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KEPCO to ship MOX nuclear fuel assemblies from France in 2020

klmùmùù.jpgA worker shows mixed oxide (MOX) fuel assemblies, which are the same type as those to be transported to Japan, in Marcoule, France, on March 14.

March 31, 2019

MARCOULE, France–Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) plans to transport 32 plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel assemblies from France to Japan in 2020 at the earliest to help reduce its stockpile overseas.

KEPCO plans to use the MOX fuel in the No. 3 and the No. 4 reactors of its Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture, which would reduce its plutonium overseas by about one ton from the current 11 tons.

The MOX fuel was produced in France using plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel generated in Japanese nuclear power plants.

KEPCO, based in Osaka, had asked French nuclear fuel company Orano (formerly Areva) to reprocess the spent nuclear fuel and extract plutonium from it.

The plans were revealed to The Asahi Shimbun by an Orano executive.

In July 2018, the Japanese government announced a goal of decreasing the total volume of plutonium, which is stockpiled in Japan and overseas by Japanese companies, from the current 47 tons.

Japanese companies must reduce their plutonium stockpiles before a reprocessing facility in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, starts operations in 2021 to extract plutonium.

In 2017, Orano concluded a contract with KEPCO to produce 32 MOX fuel assemblies.

Under the contract, Orano has extracted plutonium from spent nuclear fuel, which was transported from Japan, in its reprocessing plant in La Hague in northern France.

The French company plans to transport the plutonium to its facility in Marcoule, southern France, within 2019 to start production of MOX fuel.

Then, the MOX fuel will be transported from a port in Cherbourg, northern France, to the Takahama nuclear power plant in Japan on a sea route in 2020 at the earliest.

Since the 1970s, Japanese electric power companies have entrusted British and French firms to reprocess their spent nuclear fuel to promote nuclear fuel recycling.

Currently, MOX fuel is used in four reactors in Japan: the No. 3 and the No. 4 reactors of the Takahama plant; the No. 3 reactor of the Genkai nuclear power plant operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co.; and the No. 3 reactor of the Ikata nuclear power plant run by Shikoku Electric Power Co.

However, MOX fuel must be used at 16 to 18 reactors to steadily decrease the plutonium stockpile of Japanese companies overseas and up to seven tons of plutonium to be extracted at the Rokkasho facility a year.

If Japan’s stockpile of plutonium, which can be used as a raw material for nuclear weapons, increases, the country could be criticized by the international society.

Since 2018, the Japanese government has asked electric power companies to offer their plutonium to each other to decrease their stockpiles, particularly those overseas.

In the future, the three electric power companies of Kansai, Kyushu and Shikoku that are using MOX fuel could obtain plutonium from Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Chubu Electric Power Co., both of which can’t reduce their stockpiles as their reactors are idled.

“In order to decrease stockpiles, it is most efficient to burn MOX fuel at Japanese nuclear power plants,” said Orano CEO Philippe Knoche.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201903310031.html?fbclid=IwAR3fLXPEpkjjS077woz09ocweWoFpmJt8T-Yb3NID3fTJ9jF-IUdyUmAW6I

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April 8, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Fukui weighs new wave of reactors to protect status as Japan’s ‘nuclear capital’

n-kansaiside-a-20180122.jpg
Fukui Prefecture’s days as the center of Japan’s nuclear power industry might be fading with five reactors scheduled for decommissioning. These include the No. 1 (front) and No. 2 units at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi plant in Fukui, shown in this January 2017 photo.
OSAKA – With 13 commercial nuclear reactors — more than any other prefecture — Fukui has long been Japan’s nuclear power capital. Prior to the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, Fukui’s plants provided up to half of Kansai’s electricity.
As only two commercial reactors run by Kansai Electric Power Co. are in operation and a total of five Fukui reactors are scheduled to be decommissioned by midcentury, the prefecture’s days as a nuclear power center might appear to be ending. But despite the growing use of renewables, entrenched public opposition to atomic power, and unanswered questions about its future costs and economic competitiveness, Fukui’s nuclear-friendly utility executives and corporate leaders, as well as local politicians, have not given up on the idea of building even more reactors.
Earlier this month, Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa met with Kepco President Shigeki Iwane and Mamoru Muramatsu, the president of Japan Atomic Power Co., which runs two reactors at the Tsuruga plant in Fukui — including one scheduled for decommissioning.
They discussed building new reactors at Tsuruga — which have long been planned — and replacing Kepco’s decommissioned reactors with new ones. The meeting took place amid a review of the nation’s energy mix.
“What needs to be done by midcentury? We need to make this clear in the nation’s energy plans as we look to 2050,” Iwane said at a news conference afterward.
A couple of weeks later, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko told reporters that even without building new reactors or replacing old ones, Japan could meet its national goal of having atomic power provide between 20 and 22 percent of all electricity by 2030.
Nishikawa, traditionally a staunch supporter of nuclear power plants and the subsidies his prefecture receives for hosting them, has so far avoided coming out directly in favor of building new reactors.
He told reporters at the end of 2017 that he wasn’t going to wade into the debate of whether it was a good or bad idea. Instead, he said he was waiting for the central government’s view.
“The government needs to make clear what its stance is on new reactors. The main problem is gaining social trust for the use of nuclear power,” Nishikawa said.
That could be difficult. A survey by the Fukui Shimbun in October showed that 49.8 percent of respondents favored slowly exiting from nuclear power. Gaining national and local approval to build new reactors could take years.
Yet even if construction of new Tsuruga reactors goes ahead, it will likely be years, possibly decades, before they are completed at an unknown cost. In the interim, the use of renewables is expected to expand even more. Furthermore, as Japan’s population declines and uses more innovative energy-efficient products, predicting electricity needs in 10 — let alone 30 or so — years from now is problematic at best.
Adding reactors in Fukui will certainly increase the electricity supply for Kansai. But what pro-nuclear politicians and businesses in Fukui want now is assurances from Tokyo that they will still financially benefit from new reactors even if their output may not be needed or wanted by consumers.

January 24, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

KEPCO has huge responsibility in restarting nuke plants

takahama npp may 2017.jpg
The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has formally approved a screening report certifying that the No. 3 and 4 reactors at Oi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture operated by Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) meet the new regulatory standards.
KEPCO restarted the No. 4 reactor at its Takahama nuclear plant, also in Fukui Prefecture, earlier this month. The utility also intends to resume operations at the Takahama plant’s No. 3 reactor next month.
KEPCO’s four nuclear reactors will be up and running possibly by the end of this year provided that the company can gain consent from the local governments hosting these plants.
The Osaka-based power company intends to restart nine reactors in Fukui Prefecture, including three aging ones. Among major power companies, KEPCO is particularly enthusiastic about relying on nuclear power again despite the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011.
However, local governments hosting these nuclear plants have failed to work out adequate plans to evacuate residents in case of a serious nuclear accident.
The Oi and Takahama plants are only about 10 kilometers away from each other. Should serious accidents occur simultaneously at these power stations due to a natural disaster or other factors, it would be extremely difficult for the utility and local governments to respond to such a critical situation. The NRA has so far failed to seriously consider problems involving the concentration of nuclear plants in a small area. It is hardly acceptable that KEPCO has been pressing forward with reactivation of its nuclear power stations one after another despite such circumstances.
KEPCO reportedly insists that it would be able to lower its electricity charges if it reactivates nuclear reactors and slashes fuel costs at its thermal power plants, thereby improving its financial situation. However, serious questions remain as to whether the management of KEPCO, which depends heavily on atomic power stations, is sustainable.
Electricity generated by nuclear power accounted for about half of all electricity KEPCO generated before the outbreak of the nuclear crisis — the highest ratio of all power companies in the country. Following the nuclear accident, KEPCO’s fuel costs sharply rose because the utility was forced to generate more power at its thermal power stations to make up for power shortages following the suspension of operations at its nuclear plants, forcing the utility to raise its power charges twice and leading it to lose a considerable number of customers. KEPCO President Shigeki Iwane says, “Our biggest business strategy is reactivating nuclear plants.”
However, the costs of wind power and solar power have kept decreasing, and investments in energy throughout the world are now concentrated on renewable energy. Furthermore, nuclear power industries in developed countries have been declining.
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to reduce Japan’s reliance on atomic power in the long run. Measures to ensure the safety of aging reactors could cost power companies more than estimated. If a serious accident were to occur at a nuclear station, it could endanger the existence of the plant’s operator.
The creation of a management structure at KEPCO that will not be affected by nuclear power would eventually lead to the company’s long-term profits. The Osaka and Kyoto municipal governments have proposed at KEPCO’s shareholder meetings that the company decrease its dependence on atomic power on the grounds that such efforts would strengthen and stabilize the utility’s operations.
Attention will be focused on the procedure for gaining consent from the local governments for reactivation of the Oi plant. Considering the possible impact of a serious accident, KEPCO should gain consent from not only the local body hosting the plant but also those within a radius of 30 kilometers from the plant that are obligated to draw up evacuation plans.

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

Japan’s nuclear regulator caves to industry interests yet again–Gives nearly 40 year old reactor a green light before the aging safety review even completed

5 October 2016, Tokyo – Today, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has again exposed itself as industry-captured by giving the Mihama 3 reactor owned by Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) a green light under post-Fukushima guidelines — clearing the way for restart — even before the regulator has completed its ageing-related safety review. The safety risks of age-related degradation can be enormous.

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The Mihama 3 reactor is like a vintage 1976 car that’s been driven at top speed for nearly 4 decades — and then sat idle for more than 5 years. Major safety components wear out, designs become outdated, and extended disuse creates yet another set of safety problems. Worse, it’s already been in a major accident 12 years ago due to a high-pressure pipe rupture that killed 5 workers. Most people wouldn’t just load up the kids in a car like that and speed off on a road trip. Yet, KEPCO and the NRA are trying to do just that, and they haven’t finished looking under the hood to see if the engine is alright. Unlike old cars, if an old reactor has a major accident, the victims can number in the hundreds of thousands and the crash site can extend for hundreds of kilometers. It’s nothing short of reckless, and puts the lives and livelihoods of families throughout the region at unnecessary risk,” said Kendra Ulrich, Senior Global Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Japan.

Nuclear power plants are enormously complex, and safety-related components are only subject to normal age-related degradation. Constant irradiation of major components embrittles the metal, leading to an increased likelihood of potentially catastrophic failure during operation or emergency shutdown.

The Mihama 3 reactor is also located in the seismically-active Wakasa Bay region. The deep concerns over inadequate seismic assessments for the KEPCO’s Ohi reactors – also located in Wakasa Bay – pushed former NRA commissioner and seismologist, Kunihiko Shimazaki, to challenge the regulator directly. Although the NRA dismissed his concerns, the agency admitted that they could not reproduce the figures submitted by KEPCO in their assessment and so could not independently verify their accuracy. The same potentially faulty seismic assessment method was applied to Mihama 3. 

The restart of aging reactors in Fukui has caused concern in surrounding prefectures. On 23 August, the Kyoto Governor Keiji Yamada said of the potential restart of the Takahama 1&2 reactors, “ . . .we should be extremely wary when it comes to aging nuclear reactors.”(1)

The restart of Mihama 3 is currently being challenged in court as a part of an umbrella lawsuit against all Fukui reactors. Greenpeace staff are plaintiffs in a case against KEPCO’s aging Takahama 1 & 2 reactors, also in Wakasa Bay.

Notes:

  1. Kyoto governor doesn’t accept Takahama 1, 2 reactor restart(京都府知事、容認せぬ姿勢 高浜原発1・2号機) Kyoto Newspaper on 23 August 2016 (accessed on 4 October 2016) 
  2. Tomorrow, 6 October 2016, the Sendai 1 reactor in Kagoshima will be taken offline for scheduled maintenance. The newly-elected Kagoshima governor has repeatedly demanded the Sendai reactors be shut down for further safety checks. Due to his ongoing opposition to the operation of the reactors, it is unlikely that Sendai 1 will restart again before the end of 2016. 

http://www.greenpeace.org/japan/ja/news/press/2016/pr201610051/

NRA grants aging Mihama reactor 20-year extension

OSAKA – The Nuclear Regulation Authority gave a green light Wednesday to extending the life of Kansai Electric Power Co.’s 40-year-old Mihama No. 3 reactor in Mihama, Fukui Prefecture, by 20 years.

The ruling was certain to provoke questions in Kansai and elsewhere about whether the NRA is lax on safety concerns.

Safety work related to the extension still needs to be carried out and is expected to take years to complete. Kepco hopes to restart the reactor sometime after the summer of 2020.

Wednesday’s decision marks the second time the NRA has approved extending the life of a 40-year-old reactor to 60. It previously approved restarting Kepco’s Takahama No. 1 and 2 reactors, which are 42 and 41 years old, respectively.

Under new guidelines adopted after the Fukushima triple meltdown in 2011, operators must decide whether to decommission units or apply to the NRA for a one-time, two-decade-maximum extension once a plant becomes 40 years old.

Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa and neighboring Shiga and Kyoto prefectures have expressed safety concerns over reactors that are more than 40 years old and questioned the necessity of restarting old reactors.

Obtaining local political consent for a restart could thus prove tougher for Kepco than might be the case for a younger reactor. Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada has already expressed wariness over the decision to restart the Takahama No. 1 and 2 reactors.

Citizens’ groups in and around Mihama are also expected to seek temporary injunctions in local district courts to halt the restart, which could mean a further delay in plans to turn it back on.

Greenpeace Japan criticized Wednesday’s decision. In a statement, Senior Global Energy Campaigner Kendra Ulrich said Mihama No. 3 was like a vintage 1976 car that was driven for four decades but has sat idle for more than five years, and that restarting it now puts the lives of people in the Kansai region at risk.

Major safety components wear out, designs become outdated, and extended disuse creates yet another set of safety problems,” Ulrich said. “Worse, there was a major accident 12 years ago due to a high-pressure pipe rupture that killed five workers.”

Currently, five reactors that are more than 40 years old and one that is 39 years old are to be scrapped over the coming decades, including Kepco’s Mihama No. 1 and 2 reactors.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/10/05/national/nra-grants-aging-mihama-reactor-20-year-extension/#.V_UlRSTKO-e

October 5, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment