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Taro Kono also sounded the alarm about the dangers of spent fuel pools Attacks on nuclear power plants became a reality with the invasion of Ukraine

Taro Kono in Nagoya City on January 28, 2011.

February 22, 2023
It will be one year on the 24th since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. During this period, attacks on nuclear power plants shocked the world. When considering preparedness in Japan, the handling of spent nuclear fuel becomes important. Once it finishes its role in the reactor, it is mainly stored in storage pools, but that group and those politicians see the vulnerability of the pools as a problem. If they are left as they are now, they will become a “weak spot” in the event of an attack on a nuclear power plant, which could result in extensive damage. The Kishida administration should not focus its efforts only on nuclear power plant operation. (Naoaki Nishida and Yuichiro Yamada)

◆Russia targeted nuclear power plants immediately after the invasion.
On the 18th, the Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, expressed the following opinion: “The Russian media is advocating an attack on Ukraine’s nuclear facilities in order to cut off the power supply to the plants.
 The next day, the 19th. The following day, on the 19th, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine issued a statement regarding the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant in Ukraine, which has been occupied by Russian troops and turned into a military base. It accused Russia of refusing to replace the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts stationed there to ensure safety.
 Attacks on the plant were feared early on. As early as last January, Sergiy Korsunsky, Ukraine’s ambassador to Japan, expressed concern. The bad predictions were right on target, and nuclear power plants were targeted immediately after the Russian invasion.
 The attack continued, and a bomb landed near a spent nuclear fuel storage facility. The Russians claimed that they had been attacked from the Ukrainian side and that the greatest risk from the attack was not the reactor but the spent fuel storage facility.
 Spent nuclear fuel, which can cause extensive damage, is made from uranium. It is used in nuclear reactors for four to five years and then removed.
 According to Chihiro Uesawa of the Nuclear Data and Information Center, the amount of heat generated and radiation levels remain high even under these conditions. In Japan, the heat value is mainly stored in a storage pool inside the reactor building, and water is circulated to lower the heat value and other parameters.
 Storage pools are not the only storage method. There is also a type of cask called a “dry cask,” which is cooled for five to six years in a pool and then placed in a metal container and cooled by air circulation. The sturdier casks are several steps ahead of the dry casks in terms of safety, but due to cost considerations, the use of dry casks is still on the road to widespread use. Compared to Europe, dry casks have lagged behind.

“Vulnerable to external attacks,” points out…
After the invasion of Ukraine, Yuki Kobayashi, a researcher at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, has been raising the issue of the vulnerability of storage pools.
 On the foundation’s website, he wrote, “The reactors are made of steel and are protected by a containment vessel, which has a certain degree of robustness against external attacks,” but he also pointed out that the spent fuel storage “often does not have a multiple protection system,” “is vulnerable to external attacks,” and “if the spent fuel is exposed to the atmosphere (e.g., because the water runs out), it will be exposed to high concentrations of radiation over a wide area. If the spent fuel is exposed to the atmosphere (e.g., when the water runs out), high concentrations of radiation will be emitted over a wide area.
 When the hydrogen explosion occurred in the Unit 4 reactor of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the possibility of an anomaly occurring in the spent nuclear fuel storage pool was discussed. When interviewed, Kobayashi said, “Even after the Fukushima accident, Japan had not decided what measures to take. It can be said that we were somewhat naive in our understanding of the situation.
 The late Ryoichi Sasakawa was honorary chairman of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. Shunichi Yamashita, vice president of Fukushima Medical University, is a trustee of the Sasakawa Health Foundation, another organization that is a descendant of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. In a lecture after the Fukushima nuclear accident, he expressed his optimism, saying, “The effects of radiation will not come as long as you are smiling and laughing.
 The Sasakawa Peace Foundation also warned of the vulnerability of the storage pools. Uesawa, mentioned above, also spoke of the vulnerability of the storage pool, saying, “If the storage pool and other facilities are destroyed in an emergency, the buildings will be inaccessible. This would cause an irreversible situation.

◆Taro Kono, who was a member of the opposition party, also called it “a potential weak point.
In the past, some have pointed out the fragility of the storage pools for spent nuclear fuel.
 The vulnerability of the spent fuel pools became clear after 3.11.” “How will the security system be changed?”
 The speaker was Taro Kono, the current digital minister. He is the current digital minister. In November 2011, a little more than six months after the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, he asked these questions at a meeting of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Monitoring the Settlement of Accounts. This was when he was a member of the opposition party. In September 2012, he wrote on his blog, “Nuclear reactors and spent fuel pools are potential weak points that could be targeted by terrorists or missiles.
 Does he think the same way now as he did then? We asked him through his office, but had not received an answer by the evening of September 21.
 So how is the Kishida administration handling the situation?
 At a Lower House Budget Committee meeting last October, Katsuya Okada, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan’s Constitutional Democratic Party, asked, “Spent nuclear fuel in the pool is a real nuisance,” and “What would happen if a missile hit us? He asked that the spent fuel be removed from the storage pool and transferred to a dry cask in a metal container to increase protection.
 In response, Yasutoshi Nishimura, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, said, “The Nuclear Regulation Authority is in charge of this issue centrally” and “METI would like to refrain from doing so.

◆The Nuclear Regulation Authority “is virtually unable to do so.
In March of last year, immediately after the invasion of Ukraine, Toyoshi Sarada, then chairman of the Regulatory Commission, said at a press conference that “we have no plan to discuss a facility that is robust against armed attack, and it is virtually impossible. He then went on to say that, in general terms, “dry casks are more defensible than spent fuel pools. Shinsuke Yamanaka, the current chairman of the committee, echoes this view.
 A spokesperson for the Regulatory Commission said, “There is no change in our view that the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law does not assume an armed attack. There is no indication that the Regulatory Commission has given a new directive to switch to dry casks as a counterterrorism measure,” he clarified.
 Masashi Goto, a former nuclear power plant design engineer, said, “The power companies are planning to move to casks, but the fuel must be cooled in a pool after use before being moved. This takes a considerable amount of time,” he said, pointing out that as long as nuclear power plants continue to operate, storage in storage pools is an unavoidable problem.
 He resents the Kishida administration’s bluntness, saying, “There are major risks, such as accidents and terrorism. Despite the existence of major risks, such as accidents and terrorism, the government has deemed the probability of their occurrence to be low and has failed to take effective countermeasures.

◆The nuclear fuel cycle is failing, but the government is moving forward with its utilization.
 The amount of spent nuclear fuel stored at nuclear power plants in Japan is enormous. The amount of spent fuel stored at nuclear power plants in Japan is enormous, amounting to about 20,000 tons, most of which is kept in storage pools. The government has been pushing for the reuse of this fuel under the banner of the “nuclear fuel cycle,” but the completion of a reprocessing plant under construction in Rokkasho Village, Aomori Prefecture, has been postponed for some time. Even if the government wants to reduce the amount of nuclear fuel used for reuse, it has been unable to do so because the key facilities are not functioning.
 The Kishida administration, however, is pushing forward with the use of nuclear power plants. It has taken the lead in allowing the operation of nuclear power plants for more than 60 years and in permitting the rebuilding of next-generation nuclear power plants. The amount of spent fuel stored in vulnerable pools will continue to increase, which will require more time and effort to protect.
 The government is treating the spent fuel cycle as if it were still running, and is avoiding confronting the problem,” said Teru Honma, a professor at Aoyama Gakuin University. The government is treating it as if it is going around and avoiding facing the problem,” said Terumitsu Honma, Professor Emeritus of Nuclear Damage Compensation System at Aoyama Gakuin University.
 The nuclear accident at Fukushima and the invasion of Ukraine have exposed the huge risks involved in operating nuclear power plants,” he continued. We have not taken responsibility for the unmanageable risks and costs. If we are going to make a decision to operate nuclear power plants, at the very least, we should take steps to address counterterrorism and safety measures that are a prerequisite.

◆Desk Memo
 It is easy to imagine the fear of nuclear power plants becoming targets of spent fuel storage pools. It is also easy to imagine the damage to civilians that would result in the event of an attack. Despite this, discussions on preparedness have stalled. In contrast, the Self-Defense Forces are even discussing the possibility of moving their headquarters underground as a protective measure. Abandoning someone and protecting someone else. Is this the kind of country we are supposed to love? (Sakaki)


February 26, 2023 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Japan watchdog OKs new safety rules to extend reactor life

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant sits in coastal towns of both Okuma and Futaba, as seen from the Ukedo fishing port in Namie town, northeastern Japan, on March 2, 2022

February 14, 2023

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese nuclear regulators on Monday approved contentious safety evaluation changes and draft legislation to allow aging reactors to operate longer, in a rare split decision in which one of the five commissioners dissented.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority, responding to a new government policy to scrap the current 60-year operating limit for reactors, adopted a new system in which additional operating extensions can granted every 10 years after 30 years of service. No maximum limit is specified. The authority also adopted a draft revision of the reactor regulation law for approval by parliament.

It’s a major change from the current 40-year operating limit with a possible one-time extension of up to 20 years, a rule that was introduced as part of stricter safety standards adopted after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant disaster.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Cabinet adopted a plan last Friday to maximize the use of nuclear energy, including accelerating restarts of halted reactors, prolonging the operational life of aging plants and development of next-generation reactors to replace those designated for decommissioning, as Japan struggles to secure a stable energy supply and meet its pledge to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

One of the authority’s five commissioners, Akira Ishiwatari, a Tohoku University geologist, opposed the changes.

“We are open to revisions (to rules) if changes are clearly to contribute to greater safety for scientific or technical reasons. To me, these changes do not serve either purpose,” Ishiwatari said at Monday’s commission meeting.

Another commissioner, Tomoyuki Sugiyama, deputy chief of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s nuclear safety research center, said he felt the discussion was “rushed” as a result of government pressure and that the regulatory body should have acted more independently.

Authority Chairman Shinsuke Yamanaka denied that the watchdog yielded to government pressure and said he believes the new safety system is adequate.

The authority’s task is “to inspect the safety of (aging) reactors no matter how long their operational lifespan is,” he said. “We simply do not issue safety permits for reactors with progressing deterioration.”

Anti-nuclear sentiment and safety concerns rose sharply in Japan after the Fukushima disaster, in which a massive earthquake and tsunami damaged the plant’s cooling system, resulting in the meltdown of three reactors and the release of large amounts of radiation.

The government has been pushing for a return to nuclear power amid worries of energy shortages following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a global push to reduce greenhouse gases.

While maintaining a 20%-22% target for nuclear energy’s share of the energy mix for 2030, the government previously denied it was considering building new nuclear plants or replacing aged reactors in an apparent attempt to avoid triggering criticism from a wary public.

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

Many people in the public opinion polls are opposed to the idea, and briefings are being held in various regions… but the Cabinet decides to promote nuclear power plants, ignoring the voices of “grave danger to future generations”

February 11, 2023
The government’s basic policy, which includes measures to promote nuclear power plants, such as rebuilding them and operating them for more than 60 years, received nearly 4,000 opinions (public comments), many of which were against nuclear power. However, the Cabinet decision was made on April 10 without changing the main outline of the policy. The major change in nuclear policy less than six months after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s order to study the issue has consistently failed to address the voices of the public. (The Cabinet decision was made on October 10, 2011, without any change in the major nuclear policy.)

◆Consideration of voices within the ruling party

The TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident proves that humans have no control over nuclear power plants,” and “It invites grave danger to future generations.
 The results of the public solicitation of opinions announced by the government after the cabinet decision were lined with requests for the government to reconsider its decision. A total of 3,966 opinions were received in the public solicitation, which was conducted for about a month from the end of December last year, after the basic policy was decided at the government meeting. The government has clarified the contents of 356 opinions and their responses by summarizing similar opinions.
 The government’s response to the negative opinions on nuclear power emphasized that the stable supply of electricity is in crisis due to changes in the energy situation caused by the crisis in Ukraine. The government reiterated its explanation that it will utilize nuclear power along with renewable energy and other energy sources that have decarbonizing effects.
 Since the end of the public comment period, there has been only one major revision to the basic policy, related to nuclear power. Regarding the reconstruction of nuclear power plants, which had not been envisioned by the government after the Fukushima accident, the target location was elaborated from “nuclear power plants that have been decided to be decommissioned” to “within the premises of nuclear power plants that have been decided to be decommissioned. This is a strong indication that the government took into consideration the opinions of the nuclear power prudent within the ruling party.

Not listening to the voice of the people, “They are making fun of the victims.
 The basic policy was discussed by a number of METI experts. Although a number of committee members who are negative about nuclear power plants called for a national debate, the public’s voice was not heard before the policy was decided.
 After deciding on the basic policy at the end of last year, METI began holding explanatory meetings in mid-January in 10 cities across Japan where METI and other bureaus are located. So far, they have been held in Nagoya, Saitama, Osaka, and Sendai, and will continue until early March.
 Ruiko Muto, co-chairperson of the Liaison Association of Organizations Affected by the Nuclear Power Plant Accident in Miharu-machi, Fukushima Prefecture, commented at a press conference on March 10, “I don’t understand what the meetings are for. It is ridiculous that the meeting was not held in Fukushima Prefecture, a disaster-stricken area, and that they are making fun of the victims of the disaster.

It’s conclusory, forced, and unacceptable as a method of policy making.” It is unacceptable as a method of policy making.
 Opposition to the policy is also smoldering among regulators. The basic policy stipulates that the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) will conduct rigorous examinations and regulations as a precondition for utilizing nuclear power plants. At a regular meeting of the regulatory commission on August 8, Akira Ishiwatari, a member of the commission, opposed the transfer of the 40-year operating period, with a maximum of 60 years, stipulated in the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law, to a law under METI jurisdiction, saying that it is not necessary. It became unclear whether a new regulatory system could be decided upon.
 At a press conference following the cabinet decision, METI Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura explained, “The basic policy was put together from the perspective of nuclear energy utilization policy and does not include safety regulations, so there is no problem,” and expressed his intention to continue with procedures such as amending related laws. Hajime Matsukubo, executive director of the NPO Nuclear Information and Documentation Office, who also served as a member of METI’s expert panel, commented, “They are forcibly proceeding with the conclusion that they are promoting nuclear power without listening to opposing opinions. This is unacceptable as a method of policy making.

People opposing the Cabinet decision on the basic policy in front of the Prime Minister’s official residence in Nagatacho, Tokyo, on March 10.

◆Attack on the Prime Minister’s Office
On January 10, about 100 people protested in front of the Prime Minister’s official residence in Nagata-cho, Tokyo, after the cabinet approved a basic policy that includes measures to promote nuclear power plants. In the cold rain, they called for “No new nuclear power plants” and “Don’t forget Fukushima. (Nozomi Masui)
 The event was organized by the Executive Committee for 10 Million People’s Action to Say Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants, a citizens’ group. Members of six organizations, including environmental groups and labor unions, took the microphone.
 Natsuka Mitsuda, 55, secretary general of FoE Japan, an international environmental NGO, said, “In order for the nuclear industry to survive, future generations will have to bear a heavy burden and risk of accidents. We are firmly opposed to the cabinet decision that ignores the will of the people. Taeko Fujimura, 68, vice chairperson of the National Trade Union Liaison Council, said, “We have learned nothing from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The operation of aging nuclear power plants is absolutely unacceptable.

February 13, 2023 Posted by | Japan | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cabinet adopts policy of using nuclear reactors beyond 60-year limit

The No. 3 reactor at Kansai Electric Power’s Mihama nuclear power plant in Mihama, Fukui Prefecture, the first nuclear reactor in Japan to operate beyond 40 years.

Feb 10, 2023

The Cabinet formally adopted a policy on Friday that will allow for the operation of nuclear reactors beyond their current 60-year limit alongside the building of new units to replace aging ones as part of efforts to cut carbon emissions while ensuring adequate national energy supply.

The government’s “green transformation” policy features extensive use of nuclear power along with renewable energy and marks a major policy shift for the country, which suffered a devastating nuclear disaster in 2011. The Cabinet decision follows a meeting in late December at which the policy was agreed upon.

The government also plans to raise about ¥20 trillion ($152 billion) through the issuance of green transformation bonds to boost investment in decarbonization projects, as it estimates public and private investment of over ¥150 trillion will be necessary over the next 10 years.

Bills necessary to implement the new policy were submitted to parliament Friday.

The new policy will effectively extend the amount of time reactors can remain operational beyond 60 years by excluding time spent on inspections and other periods they are offline from consideration when calculating their total service life.

The policy also calls for developing advanced reactors, regarded as safer than conventional ones, and only allowing them to be built within the premises of reactors destined for decommissioning. The government aims to begin operating next-generation reactors in the 2030s.

It also states the central government is responsible for the final disposal of high-level radioactive waste created through nuclear power generation. The issue has been a source of concern among the public and a challenge in advancing nuclear policy.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said at a news conference after the Cabinet meeting that the government hopes to expand the areas in which it will conduct first-stage surveys as part of the selection process for the final disposal site.

The new policy stipulates government support for local governments which accept the survey.

Public sentiment turned sour over the use of nuclear power as a national source of energy following the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear disaster in March 2011 that was triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami. The government had repeatedly said it was not considering building new reactors or replacing existing ones.

But since Russia launched a major invasion of Ukraine in late February last year, a sharp rise in global energy prices has threatened the stable supply of energy for Japan, a resource-scarce country that heavily relies on fossil fuel imports, prompting officials to look into greater use of nuclear power.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructed the government last summer to look into how the country can maximize the use of its nuclear energy facilities most effectively.

February 13, 2023 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Cabinet decides on a policy of “maximum utilization” of nuclear power plants, a major shift from “reducing dependence on nuclear power plants,” enabling nuclear power plants to operate for more than 60 years and promoting rebuilding

Prime Minister’s Office

February 10, 2023
On February 10, the cabinet approved the government’s basic policy for decarbonization, which includes rebuilding next-generation nuclear power plants and extending their operational life beyond 60 years. In addition to renewable energy, the policy also specifies “maximum utilization” of nuclear power plants. After the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant, the government has been advocating a reduction in dependence on nuclear power, but the worsening environment for procuring energy resources due to the crisis in Ukraine and other factors have led to a major shift in energy policy.
 The decision was made in the form of the “Basic Policy for the Realization of GX (Green Transformation). Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry Yasutoshi Nishimura stated, “The public and private sectors will work together to accelerate efforts toward the realization of GX.
 After the compilation of the policy in December of last year, a public comment period was held, and approximately 3,300 opinions were received.
 The period of operation of nuclear power plants, which after the Fukushima accident was set at “40 years in principle, with a maximum of 60 years,” will be extended to allow operation for more than 60 years, excluding from the calculation the period during which the plants are shut down to respond to the screening process for restarting. The company will also work on the development and construction of next-generation nuclear power plants on the grounds that this will increase safety. (Kyodo)

February 13, 2023 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

NRA delays easing reactor rules after one expert objects

Akira Ishiwatari, a commissioner of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, raises opposition to the government’s plan to ease safety regulations for reactors at a meeting on Feb. 8.

February 9, 2023

A Nuclear Regulation Authority panel member objected to the government’s draft policy to lift the 40-year cap on the lifespan of nuclear reactors, forcing official approval to be delayed. 

Akira Ishiwatari, one of the five members of the NRA, said at a Feb. 8 meeting that dropping the restriction on reactors’ operation periods at 40 years, in principle, and a maximum 60 years from the nuclear reactor regulation law, is not a “change to make them safer.”

Ishiwatari, a former professor of geology at Tohoku University and head of the Geological Society of Japan, is tasked with studying plant operators’ measures to safeguard reactors from earthquakes and tsunami. He has been on the NRA since 2014.

Under the more stringent reactor regulations introduced in 2013 following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, the life of a reactor was limited to 40 years, in principle, to enhance the safety of nuclear facilities. But it can operate 20 more years, including the period when they were shut down for safety checks or court injunctions, if found safe to do so by the NRA.

The Kishida administration compiled a plan to ease the rules last month that would allow reactors to serve beyond the maximum 60-year limit by excluding the time when they were offline.

For example, the lifespan of a reactor that remained idle for 10 years would be extended to 70 years in total.

Ishiwatari noted that some reactors have been shut down for many years due to the NRA’s prolonged safety examinations for their restart.

But he expressed concern that excluding the shutdown period from the maximum 60-year rule would lead to the activation of more aged units.

With his objection, NRA Chairman Shinsuke Yamanaka decided to postpone the panel’s approval of the government policy for more discussion on the issue. 

A majority of the public opposes the easing of the reactor restrictions.

At the NRA meeting, it was reported that most of the 2,016 opinions received from the public over the government plan were critical.

Still, the NRA initially planned to back the government policy to remove the cap and install a system that would require a reactor to undergo safety checks in under every decade once it reaches 30 years in service.

February 13, 2023 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Cabinet approves a major change in nuclear power plant policy, including new construction and operation beyond 60 years.

Unit 3 of Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Mihama Nuclear Power Plant in Mihama Town, Fukui Prefecture, September 16, 2022; photo by Satoru Iizuka from an Asahi Broadcasting Corporation TV helicopter.

February 10, 2023
On February 10, the Kishida administration approved the “Basic Policy for Realization of GX (Green Transformation),” which includes allowing new construction and operation of nuclear power plants for more than 60 years, at a cabinet meeting. The change in nuclear power policy since the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant became an official government policy. Related bills will be submitted to the ordinary Diet session.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at the GX Executive Conference. Second from the front is Yasutoshi Nishimura, Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry. In the back is Akihiro Nishimura, Minister of the Environment = 2:59 p.m., December 22, 2022, Prime Minister’s Official Residence, photo by Koichi Ueda.

Public comments on the draft of the basic policy presented in December of last year included many objections to the nuclear power policy, but no major revisions were made.
The basic policy mainly lists policies that should be taken over the next 10 years toward the realization of a decarbonized society in 2050. It clearly states the “maximum use” of nuclear power plants as well as renewable energy. After the accident, the government had stated that it did not envision the construction of new nuclear power plants at this time, but it has now shifted to a policy of working toward this goal.

 Specifically, the government will “work on the development and construction” of improved nuclear power plants, which it calls “next-generation innovative reactors,” and will rebuild them on the sites of nuclear power plants that have been decided to be decommissioned. The government will also “consider” building nuclear power plants in areas where there are currently no nuclear power plants.

February 13, 2023 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Regulatory Commissioners object to proposed new rules for nuclear power plant regulation

Akira Ishiwata, a member of the Nuclear Regulation Authority of Japan (NRAJ), expresses his opposition to the draft of new safety regulation rules for nuclear power plants.

February 9, 2023
At the February 8 meeting of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), committee members voiced their opposition to the draft framework for new safety regulation rules, which would require safety inspections at intervals of no more than 10 years starting from 30 years of operation. The committee members decided not to make a formal decision on that day, and will discuss the issue again next week or later.

 Since the end of last year, the Regulatory Commission has been conducting “public comments” to gather opinions from the public on the draft framework. At the meeting, it was reported that 2016 comments had been received, many of which were opposed to the 40-year operation period stipulated in the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law, but the committee decided that no revisions to the draft were necessary and decided to proceed with the decision as originally proposed.

Regulatory Commission is in the forefront of extending the operation of nuclear power plants.

 In response, Akira Ishiwata, a member of the committee in charge of the earthquake and tsunami review, stated, “I am opposed to this proposal,” citing two main reasons.

 The first is that the stipulation of an operating period will be removed from the Reactor Regulation Law, which is under the jurisdiction of the Regulatory Commission.

 Mr. Ishiwata said, “The mission of the Nuclear Regulation Commission is to protect people and the environment based on scientific and technical findings. This change is not about changing the law based on some new findings. Dropping the operation period from the law (Reactor Regulation Law) is not an alteration to the safety side,” he said.

February 13, 2023 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Proposal to operate nuclear power plants for more than 60 years “cannot be considered a change to the safe side”; Regulatory Commission postpones formal decision due to unusual opposition

February 9, 2023
At its regular meeting on February 8, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission discussed whether to make a formal decision on a new regulatory system for nuclear power plants to operate beyond 60 years, but it decided not to do so due to opposition from Akira Ishiwata, who stated that the proposal “cannot be considered an alteration to the safe side. The matter will be discussed again at the regular meeting next week. It is extremely unusual for the regulatory commission to be divided on such an important matter. (Kenta Onozawa)

◆Public comments: Most oppose the review

The new draft regulation will review the deterioration status of nuclear power plants every 10 years or less, starting 30 years after the start of operation, and if the plant complies with the regulatory standards, the extension of operation will be approved. The proposal was unanimously approved at the regular meeting held last December. On the day of the meeting, the final draft was discussed based on the results of public comments received from the public.
 The majority of the 2016 comments received from the public were against the review of the system, but the secretariat of the Regulatory Commission consulted with the regular meeting on whether to make a formal decision on the draft without changing the content of the draft regulation. Of the five committee members, four, including Chairman Shinsuke Yamanaka, voted in favor of the draft, while Commissioner Ishiwata expressed his opposition. Chairman Yamanaka stated that he would not make a decision by majority vote, but would discuss the matter again together with the proposed amendment to the article of the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law (Reactor Regulation Law) that stipulates the operation period.
 At a press conference following the regular meeting, Chairman Yamanaka said, “I think there is a misunderstanding (among Commissioner Ishiwata). I don’t think it is a problem that there are opposing opinions. I would like to deepen the discussion among the committee members.
 Last December, the government decided to allow nuclear power plants to operate for more than 60 years by excluding from the number of years of operation the period during which the plants were shut down for restart examinations and judicial decisions. It aims to submit a draft amendment to related laws to the current Diet session. The current provisions in the Reactor Regulation Law regarding the period of operation, which is “40 years in principle, with a maximum of 60 years,” are expected to be deleted and redefined in the Electricity Business Law under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).

◆”Aging nuclear power plants will be operated in the future,” said Akira Ishiwata, a member of the committee.

I am against this proposal. Akira Ishiwatari, a member of the committee, stated his opposition in a firm tone toward the end of the meeting.
This change is not based on new scientific findings. It is not a change for the sake of safety, because the law will drop the period of operation. There is no need for us to amend the law voluntarily.
 A geological expert, he has served as a professor at Tohoku University and as a member of the committee since 2014. When it was discovered that geological data had been rewritten during the review of the Tsuruga No. 2 reactor at the Japan Atomic Power Company’s Tsuruga Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture, he proposed that the review be suspended. When the secretariat of the Regulatory Commission proposed last November that the Commission hear opinions from electric power companies on the proposed new regulations, he opposed the proposal, saying that it was too early to make a decision. Discussions were postponed.
 Under the new government policy, the period of shutdown due to the review will be excluded from the number of years of operation. In most cases, the 10 units currently under review have been delayed due to inadequate explanations from the power companies. Commissioner Ishiwata, who is in charge of the examination of earthquake and tsunami countermeasures, said, “We are not unnecessarily prolonging the examination, but unfortunately it is taking a long time. The longer the review takes, the longer the operation period will be, and the older (aged) nuclear power plants will be in operation in the future.
 He expressed strong concern that the more difficult the review process becomes, the more likely it is to encourage the operation of aging nuclear power plants. At the meeting, Chairman Yamanaka explained that “this is a mechanism to ensure that regulations can be implemented no matter what the operating period is like,” but Commissioner Ishiwata did not back down, saying, “My thoughts are as I have stated.

February 13, 2023 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Japanese panel approves return to nuclear power as disaster memories fade

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at a meeting of his “green transformation” panel at the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday.

Dec 22, 2022

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s advisory panel approved a plan to extend the lifespans of nuclear reactors beyond 60 years and build new units to replace those that are decommissioned, reversing policies put in place after the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

The step reflects a shift in public opinion, as the import-reliant country struggles with the threat of blackouts amid Russia’s war in Ukraine and extreme weather. While massive demonstrations calling for the abolition of atomic power were a regular occurrence in the wake of the meltdowns, recent polls indicate growing support for restarting idled plants.

The government is aiming to present legislation to parliament during the next session to put the basic plan into action, Kishida told a meeting of his “green transformation” panel, which is made up mostly of business executives and academics, on Thursday. The proposal will be opened for public comment and could gain Cabinet approval by February, the Nikkei newspaper reported.

Japan is joining a global shift back to nuclear energy after the prices of natural gas and coal shot to records this year as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upended markets. The Kishida administration is also turning to nuclear to help curb emissions and hit Japan’s 2050 net-zero target.

A survey by the Yomiuri newspaper in August found 58% in favor of restarting idled reactors, the first time a majority approved of the idea in that poll series since the question was initially posed in 2017. A separate survey by public broadcaster NHK earlier this month found 45% approved of the panel’s plan, while 37% opposed it.

The government still faces some opposition from local residents over nuclear restarts and lawsuits related to safety concerns still keep many reactors offline. Only a third of Japan’s operable reactors have restarted since the 2011 disaster.

January 5, 2023 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

After the Fukushima disaster, Japan swore to phase out nuclear power. But not anymore

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is seen on March 17. Japan on Thursday adopted a new policy promoting greater use of nuclear energy to ensure a stable power supply amid global fuel shortages and reduce carbon emissions — a major reversal of its phaseout plan since the Fukushima crisis.

December 22, 2022

TOKYO — Japan adopted a plan on Thursday to extend the lifespan of nuclear reactors, replace the old and even build new ones, a major shift in a country scarred by the Fukushima disaster that once planned to phase out atomic power.

In the face of global fuel shortages, rising prices and pressure to reduce carbon emissions, Japan’s leaders have begun to turn back toward nuclear energy, but the announcement was their clearest commitment yet after keeping mum on delicate topics like the possibility of building new reactors.

Under the new policy, Japan will maximize the use of existing reactors by restarting as many of them as possible and prolonging the operating life of aging ones beyond a 60-year limit. The government also pledged to develop next-generation reactors.In 2011, a powerful earthquake and the ensuing tsunami caused multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant — a disaster that supercharged anti-nuclear sentiment in Japan and at one point led the government to promise to phase out the energy by around 2030. But since then, the government has recommitted to the technology, including setting a target for nuclear to make up 20-22% of the country’s energy mix by the end of the decade.

Still, restart approvals for idled nuclear reactors have come slowly since the Fukushima disaster, which led to stricter safety standards. Utility companies have applied for restarts at 27 reactors in the past decade. Seventeen have passed safety checks and only 10 have resumed operation.

According the paper laying out the new policy, nuclear power serves “an important role as a carbon-free baseload energy source in achieving supply stability and carbon neutrality” and pledged to “sustain use of nuclear power into the future.” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he planned to get the Cabinet to approve the policy and submit necessary bills to Parliament.

As part of the new policy, the Economy and Industry Ministry has drafted a plan to allow extensions every 10 years for reactors after 30 years of operation while also permitting utilities to subtract offline periods in calculating reactors’ operational life.

The plan was endorsed on Wednesday by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, Japan’s nuclear watchdog. New safety inspection rules still need to be put into law and approved by Parliament.

The regulation authority’s commissioner, Shinichi Yamanaka, told a news conference the new safety rules requiring operational permits every decade after 30 years will be safer than a current one-time 20-year extension option for 40-year-old reactors. But experts cast some doubt on that.

Some experts question extending the lifespan of older reactors

Takeo Kikkawa, an economics professor at the International University of Japan and an expert on energy, said utility operators under the new policy could keep using old equipment instead of investing in new technology or renewables.

“Naturally, we should aim for newer technology and use it safely. Therefore, extending reactors’ lifespans is an undesirable move,” Kikkawa recently told a talk show.

Most nuclear reactors in Japan are more than 30 years old. Four reactors that have operated for more than 40 years have received permission to operate, and one is currently online.

Under the new policy, Japan will also push for the development and construction of “next-generation innovative reactors” to replace about 20 reactors now set for decommissioning.

Kenichi Oshima, a Ryukoku University professor of environmental economy and energy policy, said some of what the government calls “innovative” reactors are not so different from existing technology and that prospects for nuclear fusion and other next-generation reactors are largely uncertain and not achievable anytime soon.

Thursday’s adoption of the new policy comes less than four months after Kishida launched the “GX (Green Transformation) Implementation Council” of outside experts and ministers to “consider all options” to compile a new policy that addresses global fuel shortages amid Russia’s war on Ukraine and seeks to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Japan’s nuclear energy goals may be out of reach

Nuclear energy accounts for less than 7% of Japan’s energy supply, and achieving the government’s goal of raising that share to 20-22% by 2030 will require about 27 reactors, from the current 10 — a target some say is not achievable. The new policy also does not help address imminent supply shortages because reactors cannot be restarted quickly enough.

While public opinion on nuclear energy has softened since Fukushima, opponents still argue atomic power is not flexible and not even cheaper than renewables when final waste management and necessary safety measures are considered — and that it can cause immeasurable damage in an accident.

Ruiko Muto, a survivor of the Fukushima disaster, called the new policy “extremely disappointing.” She added: “The Fukushima disaster is not over yet and the government seems to have already forgotten what happened.”

The regulation authority came under fire Wednesday after revelations by a civil group that a few of its experts had discussed details with industry ministry officials before the watchdog was officially asked to consider a rule change for aging reactors, despite their compulsory independence.

Prime Minister Kishida also said Thursday that the government will do more to find candidate sites for a final repository for high-level nuclear waste that Japan does not yet have. Preliminary studies have begun in two small towns in Hokkaido, angering some residents.

January 5, 2023 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Bad move to prolong the life of an industry with no growth potential: Official Decision to Operate Nuclear Power Plants for More Than 60 Years, With the Goal of Restoring the Nuclear Power Plant Accident Unseen

Prime Minister’s Office

December 22, 2022
 On the afternoon of December 22, the government will hold a meeting of the Green Transformation (GX) Council at the Prime Minister’s Office to discuss industrial transformation to realize a decarbonized society, and will formally decide on a basic policy that includes measures to utilize nuclear power plants, focusing on operating them for “more than 60 years” and rebuilding (replacing) them.
After the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in 2011, the government had legally limited the operating period of nuclear power plants to “40 years in principle, with a maximum of 60 years,” and had stated that it “does not envision” rebuilding or adding new plants, but 11 years and 9 months after the accident, the government is making a major change in its nuclear policy.
 According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, nuclear power plants will be allowed to operate for more than 60 years, excluding the period of suspension due to the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s examination and judicial decisions for restarting operations. The revised bill is expected to be submitted to the ordinary Diet session next year.
 In addition, the company will move forward with concrete plans to rebuild nuclear power plants that have been decided to be decommissioned with next-generation nuclear power plants, based on the assumption that safety is ensured and that the local governments in which the plants are located have their understanding. The construction of new nuclear power plants is estimated to cost more than 1 trillion yen, and the government will also consider financial support measures to help electric power companies bear the initial costs.
 The basic policy will also include the development of the power grid to maximize the use of renewable energy.
 At the end of July, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructed relevant ministries and agencies to advance discussions on overcoming the energy crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the GX as one, and to specify items requiring a political decision.
◆ While uninhabitable areas still remain and compensation for the affected people is still ongoing
 Prime Minister Kishida is calling it a “political decision” to change the nuclear energy policy. While the GX’s cause of reforming the socioeconomic system to combat global warming has been raised, the maximum utilization of nuclear power plants is a bad move, a measure to prolong the life of an industry that is not expected to grow.
 There are two pillars of the government’s decision to utilize nuclear power plants: The first is to cut to the bare bones the rule of “40 years in principle, with a maximum of 60 years” for operation, effectively allowing operation “beyond 60 years.
 Ensuring the safety of old nuclear power plants requires an enormous amount of manpower, money, and time. Nuclear power plants, which the government has promoted as an “inexpensive power source,” would impose a tremendous double-digit trillion-yen burden on electric power companies if even one severe accident were to occur. The accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant 11 years and 9 months ago brought this to light.
 The other pillar of the plan is to rebuild the decommissioned nuclear power plants with next-generation nuclear power plants. Although it is touted as the introduction of new technology, the number of human resources in the industry has decreased since the Fukushima accident, and there is an undeniable lack of personnel and technical capabilities. Nuclear power plant construction has long ceased, and nuclear power plant exports, promoted as a growth strategy by the Shinzo Abe administration, the longest in the postwar era, have failed at every turn.
 At the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, located 220 kilometers from Tokyo, the goal of restoration work remains elusive. Uninhabitable areas remain in the vicinity of the plant, and compensation for the victims is still ongoing. There is no hope for political decisions that do not face reality. (Shinichi Ogawa)

January 5, 2023 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

METI panel of experts approves policy of extending operating period and promoting rebuilding of nuclear power plants

December 16, 2022

The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) has approved a proposal for the utilization of nuclear power plants by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI), which focuses on the reconstruction (replacement) of nuclear power plants that the government has kept under wraps following the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, at a meeting on December 16. This is a clear shift in nuclear energy policy only less than five months after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s order, amid the ongoing restoration work from the Fukushima accident and compensation for the victims of the disaster. The government will make a formal decision at the Green Transformation (GX) Implementation Conference to be held before the end of the year.

At a meeting of the Basic Policy Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, Yasutoshi Nishimura, Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry, said, “We would like to move forward with concrete steps to rebuild the reactors we have decided to decommission into next-generation innovative reactors (next-generation nuclear power plants)” on the premise that safety is assured and local governments understand the situation.
 The law was amended after the Fukushima accident to limit the operating period of nuclear power plants to “40 years in principle, with a maximum of 60 years,” but by excluding the shutdown period due to the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s review and other factors, it will be possible to operate nuclear power plants for over 60 years. The government is expected to submit the revised bill to the ordinary Diet session next year.
 At the end of July, the prime minister had ordered a study of measures to ensure a stable energy supply toward a decarbonized society. (Shinichi Ogawa)
◆An overwhelming majority of committee members advocate the promotion of nuclear power generation
 On July 16, the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) held a meeting of its experts, the Subcommittee on Basic Policy of the Advisory Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, and approved the ministry’s policy, which focuses on rebuilding (replacing) nuclear power plants and allowing them to operate for 60 years or longer. The committee approved the policy. While an overwhelming majority of the committee members advocated the promotion of nuclear power plants, only one member called for careful discussion.
 At 1:00 p.m. in a conference room on the 17th floor of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo. Eighteen of the 21 committee members were present, including online, and three were absent. In addition to METI Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, the meeting was attended by executives including Hosaka Shin, director general of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy.
 The METI officials explained that the public discussion should be held over a period of about one year. The only one who “waited” on the METI’s proposed policy on the use of nuclear power plants was Ms. Chisato Murakami, an advisor to the committee on consumer affairs. Murakami also criticized the ministry’s approach to the discussion, saying that it was “too hasty” at another METI expert panel meeting on the nuclear energy subcommittee, which discussed the use of nuclear power plants in detail.
 Each committee member had five minutes to express his or her opinion. The other committee members supported METI’s policy, calling it “groundbreaking. Shuzo Sumi, a member of the committee and Senior Advisor to Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance, commented, “Construction of nuclear power plants has been halted for more than 10 years. We need to make a decision now in terms of human resources and industry.
 Commissioner Takeo Tachibanagawa, Vice President of Kokusai University, said that while nuclear power plants are necessary, he disagreed with the current policy. He pointed out the contradiction in the policy, saying, “Extending the operation of nuclear power plants will postpone the construction of next-generation innovative reactors (next-generation nuclear power plants), which will cost about 1 trillion yen. He also questioned the policy guideline, the Basic Energy Plan, which calls for renewable energy to be the main source of power, but “there was not much talk about renewable energy.
 The meeting ended in two hours, 30 minutes earlier than scheduled. The executives of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, who had been looking at each other sternly, left the meeting room looking relaxed and chatting with the committee members. (The meeting ended 30 minutes early.)

December 19, 2022 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

No nuclear power plant in the world has been in operation for more than 60 years. Troubles continue to occur

Beznau nuclear power plant in northern Switzerland in 2012, after 53 years of operation.

December 9, 2022

The draft action guidelines for the utilization of nuclear power plants, which were discussed at the METI’s experts’ meeting on December 8, would maintain the current restriction on the operating period and allow operation beyond the “maximum 60 years,” with a view to eliminating the limit in the future. However, there is not a single example in the world of a nuclear power plant that has operated for more than 60 years. In Japan, there has been a string of troubles due to equipment deterioration, and the Nuclear Regulation Authority is having a hard time regulating this “unexplored area. (The Nuclear Regulation Authority of Japan is having a hard time regulating this “unexplored area.)

A thin piece of iron rust (triangle in the center) stuck in a pipe (bottom right) inside the steam generator at the Takahama Unit 4 nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture (courtesy of Kansai Electric Power Co.).

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the longest operating period of a nuclear power plant in the world, including those that have already been decommissioned, is 53 years and one month for India’s Tarapur reactors Nos. 1 and 2. All four reactors are still in operation.
Like Japan, the U.S. has a 40-year operating period, but if a plant passes a regulatory review, it can be extended for 20 years, and there is no limit to the number of extensions. In the U.K. and France, there is no upper limit to the operating period, and a review is required every 10 years.
 However, many nuclear power plants were designed and built with a 40-year service life in mind. As nuclear power plants age, maintenance and management costs become higher, and many operators are likely to choose decommissioning over long-term operation.
 Even nuclear power plants in Japan that are less than 40 years old are experiencing problems due to deterioration.
 Since 2018, KEPCO’s Takahama Units 3 and 4 (Fukui Prefecture), which have been in operation for 37 years, have experienced a series of troubles in which flakes of iron rust have accumulated in the steam generators connected to the reactors over many years of operation, hitting and damaging pipes. The problem was confirmed six times during regular inspections and recurred even after the steam generators were cleaned.
Even more serious are inspection leaks. In 2004, at Mihama Unit 3, which had been in operation for less than 30 years, a pipe that had been omitted from the inspection list and never checked became thin and broke due to age-related deterioration, spewing hot water and steam that killed five people and seriously injured six others.
 At TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki Kariwa Nuclear Power Station in Niigata Prefecture, it was discovered in October of this year that the piping in the turbine building of Unit 7, which was shut down shortly after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, had not been inspected in 11 years and had developed holes due to corrosion.
 Hiromitsu Ino, professor emeritus of metallurgy and materials science at the University of Tokyo, said, “Ultrasonic inspection to check the deterioration status is difficult to measure behind the pipes. If deterioration progresses due to long-term operation, the risk of inspection leakage increases, leading to a serious accident,” he warned.
The Regulatory Commission, which examines whether or not to extend operation from the aspect of safety, has been unable to begin considering concrete measures on how to regulate nuclear power plants that are over 60 years old.
 A major hurdle is the lack of data on how reactors actually deteriorate. The way of understanding the degree of deterioration differs from that of the U.S., which is ahead of the U.S. in the examination of operation extensions. Shinsuke Yamanaka, the chairman of the committee, said at a press conference, “The period beyond 60 years is an unknown area. We need to create Japan’s own rules,” he said, acknowledging the difficulty of the study.
 While the regulations remain unclear, only the mechanism to make it possible to exceed 60 years is moving ahead. Mr. Ino emphasizes. Japan has many earthquakes and a high population density. The situation is different from other countries. Nuclear power plants should be operated for 40 years, which is the design guideline.”

December 19, 2022 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

140,000 signatures “against” extending the operational period and rebuilding nuclear power plants submitted to the government “Reducing dependence on nuclear power plants is the voice of the people.

Toshi Kamata speaks in front of approximately 140,000 signatures opposing the promotion of nuclear power plants in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on April 2.

December 2, 2022
On December 2, the “Sayonara 10 Million People Action Committee,” a citizens’ group, submitted 140,463 signatures to the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) demanding the withdrawal of the nuclear power promotion measures being considered by the Kishida administration, including the extension of the operating period of nuclear power plants, which is stipulated to be “40 years in principle and 60 years maximum,” and the reconstruction (replacement) of nuclear power plants that are scheduled to be decommissioned. The signatures were submitted to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) in late October.
 The signatures had been collected by the Executive Committee since late October. On the same day, a rally was held in the National Diet building, where reportage writer Toshi Kamata, representative of the callers, said, “The people’s voice in the wake of the TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident is to reduce dependence on nuclear power as much as possible. These are angry signatures asking what they are thinking,” he explained, handing the signatures to a METI official on the spot.
 During the exchange of opinions following the submission of the signatures, participants voiced their opinions, such as “We should hold public hearings and listen to the public before reaching a conclusion,” but the METI official merely stated, “We will consider public comments at an appropriate time.
 Regarding the proposal to rebuild a nuclear power plant that has been decided to be decommissioned with a next-generation nuclear power plant, the METI side said, “Instead of decommissioning the plant, we will build one. Whether or not they will be built on the exact site has not yet been determined,” the ministry said, declining to elaborate.
 The government aims to decide on a policy to utilize nuclear power plants at the end of the year and submit a bill to amend related laws to the Diet next year. (Nozomi Masui)

December 4, 2022 Posted by | Japan | , , | 1 Comment