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Final disposal of nuclear waste is “the responsibility of the government”…but is it safe? What is happening in towns and villages in Hokkaido, where a literature review is underway

February 15, 2023
The Fumio Kishida administration is moving forward with the utilization of nuclear power. This time, he has put together a policy to take national responsibility for the final disposal of high-level radioactive waste from spent nuclear fuel. Despite the encouraging tone of the words, distrust is mounting. The government has emphasized “national responsibility” in its response to the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, but there have been instances in which the government has tended to act arbitrarily. What developments are expected in the future regarding the final disposal of the waste? How will this affect the towns of Sutsu and Kamieuchi in Hokkaido, where literature surveys are underway? (The following is a summary of the report by Yuzuru Miyahata and Naoaki Nishida.)
◆Spent nuclear fuel continues to accumulate
 The government will make a concerted and concerted effort toward the final disposal of the spent fuel. A ministerial meeting was held on October 10 to discuss the selection of a final disposal site for high-level radioactive waste. The draft revision of the basic policy presented at the meeting clearly stated the above passage. The policy is currently undergoing public comment, and if it is revised, it will be the first time in eight years, since 2015, that the policy has been revised.
 High-level radioactive waste from spent nuclear fuel is also known as “nuclear waste. At present, spent nuclear fuel continues to accumulate in storage pools at nuclear power plants, and vitrified waste, which is made by solidifying liquid waste with glass, is being processed.

Spent nuclear fuel from the new conversion reactor Fugen is stored in a pool at the Tokai Reprocessing Plant in Tokai-mura, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Nuclear waste is a troublesome problem because of its extremely high radioactivity and long life. According to the Final Disposal Law enacted in 2000, the plan is to dispose of nuclear waste in a geological formation deep underground, but due to safety concerns and other factors, a concrete roadmap has yet to be drawn.
 The government’s emphasis on its responsibility is a reflection of this situation. Since the enactment of the Final Disposal Law, a nationwide public call for proposals, known as the “hand-picked” method, began, and Toyo Town in Kochi Prefecture applied in 2007, but the application was withdrawn due to the fierce opposition of the townspeople. Currently, only the Hokkaido towns of Sutsu-cho and Kamieuchi-mura have accepted the “literature review,” the first step in the selection process.
 According to the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy of the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI), approximately 160 explanatory meetings were held throughout Japan over the past five years, but interest in the project was limited. On the other hand, in the case of the other countries where final disposal sites have been decided, the number of candidate sites was narrowed down from about 10 to only one. The person in charge said, “As a result of the survey, there is opposition from the public and the fact that it cannot be used as a disposal site. We need more candidate sites,” he said.
◆Disbelief in government policy: “Can we really do this?
 Under the current system, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NUMO), to which the power companies contribute the project cost, is responsible for selecting the disposal site and the disposal itself. However, because of the difficulties in selecting a disposal site, when the basic policy was revised in 2003, the government stepped up to the plate by presenting areas that were considered highly suitable. This time, however, the government “decided to step it up a notch,” according to the person in charge of the matter mentioned above.
 While Professor Yo Fujimura of Kanagawa Institute of Technology understands that “the national government is responsible for the nuclear power policy because it is a national policy,” he also has some concerns. The national government must not force the local communities to do something.
 At the root of his concern is a distrust of the national government. He wonders, “Have the national government and electric power companies done anything to earn our trust in their response to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant? For example, the cleanup of contaminated water at the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. When he was prime minister, Yoshihide Suga said that the government would take responsibility for the situation, but he turned a deaf ear to the opposition to releasing the water into the ocean and decided to release it after it had been treated.
 Even though the government is moving forward with the final disposal of the waste, some doubt whether it can really be done.
 It is said that it will take 100,000 years for high-level radioactive waste to become safe. Hideyuki Hirakawa, a professor of science, technology, and society at Osaka University, said, “Japan is an earthquake-prone country. There are active faults everywhere. If a problem is found after moving the waste deep underground, will it be possible to remove the radioactive waste? I have not lost faith in the technology related to nuclear power plants. And how can we be sure of safety 100,000 years from now?

◆The reason why the survey is not progressing is because of the upcoming election.
 Now that the Kishida administration has declared that “the national government will take responsibility for the final disposal of the waste,” what do the people of Sutou Town and Kamieuchi Village, where the literature review is underway, think?
 The literature review for both towns and villages, which began in November 2020, is still ongoing. Initially scheduled to take about two years, a NUMO spokesperson said, “It is taking longer than expected. We are in the process of asking a working group at METI for their thoughts on how to evaluate the survey results. We have not yet decided how long it will take,” he said.
 Once the literature review using geological maps and academic papers is completed, NUMO plans to move on to an overview survey to examine the geology and ground conditions, based on the wishes of the local community. This is the second phase of the survey.
 Masayuki Domon, 69, a member of the Kamieuchi Village Council who announced his opposition to the literature survey three years ago, wonders if the reason the survey has not been completed after two years is because an election is coming up. The “election” referred to here is the village council election scheduled for April. Given the current situation in which many village council members are in favor of the project, he suspects that they do not want to make waves.
 Mr. Domon said, “Time has passed without sufficient explanation to the villagers. The governor has clearly stated that he will not accept the summary survey, so we have no choice but to urge the village mayor to keep in step with us,” he told himself.
◆Divided opinions and broken relationships

On the other hand, Kazuyuki Tsuchiya, 74, a member of an opposition group in the town of Sutomachi, said of the Kishida administration, “To put it simply, it’s just infuriating. When they emphasize that ‘the final disposal is the responsibility of the national government,’ it sounds like ‘the national government is pushing hard for the selection of a disposal site in towns and villages where investigations are underway. What the government says cannot be trusted at all.
 The town’s ordinance stipulates that a referendum will be held when the town moves from a literature review to an overview survey, but the mayor’s decision is not binding.
 The town council’s opinion carries weight, and currently it is split evenly between those in favor and those opposed. However, “I am having a hard time finding a candidate,” he said. In this small town, the people are closely knit, and some of them have lost their relationships with each other because of the split in support of and against the project.
 He is also wary of how the proponents of the project will react to the briefing by NUMO representatives, saying, “Even if they call it a ‘place for dialogue,’ the actual situation is different. It has become a place for one side to express its viewpoints. He fears that the NUMO representatives will be more inclusive of the proponents and more likely to cut off opponents.
 On October 10, the Kishida administration passed a cabinet decision on the “Basic Policy for the Realization of Green Transformation (GX),” which includes the active use of nuclear power plants. The timing of the decision to present the draft basic policy on final disposal at the time of the outbreak of objections underscored the “responsibility of the national government.
◆ “It is only making the local communities suffer and be troubled.
 Tatsujiro Suzuki, a professor of nuclear policy at Nagasaki University, said, “If there is no final disposal site, they will blame us even more. We are only aware of such voices. It has a strong sense of appeal.” He doubts the intention of the government to deflect criticism. He then added, “Even if we say we will focus on the selection of a disposal site, the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (DENJI-REN) will be in charge of the process. There will be no particular change.
 While discussion of a final disposal site is inevitable, it would be problematic to proceed without the consent of the local residents, as was the case in the town of Sutsu and the village of Kamieuchi.
 Tsunehide Chino, associate professor of environmental sociology at Shinshu University, said, “The government has often used the phrase ‘government-led promotion of understanding’ with regard to the final disposal site, but even looking at the two Hokkaido towns and villages today, there is no consensus of opinion, and in fact, this is causing division. This has only caused distress and pain to the local communities,” he continued. The problem is that the administration has not faced up to the harsh reality of the situation and has taken the easy way out by not trying to gain the public’s understanding. The government should abandon its technological and economic optimism that nuclear power is safe and that the cost of electricity will go down.
◆Desk Memo
 When nuclear power plants are operated, waste is generated. But, since a disposal site has not been decided, the amount of waste is accumulating. It is difficult to manage it. It is also hard to find a place to put it. What should be done is obvious. Stop the nuclear power plants, prevent the increase in waste, and in the meantime, discuss where to dispose of the waste. However, the government has a policy of operating nuclear power plants. The more waste we generate, the more trouble we have to clean up. They are irrationally thinking and acting arbitrarily. The situation is too bad. (Sakaki)


February 19, 2023 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Japan’s nuclear fuel imports almost zero in 2019 as industry stagnates, 1st time in 50 yrs

np_file_30122-870x497Japan’s imports of nuclear fuel were nearly zero last year, as many reactors remain idle or are slated to be decommissioned.


August 12, 2020

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japan’s imports of fuel to power nuclear plants were close to zero last year, reflecting the stagnating nuclear industry following the Fukushima accident in 2011, official trade data showed Tuesday.

The effective halt in Japan’s imports of enriched and natural uranium or their assemblies is believed to be the first since the resource-poor country started securing the materials from overseas in the 1960s.

Most nuclear plants in Japan remain idle as stricter safety measures were implemented after a massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex. The operations of fuel manufacturing plants have also been suspended.

Japan’s imports of the fuel started around the time the country’s first commercial nuclear power station in the village of Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, achieved criticality in 1965.

The value of the three materials reached a record 280.4 billion yen ($2.64 billion) in 1984 as nuclear power plants increased, according to the government data.

In subsequent years, the value was around 100 billion yen to 150 billion yen before the level fell to 82.7 billion yen in 2012, one year after the Fukushima disaster.

In 2016, the value decreased further to 2.9 billion yen as more nuclear power plants were halted. Due to the resumptions of some nuclear plants, it recovered to nearly 50 billion yen in 2017 and 2018. But, it fell to 45 million yen in 2019, with small amounts likely imported for research purposes.

Comparable statistics for such materials are available from 1972.

Of the 54 nuclear reactors that were in operation before the Fukushima crisis, currently, only nine have come back online after clearing harsher safety measures.

In the wake of the accident, 21 reactors have been flagged for decommissioning in consideration of the hefty costs for refurbishments.

All four fuel manufacturing factories are offline as they are undergoing regulatory review under the new safety standards.

Kansai Electric Power Co., Shikoku Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co., which operate the nine plants currently back online, said they have enough fuel to run their reactors for the next several years.

Despite the slumping nuclear industry in Japan, the government has set a target for nuclear power generation to account for 20 to 22 percent of the country’s electricity supply by 2030, which requires resuming operations of 20 to 30 reactors.

August 15, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Uranium Dioxides and Debris Fragments Released to the Environment with Cesium-Rich Microparticles from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

January 29, 2018
Trace U was released from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) during the meltdowns, but the speciation of the released components of the nuclear fuel remains unknown.
We report, for the first time, the atomic-scale characteristics of nanofragments of the nuclear fuels that were released from the FDNPP into the environment.
Nanofragments of an intrinsic U-phase were discovered to be closely associated with radioactive cesium-rich microparticles (CsMPs) in paddy soils collected ∼4 km from the FDNPP. The nanoscale fuel fragments were either encapsulated by or attached to CsMPs and occurred in two different forms: (i) UO2+X nanocrystals of ∼70 nm size, which are embedded into magnetite associated with Tc and Mo on the surface and (ii) Isometric (U,Zr)O2+X nanocrystals of ∼200 nm size, with the U/(U+Zr) molar ratio ranging from 0.14 to 0.91, with intrinsic pores (∼6 nm), indicating the entrapment of vapors or fission-product gases during crystallization.
These results document the heterogeneous physical and chemical properties of debris at the nanoscale, which is a mixture of melted fuel and reactor materials, reflecting the complex thermal processes within the FDNPP reactor during meltdown.
Still CsMPs are an important medium for the transport of debris fragments into the environment in a respirable form.

March 6, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Disaster Released Uranium, Unexpected Particles

gate of difficult to return zone march 11 2014.pngThe gate of “Difficult-to-return zone” in Fukushima on March 11, 2014

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was believed to have only resulted in the release of gases. But seven years after one of history’s few radioactive disasters, scientists have found that uranium and other solid microparticles were also released into the surrounding parts of Japan.

The particles are a fraction of the width of a human hair – which means they could be inhaled, according to the study in the journal Environmental Science Technology.

Our research strongly suggests there is a need for further detailed investigation on Fukushima fuel debris, inside, and potentially outside the nuclear exclusion zone,” said Gareth Law, one of the authors, of the University of Manchester.

The debris, which included uranium, caesium and technetium, was discovered in the nuclear exclusion zone, several kilometers from the epicenter of the disaster at the Fukushima plant.

Two locations were paddy oils, and an abandoned aquaculture center.

Uranium itself has a half-life of 4.5 billion years.

The previously acknowledged radioactive materials were cesium and iodine, both taking the form of volatile gases. Other gases were released, as well.

But the new information about particles potentially means a longer, bigger cleanup, according to the latest study, led by Satoshi Utsunomiya of Kyushu University.

Having better knowledge of the released microparticles is also vitally important as it provides much needed data on the status of the melted nuclear fuels in the damaged reactors,” said Utsunomiya. “This will provide extremely useful information for (The Tokyo Electric Power Company’s) decommissioning strategy.”

The March 2011 Fukushima disaster was triggered by a massive 9.0-scale earthquake, then a 15-foot tsunami. The Daiichi plant lost power, which prevented normal cooling operations – and caused the meltdown of all three cores at the plant within a few days. The removal of the melted fuel – which could take decades – is not going to begin until 2022.

Eighteen thousand people were killed throughout the whole incident, and 100,000 were displaced. The disaster has widely been considered the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 meltdown at Chernobyl in the Ukraine.

Initial reports indicated that much of the contamination was contained in the aftermath of the 2011 disaster. But coinciding with the fifth anniversary of the meltdown, a report indicated that 10,000 additional cancer cases would be expected in the region of Japan that is most affected. Also in 2015, an American scientist contended that the Fukushima site was uncontrolled, and was leaking radioactive cesium and strontium in the Pacific Ocean. Last year, in advance of the sixth anniversary, the utilities charged with the cleanup announced that decommission of some of the fuel at one of the three damaged reactors had to be delayed, due to increased radiation.

March 2, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

New evidence of nuclear fuel releases found at Fukushima

February 28, 2018
Uranium and other radioactive materials, such as caesium and technetium, have been found in tiny particles released from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors.
“Our research strongly suggests there is a need for further detailed investigation on Fukushima fuel debris, inside, and potentially outside the nuclear exclusion zone,” said Dr Gareth Law.
Uranium and other radioactive materials, such as caesium and technetium, have been found in tiny particles released from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors.
This could mean the environmental impact from the fallout may last much longer than previously expected according to a new study by a team of international researchers, including scientists from The University of Manchester.
The team says that, for the first time, the fallout of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor fuel debris into the surrounding environment has been “explicitly revealed” by the study.
The scientists have been looking at extremely small pieces of debris, known as micro-particles, which were released into the environment during the initial disaster in 2011. The researchers discovered uranium from nuclear fuel embedded in or associated with caesium-rich micro particles that were emitted from the plant’s reactors during the meltdowns. The particles found measure just five micrometres or less; approximately 20 times smaller than the width of a human hair. The size of the particles means humans could inhale them.
The reactor debris fragments were found inside the nuclear exclusion zone, in paddy soils and at an abandoned aquaculture centre, located several kilometres from the nuclear plant.
It was previously thought that only volatile, gaseous radionuclides such as caesium and iodine were released from the damaged reactors. Now it is becoming clear that small, solid particles were also emitted, and that some of these particles contain very long-lived radionuclides; for example, uranium has a half-life of billions of years.
Dr Gareth Law, Senior Lecturer in Analytical Radiochemistry at the University of Manchester and an author on the paper, says: “Our research strongly suggests there is a need for further detailed investigation on Fukushima fuel debris, inside, and potentially outside the nuclear exclusion zone. Whilst it is extremely difficult to get samples from such an inhospitable environment, further work will enhance our understanding of the long-term behaviour of the fuel debris nano-particles and their impact.”
The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is currently responsible for the clean-up and decommissioning process at the Fukushima Daiichi site and in the surrounding exclusion zone. Dr Satoshi Utsunomiya, Associate Professor at Kyushu University (Japan) led the study.
He added: “Having better knowledge of the released microparticles is also vitally important as it provides much needed data on the status of the melted nuclear fuels in the damaged reactors. This will provide extremely useful information for TEPCO’s decommissioning strategy.”
At present, chemical data on the fuel debris located within the damaged nuclear reactors is impossible to get due to the high levels of radiation. The microparticles found by the international team of researchers will provide vital clues on the decommissioning challenges that lie ahead.
Story Source:
Materials provided by Manchester University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Journal Reference:
1. Asumi Ochiai, Junpei Imoto, Mizuki Suetake, Tatsuki Komiya, Genki Furuki, Ryohei Ikehara, Shinya Yamasaki, Gareth T. W. Law, Toshihiko Ohnuki, Bernd Grambow, Rodney C. Ewing, Satoshi Utsunomiya. Uranium Dioxides and Debris Fragments Released to the Environment with Cesium-Rich Microparticles from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Environmental Science & Technology, 2018; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b06309


March 1, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Unit 2 in the News Again

From Majia’s Blog

TEPCO tells us they have identified the remains of “part of a nuclear fuel assembly” scattered at the bottom of unit 2’s containment vessel:

CHIKAKO KAWAHARA January 20, 2018 Melted nuclear fuel seen inside No. 2 reactor or at Fukushima plant. The Asahi Shimbun

A remote-controlled camera captured what appears to be melted fuel inside a reactor of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said. The released footage showed pebble-like nuclear fuel debris and part of a nuclear fuel assembly scattered at the bottom of a containment vessel, located just below the pressure vessel.

Where is the rest of the fuel?

Fukushima’s reactor 2 held quite a bit more than a single fuel assembly. According to a November 16 report by TEPCO titled, ‘Integrity Inspection of Dry Storage Casks and Spent Fuel at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station,’ as of March 2010 the Daini site held 1,060 tons of spent uranium fuel. The total spent uranium fuel inventory at Daiichi in March 2010 was reported as 1,760 tons. The 2010 report asserts that approximately 700 spent fuel assemblies are generated every year. The report specifies that Daiichi’s 3,450 assemblies are stored in each of the six reactor’s spent fuel pools. The common spent fuel pool contains 6291 assemblies.

Unit 2 has been in the news. Last February, Akio Matsumura described a potential catastrophe at Unit 2:

Akio Matsumura (2017, February 11). The Potential Catastrophe of Reactor 2 at Fukushima Daiichi: What Effect for the Pacific and the US? Finding the Missing Link,, accessed November 20, 2017

It can hardly be said that the Fukushima accident is heading toward a solution. The problem of Unit 2, where a large volume of nuclear fuels remain, is particularly crucial. Reactor Unit 2 started its commercial operation in July 1974. It held out severe circumstances of high temperature and high pressure emanating from the March 11, 2011, accident without being destroyed. However, years long use of the pressure vessel must have brought about its weakening due to irradiation. If it should encounter a big earth tremor, it will be destroyed and scatter the remaining nuclear fuel and its debris, making the Tokyo metropolitan area uninhabitable.

Unit 2 has been in the news because of persistent high radiation levels. In Feb 2017, TEPCO reported measuring radiation levels of 530 SIEVERTS AN HOUR (10 will kill you) and described a 2-meter hole in the grating beneath unit 2’s reactor pressure vessel (1 meter-square hole found in grating):

Radiation level at Fukushima reactor highest since 2011 disaster; grating hole found. The Mainichi, February 2, 2017,

TOKYO (Kyodo) — The radiation level inside the containment vessel of the No. 2 reactor at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex stood at 530 sieverts per hour at a maximum, the highest since the 2011 disaster, the plant operator said Thursday.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. also announced that based on image analysis, a hole measuring 2 meters in diameter has been found on a metal grating beneath the pressure vessel inside the containment vessel and a portion of the grating was distorted.

…The hole could have been caused by nuclear fuel that penetrated the reactor vessel as it overheated and melted due to the loss of reactor cooling functions in the days after a powerful earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 hit northeastern Japan.

According to the image analysis, about 1 square meter of the grating was missing. 

This extraordinarily high radiation in unit 2 was reported by the Japanese media in January 2017 as presenting a barrier to the decommissioning timeline:

MASANOBU HIGASHIYAMA (January 31, 2017) Images indicate bigger challenge for TEPCO at Fukushima plant. The Asahi Shimbun,

If confirmed, the first images of melted nuclear fuel at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant show that Tokyo Electric Power Co. will have a much more difficult time decommissioning the battered facility.

The condition of what is believed to be melted fuel inside the No. 2 reactor at the plant appears far worse than previously thought.

…High radiation levels have prevented workers from entering the No. 2 reactor, as well as the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors at the plant.


Looking back at testimony by Masao Yoshida, Fukushima’s plant manager, and media coverage of that testimony, I see that unit 2 was identified as posing the greatest immediate risk, although the explosion at unit 3 was clearly larger (this discrepancy is perplexing).  Here is an excerpt of the testimony published by the Asahi Shimbun:

Yoshida feared nuclear ‘annihilation’ of eastern Japan, testimony shows. (September 12, 2014) THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Plant manager Masao Yoshida envisioned catastrophe for eastern Japan in the days following the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, according to his testimony, one of 19 released by the government on Sept. 11. . . .

. . . In his testimony, Yoshida described the condition of the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima plant between the evening of March 14, 2011, and the next morning: “Despite the nuclear fuel being completely exposed, we’re unable to reduce pressure. Water can’t get in either.”

Yoshida recalled the severity of the situation. “If we continue to be unable to get water in, all of the nuclear fuel will melt and escape from the containment vessel, and radioactive substances from the fuel will spread to the outside,” he said. Fearing a worst-case scenario at the time, Yoshida said, “What we envisioned was that the entire eastern part of Japan would be annihilated.”

You can read more excerpts from the 400-pages of testimony published by the Asahi Shimbun, which both applauds and critiques the panel investigation of the disaster that produced the testimonies:

The Yoshida Testimony: The Fukushima Nuclear Accident as Told by Plant Manager Masao Yoshida The Asahi Shimbun

Although the panel interviewed as many as 772 individuals involved, it failed to dig deep into essential aspects of the disaster because it made it a stated policy that it would not pursue the responsibility of individuals.

What is true about unit 2? Yoshida provides this account from the article cited immediately above:

At around 6:15 a.m. on March 15, 2011, four days after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, a round table presided by Yoshida in an emergency response room on the second floor of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant’s quake-proof control center building heard two important reports, almost simultaneously, from front-line workers.

One said that pressure in the suppression chamber, or the lower part of the containment vessel for the No. 2 reactor, had vanished. The other said an explosive sound had been heard.

Question: Well, this is not necessarily in the No. 2 reactor, but sometime around 6 a.m. or 6:10 a.m. on March 15, pressure in the No. 2 reactor’s suppression chamber, for one thing, fell suddenly to zero. And around the same time, something …

Yoshida: An explosive sound.

January 27, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Fuel debris extraction plan for crippled Fukushima reactors to be revealed soon: sources

n-fukushima-a-20170706-870x328.jpgA series of photos taken on Jan. 30 shows the inside of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant’s reactor 2 pressure vessel. A specific method for removing debris is set to be revealed soon


A state-backed entity is close to completing a plan for decommissioning the crisis-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant, detailing for the first time how it hopes to extract fuel debris from three reactors, sources said.

The Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp., tasked with providing technical support for decommissioning the complex, may propose a method to remove nuclear debris without completely filling the reactor containment vessels with water, the sources said Tuesday.

The plan means the debris inside reactors 1, 2 and 3 at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 complex is likely to be shaved off gradually with a drill or laser equipment as a shower of water is poured remotely, the sources said.

Filling reactor containment vessels with water before removing the debris is seen as effective in blocking the spread of radiation, but the entity decided not to adopt the approach because they fear water may leak from the damaged structures, the sources said.

In the method currently being weighed, some debris would remain in the air during the operation, posing a major challenge in efforts to block radiation and prevent debris from flying off, the sources said.

While debris has yet to be directly confirmed and information on exact locations and conditions is limited, the extraction work — the most difficult part of the decommissioning project — is expected to proceed in stages from the side of the bottom part of each reactor containment vessel, the sources said.

Based on the plan, the government and the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., are expected to determine a course of action for each reactor building this summer, possibly reviewing a road map for decommissioning the entire complex as well, the sources added.

Decommissioning the crippled reactors is expected to take at least 30 to 40 years.

The current road map calls for a debris-extraction plan for each reactor by this summer, with a detailed plan for at least one of the units ready in the first half of fiscal 2018. Extraction work would begin in 2021.

Following a magnitude 9.0 earthquake in March 2011, tsunami waves inundated the six-reactor plant, located on ground 10 meters above sea level, flooding power supply facilities. Reactor cooling systems were crippled and reactors 1, 2 and 3 suffered fuel meltdowns, while hydrogen explosions damaged the buildings housing reactors 1, 3 and 4.

At least 150,000 people in Fukushima were forced to live as evacuees amid radiation fears. While some have returned to their homes, Tepco and the government face enormous challenges in scrapping the reactors.

The Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation entity was established after the crisis, the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, to help the utility pay damages. The state-backed entity holds a majority stake in Tepco.


July 6, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukui town mayor floats idea of dry cask storage for nuclear fuel

dry cask storage.jpg

FUKUI, Japan (Kyodo) — The mayor of a Fukui Prefecture town hosting a Kansai Electric Power Co. nuclear power plant where one of its reactors resumed operations just this month has floated the idea of installing dry cask storage within the plant and keeping ever increasing spent fuel there.

Takahama Mayor Yutaka Nose’s idea, though floated only as an option, is a rare one coming from someone in his position given that nuclear fuel is supposed to be moved out of a power station after it reaches the end of its usefulness after generating electricity.

At the same time, Nose has called for the central government’s greater involvement in projects to build temporary storage facilities for spent nuclear fuel outside nuclear power plants.

While Kansai Electric has said the site for its temporary storage facility to be built outside Fukui would be finalized sometime around 2020 and that the facility would begin being used around 2030, “there is no guarantee that (a municipality) outside the prefecture would agree to host the facility,” Nose said in a recent interview with Kyodo News.

But “it’ll be too late if we start thinking about (what to do with spent fuel) after (spent fuel pools) become full. We need to have a backup plan in case (the temporary storage project) goes nowhere,” he said.

Nose has effectively floated the option of building dry cask storage within the Takahama plant and keeping spent fuel there while at the same time continuing to use existing fuel cooling pools at reactors.

Dry cask storage, where spent fuel is kept in metal containers, “will reduce risks” of accidents, Nose said, on the grounds that such a storage method does not need water or electricity to keep spent fuel cooled.

In the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by a powerful earthquake and tsunami, reactors temporarily lost cooling functions in their spent fuel pools, putting a massive amount of fuel at risk of overheating and exposure.

“I’m responsible for the lives of town residents. Even if it is impossible to attain 100 percent safety, it is natural that we think about reducing risks. Not that we want to actively seek (spent fuel), but we have to think about the reality that (spent fuel) would remain in Takahama town,” he said.

The No. 4 reactor at the four-reactor Takahama plant resumed operations on May 17 amid persistent public concerns over the safety of nuclear power following the 2011 nuclear crisis. The plant’s No. 3 unit is scheduled to go back online in early June, while the remaining two units are expected to remain offline for the foreseeable future.

Cooling pools at the plant are capable of storing a total of 4,400 fuel assemblies but must be kept at less than capacity to allow for fuel exchange work. The pools collectively have about 2,700 assemblies already. If all four reactors begin operating there, the pools will reach their capacity within six to seven years.

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

Japan inaugurates new body for nuclear fuel reprocessing

The organization will manage Japan’s 49 tons of plutonium and 17 million kg from 56,000 used fuel assemblies for the next 241,000 years


The industry ministry said Monday a new body for supervising nuclear fuel reprocessing has been established as the Japanese government seeks to retain a recycling policy, obliging 10 nuclear plant operators nationwide to fund the body for an uninterrupted reprocessing program.

The Nuclear Reprocessing Organization of Japan opened its head office in Aomori City in northeastern Japan. It mandates nuclear power utilities to shoulder the cost of reprocessing spent fuel in the form of financial contributions to itself.

Until now, power companies voluntarily set aside reserves to be used for reprocessing programs.

The new entity draws reprocessing operational plans and consigns them to Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd., whose main shareholders are power companies, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

The body plans to set up a representative office in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, where Japan Nuclear Fuel has facilities for reprocessing.

In May, a law to strengthen state involvement in nuclear fuel reprocessing cleared Japan’s parliament, paving the way for securing funds to continue recycling nuclear fuel.

The ministry granted authorization for the establishment of the new body on Sep. 20 under the Spent Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Fund Act.

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

Japan reactor makers consider merging fuel units to counter rivals

As Mr. Ikuo Hatsukade says : « I wish that these three companies could cooperate to produce renewable energies without nuclear energy. »


A nuclear fuel assembly, center, sits in a spent fuel pool.

TOKYO — Japan’s Hitachi, Toshiba and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries aim to merge their nuclear fuel units to gain an edge on cost in an effort to better compete with Chinese and South Korean rivals. 

Amid bleak prospects for getting current domestic reactors up and running, let alone building new ones, the next challenge will be to consolidate their nuclear reactor businesses. 

Of the more than 40 reactors in Japan, Kyushu Electric Power‘s Sendai Nuclear Power unit Nos. 1 and 2 in Kagoshima Prefecture and Shikoku Electric Power‘s Ikata Nuclear Power Station unit No. 3 in Ehime Prefecture are the only reactors in operation. Bringing the country’s reactors back online is proceeding very slowly due to strict safety standards set by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

With the liberalization of Japan’s retail energy market in April, electric power companies are finding it difficult to invest in nuclear power plants, as it is difficult to make forecasts for power generation costs including future decommissioning. The government plans to generate 20-22% of the county’s overall power mix from nuclear power plants by 2030, but many market watchers remain skeptical.

To improve competitiveness, major reactor makers appear to have begun discussing the possibility of integrating their nuclear fuel businesses. One executive of a reactor maker said they cannot hire new nuclear engineers and develop advanced technologies if no measures are taken. “All Japanese reactor makers need to join hands to protect the country’s nuclear technology,” he said.

With the merger of nuclear fuel businesses in sight, the next challenge will be to restore each company’s reactor unit, which have barely remained profitable with only maintenance operations being done. Reactors are classified into two types: pressurized water reactors and boiling water reactors. Some market experts are saying that reactor makers should consolidate operations regardless of reactor type.

Some countries, including Germany, are trying to break away from nuclear power generation, while a number of countries are planning to build new ones. In the U.K., a consortium of Hitachi and General Electric are planning to build nuclear power plants, while Toshiba has plans to construct them on its own. Toshiba’s U.S. nuclear power unit Westinghouse Electric is looking to boost orders in China and India. Mitsubishi Heavy is also looking to expand overseas with new reactors jointly developed with Areva group of France.

That said, Chinese, South Korean and Russian rivals are also actively expanding overseas. To hold a technological lead, Japanese makers must curb costs and build a system to develop technologies.

September 30, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Nuclear plant scheme halted in eastern China after thousands take part in street protests



The government in Lianyungang in Jiangsu province issues brief statement saying work on nuclear fuel reprocessing plant project suspended

The authorities in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, have ­suspended plans to build a ­nuclear fuel reprocessing plant after several days of street protests against the project.

Observers said the decision could put other nuclear projects under greater public scrutiny, and urged backers of similar schemes to improve transparency.

The Lianyungang city government announced the halt in a one-sentence statement issued early Wednesday morning.

The government has decided to suspend preliminary work on site selection for the nuclear recycling project,” the statement said.

It came after thousands of protesters launched a series of street demonstrations from Saturday, protesting about the potential ­radiation risks and the alleged lack of transparency in the decision-making process for the project.

Residents used social media platforms to question the process but the comments were soon deleted by censors. “What if there is any radiation leakage? Why does the government want to make a decision on such a big issue on its own, a decision that will affect ­future generations?” they asked.

China National Nuclear Corporation planned to use technology supplied by French firm Areva to develop the spent ­nuclear fuel reprocessing plant.

Residents of Chinese city protest for third day over possible plans to build nuclear fuel reprocessing centre

The companies previously said construction would start in 2020 and be completed by 2030, but had not settled on a site.

The process has been shrouded in secrecy, with Lianyungang residents discovering that their city could be the site for the plant after the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence announced in a press ­release that a deputy head visited the city on July 26 and claimed “much progress has been made on site selection”.


The Lianyungang city government issued a statement on ­Sunday to try to calm the public, saying the plans were still at an early stage and no location had been confirmed.

Sporadic protests continued on Monday and Tuesday, with video footage posted online showing police mobilised to protect the city government’s office building from protesters.

Xiamen University energy policy specialist Lin Boqiang said the plan was shelved as a result of a lack of transparency and communication by the government and state-owned nuclear companies.

Residents come out in force to protest against Sino-French nuclear project

Public concerns can be contagious and spill over to other ­cities, as has been the case with various incinerator and PX [chemical] projects,” he said.

Many local governments have been forced to scrap plans for such projects after public protests over health and safety concerns.

A series of deadly blasts at industrial sites over the years has only worsened public fears and deepened distrust of government.

China’s PX industry suffered a severe setback. If the developers of nuclear projects do not learn a lesson, they could be faced with similar problems in future,” Lin said.

China is the world’s most ­active builder of nuclear power plants. It has 32 reactors in operation, 22 under construction and more planned.

The government has also spent heavily to build up its ability to produce nuclear fuel and process the waste.



August 11, 2016 Posted by | China | , , , , | Leave a comment

Reactor decommissioning plan cites ‘sarcophagus’



Reactor decommissioning plan cites ‘sarcophagus’

The government body charged with decommissioning the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant says it remains committed to removing the fuel but sealing off the buildings that house them could be an option.

The Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation issued its latest report Wednesday on its plan.

It says 2 methods will be used to remove molten fuel depending on the condition of the reactors.

One entails filling the containment vessels with water to shield workers from radiation. The second does not use water.

The new plan also introduces the option of creating a “sarcophagus” to seal off the buildings with the nuclear fuel inside.

This method was used at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine.

The plan favors removing the nuclear fuel because of the long-term safety issues involved with a sarcophagus. It urges a flexible review of all available options.

It also notes the importance of addressing long-term public concerns about the plan.

The government and the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, plan to decide by the middle of next year how to remove the fuel from the reactors. They hope to begin work at one of them by 2021.

Fukushima mayors react to decommission plan

Reacting to the new plan, the heads of municipalities around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have urged the government to stick to its promise regarding nuclear waste disposal.

The mayor of the city of Minamisoma, Katsunobu Sakurai, said the government and TEPCO must be made to abide by their initial pledge to remove the fuel from Fukushima Prefecture. Until this is done, he said, the evacuees won’t feel that it’s safe to return home.

He warned against using the word “sarcophagus” lightly. He said its mention only points out the inadequacy of decommissioning technology.

The mayor of the town of Namie, Tamotsu Baba, said a sarcophagus should not be considered because engineers are hard at work figuring out ways to remove the fuel.

He said all they can do is to have faith that the initial pledge will be kept, even if it takes 30 or 40 years to remove the fuel.

The mayor of the town of Okuma, Toshitsuna Watanabe, also urged the government and the utility to stick to their disposal promise.

July 13, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , | Leave a comment