at the Fukushima No. 2 plant have been offline since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami led to a triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station.
Although three of the four reactors at the No. 2 plant lost cooling functions temporarily in the 2011 disaster, they avoided severe accidents such as a core meltdown.
Tepco has not clarified what to do with the No. 2 plant. It is working on decommissioning the stricken No. 1 plant.
The Fukushima prefectural government and its assembly have been calling for scrapping the No. 2 plant.
The legislation could force Tepco to decommission the No. 2 plant because it raises further hurdles for resuming operations.
The government has yet to decide on details of the legislation, including the scope of local governments whose approval would be necessary for reactor restarts, the sources said.
The government allows the restart of nuclear reactors that pass the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s screening based on the stricter safety standards introduced after the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
But the government sees a need for taking special measures for the No. 2 plant because it is located near the No. 1 plant, which caused severe damage to Fukushima Prefecture, the sources said
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