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Is Japan ready to trust Tepco with nuclear power again?

The nuclear operator has been granted permission to restart two of its reactors on the Sea of Japan coast, revenues from which it needs to offset massive compensation payments stemming from the Fukushima disaster
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Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station.
At a quiet end-of-year meeting, Japan’s nuclear power regulators recently gave the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) official permission to restart two of its nuclear reactors on the Sea of Japan coast – reactors which have been idle for the better part of ten years.
This was not the first time the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) had approved a restart – it has okayed 12 reactors, owned by four utilities, since coming into being in 2013. But it was the first time the authorities had openly questioned a utility’s competence to operate a reactor – any reactor.
The authority added “eligibility” to its list of concerns – meaning Tepco’s eligibility to run a nuclear plant. “Tepco is different from other power companies,” said former chairman Shunichi Tanaka.
Tepco isn’t just any utility. It owned and operated the four reactors destroyed in the March 11, 2011 “triple disaster” of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown in Fukushima prefecture. It also owns seven undamaged reactors on the opposite side of Japan, which it desperately wants to begin producing power – and revenue – to offset its enormous liabilities.
The nuclear authority’s actions are the first approvals it has extended to operators of boiling water reactors, or BWRs – the same type of reactor that suffered multiple meltdowns in the Fukushima accident. BWRs also have some safety concerns that are unique to them. About half of Japan’s 40-odd currently-operable nuclear power plants are BWRs.
The seven Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plants on the Sea of Japan coast constitute the largest commercial nuclear power complex in the world. Each is capable of producing enough electricity to light up a small city. They were shut down after the 2007 earthquake and then shut down again after 3/11.
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Signs from an anti-nuclear protest against the Japanese government in Tokyo.
 
Tepco’s management is eager – to say the least – to get at least the two reactors (Units 6 and 7) approved and on-line in order to produce revenues that will offset the massive compensation payments stemming from the disaster, and to cover the cost of imported fossil fuels.
Returning at least two reactors to operations would yield about 200 billion yen (US$1.8 billion) in added revenues. It has been a part of the utility’s business plan almost from the time of the accident, without much expectation – until late last month – that it could be realized.
Tepco’s President Tomoaki Kobayakawa testified before the authority several times last summer, reassuring the commissioners of Tepco’s commitment to safety. He also said he would see the decommissioning of the Fukushima plants “through to the end.”
He turned the question of competence around by insisting that his utility needs the revenue from operating the two K-K plants so that it can fulfill its responsibilities to the Fukushima safety and decommissioning project.
“It seems Tepco’s response on competency is to shift the focus to ‘financial competency,’” said Caitlin Stronell of the Citizens Nuclear Information Center. In any event, the authority seemed persuaded enough to give a green light to a restart, despite the lingering fears from the Fukushima disaster.
Tepco says approximately 6,000 staff and contract workers are laboring at the Kashiwazaki plant, or almost as many workers as are employed in the decommissioning activities at Fukushima. Among other safety features, they have erected a 50 meter-high seawall to guard against future tsunamis.
Hydrogen re-combiners have been installed to prevent a repeat of the hydrogen explosions that rocked the Fukushima Daiichi units. They have also stored 20,000 tons of water in a nearby hilltop reservoir to provide cooling water using gravity, rather than diesel pumps, to keep cores from melting in any loss-of-coolant accident.
Tepco’s operations on the Sea of Japan were compromised in 2007, when the site was hit by the Chuetsu Earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter Scale.
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That earthquake caused relatively little structural damage and never came close to a Fukushima-style meltdown. However, it was discovered that the severity of the quake exceeded the design criteria, which resulted in a lengthy shutdown for all seven reactors as Tepco struggled to meet stricter rules.
The utility was in the process of bringing three reactors back on-line when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck in March 2011, putting the big seven out of operation once again and eventually shutting down all of Japan’s commercial reactors.
Successive governors of Niigata prefecture have taken a very cautious position on restarting any of the K-K plants. Three-term Governor Hirohiko Izumida always maintained that he would not approve any restart until the exact causes of the Fukushima disaster are fully known. His recently elected successor, Ryuichi Yomeyama, has the same policy.
This will continue to be an issue for Tepco, for in this area of policy, the national government follows the advice of the governor.
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January 18, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

World’s Biggest Nuke Plant Gets a Long-Awaited OK

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This Sept. 30, 2017 aerial photo shows the reactors of No. 6, right, and No. 7, left, at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, Niigata prefecture. 
TEPCO gets OK to restart nuclear reactors, to the displeasure of some
(Newser) – The biggest nuclear power plant in the world sits idle, as it has for nearly seven years. But that state is set to change, and not without public trepidation. The Guardian reports that Japan’s nuclear watchdog this week gave Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) the green light to restart two of the seven reactors at Kashiwazaki-kariwa, which fell victim to the country’s nuclear power moratorium in the wake of the March 2011 Fukushima disaster. That calamity occurred on TEPCO’s watch, and the utility says the money it will generate from Kashiwazaki-kariwa’s power is key to funding its continuing decommissioning efforts at Fukushima. It has poured more than $6 billion into Kashiwazaki-kariwa in an effort to make it immune to the series of disasters that befell Fukushima.
A 50-foot seawall provides tsunami protection, for instance, and 22,000 tons of water sit in a nearby reservoir, ready for the taking if reactors need sudden cooling. But locals aren’t convinced—the Japan Times reports some people shouted at the meeting where the restart approval was granted—and that matters: Though the restarts are penciled in to occur in spring 2019, the AFP reports local authorities need to give their OK, and that process could take years. The plant is located in Niigata prefecture, and locals there cite the active seismic faults in the area as a major concern; the Guardian notes “evidence that the ground on which Tepco’s seawall stands is prone to liquefaction in the event of a major earthquake.” A second is the fear that should an evacuation be necessary, it would be much less successful than that of Fukushima due to the bigger population.

December 29, 2017 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Local gov’ts of areas hosting nuke plant in Niigata Pref. divided over reactivation

In the meantime, if the reactivation of the atomic power station is to be delayed, there is a possibility that the national government’s grants to the host municipalities will be reduced.
That’s how it works…
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Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama, left, talks with Masaya Kitta, second from right, head of TEPCO Niigata regional headquarters, at the Niigata Prefectural Government building on Dec. 27, 2017
NIIGATA — There are no prospects that two reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant, which have passed a safety review by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), will be restarted in the foreseeable future, as local bodies hosting the plant remain divided over the issue.
The mayors of the city of Kashiwazaki and the village of Kariwa, which jointly host the power station, are in favor of reactivating the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the plant owned by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (TEPCO).
Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama, on the other hand, remains cautious about the resumption of the units’ operations.
Gov. Yoneyama told Masaya Kitta, head of TEPCO’s Niigata regional headquarters who visited the governor on Dec. 27 that the prefectural government cannot agree on the early reactivation of the plant.
“I have no intention of objecting to the decision by the NRA, but our position is that we can’t start talks on reactivation unless our examination of three-point checks progresses,” Yoneyama told Kitta. The governor was referring to his policy of not sitting at the negotiation table over reactivation unless three points are examined by the prefectural government: the cause of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, potential effects on people’s livelihoods as well as health in case of an accident, and safe evacuation measures. He has stated that it would take two to three years to complete the checks of these points.
The governor also told Kitta, “Our examination will never be affected” by the NRA’s judgment that the plant meets the new safety standards. Moreover, the prefectural government is poised to independently examine the outcome of the NRA’s safety review of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station.
Kashiwazaki Mayor Masahiro Sakurai and Kariwa Mayor Hiroo Shinada were separately briefed by plant manager Chikashi Shitara on the outcome of the NRA safety review of the facility.
Both mayors have expressed their appreciation for TEPCO’s response up to this point, and Sakurai urged the power company to “make efforts to reassure local residents (about the nuclear plant),” while Shinada urged the utility to “try to provide information in an appropriate manner.”
In the meantime, if the reactivation of the atomic power station is to be delayed, there is a possibility that the national government’s grants to the host municipalities will be reduced.
The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry is continuing to provide such grants to local bodies hosting idled nuclear plants by deeming them to be running plants in some form. In April 2016, the national government revised its rules on grants to nuclear plant host municipalities and decided to reduce the amount of funding if the facilities are not restarted within nine months after the completion of the NRA’s safety review, which is necessary for reactivation.
The No. 6 and 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant need to pass two more inspections within a year. If it takes several years to form a consensus among the local governments concerned, however, grants will be reduced in fiscal 2020 at the earliest. The amounts of reductions are estimated at some 400 million yen for Kariwa, about 100 million yen for Kashiwazaki and approximately 740 million yen for Niigata Prefecture.

December 29, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Fears of another Fukushima as Tepco plans to restart world’s biggest nuclear plant

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Tokyo Electric Power employees check instruments in a mock-up of the plant’s central control room.
Consent given to turn reactors at the massive Kashiwazaki-kariwa plant back on, but Japanese worry over active fault lines and mismanagement
If a single structure can define a community, for the 90,000 residents of Kashiwazaki town and the neighbouring village of Kariwa, it is the sprawling nuclear power plant that has dominated the coastal landscape for more than 40 years.
When all seven of its reactors are in operation, Kashiwazaki-kariwa generates 8.2m kilowatts of electricity – enough to power 16m households. Occupying 4.2 sq km of land along the Japan Sea coast, it is the biggest nuclear power plant in the world.
But today, the reactors at Kashiwazaki-kariwa are idle. The plant in Niigata prefecture, about 140 miles (225km) north-west of the capital, is the nuclear industry’s highest-profile casualty of the nationwide atomic shutdown that followed the March 2011 triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi.
The company at the centre of the disaster has encountered anger over its failure to prevent the catastrophe, its treatment of tens of thousands of evacuated residents and its haphazard attempts to clean up its atomic mess.
Now, the same utility, Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco], is attempting to banish its Fukushima demons with a push to restart two reactors at Kashiwazaki-kariwa, one of its three nuclear plants. Only then, it says, can it generate the profits it needs to fund the decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi and win back the public trust it lost in the wake of the meltdown.
This week, Japan’s nuclear regulation authority gave its formal approval for Tepco to restart the Kashiwazaki-kariwa’s No. 6 and 7 reactors – the same type of boiling-water reactors that suffered meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi.
After a month of public hearings, the nuclear regulation authority concluded that Tepco was fit to run a nuclear power plant and said the two reactors met the stricter safety standards introduced after the 2011 disaster.
Just before that decision, Tepco gave the Guardian an exclusive tour of what it claims will be the safest nuclear plant in the world.
Now, as on the day of the triple disaster that brought widespread destruction to Japan’s northeast coast, Kashiwazaki-kariwa has the look of a working nuclear plant. Just over 1,000 Tepco staff and 5,000-6,000 contract workers provide the manpower behind a post-Fukushima safety retrofit that is projected to cost 680 billion yen ($6.1bn).
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Kashiwazaki-kariwa nuclear power plant, with the Japan Sea in the distance.
They have built a 15-metre-high seawall that, according to Tepco, can withstand the biggest tsunami waves. In the event of a meltdown, special vents would keep 99.9% of released radioactive particles out of the atmosphere, and corium shields would block molten fuel from breaching the reactors’ primary containment vessels. Autocatalytic recombiners have been installed to prevent a repeat of the hydrogen explosions that rocked four of Fukushima Daiichi’s reactors.
Other parts of the sprawling complex are home to fleets of emergency vehicles, water cannon, back-up power generators, and a hilltop reservoir whose 20,000 tonnes of water will be drawn to cool reactors in the event of a catastrophic meltdown.
“As the operator responsible for the Fukushima accident, we’re committed to learning lessons, revisiting what went wrong and implementing what we learned here at Kashiwazaki-kariwa, says the plant’s chief, Chikashi Shitara. “We are always looking at ways to improve safety.
“Because of our experience at Fukushima, we’re committed to not making the same mistakes again – to make the safety regime even stronger. That’s what we have to explain to members of the public.”
‘This is no place for a nuclear power plant’
The public, however, is far from convinced. Last year, the people of Niigata prefecture registered their opposition to the utility’s plans by electing Ryuichi Yoneyama, an anti-nuclear candidate, as governor. Exit polls showed that 73% of voters opposed restarting the plant, with just 27% in favour.
Yoneyama has said that he won’t make a decision on the restarts, scheduled for spring 2019, until a newly formed committee has completed its report into the causes and consequences of the Fukushima disaster – a process that could take at least three years.
For many residents, the plant’s location renders expensive safety improvements irrelevant. “Geologically speaking, this is no place for a nuclear power plant,” says Kazuyuki Takemoto, a retired local councillor and a lifelong anti-nuclear activist.
Takemoto cites instability caused by the presence of underground oil and gas deposits in the area, and evidence that the ground on which Tepco’s seawall stands is prone to liquefaction in the event of a major earthquake.
Local critics have pointed to the chaos that could result from attempting to evacuate the 420,000 people who live within a 30km radius of Kashiwazaki-kariwa. “That’s more people than lived near Fukushima, plus we get very heavy snowfall here, which would make evacuating everyone impossible,” Takemoto adds. “The situation would be far worse than it was in Fukushima.”
Adding to their concerns are the presence of seismic faults in and around the site, which sustained minor damage during a magnitude-6.6 offshore earthquake in 2007. Two active faults – defined by nuclear regulators as one that has moved any time within the last 400,000 years – run beneath reactor No. 1.
But for Tepco, a return to nuclear power generation is a matter of financial necessity, with the utility standing to gain up to ¥200 billion in annual profits by restarting the two reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa.
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Workers at Kashiwazaki-kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, Japan.
The bill for decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi, decontaminating neighbourhoods and compensating residents affected by the meltdown could reach 21.5tr yen [$191bn], according to government estimates. That is on top of the money the firm is spending on importing expensive fossil fuels to fill the vacuum left by the nuclear shutdown.
Earlier this year, the Japan Centre for Economic Research said the total cost of the four-decade Fukushima cleanup – including the disposal of radioactive waste from the plant’s three damaged reactors – could soar to between 50-70tr yen.
“As Tepco’s president and our general business plan have made clear, restarting the reactors here is very important to us as a company,” says Shitara.
Much is at stake, too, for Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who has put an ambitious return to nuclear power generation at the centre of his energy policy. His government wants nuclear to provide about 20 percent Japan’s electricity by 2030 – a move that would require the restart of about 30 reactors.
Of the country’s 48 operable reactors, only four are currently online. Several others have passed stringent new safety tests introduced in the wake of Fukushima, but restarts have encountered strong local opposition.
As part of the restart process, people across Japan were recently invited to submit their opinions on the Kashiwazaki-kariwa restart and Tepco’s suitability as a nuclear operator.
Kiyoto Ishikawa, from the plant’s public relations department, insists Tepco has learned the lessons of Fukushima. “Before 3-11 we were arrogant and had stopped improving safety,” he said. “The earthquake was a wake-up call. We now know that improving safety is a continuous process.”
The firm’s assurances were dismissed by Yukiko Kondo, a Kariwa resident, who said the loss of state subsidies if the plant were to remain permanently idle was a sacrifice worth making if it meant giving local people peace of mind.
“Tepco caused the 2011 accident, so there is no way I would ever support restarting nuclear reactors here,” she said. “They kept telling us that Fukushima Daiichi was perfectly safe – and look what happened.”

December 29, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Protesters rally against TEPCO approval

Some asked why Tepco is being given approval when victims of the Fukushima disaster have not been given relief. Others said Tepco is unfit to operate nuclear reactors.
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Protestors have opposed the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s endorsement of safety measures taken at 2 reactors operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company.
About 20 people, including members of a citizen’s group opposed to reactor restarts, rallied on Wednesday in Tokyo in front of the building where the regulators were meeting.
They raised a banner that said the regulators shouldn’t encourage the restarts.
Some asked why TEPCO is being given approval when victims of the Fukushima disaster have not been given relief. Others said TEPCO is unfit to operate nuclear reactors.
The group handed out petitions to regulation authority employees, demanding that the reactors’ assessments not be approved.
Masahide Kimura of the citizens’ group said regulators must ask whether the public really wants TEPCO deemed capable of running reactors.
He said the regulators’ decision diverges from public opinion, and is not likely to be supported.

December 28, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Two Niigata nuclear reactors run by Tepco clear new safety standards, a first for the company since the Fukushima crisis

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The Nuclear Regulation Authority gave its approval Wednesday to restart the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, the first reactors operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to formally clear the stricter safety standards
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Two nuclear reactors on the Sea of Japan coast have become the first run by the operator of the crippled Fukushima power plant to formally clear the stricter government safety standards imposed after the 2011 crisis.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority endorsed Wednesday safety measures for the No. 6 and 7 reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station in Niigata Prefecture, paving the way for their restart by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., known as Tepco.
The two reactors are boiling-water reactors, the same as those that suffered meltdowns in the Fukushima crisis caused by the massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. No such reactor types had previously cleared Japan’s tougher safety standards since the disaster, partly as they are required to conduct major refurbishment for added safety.
The NRA’s endorsement of the two units gives impetus to the Japanese government’s push to restart idled nuclear power plants that were taken offline after the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
In addition to assessing technical requirements, the review by the NRA focused on whether Tepco is qualified to operate a nuclear power plant as it struggles with the scrapping of the Fukushima Daiichi complex — an effort expected to take until around 2051 — and in dealing with contaminated water around the crippled plant where radiation levels remain high.
Tepco, facing huge compensation payments and other costs stemming from the Fukushima crisis, has been keen to resume operation of its reactors to reduce dependence on costly fossil fuel imports for non-nuclear thermal power generation.
However, the process of restarting the two reactors straddling the municipalities of Kashiwazaki and Kariwa in Niigata could still require at least several more years as local governments need to give their consent to resumption.
Among them, Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama has said it will take “at least three to four years” before deciding whether to give his approval to bringing them back online, citing the need to assess the causes of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex.
The two reactors are the newest among the seven units at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant. The complex is one of the world’s largest nuclear power plants, with a combined output capacity of 8.2 million kilowatts.
In a move not seen in the screening processes for other utilities, Tepco agreed to a request from the regulator to provide a pledge to carry through the scrapping of the Fukushima complex, leading the regulator to soften its position.
Tepco filed for safety assessments of the two reactors in September 2013.

December 27, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

60 holes at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuke plant found unfilled in violation of building code

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Reactor buildings at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant are seen in this file photo taken in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, on April 26, 2017.
 
Sixty holes violating the Building Standards Act were found recently in firewalls at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture, in addition to two similar holes found in July this year, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) announced Nov. 22.
Of the 60 holes, 49 date back to the 1980s when the No. 1 reactor building was built, revealing administrative agencies’ lack of consideration for proper construction management.
Reactor buildings have several thousand holes in them for pipes. Of these holes, those going through firewalls are required to have any gaps filled in with mortar caulk or other nonflammable material. In July, TEPCO found two holes in a firewall in the No. 2 reactor building that had not been properly filled in. A subsequent inspection of the entire plant found that 60 holes had not been filled in — a building code violation — of which 41 were in radiation-control areas.
The power company will begin taking countermeasures, such as filling the holes in, as early as the beginning of the New Year. “At the time the reactor buildings were built, our awareness of the risks was insufficient,” TEPCO spokesperson Yoshimi Hitosugi said.

November 25, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Japan Cleared to Re-Start World’s Largest Nuclear Plant

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TEPCO, which responded so badly to the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear disaster, has won approval from Japan’s nuclear reactor to crank back up the world’s biggest nuclear power plant.

The word “nuclear” has a lot more power in Japan than it does elsewhere. 

Tokyo Electric Power, or TEPCO (TKECY) as it is better known, has just won approval to re-start two reactors at the world’s largest nuclear power plant. Its shares got a jolt of 3% at that announcement.

Nuclear-linked stocks will be worth watching as the company pushes on with that attempt. TEPCO is, after all, the company that responded so badly to the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant in 2011.

The only country to have been hit by an atom bomb nevertheless embraced the technology behind nuclear power. Around one-fifth of all electricity is intended to be produced that way.

Then came the disaster at Fukushima. The March 2011 earthquake unleashed a tidal wave that ultimately killed 15,894 people, causing ¥21.5 trillion ($191 billion) in damage. Only the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in Ukraine was worse.

The tsunami deluged the nuclear reactors at Fukushima, and three of them melted down. That shined a spotlight on the inept operations and response of TEPCO, which ran the plant.

The company was terrible at responding to the disaster and even worse at responding to the public. Its executives went into shutdown mode, as Asian companies are wont to do. It denied facts that turned out to be true, downplayed the impact and generally pretended that there’s nothing to see here, we’ve got it all under control, please move along.

So it’s amazing that it’s back in big-time nuclear business. Most recently, Japan’s nuclear regulator, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, has granted TEPCO initial safety approval to restart two reactors, six and seven, at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, the world’s largest.

The five NRA commissioners voted unanimously for permission to crank the reactors back up. Formal approval will likely go ahead after a 30-day period for public comment.

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The governor of Niigata prefecture, where that plant is based, says he won’t consider allowing the plant to run again until the prefecture conducts its own review of what went on at Fukushima, and that won’t happen until 2020 at the earliest.

Opinion polls show that a majority of the Japanese public now opposes nuclear power and would ultimately like Japan to cease producing it. It’s likely that nuclear power will come up as an issue in the Japanese election, slated for Oct. 22. 

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe believes nuclear power is a viable and stable source of energy. His Liberal Democratic Party wants to see more of Japan’s nuclear reactors put back to work.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, a former defense minister in the Abe government, has formed a conservative party to rival Abe’s conservative government. Although she says she won’t run for prime minister, her Kibo no To, or Party of Hope, will contest many of the seats up for grabs.

The party is considering an anti-nuclear stance. “We’ll examine how to bring down the reliance to zero by 2030,” Koike told a news conference, according to the Japan Times.

Nuclear power is intended to produce around 22% of Japan’s electricity if all its plants are operating. Government plans call for another 27% to come from liquefied natural gas, around 23% from renewable sources, and only 26% from coal.

All 42 of Japan’s nuclear reactors were ordered to shut down in 2011.

Kyushu Electric Power (KYSEY) was the first company to fire back up a nuclear plant after the 2011 quake, on the island of the same name in the city of Sendai. That’s part of Japan’s industrial heartland.

Kansai Electric Power (KAEPY) was last week granted permission from the mayor of Ohi, in Fukui Prefecture, to re-start two reactors there. The company had applied in August for permission to do so, from Japan’s nuclear regulator, the Nuclear Regulation Authority. 

Meanwhile, TEPCO continues the cleanup of the mess at Fukushima. It has delayed the removal of used nuclear rods from fuel pools at the plant. It shifted fuel removal from 2017 to 2018 at the safest of the reactors, and from 2020 to 2023 for another two.

It also has to mop up about 770,000 tons of contaminated water that was pumped into the plant to cool the melted fuel reactors. That’s due to be cleaned out of around 580 tanks where it is stored on site by 2020 – the same year that Tokyo will host the Olympics.

https://www.thestreet.com/story/14332182/1/japan-set-to-restart-worlds-largest-nuclear-plant.html

kashiwazaki-kriwa npp location

October 10, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , , , | Leave a comment

Watchdog’s safety clearance for Tepco reactors irks Fukushima victims

n-reactions-a-20171005.jpgAnti-nuclear activists protest on Wednesday near a building in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, where the Nuclear Regulation Authority held a meeting to give safety approval for two reactors at Tepco’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture.

 

Two nuclear reactors run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. cleared the safety review of Japan’s nuclear watchdog on Wednesday, drawing fierce criticism from residents who remain displaced more than six years after the nuclear crisis at the utility’s Fukushima complex.

The government safety clearance of reactors 6 and 7 at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station in Niigata Prefecture is a key step toward having operations resume.

It appears that things are moving forward as if the (Fukushima nuclear) crisis is over,” said Hiroko Matsumoto, 68, who lives in a temporary shelter house in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, away from her home in Tomioka, also in the prefecture, due to the triple meltdown at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 plant in March 2011.

I want (Tepco) to never forget that a serious nuclear accident can cause enormous damage,” she said.

The approval by the Nuclear Regulation Authority shocked residents in Niigata and surrounding areas who are concerned about the reactors’ reactivation, but others are hoping to see economic benefits from the restart.

I am surprised that the regulatory authority abruptly softened its stance toward Tepco. I doubt such a hasty decision can guarantee citizens’ safety,” said Nobuko Baba, 76, who lives about 23 kilometers east of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

Whether to resume operation (of the two reactors) should be the decision of Niigata Prefecture citizens. I am counting on Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama, who has been wary about it,” she said.

Yoneyama ordered a local investigation into the causes and impact of the Fukushima disaster, and is not expected to decide on whether he will approve a restart until the assessment is completed around 2020.

In contrast, Yasuo Ishizaka, 53, an executive of an industrial equipment company in Kashiwazaki, was happy to hear the news.

I am glad that the safety screening went smoothly, and it is a big step forward for the local economy,” Ishizaka said.

On Wednesday, anti-nuclear activists gathered near a building in Tokyo’s Minato Ward where the nuclear watchdog held a meeting and endorsed a draft document, which serves as certification that the two reactors have met the new, stricter safety standards introduced after the Fukushima disaster.

Amid chants of “Tepco should not be qualified” and “No reactor resumption,” a representative handed over a letter of protest to an official of the regulator.

With the authority’s safety approval, the two reactors became the first of Tepco’s idled units to pass the safety screening since the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

In a media statement on Wednesday, international environmentalist group Greenpeace criticized the regulator’s decision as reckless and said local opposition against the restarts remains strong.

It’s the same disregard for nuclear risks that resulted in Tepco’s 2011 triple reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 site. Approving the safety of reactors at the world’s largest nuclear plant, when it is at extreme risk from major earthquakes, completely exposes the weakness of Japan’s nuclear regulator,” said Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist for Greenpeace Germany.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/10/04/national/nuclear-watchdog-safety-clearance-tepco-reactors-fukushima-victims/#.WdXxBRdx3rd

October 5, 2017 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

The World’s Biggest Nuclear Plant Approved to Be Restarted in Japan

Fukushima operator can restart nuclear reactors at world’s biggest plant

Tepco, still struggling to decommission Fukushima Daiichi, gets initial approval to start two reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa

Screenshot from 2017-10-05 23-25-08.pngReactors No 6, right, and No 7 at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.

 

The operator of Japan’s stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has been given initial approval to restart reactors at another atomic facility, marking the first step towards the firm’s return to nuclear power generation more than six years after the March 2011 triple meltdown.

Japan’s nuclear regulator on Wednesday approved an application from Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) to restart two reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa – the world’s biggest nuclear power plant – even as the utility struggles to decommission Fukushima Daiichi.

The process will involve reviews and consultations with the public, and the restart is also expected to encounter strong opposition from people living near the plant on the Japan Sea coast of Niigata prefecture.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) ruled that the No 6 and No 7 reactors, each with a capacity of 1,356 megawatts, met stringent new safety standards introduced after the Fukushima disaster. The authority’s five commissioners voted unanimously to approve the restarts at a meeting on Wednesday.

The decision drew criticism from anti-nuclear campaigners.

Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany, accused the NRA of being reckless.

He added: “It is the same disregard for nuclear risks that resulted in Tepco’s 2011 triple reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi site. Approving the safety of reactors at the world’s largest nuclear plant when it is at extreme risk from major earthquakes completely exposes the weakness of Japan’s nuclear regulator.”

Greenpeace said 23 seismic faultlines ran through the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa site.

Tepco said in a statement that it took the regulatory authority’s decision seriously and would continue making safety improvements at its plants while it attempted to decommission Fukushima Daiichi and compensate evacuees.

Despite the NRA’s approval, it could take years for the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors to go back into operation.

The governor of Niigata, Ryuichi Yoneyama, has said he will not decide on whether to agree to the restarts until Tepco completes its review of the Fukushima accident – a process that is expected to take at least another three years.

Fukushima evacuees voiced anger at the regulator’s decision.

It looks like things are moving forward as if the Fukushima nuclear crisis is over,” Hiroko Matsumoto, who lives in temporary housing, told Kyodo news. Matsumoto, whose home was close to Fukushima Daiichi, said Tepco should “never forget that a serious nuclear accident can cause enormous damage”.

Tepco has been seeking permission to restart the idled reactors to help it reduce spending on fossil fuel imports, which have soared since the disaster, triggered by a huge earthquake and tsunami, forced the closure of all of Japan’s nuclear reactors. Four have since gone back online after passing safety inspections.

The utility faces huge compensation claims from people who were evacuated after three of Fukushima Daiichi’s six reactors went into meltdown on 11 March 2011, as well as a rising decommissioning bill.

Earlier this year, the Japan Centre for Economic Research said the total cost of the Fukushima cleanup – which is expected to take up to 40 years – could soar to between 50-70tn yen (£330bn-£470bn). Earlier estimates put the cost at about 22tn yen.

Nuclear power is expected to become a key issue in the election later this month.

The prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has argued that reactor restarts are necessary for economic growth and to enable Japan to meet its climate change commitments. The government wants nuclear to provide about 20% of Japan’s energy by 2030.

But the newly formed Party of Hope, which has emerged as the main opposition to Abe’s Liberal Democratic party, wants to phase out nuclear power by 2030.

Opinion polls show that most Japanese people oppose nuclear restarts.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/04/fukushima-operator-tepco-restart-nuclear-reactors-kashiwazaki-kariwa

NRA approves safety measures at TEPCO plant in Niigata

 

Photo/Illustration The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture

 

Japan’s nuclear watchdog on Oct. 4 approved Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s safety measures taken to restart two reactors in Niigata Prefecture, the first such approval for the company since the Fukushima nuclear disaster unfolded.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority confirmed the results of its screening on the technological aspects of the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors that TEPCO wants to bring online at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant.

It was also the first time for the NRA to conclude that boiling-water reactors, the same type as those at TEPCO’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, met the new safety standards adopted after the meltdowns at the plant in 2011.

The NRA plans to hear opinions from the public about its judgment for 30 days before deciding on whether to make the approval official. It will also solicit the views of the minister of economy, trade and industry.

As one condition for official approval, the NRA is requiring the industry minister to oversee the utility’s management policy concerning its initiative and responsibility for work to decommission the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

From now, the NRA will check equipment designs and security regulations, including how TEPCO will guarantee its promise that its priority is on safety, not economic benefits.

The NRA’s screening process at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant went beyond checking technological aspects of TEPCO’s safety measures. Given TEPCO’s history of mistakes and blunders, NRA members also discussed whether the utility was even eligible to operate nuclear power plants.

In response to the NRA’s demands that TEPCO take full responsibility for decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 plant, the utility in late August stressed that its stance of putting importance on safety is “a promise to the people.”

The NRA then approved TEPCO’s eligibility but attached some conditions.

In late September, however, it came to light that workers at the Fukushima No. 1 plant were erroneously setting water gauges to measure groundwater levels of wells around reactor buildings, which could cause leaks of highly contaminated water to the outside water.

Inspectors will face a formidable challenge in judging individual issues facing TEPCO based on security regulations.

However, even if TEPCO passes all of the screenings, it must win the consent of local governments to restart the reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant.

Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama has said that he will wait for three or four years to make decision on the restarts, until his prefectural government completes its own investigation into the cause of the 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201710040031.html

TEPCO reactors clear safety review for 1st time after Fukushima

Screenshot from 2017-10-05 18-14-56From left, the No. 5, No. 6 and No. 7 reactors of the Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Niigata Prefecture are seen from a Mainichi Shimbun aircraft on Sept. 30, 2017.

 

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Two reactors in Niigata Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast run by the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant cleared government safety standards on Wednesday, becoming the first of the utility’s idled units to pass tightened screening.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority endorsed at its meeting a draft document that serves as certification that Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Nos. 6 and 7 reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station have met the new, stricter safety standards introduced after the Fukushima disaster.

The two reactors are the newest among the seven units at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant. The complex is one of the world’s largest nuclear power plants, with a combined output capacity of 8.2 million kilowatts.

Despite the effective approval by the nuclear regulator, the actual restart of the two reactors will likely be at least a few years away as Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama says it will take “around three to four years” for the utility to win local consent for the resumption of operation.

Formal approval of the restart by the nuclear watchdog is expected after receiving public opinions and consulting with the economy, trade and industry minister to confirm that Tepco is fit to be an operator.

The clearance of the two units is likely to be a boost for the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which is keen to retain nuclear power generation despite Japan suffering the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex in March 2011, triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami.

Tepco, facing huge compensation payments and other costs stemming from the Fukushima crisis, has been desperate to resume operation of its idled reactors so it can reduce spending on costly fossil fuel imports for non-nuclear thermal power generation.

It filed for safety assessments of the two idled reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in September 2013.

In addition to assessing technical requirements, the review focused on whether Tepco is qualified to once again operate a nuclear power plant as it struggles with work to scrap the Fukushima Daiichi complex, an effort expected to take until around 2051, and reduce contaminated water around the crippled plant where radiation levels remain high.

The two reactors are boiling-water reactors, the same as those that experienced meltdowns in the Fukushima crisis. No such types have previously cleared Japan’s safety standards after the Fukushima disaster, partly as they are required to conduct major refurbishment to boost safety.

Under the new safety requirements, BWRs must be equipped with filtered venting systems so that radioactive substances will be reduced when gas and steam need to be released to prevent damage to containment vessels.

The venting facilities are not an immediate requirement for pressurized water reactors as PWRs are housed in containers larger than those of BWRs, giving more time until pressure rises inside the containers.

In the review, the regulator had questioned Tepco on its posture to ensure the safety of the units. The company last month agreed to a request from the regulator to include a safety pledge as part of its legally binding reactor safety program.

Safety programs drawn up for reactors need to be approved by the regulator and if it finds a grave violation, it can demand the utility halt nuclear power operations.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20171004/p2g/00m/0dm/054000c

October 5, 2017 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Tepco promises legal safety vow as it seeks to restart reactors

Promises are meant to be broken

20170913_34_379008_L.jpg

 

The head of Tepco Electric Power company Holdings Inc. promised Wednesday to institute a safety pledge as requested by nuclear regulator, as the company seeks clearance to reactivate undamaged, idle reactors located far from its plant crippled by natural disaster in 2011.

has been calling for the company to make such a pledge part of its legally binding reactor safety program because it operates the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the site of a major nuclear disaster in the aftermath of the massive earthquake and tsunami.

President Tomoaki Kobayakawa told the regulator on Wednesday that will stipulate a pledge to build “safety culture” in its program developed for ensuring safe operation of the Nos. 6 and 7 reactors at the company’s power station in Niigata Prefecture on the Sea of coast.

promise will pave the way for the regulator’s safety clearance for the two units — boiling-water reactors that are the same type as the ones that experienced meltdowns in the disaster.

The regulator will soon compile a draft document for the two units that will serve as certification that the utility has satisfied new stricter safety requirements implemented since the nuclear disaster.

It will then consult the economy, trade and industry minister, who oversees the nuclear industry, to confirm that is fit to be an operator. It will also solicit comments from the public before formally giving safety clearance.

Even if the reactors clear the safety checks, local governments in the area on which the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant sits remain cautious about their resumption.

Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama, for example, has said it will take “around three to four years” for the utility to win the required local consent for a restart.

said last week was “qualified” as a nuclear plant operator, but that it wanted the utility to express its resolve to ensure safety in a legal document, not just in words.

Safety programs drawn up for reactors need to be approved by the regulator and if it finds a grave violation, it can demand a halt to nuclear power operations from the utility.

“We intend to tackle the unending mission of improving the safety of nuclear power and to complete the decommissioning and compensation of the Fukushima Daiichi complex,” Kobayakawa said at the regulator’s meeting on Wednesday. “We will also make efforts to maintain qualification” as operator of nuclear reactors, he said.

The Nos. 6 and 7 units at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant are the newest among the seven units at the plant. The complex is one of the world’s largest nuclear power plants with a combined output capacity of 8.2 million kilowatts.

For a reactor to be restarted, it first needs to clear the safety requirements introduced in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. filed for safety assessments of the two units in .

, which is facing massive compensation payments and other costs in the aftermath of one of the world’s worst nuclear crises, has been desperate to resume operation of its idled reactors so it can reduce spending on costly fossil fuel imports for non-nuclear thermal power generation.

While some reactors run by other utilities have resumed operations in by satisfying the new safety regulations, has been under close scrutiny by regulators on whether it is qualified to once again operate a nuclear power plant.

http://m.4-traders.com/TOKYO-ELECTRIC-POWER-COMP-6491247/news/Tokyo-Electric-Power-Tepco-promises-legal-safety-vow-as-it-seeks-to-restart-reactors-25144769/

20170913_34_379008_L.jpg

September 23, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Nuclear regulator defers giving safety OK for idle Tepco reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant

Screenshot from 2017-09-15 01-39-06.png

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japan’s nuclear safety watchdog on Wednesday deferred giving safety clearance for two idle Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. reactors on the Sea of Japan coast, although its chairman said the utility was “qualified” as a nuclear plant operator.

Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said following Wednesday’s meeting that Tepco, operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, was qualified but needs to stipulate its resolve to ensure safe operation of nuclear plants in its safety rules.

“It’s insecure” if Tepco expresses its resolve to ensure safety only in words, Tanaka told a press conference.

Safety rules need to be approved by the regulator and if there is a grave violation the regulator can demand that the utility halt nuclear power operations.

The regulator will formally inform the utility’s president, Tomoaki Kobayakawa, about the matter on Sept. 20. A final decision on whether Tepco is fit to be an operator will be made following discussions with the economy, trade and industry minister.

If Tepco agrees to include its resolve to ensure safety in its safety rules, the regulator will compile a draft document for the Nos. 6 and 7 reactors at Tepco’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture that will serve as certification that the utility has satisfied new safety requirements implemented since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The regulator had been expected at Wednesday’s meeting to confirm that the units have cleared the new safety requirements, but it reversed course after facing criticism over a lack of debate on whether the operator is fit to run a nuclear power plant.

For a reactor to be restarted, it first needs to clear the stiffer safety requirements introduced in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, which was triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. Tepco filed for safety assessments of the two units in September 2013.

According to sources close to the matter, the regulator had planned to give safety clearance while Tanaka was still on the board. Tanaka’s term expires on Sept. 18, although he will continue to work until Sept. 22.

The regulator had reached a near consensus on the issue of Tepco’s qualification when its members previously met on Sept. 6.

During the summer, the regulator questioned the Tepco management, including Kobayakawa, about its nuclear safety awareness. In July, Tanaka criticized Tepco’s attitude, saying, “An operator, which cannot take concrete measures for decommissioning efforts at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, does not have the right to resume operation of nuclear reactors.”

Tanaka urged the utility to further explain in writing issues such as how to deal with contaminated water at the Fukushima plant.

While Tepco, in its subsequent written response, did not give details about what it would do regarding the contaminated water, it did pledge to see through the scrapping of the plant, gaining a certain level of understanding from the regulator.

Meanwhile, the prospect of gaining local consent needed for the restart of the two reactors remains uncertain, with Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama saying it will take “around three to four years” for the utility to win local consent for the envisioned restart.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170914/p2g/00m/0dm/006000c

 

 

September 15, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO gets OK to restart Niigata reactors, with conditions

Screenshot from 2017-09-15 01-39-06.png

 

The nation’s nuclear watchdog gave conditional approval Sept. 13 to Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s application to resume operations of its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant.

It marks the first time that reactors operated by TEPCO, which manages the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, have passed more stringent reactor regulations imposed by the Nuclear Regulation Authority after the triple meltdown in 2011.

The two reactors at the plant in Niigata Prefecture–the No. 6 and No. 7 units–are the first boiling-water reactors in Japan to clear the regulations. They are the same type as the reactors at the Fukushima plant.

The NRA already accepts that TEPCO has the technological know-how to operate the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, one of the world’s largest.

But it had harbored doubts about the company’s fitness to operate a nuclear plant, given its tendency to put its balance sheet ahead of safety precautions.

The NRA ordered TEPCO to provide in the legally required safety code a detailed explanation of procedures it will take to ensure that the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant is operated safely.

That way, the watchdog body aims to make the utility legally accountable if problems arise.

It will also closely monitor the utility’s actions in adhering to the safety code once the NRA approves the measures proposed by TEPCO.

The NRA will summon Tomoaki Kobayakawa, the new president of TEPCO, to request a more demanding safety code from the company.

As another condition for a restart, the NRA called for the industry ministry’s clear-cut commitment to oversee TEPCO’s compliance with safety if it is satisfied with the utility’s pledge to respond appropriately to the decommissioning of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The industry ministry oversees the nuclear industry.

Despite the NRA’s conditional approval, the utility will need to gain consent from local governments for a restart.

Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama, who took office last year, has made it clear that he will not agree to the restart until the prefectural government completes its investigation into the Fukushima nuclear disaster to determine what went wrong. The investigation is expected to take several years.

In an effort to underscore its eligibility as an operator of a nuclear plant, TEPCO submitted a written pledge in August that it is “determined to take the initiative in addressing the needs of victims in Fukushima Prefecture and accomplish the decommissioning of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.”

If the safety code and the industry minister’s commitment are secured, the NRA concluded that the utility will be eligible to resume operations of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the NRA, said at the Sept. 13 meeting that TEPCO’s vow in August is “binding.”

The NRA indicated that if TEPCO fails to adhere to its “promise” to heed to safety, it will exercise the power to suspend the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant’s operations or revoke its license to operate it.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant has seven reactors. The No. 6 reactor and the No. 7 reactor started operations in 1996 and 1997, respectively. Each has a capacity of 1.36 gigawatts.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709130058.html

September 14, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Japan’s Nuclear Regulator Not Agreeing to Tepco’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP Reactor Restart Plans

Nuclear regulator does dizzying U-turn on TEPCO reactor restart plans

Screenshot from 2017-09-08 00-09-16.pngFrom left, the No. 5, 6 and 7 reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant are seen in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, in this April 21, 2016 file photo.

 

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the utility responsible for the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and its March 2011 triple meltdown, is aiming to get the reactors at its other power plants back on line.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), which must approve any restarts, had been holding to a very strict line on TEPCO applications. However, on Sept. 6 the NRA abruptly changed track, taking a more sympathetic attitude and indicating that the No. 6 and 7 reactors at the utility’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture would likely pass their safety inspections — a prerequisite for restart approval.

Despite the NRA’s suddenly sunny attitude, the prefectural government has not budged from its more cautious position. And TEPCO, which has made the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant a chief pillar of its business recovery plans, cannot flip the reactors’ “on” switch without the prefecture’s imprimatur, meaning the plant still has no clear restart schedule.

When the NRA summoned TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa and other top managers on July 10 this year to testify on the utility’s competence to keep running nuclear plants, authority chairman Shunichi Tanaka was unequivocal and unforgiving.

Screenshot from 2017-09-08 00-09-47.png

Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka speaks to the Mainichi Shimbun during an Aug. 29, 2017 interview. (Mainichi)

“If TEPCO is unwilling or unable to finalize the decommissioning of the Fukushima (No. 1 station) reactors, it is simply not qualified to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant,” Tanaka told the executives, adding, “I don’t see TEPCO showing any independent initiative whatsoever.”

The NRA chairman was referring to the longstanding problems with contaminated water and radioactive waste disposal plaguing TEPCO’s Fukushima plant decommissioning efforts. The utility tends to focus too much on trying to read the government’s mind on any and all Fukushima issues — an attitude that has long drawn NRA criticism.

When the NRA inspected the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant’s No. 6 and 7 reactors, it added a new evaluation category to the usual technological checklist, though it was not part of the new safety standards: “eligibility.” That is, TEPCO’s eligibility to run a nuclear power plant at all. After all, it was one of TEPCO’s plants that had succumbed to the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. “TEPCO is different from other (power) companies,” Tanaka had said.

TEPCO President Kobayakawa and Chairman Takashi Kawamura are also a source of NRA concern. The two had no role in the utility’s response to the 2011 meltdowns, and Kobayakawa replaced a much more experienced hand in Naomi Hirose, a TEPCO managing director when the disaster struck. After his NRA dressing-down in July, Kobayakawa apparently visited the Fukushima disaster zone seven times.

However, there has been an apparent U-turn in Tanaka’s stance. A document submitted on Aug. 25 to the NRA under Kobayakawa’s name was sewn with phrases like, “We will carry the (Fukushima) reactor decommissioning through to the end,” and other terms suggesting a determined TEPCO attitude. At the same time, the document was bereft of details on specific preparedness measures or progress benchmarks for the decommissioning work.

Nevertheless, when Kobayakawa again appeared before the NRA on Aug. 30, the body indicated its acceptance of TEPCO’s position. Taking the contaminated water problem “as one example,” Tanaka stated that he recognized TEPCO’s lack of concrete countermeasure planning couldn’t be helped under the circumstances. One NRA executive revealed to the Mainichi Shimbun, “We avoided demanding a detailed (disposal measures) plan because we don’t legally have that authority, and doing so could pose legal risks.”

Pro-TEPCO sentiment was on conspicuous display when the NRA met again on Sept. 6, including acting Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa’s declaration that he “felt TEPCO’s drive to pass on the lessons of the (Fukushima nuclear) accident.”

Committee member Nobuhiko Ban stated that while the document the utility had submitted in the summer was a “declaration of intent,” he was “concerned over whether this alone can constitute eligibility” to run a nuclear plant. However, Tanaka wrapped up discussion by saying that “circumstances are not such that we can deny (TEPCO’s) eligibility.”

Tanaka will leave his NRA post on Sept. 18 after completing his five-year term in the chairmanship, and at a post-meeting news conference he was asked if he had wanted to bring the TEPCO issue to a close while in office.

“I can’t say that I’ve never felt that way,” Tanaka replied.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170907/p2a/00m/0na/019000c

NRA doubts TEPCO’s safety vow in Niigata, plans legal move

Screenshot from 2017-09-08 00-11-58.pngTokyo Electric Power Co. wants to restart the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors, shown in the forefront, at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture.

 

The Nuclear Regulation Authority, skeptical of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s promise to put safety ahead of profits, plans to gain legal assurances before allowing the embattled utility to start operating nuclear reactors again.

TEPCO has applied to restart two reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture, which would be the first run by the company since the disaster unfolded at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in March 2011.

Although NRA members agreed that the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant passed new regulations on technological aspects, they could not agree on whether the company has learned its lessons about safety management since the triple meltdown at the Fukushima plant.

To ensure TEPCO will put safety at the forefront of its operations, the NRA is considering holding the utility legally responsible for completing the entire decommissioning process of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The regulator expects to draft a checklist to verify the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant’s safety and other steps before it makes a final decision on whether to allow TEPCO to restart the reactors. The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 13.

The NRA had previously determined that 12 reactors at six nuclear plants met new nuclear reactor regulations shortly after completion of their technological examinations.

The NRA also finished its technological examinations of the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors, the newest ones at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

The plant has seven reactors, making it one of the largest nuclear power stations in the world. The two reactors that TEPCO wants to put online each has a capacity of 1.36 gigawatts.

TEPCO has said the resumption of the reactors are needed to turn around its business fortunes.

But NRA commissioners are reluctant to allow TEPCO to bring the plant online based solely on the results of the technological screening.

After the chairman and president of the utility were replaced in June, the NRA summoned the new top executives in July.

The watchdog demanded that they give a written response to the regulator’s position that TEPCO “is not qualified to operate the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, given the seeming lack of determination and spotty track record to take the initiative in decommissioning (the Fukushima No. 1 plant).”

In August, the company submitted a paper to the NRA promising to “take the initiative in addressing the problem of victims of the nuclear disaster and to fulfill the task to decommission the plant.”

The paper also said the company “has no intention whatsoever to place economic performance over safety at the (Kashiwazaki-Kariwa) plant.”

Tomoaki Kobayakawa, the new president of TEPCO, called the paper a “promise to the public.”

Although the NRA commissioners on Sept. 6 recognized TEPCO’s commitment to safety to a certain degree, doubts remained.

Nobuhiko Ban, an NRA member who is a specialist on radiological protection, called for a system that would keep TEPCO committed to safety management in the future.

Is it all right for us to take TEPCO’s vow at face value?” he said.

The NRA then decided to consider legal ways to hold TEPCO accountable for safety issues.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709070026.html

September 7, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Two reactors at Tepco’s giant Niigata plant close to being restarted

NRA eager to clear Kashiwazaki-Kariya plant

n-tepco-a-20170903-870x539.jpgTokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. employees take part in a drill in the simulator of the central control room for a reactor inside the seismic isolation building at the company’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power station in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, in February 2015.

 

Two Tokyo Electric reactors at the massive Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station in Niigata Prefecture are expected to clear the initial safety hurdle for restarts soon, sources said Friday.

According to the sources, the Nuclear Regulation Authority will start talks on the issue on Wednesday, with a view to compiling a document that will certify the two units passed the new safety requirements introduced after the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. has been struggling to recover ever since the triple core meltdown in March 2011 because the seven-reactor Niigata plant is a crucial money maker. The utility has spent years trying to restart the plant, which is the only nuclear complex it runs aside from the disaster-hit Fukushima No. 1 plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

It filed for safety assessments for reactor Nos. 6 and 7 in September 2013.

The NRA wants to reach a conclusion on the issue before Chairman Shunichi Tanaka’s five-year term expires on Sept. 18, the sources said. But the move may trigger public criticism because Tepco still has a long way to go to scrap the ruined reactors at Fukushima No. 1, which was engulfed by quake-triggered tsunami and lost all power.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex is one of the world’s largest nuclear power plants and has an output capacity of 8.2 million kilowatts. Units 6 and 7 are boiling water reactors — the same type as the ones at Fukushima No. 1 — and the newest of the seven sitting along the Sea of Japan coast.

The governments hosting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant are also cautious about restarting the units, with Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama saying it will take “around three to four years” for the utility to win local consent on the matter.

Tepco, which is facing massive compensation payments and other costs from dealing with the world’s worst nuclear crises since Chernobyl, has been desperate to restart the idled reactors so it can reduce spending on costly fossil fuel imports needed to run the thermal power plants making up for the nationwide nuclear shutdowns.

Some reactors at other utilities have already resumed operations, but Tepco has been under constant scrutiny to determine whether it is qualified to once again operate a nuclear power plant.

Some inside the NRA have been reluctant to move ahead with the safety review at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa. But Tanaka strongly wants to set a course on the issue before he leaves his position at the NRA, and this was one of the factors that led to the latest development in Niigata, the sources said.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/09/02/national/tepco-hopes-niigata-reactors-will-clear-major-safety-hurdle-road-restart/#.WaxZlRdLfrc

September 3, 2017 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment