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Japan Says It Needs Nuclear Power. Can Host Towns Ever Trust It Again?

The Ukraine war has shown the fragility of Japan’s energy supplies. But the decision to restart plants after the Fukushima disaster is fraught with emotions and political calculation.

May 4, 2022

KASHIWAZAKI, Japan — Growing up, Mika Kasahara saw the nuclear power plant that hugs the coast of her hometown simply as the place where her father worked, a familiar fortress of cooling tanks and steel lightning towers overlooking the Sea of Japan.

“We thought that as long as nothing bad happened, it’s fine,” Ms. Kasahara, 45, said.

After the disaster 11 years ago at a nuclear power station in Fukushima, where an earthquake and tsunami led to a triple meltdown, Japan took most of its nuclear plants offline. Now, Ms. Kasahara, spooked by security breaches and damaged infrastructure at the power station near her home, wants it shuttered for good.

Ms. Kasahara symbolizes the long road Japan faces as Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, confronting threats to fuel supplies posed by the Ukraine war and vowing urgent action to reduce carbon emissions, intensifies efforts to reboot the country’s nuclear power network.

For the first time since the Fukushima catastrophe, a small majority of the Japanese public has expressed support for bringing the plants back online, indicating a growing awareness that the world’s third-largest economy may struggle to keep the lights on as it confronts its own limited resources during a time of geopolitical upheaval.

But the decision to restart the plants is fraught with emotions and political calculation, not to mention the gargantuan technical task of fortifying the stations against future disasters in an earthquake-prone nation.

In Kashiwazaki, a midsize suburban city, and neighboring Kariwa, a small village, which together host the seven-reactor plant — the world’s largest — in Niigata Prefecture in northwestern Japan, the fate of the nation’s idled power plants is deeply personal.

Mika Kasahara and her family walking their dog in Kashiwazaki. She wants the plant shuttered for good.
A family photo with Ms. Kasahara’s father, top right. When he died of cancer three years ago, she wondered if his two decades working at the plant had been a factor.

When Ms. Kasahara’s father died of esophagus and lung cancer three years ago, she wondered if his two decades inside the plant had been a factor. A traffic jam during an evacuation drill left her fearing that she and her family would be trapped by a nuclear accident.

“I was honestly very afraid,” she said.

Business leaders and workers whose livelihoods depend on the plant warn that if it does not come back online, the area will deteriorate, like many rural Japanese communities that are experiencing steep population decline. Currently about 5,500 people are working to maintain the idled plant, although employment would be likely to grow if it reopened.

Many local residents work in the plant or know friends and family who do. “I think that there are more people who understand the necessity of the plant,” said Masaaki Komuro, chief executive of Niigata Kankyo Service, a maintenance contractor at the facility.

Public polling presents a muddier picture. According to a 2020 survey by the city of Kashiwazaki, close to 20 percent of residents want to decommission the plant immediately. About 40 percent would accept the temporary operation of some reactors, but ultimately want the plant shut down. Just over half of prefectural residents oppose a nuclear restart, according to a 2021 survey by Niigata Nippo, a local newspaper.

The public wariness will be tested in an election for governor this month in Niigata Prefecture. The current governor, Hideyo Hanazumi, 63, is backed by the governing Liberal Democrats but has remained vague about his restart intentions. His challenger, Naomi Katagiri, a 72-year-old architect, promises to block the resumption of operations in Kashiwazaki and Kariwa.

The stakes are high because an unwritten government policy requires local political leaders to ratify nuclear reboots. Kariwa’s mayor, Hiroo Shinada, 65, is a vociferous proponent, while the mayor of Kashiwazaki, Masahiro Sakurai, 60, is investing in wind power but would support the temporary operation of some reactors.

A mother-baby class at a children’s play center in Kashiwazaki that is funded by central government subsidies for nuclear host towns
A sports and recreation center in Kariwa, a village of 4,400 people, funded by government subsidies.

“Japan is not like Communist China that can impose a project” on communities, said Daisaku Yamamoto, an associate professor of Asian studies at Colgate University and a native of Kashiwazaki. While the national government influences local decisions, host communities “are not powerless either,” he said.

Local opposition isn’t the only obstacle to restarting nuclear power stations. All plants must adhere to strict new guidelines adopted by Japan’s nuclear regulator two years after the Fukushima disaster. Operators are required to bolster tsunami defenses, build backup cooling pools and install filtered vents that would reduce radioactive discharges.

Out of 60 reactors in Japan, 24 have been decommissioned and five are currently operating. Another five have been approved to restart but are suspended for routine checkups, and three are under construction. The rest have not been approved to restart.

Nuclear power now contributes less than 4 percent of the nation’s electricity, down from nearly a third before the Fukushima disaster. Japan currently draws more than three-quarters of its electricity from fossil fuels, and about 18 percent from renewable sources.

Since 2014, the Liberal Democrats have said nuclear plants should generate more than 20 percent of Japan’s electricity by 2030. The war in Ukraine and the threat of a blackout in Tokyo after a strong earthquake this spring have made the public more receptive to this message.

In a March poll by the Nikkei business newspaper, 53 percent supported a restart of the plants. As recently as four years ago, more than 60 percent of the Japanese public opposed rebooting nuclear power.

In hopes of accelerating regulatory approvals, some Liberal Democratic lawmakers have submitted a proposal to loosen requirements for physical barriers to terrorism at plants.

Shutters at the Kariwa village hall, meant to create a pressure-resistant facility during a nuclear crisis.
A former plant worker, Motonori Nishikata, runs a restaurant in Kashiwazaki. He wants the plant to restart, and thinks concerns about safety have been overblown by antinuclear activists.

“The people who say that they are afraid of war or terrorism attacks against nuclear plants are probably the type of people who would oppose the restarts no matter what,” said Tsuyoshi Takagi, secretary-general of the Liberal Democrats’ task force on energy stability.

In Kashiwazaki and Kariwa, the national regulator has suspended approvals, citing concerns about the safety culture at the Tokyo Electric Power Company, the plant’s operator.

Last year, Tokyo Electric revealed that a plant worker had used a colleague’s security card and bypassed biometric systems in 2020, gaining entrance to a control room. The company admitted flawed welding work and a failure to install fire prevention machinery in a reactor. It reported that an earthquake in 2007 had damaged two concrete pegs in a building foundation, and the regulator found a risk of liquefaction in the ground beneath a sea wall protecting reactors.

Officials at Tokyo Electric say they are addressing the issues. The company has spent about $9 billion reinforcing the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

The setbacks have raised doubts among residents about the competence of the company, which also operated the Fukushima plant where the meltdowns occurred 11 years ago.

“I only feel distrust,” Miyuki Igarashi, 33, said as she loaded her 6-month-old daughter into an S.U.V. at a strip mall in Kashiwazaki. “I think they are hiding things.”

Some local residents say the problems have been overblown by antinuclear activists.

“People who oppose the restarts keep pointing out things that are wrong, and there is no end to it,” said Motonori Nishikata, 44, who worked at the plant for seven years before opening a grilled beef restaurant in Kashiwazaki.

Yoshimi Takakuwa and Chie Takakuwa at a campaign event for Naomi Katagiri, a candidate for governor who promises to block the restart of the power plant.
Junko Isogai, who left Fukushima Prefecture after the nuclear disaster there, opposes a restart at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

The community is already preparing for an eventual restart, in part by readying for a possible accident. Public shelters have installed filters to keep out radioactive contaminants. Pharmacists stock iodine pills, meant to block the most harmful effects of radiation.

Those who lived through the 2011 Fukushima crisis say the risk is not worth it.

Junko Isogai, 48, was raising two young daughters with her husband in Koriyama, a city in Fukushima Prefecture, when the meltdowns occurred 42 miles away.

Worried about their daughters’ health, the couple decided that she and the girls should move to Niigata, although her husband stayed behind for the next five years, working to pay the mortgage on a house they had built just before the disaster.

In Niigata, her elder daughter, Suzu, was bullied at school, called “dirty” by a classmate because of her Fukushima roots.

Three years ago, Ms. Isogai ran for a seat in the prefectural assembly, opposing a restart at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant. She lost but plans to run again next April.

“I don’t want anyone else to be in the situation that I was put in,” she said.

A faded anti-restart poster on the door of a shed in Kariwa.

May 9, 2022 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Formal restart approval of tsunami-hit Tokai N°2 nuclear plant near Tokyo

Tokai No. 2 nuke plant passes tighter safety checks introduced after 2011 quake

This July 17, 2018 file photo shows the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant, front, in the village of Tokai in Ibaraki Prefecture.
26 sept 2018
TOKYO — The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) officially determined on Sept. 26 that the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant north of Tokyo meets new, more stringent safety standards introduced after the March 2011 triple core meltdown and massive radiation leaks at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Tokai plant operator Japan Atomic Power Co. intends to restart the reactor and operate it 20 years beyond its original 40-year lifespan.
The only nuclear power station in the greater Tokyo area became the first nuclear power station to pass the NRA screening among those affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, which triggered the nuclear disaster at TEPCO’s Fukushima No.1 plant in northeastern Japan.
Restarting the 1.1-million-kilowatt Tokai No. 2 plant in the village of Tokai in Ibaraki Prefecture, about 160 kilometers northwest of central Tokyo, is no easy task, however. Japan Atomic needs to obtain approval from neighboring municipalities to resume reactor operations. Devising an evacuation plan in case of an accident for the some 960,000 residents living within a 30-kilometer radius of the plant is also a major challenge.
To get permission for the 20-year reactor life extension, Japan Atomic must also obtain government approval for relevant construction and extension plans before Nov. 27 this year, when the reactor will turn 40. The construction plan and the operational extension screening is almost finished, and both will be approved before the deadline.
Japan Atomic plans to complete safety enhancement work by March 2021 and then restart the plant at a later date. The work will cost some 174 billion yen, and Japan Atomic is depending on financial support from TEPCO and Tohoku Electric Power Co. to cover the outlay.
Tokai No. 2 became the eighth nuclear power station, and the 15th reactor, to pass the NRA safety screening. It is the second boiling water reactor after TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power station certified as meeting the new safety standards. The reactors are a similar type to the ones at the Fukushima No. 1 plant that suffered core meltdowns.
(Japanese original by Riki Iwama, Science & Environment News Department)

Tsunami-hit nuclear plant near Tokyo wins formal restart approval

Tokai Reactor #2, Hit By March 11, 2011 tsunami gets NRA approval to reopen but needs approval of surrounding communities to do so. NRA sounds just like NRC.
Sept 26, 2018
The nuclear watchdog on Wednesday formally approved the restart of an almost 40-year-old nuclear power plant northeast of Tokyo that has sat idle since it was damaged during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, which also caused meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
The Tokai No. 2 plant in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, operated by Japan Atomic Power Co., is the first nuclear plant affected by the disaster to clear screening by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.
The earthquake on March 11, 2011, left the plant without an external power source, and a 5.4-meter tsunami incapacitated one of its three emergency power generators. The plant managed to cool down its reactor over three and a half days after the disaster as the two other power generators remained operational.
The Fukushima plant, which used the same boiling water reactor as the Tokai plant, suffered core meltdowns and spewed out a massive amount of radioactive material after losing its external power supply and emergency power generators in the calamity.
Still, it is unclear when the Tokai plant will actually restart as construction work to enhance its safety will not be completed until March 2021. Also, it needs to obtain consent from all of its surrounding communities. It is the only nuclear power plant in the country to need consent from local governments beyond its host municipality.
In addition, the sole reactor in the complex turns 40 years old in November and faces two more screenings to extend its operation by up to 20 years beyond the normal 40-year limit. It is expected to pass the screenings.
It operator must also compile an evacuation plan covering the 960,000 residents within a 30-kilometer radius of the plant — the largest number of potential evacuees for a nuclear plant in the country due to its location in the metropolitan region.
In Tokyo, protesters gathered in front of the NRA office in the morning and shouted slogans against the restart.
Some civic group members submitted to the watchdog a letter calling for a decision against the plant’s resumption with the signatures of some 8,000 people. “A plant that passes a lax screening is not safe,” the document said.
Sengetsu Ogawa, 54, a local anti-nuclear activist in Ibaraki Prefecture, said, “I have doubts about the way the NRA conducts screenings as it is believed to rubber stamp operators’ applications (for restarts).”
“Japan has been rocked by major disasters such as floods and earthquakes for the past two months. Based on these circumstances, the NRA should conduct a screening again,” he said.
Tokai No. 2 is the eighth nuclear plant approved by the NRA to restart under stricter safety rules introduced after the Fukushima disaster.
Among plants with boiling water reactors, it is the second to be given the green light following the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear complex run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., the operator of the crisis-hit Fukushima plant.
Japan Atomic Power applied for the restart in May 2014 with a plan to construct a 1.7-km-long coastal levee, predicting a potential tsunami as high as 17.1 meters.
With costs for safety measures at the plant estimated to reach some ¥180 billion ($1.6 billion), the operator, whose sole business is nuclear energy production, has struggled as none of its reactors has been online since the 2011 disaster.
Tepco and Tohoku Electric Power Co., which receive power supply from Tokai No. 2, have offered to financially support Japan Atomic Power.

September 27, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Japan Anti-Nuke Movement Seen Unscathed After Key Governor Quits

18 avril 2018
The resignation of a Japanese governor blocking the restart of the world’s biggest nuclear power plant in his prefecture may not create an opening for the nation’s pro-nuclear forces.
Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama, who campaigned on opposition to restarting Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holding Inc.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors, said Wednesday he would resign over allegations he paid women for sex. Shares of the utility, known as Tepco, are heading for their biggest weekly gain in more than a year.
The governor was one of a few high-profile opponents to the technology, which the public has viewed with skepticism since the 2011 Fukushima disaster, and the biggest roadblock for Tepco’s effort to run the reactors, two of which have been given the all-clear by regulators. Although the country imposed stronger safety regulations since 2011, only five of its 39 operable reactors are online.
Yoneyama was not a leader, but certainly an important figure in a position to influence the fate of reactors,” said Jeff Kingston, the director of Asian studies at Temple University’s Japan campus. “Not many of those, so he will be missed.”
Yoneyama repeatedly said he wouldn’t support a restart until a panel of experts appointed by the prefecture investigate the Fukushima disaster and study evacuation plans in case of an emergency at the Niigata plant. He said in January that the process would take at least three years.
When is the next election?
Likely around the beginning of June, according to an official in the prefecture’s election commission. The assembly president will officially inform the commission of Yoneyama’s resignation in the coming days, which will then trigger a gubernatorial election within 50 days.
Would the next governor also oppose restarts?
Probably. The last two governors were against restarting the reactors and 64 percent of voters in the last election opposed the move, according an exit poll conducted by the Asahi newspaper.
“It is likely that the next governor will continue an anti-restart policy,” Daniel Aldrich, a professor at Northeastern University, said in an email. “Anti-nuclear sentiment is still high across the country.”
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party supports the restarts, while most of the opposition parties don’t. Both sides will likely field candidates.
High-ranking officials from the Constitutional Democratic Party, the nation’s largest opposition party and against nuclear restarts, and the Democratic Party told Sankei newspaper Wednesday that opposition parties should band together behind one candidate.
Tamio Mori, who was backed by the LDP in the 2016 Niigata election, could be a potential contender for Abe. Mori is the former mayor of Nagaoka City, and was seen as the more pro-nuclear candidate in the 2016 election, where he captured 46 percent of the vote. He didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment.
What about the review panel?
This timeline for its work might speed up if the new governor is pro-restart, according to Miho Kurosaki, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
“I don’t think the panel review will be removed fully,” said Kurosaki, highlighting lingering safety concerns in the community over a 2007 earthquake that temporarily shut the facility.
Does Tepco even need local approval?
While the local governor’s approval is traditionally sought by utilities before they resume a reactor, it’s not required by law. Kyushu Electric Power Co. continued operating reactors at its Sendai facility despite opposition from a newly elected anti-nuclear governor in 2016.
“The ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ that has provided some unwritten capacity to nuclear host community decision makers is in fact quite weak,” Aldrich said. “Even if another anti-nuclear governor is elected within Niigata, I believe that the economic and political pressure on utilities will push them to restart reactors.”

April 22, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Niigata’s Prefecture Governor Resignation to Affect the Approval of Tepco’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Plant Restart…

Capture du 2018-04-18 19-39-50.png
Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama bows during a press conference at the Niigata Prefectural Government office on April 18, 2018.
Governor quits over sex scandal, affects nuclear reactor restart
April 18, 2018
NIIGATA (Kyodo) — Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama said Wednesday he will resign after admitting to a sex scandal in a move affecting the approval process for the restart of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s nuclear reactors in the central Japan prefecture.
“I sincerely offer apologies for betraying the trust of many people,” Yoneyama told a press conference, admitting that his relationship with a woman, as described in a weekly magazine due out Thursday, may “look to some as prostitution.”
Shukan Bunshun magazine alleged in an online teaser article Wednesday that the 50-year-old governor has been paying money to have sex with a 22-year-old college student. At a news conference Wednesday, the governor said he gave a woman he met online “presents and money so she would like me more.”
Since being elected governor in 2016, Yoneyama has refrained from approving the restart of the No. 6 and 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear complex.
The governor has said he cannot make the decision until the prefectural government completes its own assessment of what caused the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011.
All seven Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units are boiling water reactors, the same as those at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant where three of six reactors melted down in the days after a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. Last December, two reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex cleared safety reviews under the stricter, post-Fukushima regulations.
On Tuesday, Yoneyama said he would consider whether to quit over a forthcoming magazine article about a “woman issue.” Calls for his resignation were growing in the Niigata prefectural assembly.
The gubernatorial election to pick Yoneyama’s successor is expected to be held in early June. Yoneyama will resign with two and a half years of his term remaining.
The seven-reactor Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex is one of the world’s largest nuclear power plants with a combined output capacity of 8.2 million kilowatts.
Facing huge compensation payments and other costs stemming from the Fukushima disaster, Tepco is keen to resume operation of its reactors to improve its financial performance.
The Japanese government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also supports restarting nuclear reactors that have cleared post-Fukushima safety reviews.
Yoneyama won the Niigata governorship in October 2016 with the support of the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party, which are both opposed to nuclear power. He defeated contenders including a candidate backed by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito.
Governor of Japan’s Niigata resigns to avoid ‘turmoil’ over magazine article
April 18, 2018
TOKYO (Reuters) – The governor of Japan’s Niigata prefecture, home to the world’s largest nuclear power plant, resigned on Wednesday, saying he hoped to avoid political turmoil over an impending magazine article about his relations with women.
News that the governor, Ryuichi Yoneyama, intended to resign sent shares of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc (Tepco) surging as investors bet his departure could make it easier for the utility to restart its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, which is in Niigata prefecture.
Japan has had few reported “#MeToo” cases about sexual harassment involving public figures but Yoneyama’s resignation came on the same day Japan’s top finance bureaucrat resigned on after a magazine said he had sexually harassed several female reporters. The official denied the allegation.
Yoneyama, like his predecessor, is opposed to a restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant and has been a block to attempts to get the station going by the utility, which also owns the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station.

April 22, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Japan mulls legislation requiring local government approval for restarting Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant


The underside of the No. 3 reactor pressure vessel at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, is seen in January 2014.

The Japanese government is considering legislation to oblige Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to obtain approval from local governments if it applies for restarting its Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power station, Jiji Press learned Friday.

The legislation is also expected to stipulate that the plant be decommissioned if Tepco fails to win such approval and is unable to submit an application for its restart within three years after the law takes effect, sources said.

It will be a special measure under the nuclear reactor regulation law, which does not require local government approval for restarting reactors.

The government aims to submit the legislation to the extraordinary session of the Diet that will be convened on Monday, the sources said.

All the No. 1 to No. 4 reactors at the Fukushima No. 2 plant have been offline since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami led to a triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station.

Although three of the four reactors at the No. 2 plant lost cooling functions temporarily in the 2011 disaster, they avoided severe accidents such as a core meltdown.

Tepco has not clarified what to do with the No. 2 plant. It is working on decommissioning the stricken No. 1 plant.

The Fukushima prefectural government and its assembly have been calling for scrapping the No. 2 plant.

The legislation could force Tepco to decommission the No. 2 plant because it raises further hurdles for resuming operations.

The government has yet to decide on details of the legislation, including the scope of local governments whose approval would be necessary for reactor restarts, the sources said.

The government allows the restart of nuclear reactors that pass the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s screening based on the stricter safety standards introduced after the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

But the government sees a need for taking special measures for the No. 2 plant because it is located near the No. 1 plant, which caused severe damage to Fukushima Prefecture, the sources said

September 25, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , , | Leave a comment

1.5 trillion yen spent last year on costs related to reactors

Only three of Japan’s 42 operable reactors are running

kashiwazaki-kariwa reactor 6.jpg

The Unit 6 reactor of the Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear plant.

More than 6,000 workers cycle through the world’s biggest nuclear plant every day to operate and maintain a facility that hasn’t sold a kilowatt of electricity in more than four years.

The buzz at Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant plays out daily across Japan, where utilities employ thousands of workers and spend billions of dollars awaiting the green light to restart commercial operations. With only three of the country’s 42 operable reactors running, they’re betting a national government committed to nuclear power will win over local officials and a wary public who don’t believe enough has been done to guarantee safety since the worst meltdown since Chernobyl.

Even though operating expenses of non-generating reactors remain high, utilities would prefer to keep them open while there is any chance they can restart,” said James Taverner, a Tokyo-based analyst at IHS Markit Ltd. “Utilities have already committed significant expenditure for plants to meet new safety standards, and decommissioning costs are considerable.”

The nine biggest regional utilities spent more than 1.5 trillion yen ($14.6 billion) on their nuclear plants during the year to March, according to Bloomberg calculations based on the latest earnings reports. Over that same period, those plants accounted for just 1.1 percent of the nation’s electricity.

Nuclear-related costs accounted for 9 percent of all operating expenses at the utilities in the previous fiscal year, according to the calculations. That includes personnel and maintenance, as well as waste disposal and contributions to the nation’s nuclear damage compensation system.

The burden of paying for nuclear facilities producing little electricity has been softened by price declines in recent years for coal, natural gas and oil, which are also used as fuels for power generation. Tepco sees itself swinging to a net loss as fossil fuel prices recover, making the restart of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa key to profitability, Naomi Hirose, the company’s president, said in an interview earlier this year.

Emergency Drills

Costs for operating the country’s nuclear facilities were slightly higher before the March 2011 Fukushima disaster, at about 1.7 trillion yen a year, when atomic energy accounted for nearly 30 percent of Japan’s electricity mix. Tokyo Electric, also known as Tepco, estimates that restarting one of the newest reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa — known as KK — would boost net income by as much as 10 billion yen a month.

The plant, the world’s biggest with generating capacity of about 8.2 gigawatts, has seven reactors at a facility spread across more than 1,000 acres and located about 135 miles (217 kilometers) northwest of Tokyo in the prefecture of Niigata.

Workers clad in jumpsuits and loaded down with manuals convene daily in a mock-up of the reactor control room, preparing for the restart of the plant under new safety guidelines imposed after the Fukushima meltdown.

Everyday, this room is full of workers, from fresh employees to old veterans, sharpening their skills,” Noboyuki Suzuki, a deputy manager in the company’s human resources development group, said at the KK plant last month. “Operators at this facility are required to go through training here on a regular schedule.”

About three-fourths of the Tepco employees and contract workers at the plant are from the prefecture housing the facility, making it one of the area’s biggest economic drivers.

The reactor is an economic windfall for the region, employing thousands of local workers and supporting restaurants, shops and even taxi companies, according to Kariwa village official Masayoshi Oota. “If the reactor were to disappear, then so would the economic benefit,” he said.

Japan’s nuclear energy industry employs more than 80,000 engineers, construction workers and operators, according to a report published by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry last year.

To boost confidence in its facility’s safety, Tokyo-based Tepco has spent 470 billion yen on flood barriers, a 15-meter seawall and a reservoir the size of 30 Olympic-sized swimming pools to supply water in the event a reactor pump fails.

Kansai Electric Power Co. may spend 1.26 trillion yen on construction costs related to nuclear safety measures, while Chubu Electric Power Co. is estimated to spend 640 billion yen, according to a Sept. 14 report by Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities Co.

KK’s restart is far from assured. The plant was forced to shut for 21 months following an earthquake in July 2007. Though some units eventually restarted, all were shuttered again after the March 2011 Fukushima accident for safety checks.

Public Opposition

There is skepticism among the Japanese public. The restart of nuclear reactors is opposed by 53 percent of Japanese and supported by just 30 percent, according to a nationwide poll conducted earlier this year by the Mainichi newspaper.

Local courts and governments have been some of the biggest roadblocks to restarting more reactors, crimping Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s goal of deriving as much as 22 percent of the nation’s energy needs from nuclear by 2030. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. lowered its price target on six Japanese power utilities this month on risk of delays in restarting operations or renewed shutdowns.

Tepco shares in Tokyo on Thursday closed unchanged at 404 yen, while rivals Kansai Electric declined 3.1 percent and Chubu Electric slipped 0.3 percent. The Topix Electric Power & Gas Index has dropped 25 percent this year, weighed down primarily by Japan’s utilities.

Should KK clear the necessary regulatory, legal and political hurdles and resume operations, Tepco plans to maintain the facility’s workforce at current levels, a reflection of how many workers are needed even during a period called cold-shutdown.

Right now we are focused on the nation’s regulatory review of the plant,” said Chikashi Shitara, facility chief at KK. “Even though the plant isn’t running, there is still a lot we must do.”


September 15, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | 3 Comments

Groups fear no nuclear debate in Niigata governor’s race


Participants in an anti-nuclear gathering in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, raise placards demanding the abolition of nuclear power plants on Sept. 3.

NIIGATA–Anti-nuclear groups are pleading with Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida to rescind his decision not to run for re-election, seeing him as the “last bastion” to block the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.

The groups fear that the absence of Izumida in the Oct. 16 Niigata gubernatorial election, whose official campaigning starts on Sept. 29, will cause a dearth in debate among candidates on the safety of the multiple-reactor nuclear plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. in the prefecture.

Governor (Izumida) is not aware of his value,” said Kunio Ueno, 66, secretary-general of the organizing committee for a gathering of anti-nuclear groups held in Kashiwazaki on Sept. 3.

Eighteen groups, based in and outside Niigata Prefecture, set up the organizing committee for the gathering and demanded the decommissioning of reactors at the plant.

We will not allow candidates in the gubernatorial election to conceal a point of contention,” their declaration read. “We will make the issue of the nuclear power plant the biggest point of contention.”

Outside the site of the gathering, several citizens groups collected signatures to ask Izumida to run in the election.

On Aug. 30, Izumida, 53, who is in his third term as Niigata governor, announced he will not seek re-election, citing a report in a local newspaper that was not related to the nuclear issue.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority is currently conducting screenings toward the restart of reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.

But Izumida has insisted that the causes of the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, also operated by TEPCO, must be verified before reactor operations can resume in his prefecture.

As of now, only Tamio Mori, 67, mayor of Nagaoka in Niigata Prefecture, has announced he will run in the governor’s race.

On the issue of whether to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, Mori has only said, “I will strictly examine it based on protecting the security and safety of people in the prefecture.”

About 1,300 people took part in the Sept. 3 gathering.

Sayaka Sakazume, 32, of Niigata city, said: “It will be a problem for me if there are no candidates I can vote for based on my thoughts against the reactor restarts. I want a political situation in which we can choose a candidate.”

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

TEPCO has applied to return reactors No. 6 and 7 to production at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa.




Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc.’s (TEPCO) plan to restart the defunct Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant has an increased chance of being implemented after the prefecture governor, who has campaigned against its reopening, decided against running for re-election, according to a new report by Bloomberg.

TEPCO shares rose as much as 12 percent Wednesday morning – the largest price jump since May 2015, presumably in reaction to the announcement.

Niigata prefecture governor Hirohiko Izumida said he would not pursue a bid for a fourth term for the October 16th elections, according to a personal statement posted on his fan page.

The governor has long opposed plans to return the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant – the largest of its kind in the world – to production. Japanese laws do not require that utility companies obtain the approval of local leaders before commencing operations, but it is the expected practice.

Izumida has previously demanded that TEPCO conduct further investigations into the causes of the triple meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant in 2011 before proposing plans to restart any of the firm’s reactors.

“The next Niigata governor will likely not make as many relentless demands as Izumida,” Japanese analyst Hidetoshi Shioda said.

According to the World Nuclear Association, the 2011 meltdown led to highly radioactive releases over days 4-6 after the incident originally occurred on March 11th.

The organization reports no deaths or cases of radiation sickness from the incident, though 100,000 citizens had been evacuated from the area to ensure minimal health effects.

The New York Times reported on Monday that Japanese government has funded the construction of a $320 million block of man-made permafrost that would continue 100 feet underneath the Dai-Ichi plant to solve “an unrelenting flood of groundwater” that had been headed into the damaged reactors.

The project will stop the leak of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean, which may be continuing at low levels to this day, The Times said.

TEPCO has applied to return reactors No. 6 and 7 to production at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa. The company expects to boost profits by $97 million a month for each reactor it restarts, TEPCO spokesperson Tatsuhiro Yamagishi said earlier this week.

New Hope For Nuclear Power In Japan:

Post-scriptum: A factually incorrect article published at (Update: they have corrected the erroneous claim about restarting Fukushima Daiichi but left a photo of Fukushima Daiichi on their somewhat corrected story a copy of the original version can be found here) has begun propagating across the internet. TEPCO is NOT trying to restart reactors at Fukushima Daiichi.

Credit to Nancy Foust of Fukuleaks who caught the Oilprice incorrection:


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

Niigata Pref. Nuclear Power Opponent Governor Out of The Way


Was he pressured to drop out?

Hirohiko Izumida, governor of Niigata prefecture, said he won’t run for a fourth term and dropped out of the gubernatorial election scheduled for October 16.

The move may affect Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc.’s efforts to restart its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in the prefecture. According to Bloomberg, Tokyo Electric rose as much as 12 percent to 417 yen, the biggest intraday increase since May 2015, and traded at 394 yen at 9:32 a.m. Tokyo time. The Topix index rose as much as 1 percent.

Tepco Rises Most in Year After Governor Opposing Restart Retires

Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant, jumped the most in more than a year after a prefecture governor opposing the restart of one of its reactors abandoned his bid for re-election.

Tokyo Electric rose as much as 12 percent to 417 yen, the biggest intraday increase since May 2015, and traded at 394 yen at 9:32 a.m. Tokyo time. The Topix index rose as much as 1 percent.

Hirohiko Izumida, governor of Niigata prefecture, said he won’t run for a fourth term and dropped out of the gubernatorial election scheduled for October 16, according to a personal statement posted on a website of supporters. Izumida opposed Tokyo Electric’s plan to restart its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, the world’s largest facility, located in Niigata prefecture. Local government approval is typically sought by Japanese utilities before they restart nuclear reactors, though not required by law.

With Izumida out of the picture, the chance of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa’s reactors restarting has increased, said Hidetoshi Shioda, an analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities, who views the retirement as a positive for Tokyo Electric shares.

Izumida had demanded that Tokyo Electric further investigate the cause of the triple meltdown at its Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant in 2011 before restarting any reactors. 

The next Niigata governor will likely not make as many relentless demands as Izumida,” SMBC’s Shioda said.

Tepco, as the company is known, has applied to restart No. 6 and 7 reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa. Running one reactor boosts Tepco’s profits by as much as 10 billion yen ($97 million) a month, company spokesman Tatsuhiro Yamagishi said Monday.

Niigata Pref. nuclear power opponent governor won’t stand for re-election

NIIGATA — Gov. Hirohiko Izumida has retracted his announcement that he will run in the upcoming gubernatorial election to seek a fourth term.

Since Izumida has adopted a cautious stance toward the restarting of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Niigata Prefecture, his decision not to run in the election will likely have a huge impact on the issue. All seven reactors at the power station, owned by Tokyo Electric Power Co., have been idle since March 2012 in the wake of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and the ensuing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The campaign for the Oct. 16 Niigata gubernatorial election is to kick off on Sept. 29.

Izumida’s decision not to run in the election is linked to his criticism of a report in the Niigata Nippo regional daily over a dispute involving a subsidiary of a shipping company funded by the prefectural government.

In an interview with news organizations, Izumida said, “It’s important to have prefectural residents know the facts, but I feel my appeal never reached the residents. Even if I requested the newspaper to correct its report, the daily would never do so, which prompted me to abandon running in the race.”

At a prefectural assembly session in February this year, Izumida announced that he would run in the gubernatorial election to seek a fourth four-year term. However, his retraction of his candidacy leaves Nagaoka Mayor Tamio Mori, 67, who heads the Japan Association of City Mayors, as the only person who has announced his candidacy.

It came to light this past July that Japan Shipping Exchange Inc., an arbitration organization, had ordered a shipping company’s subsidiary funded by the prefectural government to pay 160 million yen to a South Korean company following a dispute over the purchase of a ferry.

The Niigata Nippo published a series of articles holding the Niigata Prefectural Government responsible for the case.

In response, the prefectural government has dismissed the accusations saying, “The daily’s coverage is incorrect,” and repeatedly urged the newspaper to correct its reports.

The Niigata Nippo is set to release a statement to express its views on the case.


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

Court rules a third time against Takahama reactors


The No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Takahama Nuclear Power Plant, from left to right, are pictured in this photo taken from a Mainichi helicopter in Takahama, Fukui Prefecture, on June 15, 2016.



OTSU, SHIGA PREF. – The Otsu District Court ruled against Kansai Electric Power Co. for the third time in five months Tuesday, in a decision that will keep its Takahama No. 3 and 4 reactors in Fukui Prefecture shut down indefinitely.

Both sides are now gearing up for an appeal by Kepco to the Osaka High Court, where a decision could come next year, while the plaintiffs are expected to file further suits.

The utility had filed an objection to the Otsu court’s March decision, which granted a temporary injunction on the reactors, forcing Kepco to shut them down about two months after they had been restarted.

The court reaffirmed its decision in June and again made the same ruling on Tuesday after Kepco fought the June decision.

The utility was not arguing that both reactors were safe based on expert evidence and reasonable safety standards, but that they were safe due to detailed assertions directly related to their safety and prima facie evidence,” said presiding Judge Yoshihiko Yamamoto, the same judge who has twice ruled against Kepco. “However, the new safety standards haven’t drawn the limits of what dangers should be accepted by society.”

Representatives for the plaintiffs welcomed the ruling.

Once again, the Otsu court has ruled against the safety of restarting the reactors, especially with Lake Biwa nearby, even though Kepco has said it’ll likely appeal to the (Osaka) High Court,” said Yoshinori Tsuji, one of the chief plaintiffs.

The case boiled down to the basic question of what determines adequate safety for a nuclear power plant. It has raised questions about the way the Nuclear Regulation Authority is handling safety inspections for restarts.

Report: Japan court upholds injunction to halt nuclear reactors

A Japanese court on Tuesday upheld an order for the shutdown of two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co’s Takahama nuclear plant in western Japan, a Japanese news agency reported, in a widely expected ruling that prevents the utility from restarting them.

Japan’s second-biggest utility had appealed Otsu District Court’s March 9 ruling ordering it to shut the Takahama No. 3 and No. 4 units with immediate effect, which marked the first injunction to shut a nuclear plant in operation. The court last month also denied the utility’s request for a stay of execution of the injunction.

Kansai Electric is expected to appeal the latest decision to the Osaka High Court.

Court again nixes appeal to restart 2 Takahama nuclear reactors

OTSU, Japan (Kyodo) — A Japanese court again disallowed the operation of two nuclear reactors Tuesday, rejecting their operator’s request to suspend an injunction the same court had issued over the once-reactivated units at the Takahama power plant in Fukui Prefecture, western Japan.

The Otsu District Court’s decision, following the injunction issued in March over the Nos. 3 and 4 units at the Kansai Electric Power Co. plant, would continue to legally prevent the Osaka-based utility from restarting operation of the reactors on the Sea of Japan coast about 380 kilometers west of Tokyo.

Kansai Electric plans to appeal the decision to the Osaka High Court, company officials said.

In June, the district court also rejected the plant operator’s appeal to temporarily void the effects of the injunction, with public concerns lingering over the restart of nuclear power plants in Japan in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

Tuesday’s decision was issued under the same presiding judge, Yoshihiko Yamamoto, who made the judgments in March and June.

The March injunction was the first of its kind affecting operating reactors. One of the reactors was taken offline one day after the order. The other reactor was already offline.

The Takahama plant has cleared the post-Fukushima safety regulations, allowing Kansai Electric to reactivate the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors. But their operation was beset with problems.

Kansai Electric has announced it will remove fuels from the two nuclear power reactors in August, even though Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has expressed a desire to ramp up nuclear power generation at home.

July 12, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Japan Elections: Antinuclear Candidate’s Win Poses Risk to Plant Restarts


Kansai Electric’s No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at the Takahama nuclear plant on June 20. In March, a district court in Fukui prefecture issued an injunction halting the two reactors just months after they had been restarted.

Ex-journalist Satoshi Mitazono defeats incumbent Yuichiro Ito

TOKYO—The election Sunday of an antinuclear governor in the only Japanese prefecture with an operating nuclear power plant poses another risk to the government’s efforts to restart idled nuclear plants.

Former journalist Satoshi Mitazono defeated incumbent Kagoshima Gov. Yuichiro Ito largely by pledging to suspend operations at Kyushu Electric Power Co. ’s Sendai nuclear plant, which is located in the southern prefecture.

Mr. Mitazono’s victory underscores the strength of antinuclear sentiment in the country, even as Japanese companies such as Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi Ltd. win orders to build plants abroad in countries searching for a reliable, emissions-free source of power.

Kyushu Electric shares tumbled 7.5% to a three-year low Monday.

The Japanese public remains skeptical about the safety of nuclear power after the 2011 triple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, with many parents still screening food for radiation. Communities hosting the plants are resisting plans to restart reactors.

The Japanese government aims to revive at least 32 of the 54 reactors it shut down following the Fukushima disaster, and plans for nuclear power to account for about a fifth of the nation’s total electricity generation by 2030. It also hopes to double the contribution from renewable energy to meet a goal of cutting the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by about a quarter from 2013 levels.


Nuclear power is also seen by many analysts and policy makers as key to Japan’s energy security. The country is forced to import nearly all of its fossil fuel.

Relying on oil and gas is not sustainable, with huge costs to people’s health and the economy, and serious consequences for the environment,” said Hooman Peimani, research fellow at the Tokyo-based Asia Pacific Energy Research Centre.

Yet the government’s goals for nuclear look increasingly ambitious as local communities fight back. In March, a district court in Fukui prefecture issued an injunction halting two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co. ’s Takahama nuclear plant just months after they had been restarted. The court said Kansai Electric had failed to show the public that the reactors were safe, despite having met stricter safety standards established after the Fukushima accident.

The only other nuclear plant now scheduled to be restarted is Shikoku Electric Power Co. ’s plant in Ikata, in southern Ehime prefecture. The restart is slated for August.

The people are worried,” Mr. Mitazono said in a TV interview shortly after the election Sunday night. “We will not operate nuclear reactors when their safety cannot be guaranteed.”

The fight against nuclear at home has Japanese plant operators seeking business overseas—particularly in China and India. Hitachi last week said it would work with plant operator Japan Atomic Power to build and run nuclear plants in the U.K.

Toshiba, through U.S. unit Westinghouse Electric, hopes to secure contracts to build 45 nuclear reactors by 2030. Westinghouse is already building four reactors each in the U.S. and China. Toshiba said last week that it is eyeing 12 more deals in India, three in the U.K., and a total of five in the U.S. and Turkey.

Having nuclear plants idled is costly for Japan’s utilities, which are competing in a newly deregulated retail market. Restarting the Sendai plant has enabled Kyushu Electric to cut its imports and consumption of fossil fuels, which helped it log a profit in the year ended in March.

Mizuho Securities Co. analyst Norimasa Shinya said in a note to clients Monday that if the Sendai plant were to remain shut after planned maintenance checks later this year, Kyushu Electric’s recurring profit would fall by nearly a third, or about 18 billion yen ($176 million), in the current business year.

Kyushu Electric declined to comment on the impact of a possible shutdown at Sendai. “We have not been told to halt operations, nor do we know when, if, or how such a request would be made,” a spokesman said. “Voters voted on a wide array of issues, and not just on nuclear.”


July 11, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | 4 Comments

Mayor opposes reactor restarts in Saga; utility pushes ahead


Imari Mayor Yoshikazu Tsukabe

Mayor opposes reactor restarts in Saga; utility pushes ahead

IMARI, Saga Prefecture–The mayor of Imari expressed opposition to Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s plan to restart a nearby nuclear power plant, but the city in southern Japan has no legal authority to keep the reactors offline.

I was worried about the ramifications on the local economy and the livelihoods of local residents when the Genkai nuclear plant suspended operations (after the Fukushima nuclear disaster),” Mayor Yoshikazu Tsukabe said at a news conference on July 4. “Five years on, there have been no large disruptions. The prevailing sentiment in this city is that the plant does not need to go back online.”

Tsukabe’s comments came after Michiaki Uriu, president of Kyushu Electric, told a June 28 news conference that the utility is keen to restart two reactors at the Genkai plant.

We are aiming to reactivate them by the end of the current fiscal year,” he said.

Imari, a city of 57,000 people, lies within a 30-kilometer radius of the plant in the town of Genkai, Saga Prefecture.

That means Imari is required, under central government standards compiled after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident, to prepare an evacuation plan for a possible nuclear disaster at the plant.

However, the utility does not need the city’s permission to restart the reactors.

Kyushu Electric, a regional monopoly, has a nonbinding “safety agreement” with the Saga prefectural government and the Genkai town government, requiring their consent before the plant can be restarted.

The company must also obtain prior approval from the two governments for any change in its business plan under the pact.

Imari, which does not host the plant, has no such agreement with Kyushu Electric.

After long negotiations, Kyushu Electric in February did agree to provide Imari with full explanations about plans for the Genkai plant in advance and give due regard to the city’s stance on resuming reactor operations.

Imari also exchanged a memorandum with the prefectural government that said Saga Prefecture will give full consideration to Imari’s opinion in terms of carrying out the safety agreement with Kyushu Electric.

However, the prefectural government’s stance is that the memorandum does not cover reactor restarts.

Masahiko Ishibashi, an official in charge of prefecture’s department overseeing industry and labor, stopped short of taking a clear position on Mayor Tsukabe’s opposition to the resumption of the Genkai plant’s operations.

We take it as an opinion,” Ishibashi said.

Tsukabe said he sees no reason for his city to actively cooperate with Kyushu Electric in its business plan.

Imari residents do not need to bottle up their anxieties about the plant restart for the sake of a portion of Genkai’s economy,” he said.

Regardless of Imari’s opposition, Kyushu Electric will continue its preparations to restart the reactors at the Genkai plant, which is close to the final stage of safety screening by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

The utility also operates the Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, the only nuclear power plant currently in service in the nation.

Local mayor vows not to approve restart of Genkai nuke plant

IMARI, Saga — Imari Mayor Yoshikazu Tsukabe said on July 4 that he had no intention of approving a plan to restart the Genkai Nuclear Power Plant in Saga Prefecture.

The Saga Prefecture city of Imari falls within 30 kilometers from Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai nuclear power station. Imari Mayor Tsukabe said at a regular news conference, “I have no intention of giving consent to restarting (the nuclear plant).”

It is the first time for the head of a municipal government among eight municipalities in three prefectures of Saga, Fukuoka and Nagasaki that are within 30 kilometers from the Genkai nuclear plant to voice such opposition.

Tsukabe said, “If a nuclear accident occurs, we can’t recover from it,” adding, “I will state my opposition (if I am questioned by the prefectural government).”

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

As Japan re-embraces nuclear power, safety warnings persist

An aerial view shows the No.1 and No.2 reactor buildings at Kyushu Electric Power's Sendai nuclear power station in Satsumasendai

An aerial view shows the No.1 (L) and No.2 reactor buildings at Kyushu Electric Power’s Sendai nuclear power station in Satsumasendai, Kagoshima prefecture, Japan, August 11, 2015, in this photo taken by Kyodo. REUTERS/Kyodo

Japan’s re-embrace of nuclear power, on display last week with the recertification of two aging reactors, is prompting some critics to warn that Tokyo is neglecting the lessons of Fukushima.

In the first such step since the 2011 disaster, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) on June 20 approved Kansai Electric Power Co’s application to extend the life of two reactors beyond 40 years.

As it became clear the NRA was going to allow the extensions, a former commissioner broke a silence maintained since he left the agency in 2014 and said “a sense of crisis” over safety prompted him to go public and urge more attention to earthquake risk.

Kunihiko Shimazaki, who was a commissioner from 2012 to 2014, said a powerful quake in April that killed 69 on Kyushu island showed the risk to some of Japan’s 42 operable nuclear reactors was being underestimated.

“I cannot stand by without doing anything. We may have another tragedy and, if that happens, it could not be something that was ‘beyond expectations’,” he said, referring to a common description of the catastrophic chain of events after the earthquake and tsunami that led to the Fukushima meltdowns.

The NRA has said it would take into account Shimazaki’s position in some of its assessments.

Separately when asked about the operating extensions of the reactors, a spokesman for the regulator referred Reuters to remarks by agency chairman, Shunichi Tanaka, on the day of the extensions, when he said: “It does not guarantee absolute safety but it means the reactors have cleared the safety standards.”

According to the World Nuclear Association, an industry body, early reactors were designed for a life of about 30 years, while newer plants can operate up to 60 years.

A 2012 Japanese law also limits the life of all reactors to 40 years, allowing for license extensions only in exceptional circumstances.


The meltdowns five years ago at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima Daiichi plant after an earthquake and tsunami – the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986 – were blamed in an official report on lax oversight and collusion between operators and regulators.

Kyushu Electric Power is the only utility that has been cleared to restart two reactors at its Sendai plant, while other utilities have been blocked so far by legal action from nearby residents. One more reactor may restart later this month.

After Fukushima, Japan revamped its regulator and tasked it with implementing new standards that the NRA chairman has repeatedly said are among the world’s toughest.

But an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) review this year made 26 suggestions and recommendations to address shortcomings – such as a lack of communication between departments and agencies, and failures on basic radiation standards – and cited only two examples of good practice.

Tokyo is revising the law to ensure there can be unscheduled inspections of nuclear sites, a standard practice in many countries, according to a NRA document, and the regulator is taking steps to improve its internal processes.

A U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Japanese regulator was still young and it would take time to build up a strong safety culture.

But opinion polls show that more than 50 percent of Japan’s population remain opposed to nuclear power following Fukushima, even if using other fuels boosts electricity prices.

The NRA faces accusations that it is caving into pressure to quickly restart an industry that used to supply a third of Japan’s electricity.

“The regulator is the guarantor for the population, not the manufacturers or the utilities, and it is failing,” said Mycle Schneider, an independent analyst and one of the authors of an annual report on the world nuclear industry.

“The first level where the NRA is failing is every single day in their oversight of Fukushima,” he said.

This week a power failure at the Fukushima site knocked out radiation monitoring and the freezing of a so-called ice wall to isolate the damaged reactors. Cooling and water circulation to keep the reactors in a safe state were not affected.

A NRA spokesman said it had not issued instructions to Tokyo Electric or released a media statement because no law was broken.

The government is not pressuring the NRA to approve restarts or interfering in its operations, said Yohei Ogino, a deputy director for energy policy in the industry ministry.

But he said the government will encourage operators “to voluntarily beef up safety, as the country has lost faith in nuclear power.”

July 4, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Shikoku Electric looks to fire up MOX-fueled Ehime reactor around Aug. 25

As if Fukushima ‘s catastrophe was not enough, Japan seems to have a death wish when it is now restarting the Shikoku Electric’s Ehime reactor, loaded with Mox-fuel.

This Ehime reactor standing right on the main fault line which caused the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes in the nearby island of Kyushu, with plenty destruction.

18 avril 2016.jpg



MATSUYAMA, EHIME PREF. – Shikoku Electric Power Co. is considering launching commercial operations of its No. 3 reactor at the Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime Prefecture around Aug. 25, sources said. The date would be later than the initially planned time frame of mid-August.

The company reviewed the schedule to provide more time for a mandatory pre-use inspection from regulators, the sources said.

Shikoku Electric on Monday finished loading 157 fuel assemblies into reactor No. 3, including 16 units of mixed oxide, or MOX fuel — a blend of uranium and plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel.

The company plans to resume operations of the reactor as early as July 26 if the safety checks show no major issues.

Reactor No. 3 was shut down in April 2011 for a routine safety inspection.

Shikoku Electric expects the reactor to improve its earnings by some ¥25 billion annually after it begins commercial operations.

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

Japanese utility begins loading fuel at reactor for late July restart


MATSUYAMA, EHIME PREF. – Shikoku Electric Power Co. started loading nuclear fuel Friday into a reactor at its Ikata power plant, paving the way for a scheduled restart next month.

The utility plans to reactivate the No. 3 unit at the plant in Ehime Prefecture on July 26. The company envisions beginning electricity generation three days later and resuming commercial operation in mid-August.

The pressurized-water reactor using uranium-plutonium mixed oxide, or MOX, fuel, will be the fifth unit to be reactivated under tougher regulations introduced in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Ehime Gov. Tokihiro Nakamura said he hopes the reactor operator will make safety a high priority. Safety concerns remain, however, as the plant on the island of Shikoku is situated near a fault zone.

A group of local residents filed a suit in May seeking an injunction to halt the restart, arguing that strong earthquakes that have hit central parts of Kyushu may affect the fault and trigger further temblors. The plant is about 170 km (105 miles) east of Kumamoto Prefecture, the epicenter of the recent quakes.

The reactor, whose operation began in 1994, was suspended in April 2011 for a regular inspection after the March 2011 earthquake-tsunami and nuclear disasters.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority last July approved Shikoku Electric’s enhanced safety measures against possible earthquake and tsunami hazards as well as other major accidents prior to the restart.

The company started on-site preoperational checks of the unit in April, the last procedure toward reactivation.

On Friday, about 20 local residents shouted, “No to restart” near the power plant, saying the reactors should be decommissioned.

“I can’t believe the reactor is restarted even though the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant of Tepco has not been contained,” said Takashi Hasebe, 62, who is a member of a citizens’ group opposed to Ikata’s restart. “We can’t stop natural disasters but we can stop nuclear power plants.”

But local businesses want them to be restarted in hopes of boosting the local economy.

“If the reactors won’t be restarted, our town would be depopulated even more,” said Tomokatsu Shinozawa, 55, who runs a Japanese inn in the town of Ikata. “I want it to be restarted as soon as possible.”

Another male farmer, 64, pointed out that spent nuclear fuel would be stored whether or not they are restarted.

“It’s dangerous one way or the other,” he said. “If that’s the case, it’s better to restart it making sure that it’s safe.”

June 25, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment