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Municipalities near nuclear plants want say over restarts

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More than half of municipalities within a 30-kilometer radius of nuclear power plants insist their approval must be sought for restarts, but only 6 percent of local governments that host such facilities agree.

The finding that 53 percent of municipalities require prior consultations came in a survey by The Asahi Shimbun undertaken two years after a reactor at the Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture went back online in August 2015, the first to do so under new, more stringent nuclear regulations adopted in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

The mayor of Hitachiomiya, Ibaraki Prefecture, said local governments beyond host communities “need” to have a say over restarts as the central government revised its nuclear emergency guidelines in 2012 to require municipalities within the 30-km radius to have evacuation plans in place in the event of a serious accident.

Before the Fukushima accident, only local governments within 8-10 km of a nuclear power plant had to do so.

The mayor of Misato, Miyagi Prefecture, said his town’s approval should be sought for a restart because a “local government not receiving economic benefits can make a levelheaded judgment on the pros and cons of resumed operations.”

Host communities receive grants and subsidies from the central government, in addition to taxes and other revenue sources related to power generation.

In the survey, The Asahi Shimbun contacted the heads of 155 local governments that either host or are situated within a 30-km radius of the 16 nuclear plants across the nation, excluding the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The figure includes the prefectural government of Hokkaido and 20 other prefectural authorities that host plants.

As things stand, there are no legal steps that an operator of a nuclear facility must take, such as winning the consent of a host municipality or the prefectural government, before a plant’s restart.

The Sendai nuclear plant went back online after operator Kyushu Electric Power Co. got the go-ahead only from Satsuma-Sendai, which hosts the plant, and Kagoshima Prefecture for a resumption of operations.

The survey found that Mihama, home to Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Mihama nuclear plant, was against the notion of asking nearby municipalities for their approval for a restart.

Only a host community has a history of contributing to the safe operation of a nuclear plant,” the mayor said.

Of all the local governments, 61 heads called for legal procedures to be adopted with respect to restarts. All these calls came from municipalities located in areas surrounding nuclear power plants, except for one.

As long as nuclear energy has been promoted as a state program, the central government should take responsibility for setting the legal framework for a restart,” said the mayor of Makinohara, Shizuoka Prefecture.

The mayor of Imari, Saga Prefecture, echoed a similar view.

Things remain ambiguous because no legal procedures are in place,” the mayor said. “The government is reluctant to enshrine the steps into law because that will make restarts harder. However, the central government should also listen to what people in municipalities beyond host communities have to say.”

The survey also found that calls for plant operators to gain the consent of the municipalities within a 30-km radius of a proposed restart have somewhat abated among 35 local governments, where nuclear plants have resumed operations.

Ten heads sided with this view in the current survey, down from 13 in the previous survey in autumn 2014.

Another 10 leaders called for setting up legal procedures for restarts, compared with 14 in the last survey.

Apart from the Sendai nuclear plant, Ikata in Ehime Prefecture and Takahama in Fukui Prefecture are currently operating.

Municipalities situated close to facilities that are expected to go back online in the near future are now taking a more clear-cut stance on nuclear energy issues.

Representatives from cities around the Genkai nuclear plant in Genkai, Saga Prefecture, formed a group to present a united front against moves to resume its operations, which is expected this winter.

Although the mayors of Hirado and Matsuura, both in Nagasaki Prefecture, did not take a stance in the 2014 survey, they joined the municipalities against the restart in the latest poll, bringing municipalities opposed to the restart to four, or half of the eight local governments within a 30-km radius of the facility.

The Genkai town hall and the Saga prefectural government have already agreed to resuming plant operations.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201708210035.html

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August 21, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , | Leave a comment

Revised law enables surprise inspection of nuclear plants

The Diet passed on Friday a sweeping reform of nuclear inspections to allow regulators to conduct unannounced inspections of nuclear plants and give them unlimited access to needed data.

The enactment of the revised nuclear reactor regulation law comes after the International Atomic Energy Agency suggested Japan, which has been holding periodic inspections using checklists, needs a more flexible system.

The new inspection system, based on the U.S. system, will be implemented from fiscal 2020 after the Nuclear Regulation Authority sets specific rules.

http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2017/04/467500.html

April 8, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

10 nuclear facilities lagging on waterproofing

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Japan’s regulator says 10 of the country’s nuclear power plants and other facilities have yet to complete work to prevent massive inflows of rainwater into buildings in the event of torrential rain.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority has called on operators to finish the work within a year.
The NRA urged them to take the steps after rainwater got into the Shika nuclear plant in central Japan and short-circuited a distribution switchboard last September.
At a meeting on Wednesday, NRA officials said 10 plants and facilities have yet to finish waterproofing areas of buildings where pipes enter from the outside.
New regulations established after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident require operators to protect plants’ power sources and reactor-cooling systems from inflows of rainwater and tsunami.
Some of the 10 plants and facilities are equipped with a drainage system for rainwater. But the regulator is urging the additional measures for greater safety.
Work has yet to be completed at: the Onagawa plant in Miyagi Prefecture, the Fukushima Daini plant in Fukushima Prefecture, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture, the Hamaoka plant in Shizuoka Prefecture, the Shika plant in Ishikawa Prefecture, the Tsuruga plant in Fukui Prefecture and the Shimane plant in Shimane Prefecture.
Others are nuclear fuel reprocessing plants in Aomori and Ibaraki prefectures, and the Monju fast-breeder reactor in Fukui.
Officials say such measures are already in place at the restarted plants in Kagoshima and Ehime prefectures.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170208_24/

February 9, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

NRA clears Genkai reactors

The R3 and R4 of the Genkai nuclear power plant, Pref. Saga, have met the new safety standards of the NRA. Restart announced at the end of summer.

As of today: Have met the safety standards, 10 reactors in 5 nuclear plant namely also Sendai R1, R2 – Takahama R1 to R4 – Mihama R3 – Ikata R3.

Two reactors have now been restarted: Sendai 1 and Ikata 3 (using MOX).

 

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The Nuclear Regulation Authority formally decided Wednesday on the screening document certifying that the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture satisfied the country’s safety standards for their restart.

The latest decision made at an NRA regular meeting brings to 10 the number of reactors, at five nuclear power plants, that have satisfied the regulator’s new safety standards, introduced after the nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011. The two Genkai reactors are scheduled to be back online sometime in or after summer this year.

The Kyushu power company applied for a safety screening on those reactors in July 2013. At that time, the company anticipated an earthquake with an acceleration of up to 540 gal at the Genkai plant followed by tsunami of up to 3 meters high. However, the NRA deemed the simulation as “too optimistic” and the figures were raised to an acceleration of 620 gal with 4-meter-high tsunami.

In November last year, the NRA approved a draft document as the two reactors complied with the new standards. The NRA then solicited public opinions and received 4,200 comments, including concerns over possible earthquakes, but concluded that there was no problem with compliance.

With the formal decision being made on the Genkai plant, the focus for the restart has moved to an approval of a construction plan that maps out the specifications of related equipment for safe operation as well as whether it can obtain the consent of local governments for the restart.

So far, nuclear reactors that have passed the NRA’s screenings under the new standards are the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors at Kyushu’s Sendai power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, the Nos. 1 to 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama plant and KEPCO’s No. 3 reactor at Mihama plant, both in Fukui Prefecture, and the No. 3 reactor at Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture. Currently, two reactors — Sendai plant’s No. 1 and Ikata’s No. 3 — are online.

http://www.the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003466628

 

January 24, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

6.6 Magnitude Earthquake in Western Japan

 

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Since the strong earthquake today at 2:07 p.m. in Tottori, of 6.6 magnitude and 6 intensity that shook half of Japan, the earth continues to shake with an impressive number of aftershocks. Officials at the Meteorological Agency say seismic activity continues in Tottori and are asking people to be prepared and take precautions against another possible earthquake.

On this coast of West Japan lies the largest concentration of nuclear power plants in the world. Though stopped, they are full of potentially very dangerous spent nuclear fuel. The epicenter of this earthquake was at 76km from the Shimane nuclear power plant. Of course, no damages say the Authorities, as usual…

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Strong quake in western Japan

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 struck Tottori Prefecture in western Japan on Friday afternoon. The Japan Meteorological Agency says there is no tsunami theat.
The jolt registered 6 minus on the Japanese seismic scale of 0 to 7 in central Tottori. The focus was 10 kilometers deep in the prefecture.
There are some reports of injuries and houses collapsing.
About 30,000 households in the prefecture are without power.
The tremors have disrupted transportation.
Local airports have cancelled flights.
Some bullet train services in central Japan are suspended. Parts of highways have been closed to check for damage.
Officials at the nearby Shimane nuclear power plant say there are no irregularities. The plant was off-line at the time of the quake.

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20161021_27/

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M6.6 quake strikes western Japan, no tsunami warning issued

A powerful earthquake struck Tottori Prefecture and surrounding areas shortly after 2 p.m. on Oct. 21, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. No tsunami warning was issued.

The 2:07 p.m. quake, which had an estimated magnitude of 6.6, measured a lower 6 on the 7-point Japanese seismic intensity scale in some parts of the Tottori Prefecture city of Kurayoshi, the town of Yurihama and the town of Hokuei, the agency said. It measured an upper 5 in parts of the city of Tottori, as well as in parts of neighboring Okayama Prefecture.

Reports said that several homes in Yurihama had collapsed. The Tottori Prefectural Government is in the process of confirming the information. The quake caused a blackout affecting nearly 32,000 households in Tottori Prefecture, Chugoku Electric Power Co. reported.

Firefighters in Tottori said that a female employee at a supermarket restaurant was taken to hospital with burns to her legs after an accident with hot oil when the quake struck. Elevators also stopped in the quake and there were reports that at least one person had been trapped.

Broken windows were reported over a wide area of Kurayoshi. A 53-year-old architect in the city, Katsunori Choda, said he was about to get in a vehicle when the ground started shaking, and pedestrians crouched on the ground to balance themselves. Soon afterward there was a blackout. Ambulance sirens could be heard and tiles fell from the roofs of old homes.

“I’d never felt an earthquake this big before,” the architect said. “There is a lot of old town scenery in the area and I’m worried about damage.”

Earthquake sounds could still be heard 30 minutes after the quake and aftershocks were reportedly continuing. The earthquake struck at an estimated depth of 10 kilometers, the meteorological agency said.

Services on the Sanyo Shinkansen bullet train were suspended between Shin-Osaka and Hakata stations following the quake, but resumed at 2:27 p.m., West Japan Railway Co. announced.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161021/p2g/00m/0dm/062000c

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This aerial photo shows broken grave markers and collapsed walls at a cemetery in Kurayoshi, Tottori Prefecture, following a strong earthquake that shook the area Friday.

Homes damaged, power cut after strong quake rattles parts of western Honshu

A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 shook parts of western Honshu early Friday afternoon, damaging homes and roads and cutting power to almost 40,000 households.

The Meteorological Agency said the earthquake occurred at 2:07 p.m. in central Tottori Prefecture, about 700 km west of Tokyo, at a depth of 10 km. It was followed by a weaker aftershock about 30 minutes later.

The agency said there was no danger of a tsunami from the inland temblor.

Two houses collapsed in the town of Hokuei, Tottori Prefecture, according to the local fire department. Roads were cracked and roof tiles laid strewn in the town.

In Kurayoshi in the prefecture, ATMs at some local banks temporarily went offline due to a power outage.

All up, the blackout affected nearly 40,000 households in Tottori Prefecture, according to Chugoku Electric Power Co.

Okayama City Fire Department said a woman in her 70s was taken to hospital after she fell and broke her right leg. Five people are reported to have been injured in Tottori Prefecture.

West Japan Railway Co. temporarily suspended all services on the Sanyo Shinkansen Line between Shin-Osaka and Hakata stations.

The quake registered lower 6 on the Japanese seismic scale of 7 in parts of Tottori Prefecture, and upper 5 in a wide area in Tottori and Okayama prefectures, according to the agency.

No abnormalities were detected at the Shimane nuclear plant, which is currently off-line, in nearby Shimane Prefecture, according to the utility.

Okayama airport closed its runway to check its safety, airport officials said.

According to local officials a house in the town of Yurihama, in central Tottori Prefecture, was destroyed, and a number of dwellings in other parts of the prefecture suffered damage

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/10/21/national/strong-earthquake-rattles-western-honshu-shinkansen-train-services-disrupted/#.WAn2siTKO-d

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UPDATE: Quake rattles buildings in Tottori; 6 injured

Tottori Prefecture in western Japan was struck by a series of major earthquakes on Oct. 21, causing structural damage to some buildings and homes and at least six injuries.

A quake measuring lower 6 on the Japanese intensity scale of 7 was recorded at 2:07 p.m.

The focus was about 10 kilometers underground, and the temblor had an estimated magnitude of 6.6.

Shaking was felt in a wide area of western Japan and as far as the Kanto and Kyushu regions.

Japan Meteorological Agency officials urged caution because there was a possibility of another quake measuring lower 6 in intensity striking over the next week in areas where the shaking was particularly strong.

Among the buildings damaged was the Kurayoshi city government building. Government workers evacuated as the building has been declared off-limits.

Homes in Yurihama were also heavily damaged, according to Tottori prefectural officials.

One individual suffered burns at a shopping center in Tottori city while a woman in her 70s in Okayama city, south of Tottori, fell and broke her leg.

Meanwhile, officials of Chugoku Electric Power Co. said about 31,900 households in the prefecture suffered a blackout after the quake struck, centered mainly on Kurayoshi.

However, the quake did not affect the two reactors at the Shimane nuclear power plant in the neighboring prefecture. Both reactors were not operating when the temblor struck.

Various stretches of expressways were closed to traffic.

Bullet train services between Shin-Osaka and Hakata stations operated by West Japan Railway Co. were stopped for about 20 minutes immediately after the quake. Service on the Tokaido Shinkansen line was also temporarily suspended between Shin-Osaka and Toyohashi in Aichi Prefecture.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201610210040.html

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October 21, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Abe’s Nuclear Japan Goals Face More Ballot-Box Battles in 2017

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– Anti-nuclear candidates win in Niigata, Kagoshima prefectures

– Three gubernatorial races next year in regions facing restarts

Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ambition to restart the country’s fleet of nuclear reactors may face further challenges from local elections.

The victory of an anti-nuclear gubernatorial candidate in the central prefecture of Niigata on Sunday, following a similar win in the southern Kagoshima region earlier this year, is complicating efforts by the country’s ruling party to revive Japan’s nuclear fleet. There will be at least three such elections next year in areas where utilities are vying to restart reactors.

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Even as the Abe administration remains committed to including nuclear power as part of Japan’s energy mix, implementing this vision will require overcoming ever-more-dogged resistance from local communities and their representatives,” Tobias Harris, a vice president with Teneo Intelligence in Washington D.C., said in a note Monday. “The restart process will continue to proceed unevenly at best.”

Almost all the country’s reactors remain shut because of new safety regulations and public opposition following the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Only 2 of Japan’s 42 operable reactors are producing power commercially as of Oct. 6, when Kyushu Electric Power Co. shut its Sendai No. 1 unit for maintenance. 

Local Approval

Sendai’s return to service may be delayed due to the recently elected Kagoshima governor’s strong opposition to its operation. Local government approval — including endorsement from the governor — is traditionally sought by Japanese utilities before returning plants to service.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. fell the most in almost four months on Monday after Ryuichi Yoneyama was elected governor of Niigata over the weekend. Yoneyama won’t support restarting the prefecture’s Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant without a deeper review of the Fukushima meltdown and Niigata’s current evacuation measures.

Elections will be watched closely as support from local governments are crucial to get more nuclear reactors back online, according to Syusaku Nishikawa, an analyst at Daiwa Securities Co. About 57 percent of the Japanese public oppose restarts, according to an Asahi newspaper poll earlier this month. Lawsuits have also threatened reactor operations.

Public opposition and the slow pace of returning reactors will be a challenge to Abe’s goal of having nuclear power provide at least 20 percent of Japan’s electricity by 2030, Harris said.

Gubernatorial races are held within about 30 days of when the current term ends, which will happen in 2017 in the following prefectures, according to the local-government websites and data compiled by Bloomberg:

Shizuoka

Chubu Electric Power Co.’s only nuclear power plant is in Shizuoka prefecture, where two of the Hamaoka facility’s units are under review by the nation’s regulator. The current governor, Heita Kawakatsu, said Monday the issue of nuclear restarts should be thoroughly debated during the election, according to Chunichi newspaper. He said in May the prefecture should hold a public referendum on whether the reactors restart, the Mainichi newspaper reported.

While an exact date for the election hasn’t been decided, it will likely occur as early as June, according to the prefecture’s administrative office. Chubu Electric declined to comment on next year’s gubernatorial race and the current governor’s stance. The governor’s office wasn’t immediately available to comment.

Miyagi

Tohoku Electric Power Co. asked the national nuclear regulator to review the safety of the No. 2 reactor at its Onagawa nuclear plant in 2013. Yoshihiro Murai, governor of Miyagi prefecture since 2005 and not affiliated with any party, will not take a position on the restart until after the review, according to an official from the prefecture’s nuclear safety policy division. Tohoku Electric declined to comment.

Ibaraki

Ibaraki prefecture is in a similar position as Miyagi.

Japan Atomic Power Co. asked for a federal safety review in 2014 of its Tokai Dai-Ni plant. Politically-independent Masaru Hashimoto, governor since 1993, said in an NHK interview earlier this year he’ll make a decision on the restart after the review is complete. Japan Atomic declined to comment. The governor’s office wasn’t immediately available to comment.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-18/abe-s-nuclear-japan-goals-face-more-ballot-box-battles-in-2017

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

Nuclear watchdog eyes standards for reactor shutdown in fear of giant volcanic eruption

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An aerial view shows the eruption of Mount Aso in Aso, Kumamoto prefecture, southwestern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo October 8, 2016.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) held a meeting of a panel of outside experts on Oct. 17 to start considering the formulation of standards for ordering a nuclear power plant to shut down in preparation for a giant volcanic eruption.

Arguing that there is a high possibility of smaller volcanic eruptions occurring ahead of a giant eruption, the expert panel showed a proposal to prepare for a giant eruption after a smaller eruption occurs. But the panel did not show specific details of standards.

According to the NRA’s proposal, a giant eruption is believed to occur following small-, medium- or large-scale eruptions. With such a possibility in mind, the NRA said that the expert panel would consider how to respond in the event of small- and medium-sized eruptions occurring and extremely abnormal data being observed. The NRA listed crustal movement, seismic activity and temperatures and gasses of a volcano as data to be subject to monitoring.

Meanwhile, there was a spate of suggestions from experts at the meeting that it would be difficult to detect signs of a giant eruption. For example, Tetsuo Kobayashi, professor emeritus at Kagoshima University, said, “Even if there is a significant phenomenon, whether or not it will lead to a giant eruption will not be known until the last minute.”

The NRA is to examine data on past volcanic eruptions, but it will likely face difficulties in working out standards as there are very few cases of giant eruptions being observed in the world.

The NRA had given the green light for two reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai Nuclear Power Plant in Kagoshima Prefecture to restart, saying, “The possibility of a giant volcanic eruption occurring at the periphery of the nuclear plant is very low.” If the NRA deems there is a sign of a giant eruption, it will order a relevant power company to halt the operation of nuclear reactors and take nuclear fuel out from the reactors. But in order to take out nuclear fuel from reactors, several years have to be spent to cool down the atomic fuel first. And yet, nothing has been decided as to where such fuel should be sent.

 

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161018/p2a/00m/0na/008000c

October 18, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Cost of pulling plug on reactors

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In its latest discussions on electricity market reform, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is reportedly considering a measure to financially help major power companies with decommissioning their nuclear plants. METI is reportedly weighing having new entrants to the liberalized power retail market shoulder part of the decommissioning cost, which would be added to the electricity bills of their customers. That would be nothing less than welfare for the major suppliers that are seeing nuclear power lose its cost advantages in the face of power retail deregulation since April. The government should avoid policies that could distort the principles of electricity business liberalization.

In its discussions launched in late September, the ministry says the committee will weigh establishing a system that would have power suppliers respond to “issues of public interest,” such as investments to prepare for decommissioning nuclear plants and severe nuclear accidents amid market liberalization. That sounds like a legitimate question to consider, but the measures contemplated by the ministry pose many problems.

One is a change to the accounting system for decommissioning nuclear power plants. Tokyo Electric Power faces massive financial problems in dealing with its Fukushima No. 1 plant, which suffered triple meltdowns after it was hit by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. The cost to decommission the crippled plant is certain to far exceed the estimated ¥2 trillion — in fact it is impossible to grasp the total cost at this stage since the technology to remove molten nuclear fuel from its reactors has not yet been established. Compensation for victims of the nuclear disaster, which was estimated in 2014 at ¥4.9 trillion, has already topped ¥6 trillion. The cost to decontaminate areas polluted with radioactive fallout from the plant is likely to top ¥2.5 trillion in the government’s plan.

Even in the absence of a major disaster like the Fukushima catastrophe, the major utilities operating nuclear power plants face a shortage in financial reserves to pay for decommissioning as they needed to scrap the plants earlier than scheduled in response to the tightened plant regulations following the Fukushima disaster, along with the overshooting of the cost of decommissioning from earlier forecasts. Besides Tokyo Electric, five major power firms have made decisions to decommission six of their reactors — one each for Kyushu Electric, Chugoku Electric, Shikoku Electric and Japan Atomic Power and two for Kansai Electric.

To cover the bloated expenses of decommissioning, the ministry is thinking of having all electricity suppliers — including new entrants to the market that do not run nuclear power plants — share the cost in the form of surcharges to the fees that they pay for accessing power transmission lines to service their customers. The cost will then be added to customers’ electricity bills.

Under the current system, the major suppliers operating nuclear power plants can include the cost of decommissioning them in the future — along with all other expenses in their power generation — in their electricity charges. But that system will be abolished in 2020, when their power transmission and distribution sections are to be separated from the power generation operations in the final phase of the reform. The idea of having all suppliers — and consequently all consumers — pay for the cost of decommissioning nuclear plants is intended to cope with this change. However, such a measure will blur the responsibility of major power companies that have relied heavily on nuclear power generation and miscalculated the related costs.

That will also have the effect of denying consumers the right to refuse to pay for electricity generated by nuclear power. The retail market liberalization in April enabled consumers to choose power suppliers, instead of being tied to regional monopolies. Some suppliers offer electricity mainly generated by renewable sources such as solar and wind. But applying the surcharge to all suppliers will result in forcing all consumers — including those who may not want to buy electricity from the former monopolies that run nuclear plants — to shoulder the cost of decommissioning.

The ministry’s committee is also reportedly weighing a scheme to enable suppliers that operate large-scale thermal power plants to receive a certain amount of revenue for keeping the plants even without running them — based on their power-generation capacity. The idea represents another relief measure for major power companies whose thermal power plants saw their operating ratio fall with the sharp rise in renewable sources in recent years. The scheme is touted as necessary to maintain thermal power capacity as a buffer in case the supply from renewable sources decreases. But experience in other countries indicates that such a mechanism is not essential to managing possible fluctuations in the supply of renewable energy.

The government has long based its energy policy on the argument that nuclear power is cheaper than most other forms of power generation. But the fact that it is seeking to introduce a relief measure for major suppliers that run nuclear plants indicates that argument is no longer tenable. The government needs to reflect on the real meaning of the measures it is contemplating.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2016/10/15/editorials/cost-pulling-plug-reactors/#.WAJK0yQzYU0

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

Steel in Troubled French Nuclear Reactor Used in 13 Japanese Reactors

Thirteen Japanese nuclear reactors were constructed with steel from the same company used in a French power plant that’s under scrutiny for anomalies found in the reactor vessel’s structure.

Six utilities used steel from Japan Casting & Forging Corp., they all said in separate statements on Friday. The steelmaker was identified by Japanese authorities last month as supplying steel to the Flamanville nuclear plant, developed by Electricite de France SA and Areva SA, where the French safety authority last year found weaker-than-expected steel.

Japan’s nuclear regulators asked utilities last month to examine reactor parts manufactured by the same companies as the Flamanville facility. Utilities must now evaluate whether their reactor pressure vessels meet Japan’s standards and report the results to the Nuclear Regulation Authority by Oct. 31.

The Japanese facilities affected include Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai No. 1 and 2 reactors, the company said Friday. The plant was restarted last year and is facing opposition from the region’s new governor, who has demanded they be temporarily shut for inspections.

Reactors that are currently operating don’t need to be shut down, Yoko Kobayashi, an official with the NRA’s planning division, said Friday. The affected utilities are now required to submit manufacturing reports and past evaluation results, she said.

Nuclear Challenge

The steel scrutiny is latest hurdle for nuclear power in Japan and the government’s goal of having it account for as much as 22 percent of its energy mix by 2030 in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Local court challenges have threatened reactor operations, and even those restarted under new post-Fukushima safety rules have faced a rocky road. Only three of the nation’s 42 operable reactors are online.

Parts manufactured by JCFC met rigorous standards requested by the utilities, and the company will provide support going forward, Seigo Otsubo, an official at the company, said Friday.

EDF and Areva are conducting additional tests to determine whether the anomalies are a safety issue. The two companies said in April that the submission of their report to French regulators about the Flamanville reactor has been delayed until year-end.

EDF has also determined that steam generator channel heads at 18 French reactors contain anomalies similar to those at Flamanville, Autorite de Surete Nucleaire, the safety regulator, said in June.

Japanese reactors that used steel from JCFC, according to statements from the companies:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-09-02/steel-in-troubled-french-nuclear-reactor-used-in-japanese-plants

September 3, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Doubts about nuclear plant’s quake resistance

Doubts about nuclear plant’s quake resistance shake trust in NRA

Trust in Japan’s nuclear watchdog, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), has been jolted. At hand is an issue raised by Kunihiko Shimazaki, former acting chairman of the NRA. Shimazaki pointed out that Kansai Electric Power Co. underestimated the maximum shaking that could occur during an earthquake at its Oi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture.

Shimazaki is an authority on seismology, having formerly served as president of the Seismological Society of Japan. While serving in the NRA, he handled screening of power companies’ earthquake predictions for nuclear power plants including the Oi nuclear plant.

After he stepped down two years ago, he re-examined data and found the method of calculating standard ground motion (the maximum shaking that would occur during an earthquake) was inappropriate in some cases, depending on the type of fault. This could lead power companies to underestimate figures, he apparently found in his research.

If Shimazaki’s argument is correct, the Oi Nuclear Power Plant could come under pressure to provide even greater reinforcement against quakes.

The NRA had for the most part accepted Kansai Electric’s data, but following the claim by Shimazaki, a new calculation on ground motion was performed using a method differing from that adopted by the power company. As the figure was below that presented by Kansai Electric, it determined that the utility had not underestimated the shaking, and during a regular meeting on July 13, it decided against revising Kansai Electric’s figure.

Shimazaki, however, objected, saying that the recalculated figure should have greatly surpassed the original figure for standard ground motion. The reason is that during screening, the outcome of calculations is normally multiplied by 1.5 to provide an added element of safety, but this wasn’t done.

The new calculation was performed by the secretariat of the NRA. A member of the secretariat who talked with Shimazaki admitted that the renewed calculation was repeatedly stretched, and had “no accuracy.” The member added, “It’s not known how much leeway should be given.” It couldn’t be helped if the secretariat were accused of adopting its approach to avoid criticism that the estimate for envisaged damage was too low. The fact that the NRA accepted without questions its secretariat’s explanation that Kansai Electric’s estimate was sufficient raises doubts about its competence.

There are no experts on seismology among the NRA’s five commissioners. NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka has expressed the opinion that the calculated figure for standard ground motion at the Oi Nuclear Power Plant doesn’t have to be reviewed. We worry whether quake resistance has been calculated properly.

Shimazaki has suggested to the NRA that it listen to a wide range of opinions from experts in seismology and incorporate the good ones into its screening. Even if experts differ in their evaluations of Shimazaki’s research results, his suggestion to the NRA itself is appropriate.

Tanaka, however, commented, “We don’t have the leeway to do that and it’s not our job to do it either.” We can only be skeptical about such a stance.

The NRA is supposed to be the final fortress in ensuring nuclear safety. We hope that it will try to make improvements to methods of calculating quake resistance of its own accord.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160725/p2a/00m/0na/006000c

NRA sees no need to review maximum quake estimate at Oi nuke plant

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) on July 27 concluded that there is no need to review the maximum possible earthquake estimate — known as the standard ground motion — for Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture.

The NRA reached the conclusion at a regular meeting after former acting NRA chairman Kunihiko Shimazaki pointed out that Kansai Electric had “underestimated” the calculated standard ground motion for its Oi plant. The NRA said that the result of Kansai Electric’s calculation was reasonable. The NRA then dismissed Shimazaki’s argument by saying that calculation methods other than the current one used for the Oi plant “have not reached a degree of scientific and technological maturity.”

Shimazaki had earlier suggested that the so-called “Irikura-Miyake method” used by Kansai Electric was the cause of the underestimated standard ground motion. The NRA’s secretariat checked the validity of other methods such as the “Takemura method,” but it concluded that ways of taking into account the “uncertainties” involved in predicting standard ground motions have not been established. Five NRA commissioners approved the secretariat’s verification results.

A string of issues over the calculations of standard ground motions raised questions about the NRA’s expertise.

After recalculating the estimated standard ground motion for the Oi plant using the “Irikura-Miyake method” — the same method used by Kansai Electric — the NRA secretariat found that the recalculated estimate was 356 gals, “gal” being a unit of acceleration. Its recalculation based on the “Takemura” method showed 644 gals. These two figures fell below Kansai Electric’s estimate of 856 gals. Therefore, the NRA secretariat determined that Kansai Electric’s figure was not “underestimated.” The NRA approved the secretariat’s findings on July 13.

On July 19, the NRA secretariat effectively withdrew its findings, saying that “They were unreasonable calculations.” Thus, it came to light that the NRA had confirmed the secretariat’s findings without verifying the validity of the calculations. It also came to light that the NRA had not grasped the detailed process of Kansai Electric’s calculation as the secretariat’s calculation result conflicted with that of Kansai Electric. The NRA approved Kansai Electric’s calculation of the standard ground motion in the autumn of 2014, but questions were subsequently raised about the way in which the screening was conducted.

Among the five NRA commissioners is a geologist, but there is no expert on ground motion. At a news conference on July 27, NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka acknowledged that his group was lacking expertise, saying, “That’s what we need to reflect on.” But when he met Shimazaki on July 19, Tanaka bluntly said, “There is no room for listening to outside experts nor am I in a position to do so.” As the biggest lesson learned from the Fukushima nuclear crisis ought to be that the most up-to-date expertise should be reflected in safety measures, the NRA is urged to listen to arguments and suggestions from outside experts.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160728/p2a/00m/0na/006000c

July 28, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Nuclear watchdog finds 3 nuclear plants guilty of ‘malicious’ safety violations

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) concluded on June 29 that three nuclear power plants were guilty of “level 2” safety violations by breaching standards on placement of power cables

A “level 2” violation is the second heaviest violation in the NRA’s four-tier list.

The NRA deemed that new safety standards regarding power cable installation had been violated at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s Fukushima No. 2 Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima Prefecture, Tohoku Electric Power Co.’s Onagawa plant in Miyagi Prefecture and Chubu Electric Power Co.’s Hamaoka plant in Shizuoka Prefecture. TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear station in Niigata Prefecture was earlier found to have committed a level 2 violation.

The NRA is set to carry out additional safety inspections on the three recently named nuclear plants as well as at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant to check whether problems at these plants have been corrected.

Violation of power cable-related safety standards has been found at 19 reactors within 6 nuclear plants, as well as at Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd.’s spent fuel reprocessing facility in Aomori Prefecture. Subsequent inspections by power companies and the NRA found such violations at a total of 5,344 locations on the premises of those nuclear plants. Of these, violations at the four nuclear stations including the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant were deemed particularly malicious as utilities failed to check their power cable placing and continued to violate the safety standards even after regulations for power companies to conduct in-house inspections on power cable installation were introduced in October 2003.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160630/p2a/00m/0na/010000c

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

No accountability in nuclear industry

Following the June 16 quake in Hakodate, Hokkaido, nuclear plant operators in the area reported no damage, but even if there were problems, because of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new anti-democratic secrecy law, they would not necessarily report them, nor would they feel any compunction to do so. The Nuclear Village Idiots can cover their backsides very nicely with this new secrecy law.

Public safety is hardly a concern of politicians or the nuclear power plant owners. Japan’s very much a totalitarian state once again. It simply uses democratic-sounding titles to cover up the true authoritarian nature of the government and senior industrial officials. It’s Tojo’s Japan with velvet gloves. Let’s hope the gloves never come off.

ROBERT MCKINNEY

OTARU, HOKKAIDO

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2016/06/25/reader-mail/no-accountability-nuclear-industry/

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

Time to get serious about evacuations from nuclear disasters

For example the evacuation plan from Satsuma-Sendai in case of an nuclear accident at the Sendai nuclear plan is totally unrealistic, due to many reasons.

The most important one is that the roads and transports available in that area would quickly cause a bottleneck into which  evacuating people would become  trapped with no real  possiblity of a fast evacuation out.

 

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A man is checked for radiation doses during an evacuation drill in Kagoshima in December 2015 in preparation for an accident at the Sendai nuclear power plant in neighboring Satsuma-Sendai.

Nearly half of the radiation monitoring posts installed for issuing evacuation orders around the Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture have been found unable to perform the required function.

Twenty-two of the 48 monitoring posts around Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai plant can only measure airborne radiation levels up to 80 microsieverts per hour, far below the 500-microsievert threshold that triggers immediate evacuation orders, according to a survey by The Asahi Shimbun.

The survey also found that monitoring devices have not been installed at many of the designated locations around Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama nuclear power plant, where two reactors were restarted in January and February.

The two reactors, however, are now out of service again in line with a recently issued court injunction.

These findings mean there are insufficiencies in the way to obtain crucial data for deciding on whether to evacuate local residents from areas around these nuclear plants during severe accidents.

Despite these serious safety lapses, reactors at the two plants were brought online. How seriously do the utilities, central and local governments take the safety of residents?

Nearby local governments that are in a position to monitor nuclear accidents by using these devices should ask the utilities to suspend reactor operations at least until useful radiation measuring instruments have been installed at all the posts.

Following the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, the central government revised its guidelines on responding to nuclear disasters.

The revised guidelines mandate immediate evacuations of residents within 5 kilometers of a nuclear plant where a serious accident has taken place. Residents living between 5 km and 30 km from an accident-stricken plant will be required to stay indoors while the central government decides whether to order evacuations based on radiation levels detected by the monitoring posts.

Immediate evacuations will be ordered if radiation levels reach 500 microsieverts per hour. If radiation levels rise to and stay at 20 microsieverts per hour for an entire day, residents will be ordered to evacuate within a week. In both cases, the central government will issue the orders.

If the network of radiation monitoring posts fails to function properly, evacuation decisions for specific areas could be delayed or misguided.

With financial support from the central government, local governments concerned are required to install these monitoring posts. It is baffling why the local governments that host the two plants consented to the reactor restarts despite the insufficient monitoring installations.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority should not be allowed to shirk responsibility for the matter by claiming that dealing with issues related to the evacuations of residents is not part of its mandate.

The SPEEDI radioactive fallout-forecasting system failed to work properly during the Fukushima nuclear crisis. So the NRA decided to replace the SPEEDI system with networks of monitoring posts to measure radiation levels around nuclear plants for making evacuation decisions.

The NRA should be the one that checks if the posts will be workable in actual accidents.

Even the stricter nuclear safety standards cannot completely eliminate the risk of accidents. That makes it vital to make adequate preparations based on the assumption that nuclear disasters can occur.

The belated acceptance of this internationally common premise doesn’t amount to much if such a lax attitude is taken toward evacuations.

The principle that local governments should take the responsibility to protect local residents from various disasters is reasonable to a certain extent.

However, as far as nuclear disasters are concerned, this principle should not allow the central government to avoid playing a key role and shuffle off its responsibility.

The system needs changes so that the effectiveness of evacuation plans will be sufficiently checked by the central government and especially by the NRA, which has the necessary expertise.

Such reforms will prevent the restarts of reactors under such inadequate evacuation conditions by ensuring central government inspections in addition to safety checks by the local governments concerned.

In some disasters, individuals can make their own decisions concerning their safety. But a nuclear accident is not one of them.

Both the central and local governments should play far greater roles and assume far more important responsibilities in nuclear accidents than in other kinds of disasters.

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/views/editorial/AJ201603150037

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

Survey: 20% of reactor operators inexperienced

NHK has learned that one out of 5 workers who operate reactors at nuclear power plants in Japan has no experience in the work.

NHK surveyed 10 electric power companies to study the impact of suspended operations at their reactors following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.

The survey shows that an average of 22 percent of the reactor operators were inexperienced, as of the end of August.

The ratio of such workers was the highest, at about 40 percent, at the Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan. One of the plant’s reactors was restarted last month.

This is followed by 37 percent at the Shimane plant, 33 percent at the Ikata plant, and 30 percent at the Genkai plant, all in the country’s west.

The power companies attributed the lack of experienced workers to the increasing number of workers hired after they suspended operations at their reactors.

It is said to take 10 years to become a full-fledged operator, as comprehensive knowledge and experience are needed in such fields as nuclear fuel, radiation, electricity, mechanics and chemistry.

At nuclear plants, teams of about 10 workers operate a reactor in shifts. The survey shows that 2 of these people are inexperienced.

The power companies say they are training newly hired operators at facilities simulating reactor control rooms or at their thermal power plants.

But the companies are facing difficulties educating their operators. Some officials say one reason is that they cannot use actual machines for training.

Source: NHK 

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20150921_23.html

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