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Kepco loses challenge to Takahama nuclear injunction


Residents on Friday hold a banner that reads: “Kepco’s request has been rejected; Court rejects restart of Takahama reactors.” The protesters are seen in front of the Otsu District Court in Shiga Prefecture.

The Otsu District Court on Friday rejected a bid by Kansai Electric Power Co. to lift an injunction against restarting reactors at a nearby plant, dealing yet another setback to attempts by the utility and the central government to return swiftly to nuclear power.

The move means the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Takahama nuclear plant, in Fukui Prefecture, will remain idled.

In a statement, Kepco condemned the court’s action.

In his decision, Judge Yoshihiko Yamamoto said Kepco failed to provide sufficient evidence to back up its claims that the two reactors were safe.

“The very first article of the law that established the Nuclear Regulation Authority says a fundamental point of Japan’s nuclear power administration is clearly establishing the understanding that the maximum effort must be made at all times to prevent an accident involving the use of nuclear power,” said Yamamoto. “But unless the operator shows that there is nothing lacking in regards to safety, it’s presumed some safety points are lacking.”

The decision was welcomed by citizens’ groups fighting the restart of the two reactors, but it was also expected. Yamamoto was the same judge who had granted their initial request back in March that shut down the reactors, also citing a lack of convincing evidence on the part of Kepco that the plants were safe. The reactors were originally restarted at the beginning of the year.

“It was a just decision, very direct. We hope it will provide a spark to other legal efforts in other parts of Japan to stop nuclear power plants from being restarted,” Yoshinori Tsuji said after the ruling. Tsuji was one of the plaintiffs who filed for an injunction in March.

Legal wrangling over the two reactors continues. Kepco has filed a separate legal challenge to the Otsu court’s decision, and said Friday it hoped that when that ruling came, possibly in July or August, it will lead to restarts.

Shiga residents seeking to keep the reactors offline have said Friday’s decision did not mean their court battles were over.

“If the Otsu court rules against Kepco, it could end up in the Osaka High Court, possibly next year,” said Hidenori Sugihara, another one of the plaintiffs who sought the injunction.

The Otsu court case has demonstrated the difficulty of restarting nuclear power plants in a timely manner. Under laws drawn up by the NRA that went into effect in 2012, localities within a 30 kilometer radius of a nuclear power plant are supposed to establish evacuation plans in the event of an emergency.

But the expanded radius has greatly increased the number of local governments and residents who are concerned about a rush by the utilities to restart as many plants as possible.

In the Kansai region, where parts of Kyoto and Shiga prefectures lie within 30 kilometers of Fukui Prefecture’s plants, lawsuits by residents like the one in Otsu have the potential to slow down, if not halt, Kepco’s plans for restarts.

The original injunction was brought by Shiga residents who fear an accident at the plant would have a damaging impact on Lake Biwa, the nation’s largest freshwater lake and the source of water for about 14 million residents in cities such as Kyoto and Osaka.

June 20, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Japan court rejects appeal, keeps ban on restarting 2 nuclear 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, Japan (Kyodo) — A Japanese court kept its ban on operation of two nuclear reactors at the Takahama power plant in Fukui Prefecture on Friday by rejecting the plant operator’s request to suspend an injunction it had issued over the reactivated reactors.

The Otsu District Court’s decision concerns the injunction issued in March over the Nos. 3 and 4 units at the Kansai Electric Power Co. plant that marked a major setback for the government’s push to ramp up nuclear power generation. Local residents had filed for the injunction on safety concerns.

In Friday’s decision, the court said it “cannot conclude that (the reactors) are safe, merely because they have met new regulatory standards on nuclear power plants.” New, more stringent safety rules were introduced in 2013 in the wake of the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011.

“Kansai Electric should at least explain how the regulations on operation and designs of nuclear power plants were toughened and how it responded to them,” the decision said.

The decision, issued under the same presiding judge, Yoshihiko Yamamoto, as the injunction in March, marks the final word on one process regarding the injunction because Kansai Electric cannot take further action on it.

The two reactors will remain offline as long as the injunction is not invalidated through a separate track examining an objection filed by Kansai Electric when the court issued the injunction. This track is also being presided over by the same judge.

The March 9 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 court said then there are “problematic points” in planned responses for major accidents and “questions” on tsunami countermeasures and evacuation planning, in light of the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

The Osaka-based utility subsequently sought to suspend the injunction, saying its safety measures are thoroughly proven and the court’s decision was scientifically and technologically groundless. It also said the suspension of the reactors has cost the company 300 million yen ($2.88 million) in losses daily.

The Takahama plant had cleared the post-Fukushima safety regulations in February last year, allowing Kansai Electric to reactivate the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors on Jan. 29 and Feb. 26, respectively. But their operations were beset with problems, with the No. 4 unit shutting down automatically due to a trouble just three days after it was rebooted.

The residents of Shiga Prefecture living within 70 kilometers of the four-reactor plant had filed the injunction as they worried about their safety in the event of a nuclear accident or disaster.

The plaintiffs argued that safety measures are insufficient and feared residents’ exposure to radiation in case of a severe accident.

A part of Shiga falls within a 30-kilometer radius of the plant, which is set by the central government as an evacuation preparedness zone.



June 17, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Japanese cities say ‘no’ to nuke restart


The Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant, idled for five years and now guarded by a 22-meter-tall tsunami wall, is seen on May 12, 2016. Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, is seen in the background.

No municipalities near Hamaoka nuclear plant want restart: survey

None of the 11 municipalities within the 30-kilometer-radius urgent protective action planning zone (UPZ) around the Hamaoka nuclear plant in Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, want the power station’s idled reactors restarted, a Mainichi Shimbun survey has found.

The reactors at the Hamaoka plant, operated by Chubu Electric Power Co., were shut down on May 14, 2011 at the request of the central government, following the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in March that year. The survey, sent to the mayors of each municipality as well as Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu in April, was timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of that shutdown.

Chubu Electric is aiming to restart the Hamaoka plant’s No. 3 and 4 reactors, and has filed a request for a safety review by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA). The Mainichi survey was undertaken to assess the pros and cons of restarting the plant, and has revealed persistent local concerns over plant safety.

Five response options were included in the questionnaire on whether or not the reactors should be restarted. Among these, three of the municipal leaders said that they were “against” the restart, five said that they were “unable to make a decision at the present time,” and four answered “other.”

None of the respondents said they “agree” with the restart, or even that they “agree subject to the meeting of specific requirements.”

The three mayors who said they opposed a restart were Shigeki Nishihara from the Shizuoka prefectural city of Makinohara, Kinuyo Soneya from the city of Shimada, and Norihiko Tamura from the town of Yoshida.

Nishihara, whose city lies directly above the predicted focus of a Nankai Trough earthquake, noted that “a (nuclear) accident would endanger the very existence of the nation.”

Meanwhile, Tamura commented that “(citizens’) safety cannot be guaranteed,” and Soneya noted, “There is no guaranteed evacuation plan accompanying (the proposed restart).”

Among those who said they were “unable to make a decision at the present time” or “other,” four mayors stipulated specific stringent conditions for approving the restart. These were Kakegawa Mayor Saburo Matsui, Kikugawa Mayor Junichi Ota, Fukuroi Mayor Hideyuki Harada and Fujieda Mayor Shohei Kitamura.

Mayors Matsui and Ota listed the requirement of understanding from citizens, while Harada and Kitamura indicated conditions related to the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

“The investigation of the Fukushima accident’s causes has been insufficient,” commented Mayor Harada. “As long as safety cannot be completely guaranteed, I cannot approve the (reactor) restarts.”

Mayor Kitamura noted, “The discussion regarding the plant restart should not begin until there has been a complete resolution to the problems associated with the Fukushima accident, and citizens are thoroughly at ease.”

Meanwhile, Omaezaki Mayor Shigeo Yanagisawa noted that “safety checks are ongoing,” and accordingly answered that he was “unable to make a decision” on the reactor restarts.

Gov. Kawakatsu similarly responded that he was “unable to make a decision,” and added, “Unless safety can be guaranteed, there is no way (that the restart would be approved).”

Chubu Electric officials commented that they will “do everything possible to ensure safety.”


May 15, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Fears grow as Takahama reactors near restart

Furthermore those reactors in case of nuclear accident are much more dangerous because they are using  the MOX fuel, with contains lethal plutonium added to uranium.

OSAKA – As two aging reactors in the town of Takahama, Fukui Prefecture, move toward restart, safety concerns are growing in neighboring prefectures and municipalities within 30 km of the plant.

Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama No. 1 and 2 reactors are over 40 years old, but the utility has applied for a 20-year extension. On Wednesday, the Nuclear Regulation Authority officially gave the reactors the green light, signaling they meet the fundamental safety standards needed for reactivation.

Although additional tests and inspections are needed before the reactors can resume operation, the potential first-ever restart of two units that are more than four decades old has neighboring communities worried.

The Sea of Japan coastal city of Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture, parts of which lie 5 km from Takahama, would be on the front lines of any disaster response in the event of an accident, and Mayor Ryozo Tatami expressed specific concerns Wednesday.

“At present, has the safety of the plant been confirmed? We need scientific and technological explanations. The No. 1 and 2 reactors were envisioned and constructed to operate for 40 years,” Tatami said. “We also need documentation from when the plant was originally built that proves it’s possible to operate the reactor for 60 years, especially since the core cannot be replaced.”

Caution by Tatami in particular over restarting Takahama Nos. 1 and 2 could impact the stance of other Kansai leaders.

A small part of northern Shiga Prefecture lies within 30 km of Takahama, and Gov. Taizo Mikazuki expressed concern this week about running old reactors that could leak radiation into Lake Biwa, as well as the problem of storing additional nuclear waste generated by the reactors.

While gaining approval for restarts from heavily pro-nuclear Takahama and Fukui Prefecture is expected to be relatively easy, Kepco is certain to face calls from other Kansai-area prefectures to provide detailed explanations of why it needs to restart two aging reactors before permission for their restart is given.

It is also likely to face questions about whether the utility and NRA are cutting corners in order to make the July 7 deadline for formal permission to restart. If that deadline is missed, the reactors are supposed to be scrapped.

April 22, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Reactor ruling ignores lessons, anxiety from Fukushima crisis

A court ruling concerning nuclear reactor operations raises serious doubts about whether the court rightly recognized the gravity of the damage and the harsh realities caused by the 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The Miyazaki branch of the Fukuoka High Court on April 6 rejected an appeal by Kyushu residents seeking an injunction to shut down the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors of the Sendai nuclear plant run by Kyushu Electric Power Co. in Satsuma-Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture. They are the only two reactors currently operating in Japan.

The ruling in essence said the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s (NRA) new safety standards, established after the disaster at the Fukushima plant, reflect the lessons learned from the triple meltdown and cannot be described as unreasonable. It also dismissed the plaintiffs’ argument that the design of the Sendai plant underestimates the safety risks posed by possible major earthquakes.

This ruling stands in sharp contrast with the Otsu District Court’s decision in March that raised doubts about the NRA’s safety standards and ordered the suspension of operations of two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture.

What happened in Fukushima has created strong anxiety among Japanese about the safety of nuclear power generation. From this point of view, it is obvious which of the two rulings really echoed the public sentiment about nuclear safety.

Symptomatic of the two courts’ different stances toward public concerns are their views about evacuation plans.

The new nuclear safety standards do not address issues related to evacuation plans.

The Otsu District Court raised questions about this fact and contended that the government is obliged to develop new regulatory standards based on a broader perspective that also address evacuation plans.

The Miyazaki branch acknowledged there are legitimate concerns about the existing plan for emergency evacuations.

The plaintiffs argued that the plan would be unable to deal with a situation that requires an immediate and massive evacuation. They also said the number of buses available to transport local residents during nuclear crises would be insufficient.

But the court nevertheless dismissed the plaintiffs’claim that operating the Sendai reactors violates their personal rights. The court pointed out that at least an emergency evacuation plan was in place.

Following the accident in Fukushima, many residents could not smoothly flee for their safety, leading to serious confusion.

The high court’s decision did not give due consideration to this fact.

Volcanoes, including the highly active Sakurajima, are located around the Sendai nuclear plant.

The NRA has established guidelines concerning the risks to nuclear plants posed by volcanic eruptions.

The high court judged the guidelines, based on the assumption that the timing and scale of eruptions can be accurately predicted, to be “irrational.”

Yet the court said the probability of an eruption triggering a catastrophic nuclear accident was so low that the risk can be ignored unless solid grounds for thinking otherwise are shown.

The court acknowledged the NRA’s flawed approach to dealing with the safety risk posed by volcanic eruptions. But it said the widely accepted view in society is that the risk can be ignored because of the low probability of such eruptions actually occurring.

Can this be described as an opinion based on serious reflection on the fact that unforeseen circumstances occurred at the Fukushima plant?

The exact causes of the nuclear disaster are not yet clear, and around 100,000 people are still living as evacuees.

That explains why various opinion polls show a majority of respondents expressing negative views about plans to restart reactors.

The court ruling that endorses the NRA’s new safety standards does not translate into public support of the government’s policy to bring idled reactors back on stream.

The sharply different court rulings on reactor operations should be regarded as a sign that the knotty question of how to secure safety at nuclear plants remains unsolved.

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Nuclear power proponents still scoffing at public safety concerns

An Otsu District Court injunction has suspended operations of two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture, one of which was online.

Again, the significance of that development should be taken to heart. Proponents of nuclear power, in particular, should squarely face up to the public anxiety that lies in the backdrop of the court decision. But instead they are boiling with disgruntlement.

safety scoffing“Why is a single district court judge allowed to trip up the government’s energy policy?” Kazuo Sumi, a vice chairman of the Kansai Economic Federation, said resentfully.

“We could demand damages (from the residents who requested the injunction) if we were to win the case at a higher court,” Kansai Electric President Makoto Yagi said, although he prefaced his remark with a proviso that he is arguing only in general terms.

The government is maintaining a wait-and-see attitude.

The decision called into question the appropriateness of the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s new regulation standards and government-approved plans for evacuations in case of an emergency.

But NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka argued, “Our standards are nearing the world’s top level.”

And the government has no plans to review its emergency evacuation plans. It has only reiterated that it will “proceed with restarts of nuclear reactors in paying respect to NRA decisions.”

The Otsu decision is the third court order issued against the operation of nuclear reactors since the meltdowns five years ago at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

There has, in fact, been no fixed trend in court decisions. Another court rejected residents’ request last year for an injunction against reactor restarts at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture.

But courts appear to be playing a more active role now than before the Fukushima disaster.

The nuclear proponents’ reactions reveal an underlying thinking: “The use of nuclear power is indispensable for Japan, which does not abound in energy resources. The government set up the NRA following the Fukushima disaster to increase expert control. Regional utilities have also taken safety enhancement measures. Courts are therefore asked not to meddle.”

But they should have a deeper understanding that this argument is no longer convincing to the public and court judges.

Some critics say the latest decision deviated from the 1992 Supreme Court ruling saying that decisions on the safety of nuclear plants should be made by administrative organs on the basis of expert opinions. But that argument is also off the mark.

The ruling, given in a case over Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata nuclear plant, certainly presented that point of view. But it also stated that the objective of safety regulations based on the Law on the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors is to “make sure that no serious disaster will happen by any chance.”

A safety net, left in the hands of experts, collapsed all too easily during the Fukushima disaster, turning the phrase “by any chance” into reality.

Courts, which are the guardians of law, should rather be commended for trying to find out independently, to the extent that they can, if there is enough preparedness when a nuclear reactor will be restarted.

The latest alarm bell sounded by the judiciary sector provides an opportunity to ask once again why all the safety measures taken after the Fukushima nuclear disaster are still struggling to win the trust of the public.

The Fukushima disaster changed the awareness of the public. The judiciary sector was also affected.

It is high time for a change among nuclear proponents.

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

TEPCO draws fire after apologizing to Niigata panel


Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida, right, and Naomi Hirose, president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., hold a meeting at the Niigata prefectural government building in January.

NIIGATA–Even when they apologize, executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. can still manage to draw additional criticism.

The executives, who hope to restart one of the largest nuclear power plants in the world in Niigata Prefecture, held talks here March 23 with a nuclear technology committee set up at the prefectural government.

Takafumi Anegawa, chief nuclear officer of TEPCO, offered an apology for the utility’s misleading responses to the committee’s repeated inquiries about the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Specifically, Anegawa acknowledged that TEPCO could have declared the triple meltdown at the plant a few days after the crisis unfolded following the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, instead of two months later.

TEPCO said late last month that it had found a passage detailing the criteria of a meltdown in its emergency response manual. Had the company known about that passage when the accident started, TEPCO said, it could have declared the meltdowns earlier.

When pressed by the Niigata committee on March 23 on why it took five years to find such an important passage in the emergency manual, the TEPCO executives did not give an explanation, saying the matter was still under investigation.

Committee members voiced their displeasure.

“Why did TEPCO turn it up now?” asked Masaaki Tateishi, professor emeritus of sedimentology at Niigata University. “It is out of the question for TEPCO to seek to restart its reactors, given its corporate culture.”

Mitsuhiko Tanaka, a journalist covering nuclear technology and a committee member, said TEPCO has again shown its slipshod approach toward dealing with an accident.

“TEPCO must have produced the manual but did not read it,” he said. “What it comes down to is that (its employees) had not been well trained.”

TEPCO plans to bring online two of the seven reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture and has submitted a safety screening application to the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant has a capacity of 8.21 gigawatts.

However, Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida remains cautious toward restarting the nuclear plant, even if the reactors meet the NRA’s stricter safety regulations that were set following the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The governor believes the full picture of the Fukushima disaster has not been unveiled.

The Niigata nuclear technology committee has been looking into what went wrong at the Fukushima plant, even after the Diet and the government wrapped up their investigations into the nation’s worst nuclear accident.

In autumn 2013, the committee set up an investigative panel to determine why TEPCO’s official acknowledgment of the meltdowns was delayed.

The panel demanded explanations from the company. TEPCO said in a reply in November 2015 that what constitutes a meltdown “had not been defined” within the company.

The panel kept pressing TEPCO, and in late February, TEPCO admitted that the manual used at the time of the Fukushima disaster had a passage defining a meltdown.

Anegawa told the committee on March 23 that the passage was uncovered during an investigation conducted “with the utmost care” to determine whether the delay in reporting to the government the meltdowns and other aspects of the Fukushima accident violated the law.

However, he declined to discuss details of how the company came across the passage, saying a third-party panel comprising lawyers and other experts were studying the issue.

After the meeting, Anegawa told reporters that he regretted the company’s probe “was not thorough.” He did not say when the third-party panel will release its findings.

Committee chief Ken Nakajima, professor of reactor safety at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute, said the committee will continue to demand explanations from TEPCO.

“Humans are the ones who must ensure the safety (of nuclear facilities),” he told reporters. “Trust in TEPCO has been eroding. We cannot move ahead unless we are convinced of the veracity of what the company says.”

Governor Izumida, who has long questioned TEPCO’s credibility, declined an offer from TEPCO President Naomi Hirose in January to collaborate in drawing up an evacuation plan for a possible emergency at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

“We cannot evacuate if you hide a meltdown,” the governor told Hirose during the meeting at the prefectural government building.

Izumida’s distrust of the utility runs deep.

After the Fukushima accident unfolded, Izumida confronted TEPCO officials over their previous denials over the phone that meltdowns had occurred at the plant.

The governor insisted that nuclear fuel rods must have melted, but the TEPCO officials repeated their denials by drawing a diagram of the reactors.

TEPCO apologizes for meltdown announcement delay

Tokyo Electric Power Company has apologized to a Niigata Prefectural Government panel for not realizing sooner that 3 reactors at its Fukushima Daiichi plant had melted down in March 2011.

The panel is studying the safety of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in the prefecture. Niigata has made verification of the details of the Fukushima accident a prerequisite for the plant’s restart.

TEPCO waited 2 months after the Fukushima accident to announce the meltdowns. The panel had questioned the delay. But TEPCO insisted it had no basis for making the determination.

Last month, nearly 5 years after the disaster, the utility revealed it could have declared the reactors had melted down 3 days after the accident if it had adhered to an in-house manual.

On Wednesday, Managing Executive Officer Takafumi Anegawa apologized to the panel. He said the utility should have realized and reported the existence of the manual sooner.

Panel members asked the utility why the manual went unnoticed for 5 years. They said the utility’s longstanding and false claim that it had no standards for determining a meltdown makes it an untrustworthy nuclear plant operator.

The prefectural panel says it will resume discussions after a panel of outside experts set up by TEPCO submits a report on the cause of the delay.


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

Japan restarts fourth atomic reactor since 2012 moratorium

Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama No. 4 reactor in Fukui Prefecture on Friday became the nation’s fourth to be restarted since 2012 and the first to burn MOX, a mixed-oxide fuel that contains plutonium.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, Kepco President Makoto Yagi said safety would remain the top priority and that the utility would continue to promote safety standards beyond what was legally required.

The startup came nearly a week after a radioactive water leak was discovered at the reactor’s auxiliary building on Feb. 20. Kepco halted restart preparations while it repaired the leak, saying it did not pose a danger to the environment.

The utility said earlier this week the leak was caused by a loose pipe valve and could be repaired without affecting the restart schedule, which called for rebooting the unit by the end of this month.

Under Kepco’s schedule for the restart process, the No. 4 reactor is expected to start generating electricity by Monday afternoon and reach full power a few days later. Once the Nuclear Regulation Authority gives final approval, and assuming there are no last-minute technical problems, the plan is to have it back online and selling electricity from late March, just before the end of fiscal 2015.

The restart of Takahama No. 4 comes about a month after the nuclear power plant’s No. 3 reactor was restarted. Along with two reactors at Kyushu Electric’s Sendai plant, which went back online last August, they comprise the four reactors that have been restarted since beefed-up nuclear safety standards took effect in 2012.

In addition to No. 3 and No. 4, which are at least 30 years old, Kepco also wants to restart Takahama Nos. 1 and 2, both of which are over 40. It hopes to run them for up to two decades. Despite concerns about the increased probability of accidents at the aged plants, their restart moved a step closer to reality on Wednesday, when the NRA said additional safety systems Kepco installed to extend the reactors’ life spans met its standards.

The next step will be soliciting public comment, and then further permission from the NRA is required for what would be the first-ever extensions in Japan of reactors over 40 years old.

Before that happens, Kepco will seek final permission from the mayor of Takahama and the governor of Fukui Prefecture for the restart, which could be a lengthy process. The utility may also find itself forced to deal with public and political concerns in surrounding Kansai prefectures like Shiga and Kyoto, where safety concerns about the aged reactors are strong.

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Nuclear watchdog gives nod on safety to two aging reactors for first time


The No. 1 reactor, in the background on the right, and the No. 2 reactor beside it are seen at Takahama nuclear power plant in the town of Takahama, Fukui Prefecture. The No. 3 reactor, in the foreground on the right, restarted its operation in January this year while the No. 4 reactor next to it is expected to restart its operation Feb. 26 at the earliest.

For the first time, Japan’s nuclear watchdog has disclosed that two aging nuclear reactors in operation for more than their basic lifespan of 40 years have passed the new safety standards set after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
The No. 1 and No. 2 reactors of the Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture could now have their operations extended for a further 20 years as the Nuclear Regulation Authority made the announcement on Feb. 24.
To extend the operational lives of the two reactors, operator Kansai Electric Power Co. must receive NRA approval by July on three outstanding items–safety measures, detailed designs and extension of operations.
This is the fourth time the NRA has acknowledged that nuclear reactors are meeting the new safety standards, but the first time for those that are at least 40 years old.
The other three cases were the No. 1 and the No. 2 reactors at the Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co.; the No. 3 and the No. 4 reactors at the Takahama plant; and the No. 3 rector at Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime Prefecture, operated by Shikoku Electric Power Co.
After the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011, laws on nuclear safety were revised. As a result, it was stipulated that the operation period of nuclear reactors is a basic 40 years but that can be extended by up to 20 years–but just one time–with NRA approval.
Although the No. 1 and the No. 2 reactors at the Takahama plant have been operating for more than 40 years, it is a transitional measure until July as Kansai Electric Power has yet to obtain NRA approval for a 20-year extension.
In March 2015, the utility asked to be screened by the NRA to ensure it was meeting the new safety standards. In April 2015, it applied for an additional 20 years for each reactor.
The NRA has been conducting intensive screenings on the reactors because if Kansai Electric Power cannot obtain approval on safety measures, detailed designs and extension of operations by the July deadline, it will have to decommission the two reactors.
In the safety screenings, the main focus was on fire-prevention measures with regard to electric cables. The No. 1 and No. 2 reactors were using cables totaling 1,300 kilometers in length, but they were not fire-retardant.
The utility responded by replacing 60 percent of them with fire-retardant cables, and wrapping the remaining 40 percent with fire-retardant sheets. This met with NRA approval.
With regard to earthquake and tsunami resistance, the utility used the same levels as those for the No. 3 and the No. 4 reactors at Takahama plant, both of which had already been approved by the NRA as meeting the new safety standards.
The NRA devoted 389 pages of the screening paper to its opinion that the No. 1 and the No. 2 reactors at Takahama are meeting the new safety standards. The NRA will collect opinions from the public about its conclusions for 30 days from Feb. 25 and then formally decide whether the two reactors are meeting the new standards on safety measures.
At the same time, it will go ahead with screenings on the remaining two items–detailed designs and the extension of operations. The screening on the detailed designs will focus on quake-resistant capabilities of important facilities. The screening on the extension of operation will check on the deterioration of facilities.
Even if Kansai Electric Power obtains approval on all of the three items, it will take about three years for the utility to finish work on safety measures. Because of that, the operations of Takahama’s No. 1 and No. 2 reactors are not expected to be restarted before autumn 2019.

February 24, 2016 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Sendai nuclear plant operator set to plug leaks in 5 cooling system pipes

SATSUMA-SENDAI, Kagoshima Prefecture–The operator of the recently reactivated Sendai nuclear power plant here said it had pinpointed the sites of leaks that forced a postponement of full reactor operations.

Kyushu Electric Power Co. said it detected tiny cracks in five narrow pipes that carry seawater used to cool steam. The pipes are part of the steam condenser at the No. 1 reactor, which resumed operation on Aug. 11.

Output will be maintained at 75 percent of capacity, while the utility carries out checks for further holes.

Kyushu Electric was expected to release a final report on the glitch on Aug. 25. At the same time, it said fully restored reactor operations will be postponed from the scheduled date of Aug. 25.

The regional utility detected a tiny amount of seawater leaked into one of three condensers in the secondary cooling system of the reactor, which has an output of 890 megawatts, on Aug. 20.

The seawater was flowing in the condenser, a device that converts steam used in power generation to water by cooling it, and became mixed with the secondary cooling water that does not contain radioactive materials.

Kyushu Electric suspended operations of one of the two water circulation channels through the condenser at issue and inspected narrow pipes forming the system by passing an electric current through it.

Technicians found miniscule holes in five of 13,000 pipes they had inspected as of 10 a.m. on Aug. 24. After inspecting all the pipes, the workers will repair the faulty bits.

Kyushu Electric said the seawater was removed with a desalination device and operations at the No. 1 reactor were not hindered.

The reactor was restarted earlier this month for the first time since it was shut down for a periodic inspection in May 2011. Opponents of the plant have voiced safety concerns

Source: Asahi Shimbun

August 26, 2015 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Seawater leak found at Sendai nuclear plant

The operator of the Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan, says it found seawater used to cool steam has leaked from some pipes.

The trouble occurred at a condenser for the plant’s No.1 reactor last Thursday. Officials at Kyushu Electric Power Company found elevated salt levels in the machine.

The condenser uses seawater to turn the steam from the power turbine back into water. The reactor has 3 condensers, and each one is equipped with 26,000 thin pipes to carry seawater.

Utility officials have been checking these pipes. They say they found cracks in 5 pipes in one condenser and that seawater had leaked from them.

The officials stopped the flow of seawater by putting plugs in the 5 pipes. They are now checking the other tubes. The utility firm says they will keep running the reactor.

The trouble occurred 9 days after the operator restarted the reactor on August 11th. It was the first to go back online under new regulations introduced after the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011.

The utility was due to raise the reactor’s power output to 100 percent on Tuesday. But the problems are expected to delay the scheduled work by about one week.

Source: NHK

August 25, 2015 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Sendai nuclear plant halts output increase

The operator of Japan’s only activated nuclear power plant says it will delay ramping up power output due to reactor equipment trouble.

Kyushu Electric Power Company says an alarm went off on Thursday afternoon indicating trouble with a condenser at the No. 1 reactor of the Sendai power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture. The condenser turns steam from the power turbine back into water. Neither the steam nor the water is radioactive.

The utility says water in one of the reactor’s 3 condensers had higher than normal salt concentrations.

Kyushu Electric officials say a small amount of seawater that is used for cooling steam appears to have entered the condenser, possibly through holes in the intake pipes.
They say the salt is being removed while one system within the condenser is halted for inspections. A condenser has 2 systems.

Kyushu Electric says the other condensers are working normally, and that power generation and transmission will continue.

The utility was due to raise power output from 75 percent to 95 percent on Friday, before achieving full capacity on August 25th. It now expects a delay of about one week.

The operator restarted the reactor on August 11th at the Sendai nuclear power plant.

It was the first reactor to go back online under new regulations introduced after the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011. 

Source: NHK

August 23, 2015 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Kyushu delays increasing output at Sendai nuclear plant after cooling system problems detected

KAGOSHIMA – Kyushu Electric Power Co. said Friday it will delay planned increases in electrical output from the No. 1 reactor at its Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture as seawater is believed to have entered into a reactor cooling system.

The company planned to bring the recently reactivated reactor up to full capacity on Tuesday. But this will now be delayed as it will take about a week to fix the problem, officials from the utility said.

A small amount of seawater is believed to have flowed into one of the three condensers in the reactor’s secondary cooling system, the officials said. Condensers turn steam into water by cooling it, after the steam runs power generation turbines.

But there should be no problem in continuing the reactor’s operations as the salt can be removed with the aid of desalination equipment, the officials added.

The level of electric conductivity, which is monitored to check water conditions, rose Thursday afternoon at an outlet of a condensate pump used to circulate secondary coolant water.

Kyushu Electric checked the water quality and confirmed an increase in salt content.

Each condenser has some 26,000 tubes inside that are used to pipe seawater around for cooling. Kyushu Electric suspects that holes have opened on such tubes, causing seawater to enter into the condenser.

The company will seal any tubes found to have holes, the officials said.

In Japan, similar problems have occurred about 50 times in the past, but the latest case was the first at the Sendai power plant. In the past, Kyushu Electric experienced two cases at the No. 1 reactor at its Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture in 1997 and 1999.

The output at the Sendai plant’s No. 1 reactor, restarted on Aug. 11, reached 50 percent of capacity last Sunday and 75 percent on Wednesday. The company had planned to raise output to 95 percent Friday.

The reactor is the first in Japan to run under strict new safety standards introduced in July 2013 following the meltdown accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant, which was wrecked in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The reactor’s restart also brought to an end the total absence of active reactors in Japan that had become a feature since September 2013, when Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi plant in Fukui Prefecture suspended operations for routine safety checks.

Some nuclear experts have said reactors could face severe safety problems because they have been mothballed for such a long period of time.

Source: Japan Times

August 21, 2015 Posted by | Japan | , | 3 Comments

Japan nuclear utility says no special precautions over volcano

Japanese utility Kyushu Electric Power said on Monday that it was monitoring activity at a volcano near its Sendai nuclear plant, but did not need to take any special precautions after authorities warned of the risk of a larger-than-usual eruption.


TOKYO: Japanese utility Kyushu Electric Power said on Monday that it was monitoring activity at a volcano near its Sendai nuclear plant, but did not need to take any special precautions after authorities warned of the risk of a larger-than-usual eruption.

The reactor is the first to be restarted under new safety standards put in place since the meltdowns at Fukushima in 2011.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and much of Japanese industry want reactors to be switched on again to cut fuel bills, but opinion polls show a majority of the public oppose the move after the nuclear crisis triggered by an earthquake and tsunami.

The possibility of a significant eruption of Sakurajima, located about 50 km (30 miles) from Sendai, is a reminder of the volatile geology of Japan, which has 110 active volcanoes.

“We are not currently taking any particular response,” Kyushu Electric spokesman Tomomitsu Sakata said by phone.

“There is no impact in particular to the operations” of the Sendai plant, Sakata said. “We will continue to pay close attention to information from the Japan Meteorological Agency.”

The 890-megawatt-reactor had reached 50 percent of its output by Sunday and the operator expects full power to be achieved around Aug. 24, Sakata said.

Critics of the nuclear industry say that new safety measures are insufficient, particularly for plants such as Sendai, which is located near five giant calderas, crater-like depressions formed by past eruptions, with the closest one about 40 km away.

The precautions by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority for volcanic eruptions were “wanting in a number of important respects” and did not meet international standards, said John Large, chief executive of Large & Associates, a nuclear engineering consultancy.

Large wrote a report this year on the Sendai plant’s ability to withstand being hit by volcanic ash and has testified in court about the issue.

Sakurajima is one of Japan’s most active volcanoes and erupts almost constantly. There was a risk of larger than usual eruption, an official at the Japan Meteorological Agency said on Saturday.

“With Kyushu’s volcanoes clearly more active, Sendai should be shut immediately,” said Aileen Mioko Smith, executive director at activist group, Green Action, claiming there was no viable evacuation plan for the plant.

The Meteorological agency raised the warning level on the peak, about 1,000 km southwest of Tokyo, to an unprecedented 4, for prepare to evacuate, from 3.

Seventy seven residents who live within a 3 km radius of the craters have been evacuated, an official said on Monday.

Source: Channel News Asia

August 18, 2015 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Utilities spent ¥1.4 trillion last year to maintain idled reactors

The nation’s nine utilities with nuclear power plants had to spend a total of about ¥1.4 trillion last fiscal year to maintain their idled reactors, financial statements showed Monday, revealing part of the reason that electricity rates went up.

Kyushu Electric Power Co. restarted a reactor last week despite strong public opposition, adding to the view the utilities are trying to reactivate their idled plants as soon as possible to help rehabilitate their balance sheets, which are also suffering from rising fuel costs for alternative power generation.

All of the country’s commercial reactors remained offline in fiscal 2014, which ended March 31, amid heightened safety concerns following the 2011 crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 complex.

Tepco spent the most — ¥548.6 billion — having to maintain the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear complex, which is located about 10 km south of Fukushima No. 1, and the massive Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture.

Kansai Electric Power Co., which relied heavily on nuclear power before the Fukushima disaster, spent ¥298.8 billion, while Kyushu Electric spent ¥136.3 billion.

Last week, a reactor owned by Kyushu Electric became the first to come back online under upgraded regulations introduced after the Fukushima meltdowns.

Five of the nine companies — Tohoku Electric Power Co., Tokyo Electric, Chubu Electric Power Co., Hokuriku Electric Power Co. and Kansai Electric — also had to pay some ¥130 billion to Japan Atomic Power Co. to honor their contracts with the entity, even though their reactors were idle.

Source: Japan Times

August 18, 2015 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment