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Air duct corrosion and holes found at seven nuclear plants

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Corrosion is seen in a ventilation duct at the No. 3 unit of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture. | NUCLEAR REGULATION AUTHORITY
 
Corrosion and holes have been found in ventilation ducts at 12 reactors at seven nuclear plants across the country, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said Wednesday, raising concerns that workers could be exposed to radiation in the event of an accident.
The governmental nuclear watchdog released the results of a nationwide survey it had ordered following a revelation in December 2016 that corrosion had left multiple holes in the air ducts of the No. 2 reactor at Chugoku Electric Power Co.’s Shimane plant in western Japan. That reactor was not included in the survey.
Serious corrosion was found at the No. 3 unit of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. and may have abnormally affected ventilation of the central control room, the watchdog said.
Although the No. 7 unit at the same plant has passed a test to resume operation, the NRA said it will inspect the impact of any corrosion found at the reactor. No abnormality associated with corrosion has been found at the remaining 10 units, it said.
Corrosion or holes were found in steel or galvanized steel ducts at Tohoku Electric Power Co.’s Onagawa nuclear plant, Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant, Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, Chubu Electric Power Co.’s Hamaoka plant, Hokuriku Electric Power Co.’s Shiga nuclear plant and Chugoku Electric’s Shimane plant.
If an accident occurs, radioactive materials could flow into a plant’s central control room through such holes, putting workers in danger of radiation exposure.
At the No. 3 reactor at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, a crack as large as 13 centimeters in length and 5 cm in width was found. A total of nine holes and cracks have been discovered at the Nos. 3 and 7 units at the plant.
All the reactors with corrosion were boiling-water reactors, the same type used at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, which spewed a massive amount of radioactive material into the atmosphere following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
No problems have been detected at pressurized-water nuclear reactors, as filtering and other measures take place near air inlets.
The holes at the No. 2 unit at the Shimane plant were discovered when insulation materials covering the ducts were removed for inspection.
The holes, the largest of which measured about 100 centimeters wide and about 30 centimeters long, are believed to have been caused by dew condensation and rainwater that seeped inside the building, as well as salt deposits on the ducts, given that the corrosion extended about 50 meters from the air inlet and spread from the inner surface of the ducts.
Chugoku Electric has decided to increase the number of inspection points at sections near fresh-air inlets and bolster anti-corrosion measures, including the installation of a dehumidifier.

May 24, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Nuclear Power Facing a Tsunami of Litigation

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March 12, 2018
Legal fallout from the March 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station continues, as dozens of lawsuits and injunctions make their way through Japan’s judicial system. The final rulings could have a profound impact on the government’s energy policy and approach to risk mitigation.
Court cases stemming from the meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi can be divided broadly into two categories. In the first are efforts to assign responsibility for the accident, including one high-profile criminal case and numerous civil suits by victims seeking damages from the government and owner-operator Tokyo Electric Power Company. The second group consists of lawsuits and injunctions aimed at blocking or shutting down operations at plants other than Fukushima Daiichi (whose reactors have been decommissioned) on the grounds that they pose a grave safety threat. In the following, we briefly survey these cases and their implications.
A Foreseeable Danger?
According to lawyer Managi Izutarō, who is handling the largest class-action suit against TEPCO and the government, about 30 such cases are currently moving through courts around the nation. Most of the plaintiffs are Fukushima evacuees who filed suit in the districts to which they fled after the accident.
Meanwhile, TEPCO’s former chairman and two former vice-presidents are facing charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury in a criminal case currently before the Tokyo District Court. Tokyo prosecutors initially declined to bring charges, but in an unusual reversal, they were overruled by a prosecutorial review panel composed of ordinary citizens.
In all of these cases, the pivotal issues facing the court are (1) whether TEPCO and the state could have foreseen the danger posed to the Fukushima plant by a tsunami on the order of that triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake, and (2) whether they could realistically have prevented a serious accident through risk-mitigation measures. The “state” in this case is the defunct Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), the regulatory body formerly in charge of the inspection and licensing of nuclear power facilities.
Construction of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station began in 1967, when the government’s ambitious nuclear energy development program was shifting into high gear. Seismology and tsunami simulation have advanced considerably since those days, but at the time, the maximum height of any potential tsunami relevant to the Fukushima Daiichi site was estimated at a little more than 3 meters. When the facility was built, in other words, there was no way for TEPCO or the government to foresee that waves 10–15 meters in height could one day inundate the plant.
However, as scientists continued to collect and analyze data on earthquake and tsunami activity around Japan, their thinking evolved. In July 2002, a government panel of seismologists issued a report estimating a 20% chance that a magnitude-8 earthquake would trigger a dangerous tsunami off the coast of northeastern Japan within the next three decades. That August, NISA asked TEPCO to conduct a tsunami simulation for Fukushima Daiichi and other plants on the basis of that report, but TEPCO refused, and NISA did not press the matter.
When TEPCO finally did conduct such a simulation in 2008, it concluded that a major earthquake could trigger a tsunami as high as 15.7 meters, tall enough to flood the Fukushima Daiichi plant. However, the utility took no action to mitigate the risk (as by building up the facility’s seawalls or taking other measures to protect backup generators), and it failed to report the findings to NISA until early 2011, just weeks before the disaster.
Complacency and Opacity
In the wake of the Fukushima accident, NISA (since replaced by the Nuclear Regulation Authority) was faulted for its lack of independence. The agency was under the authority of the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, which promotes the use of nuclear power, and officials maintain that its regulatory powers were limited. In addition, a closed, inbred environment encouraged unhealthy ties between NISA and the electric power industry. As a consequence, NISA had fallen into the habit of accommodating and supporting the utilities instead of overseeing them. TEPCO, for its part, had developed a deeply rooted culture of denial, habitually concealing information that might supply ammunition to anti-nuclear activists or fuel fears among the local citizenry. The company brushed off the warnings, convincing itself that the danger from a giant tsunami was purely hypothetical.
So far, district courts have reached decisions on three major class-action suits, and in each case they have agreed with the plaintiffs that the state and TEPCO could have foreseen the danger from a major tsunami once the 2002 report on earthquake risks was released. Two of the district courts, Maebashi and Fukushima, found both the state and TEPCO negligent for failing to prevent the meltdowns. The Chiba District Court, on the other hand, dismissed claims against the state on the grounds that the government was focusing on earthquake safety at the time and may not have been able to formulate effective measures in time to protect Fukushima Daiichi against the March 2011 tsunami. With the government and TEPCO girding up to appeal the lower courts’ decisions, the cases could drag on for years.
The final verdicts could have important ramifications in a country prone to natural disasters. Despite the scientific advances of the last few decades, our ability to predict major earthquakes, tsunami, and volcanic eruptions remains extremely limited. How can we ensure that the design and operation of existing nuclear power plants reflect the latest scientific assessments of long-term risks? Are the government and industry responsible for guarding against catastrophic events, however low their probability?
A Tsunami of Lawsuits
Attorney Managi Izutarō estimates that more than 10,000 plaintiffs are currently involved in class-action suits against TEPCO and the state. He represents 4,200 victims in the largest of these cases so far. Managi argues that allowing TEPCO to keep Fukushima Daiichi operating after learning of the risks from a tsunami was “like giving an airline permission to fly an unsafe jetliner.”
In its ruling on Managi’s case last October, the Fukushima District Court agreed that both TEPCO and the state were negligent and ordered damages paid to a majority of the plaintiffs. But the victims and their lawyers deemed the amount and scope of the damages inadequate and opted to appeal. TEPCO and the state have appealed the ruling as well.
The case now moves to the Sendai High Court. “Ultimately, we’re demanding that Fukushima Prefecture be restored to the way it was before the nuclear accident,” Managi explains. “At the same time, we’re fighting to end the use of nuclear power.”
Managi stresses the importance of mobilizing a large number of victims. “Unless you get together a big group of plaintiffs, their case won’t resonate with the judges,” says Managi. “The number of people involved in litigation and the intensity of public sentiment are key. I believe the real battle takes place outside the courtroom.”
In organizing victims into large class-action suits, Managi and others lawyers are following the same playbook that helped turn the tide against big industrial polluters in the 1960s and 1970s, when victims of Minamata disease (mercury poisoning) and itai-itai disease (cadmium poisoning) succesfully banded together to seak legal redress. Whether the current movement will have a comparable impact remains to be seen.
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Lawyer Managi Izutarō is representing 4,200 former Fukushima residents in a class-action suit against the state and Tokyo Electric Power Co.
 
Fighting Nuclear Power, One Plant at a Time
On a different but related front, citizens’ groups and other plaintiffs are vigorously pursuing lawsuits and injunctions aimed directly at shutting down nuclear power plants around the country.
Efforts to block nuclear energy development through legal action date all the way back to the 1970s. Prominent among these early cases was a citizens’ suit challenging the legality of the license granted to Shikoku Electric Power Co. to build and operate the Ikata Nuclear Power Station in Ehime Prefecture. In that case, lawyers called into question the fundamental safety of the facility, given its location near the Median Tectonic Line fault zone. The case made its way up to the Supreme Court, which finally ruled against the plaintiffs in 1992.
Safety concerns are at the core of the 30-odd “anti-nuclear” suits and injunctions currently before the nation’s courts (as of January 2018). Most cite the potential danger from major earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or tsunami, while others are calling for suspension of operations on the grounds of inadequate evacuation planning. While a few of these cases date back to the pre-Fukushima era, the majority were filed in the wake of the accident.
In December last year, the Hiroshima High Court issued an injunction suspending operations of the number 3 reactor at the aforementioned Ikata Nuclear Power Station. In its decision, the court cited the danger posed to the Shikoku facility from a massive eruption of Mount Aso, all the way across the sea in Kyūshū. Although an eruption on this scale has not occurred in recorded history, the court opined that the risk was sufficient to make the site unsuitable for a nuclear power plant. The decision did not go down well with the Nuclear Regulation Authority, which had cleared the plant for resumption of operations under new, post-Fukushima safety standards.
At present, almost all of Japan’s operable nuclear power plants are in the midst of some kind of litigation. In one case, the plaintiff is a local government: The city of Hakodate in Hokkaidō has filed a lawsuit to block the construction and operation of the Ōma Nuclear Power Station across the Tsugaru Strait in Aomori Prefecture.
Status of Japan’s Operable Nuclear Reactors
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Note: All six reactors at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station were decommissioned between 2011 and 2014.
Lawyers on a Mission
Lawyers Kawai Hiroyuki and Kaido Yūichi have been key figures in the fight against nuclear power since before the Fukushima accident. In the wake of the disaster, they founded the National Network of Counsels in Cases against Nuclear Power Plants, a group that has been pursuing legal action against nuclear facilities on behalf of citizens and other plaintiffs nationwide.
 
Kawai and Kaido are also representing the shareholders of TEPCO, who are suing the company’s former executives for an unprecedented ¥5.5 trillion. In addition, as lawyers for the Complainants for the Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, the two attorneys are working alongside the prosecuting team in the criminal case against three TEPCO executives, which parallels the civil suit in terms of arguments, evidence, and testimony.
 
Even so, the trial—which officially opened last June and is expected to continue at least through the coming summer—is expected to attract intense media coverage as witness examinations begin this spring. More than 20 witnesses are scheduled to testify. The case also involves a massive volume of documentary evidence, including records of interviews conducted by the government’s Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station, along with countless pages of emails, internal memos, meeting minutes, and reports. Will all this information shed new light on the human factors behind the Fukushima accident? The nation will be watching closely.

March 15, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

About 50% of local bodies near nuke plants want say over reactor restarts

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In the background, from left, the No. 1, 2, 3, and 4 reactor buildings of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant are seen, in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, on Oct. 31, 2016. In front are tanks used to store contaminated water.
Roughly 50 percent of local governments within a 30-kilometer radius of a nuclear power plant — excluding municipalities where the plant is located — want to have a say in the restarting of nuclear reactors, a Mainichi Shimbun survey has found.
Among 121 neighboring local bodies, 60 of the 119 that provided answers in the survey said that they wanted to have a say in whether nuclear reactors can be reactivated.
Since the meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in 2011, the reactivation of nuclear reactors has been subject to consent from prefectures and municipalities hosting the facilities. However, taking into consideration the widespread damage and risks associated with the disaster in 2011, neighboring authorities have also been keen to get involved in the approval process.
A total of 155 local governments were targeted in the survey, which was conducted between September and November 2017 and addressed to local government heads and also to assemblies. The local authority where the Fukushima No. 1 power plant is located also took part.
Thirty-four of the 155 authorities (13 prefectural and 21 municipal) have a commercial nuclear power plant directly within their jurisdictions. The remaining 121 neighboring local bodies (eight prefectural and 113 municipal) are situated within 30 kilometers of a power plant.
Of the 155 local bodies approached, 153 local government heads — excluding those of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture and Ikeda, Fukui Prefecture — gave answers while 154 local assemblies, excluding that of Iitate, cooperated.
Local government heads were asked whether they are for or against reactor restarts at the local nuclear power plant, the extent of their local government’s involvement, and the status of any safety agreements with electric power companies. Assemblies were asked whether or not they have adopted any written statements concerning the restarting of nuclear reactors, among other questions.
Regarding the right to approve reactivation of reactors at nuclear power plants and the right to conduct on-site investigations — which have effectively already been given to mainly local governments where plants are located — the local government heads were asked if these rights should be extended to neighboring bodies as well. In response, 56 heads stated that it was necessary to grant such rights, seven said that it is partly necessary, 24 said it was unnecessary, one head did not know, 60 gave other answers, and five did not reply.
Altogether, 60 of the 63 heads who said the granting of such rights was “necessary” or “partly necessary” belong to neighboring local governments. Of these 60 local bodies, 16 said that they are against restarting nuclear reactors.
Meanwhile, of the 24 heads who said the granting of these rights was “unnecessary,” 10 belong to local governments where a nuclear power plant is located, including Fukui Prefecture — revealing a difference in attitudes between the immediate and nearby local governments.
However, of the immediate local governments, the town of Okuma in Fukushima Prefecture — which was seriously affected by the 2011 disaster — said that the rights need to be extended on the grounds that, “Once an accident happens, the impact spreads across a wide area.”
The village of Tokai in Ibaraki Prefecture — where the Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tokai No. 2 Nuclear Power Plant is based — was among those that replied that it is “partly necessary” to extend the rights.

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December 31, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

NRA has nuke plant volcano checklist, but experts point to eruptions’ unpredictability

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When it comes to volcanic threats to nuclear power stations, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) requires utilities to do a lot of digging.
The NRA demands that utilities evaluate the potential risks presented by any volcanoes within 160 kilometers of a given plant. That evaluation begins with a look through the written record for any mentions of eruptions plus examining the geological features of the area to determine if there is any chance the volcano will be active again in the future. If a future eruption can’t be ruled out, then the utility must determine whether pyroclastic flows — fast moving clouds of hot gas and volcanic matter — or lava flows could reach the plant. If there is such a risk, then the plant site is labeled unsuitable and the reactors banned from going on line.
In the case of the Sendai nuclear plant’s No. 1 and 2 reactors, it was found that there were five volcanoes with histories of cataclysmic eruptions within the 160-kilometer zone. A “cataclysmic eruption” is one that spews vast amounts of magma, causing large-scale ground subsidence and creating a caldera.
NRA inspectors found that there was “sufficiently little chance” of a cataclysmic eruption that could cause a pyroclastic flow to hit the Sendai plant grounds while the station was in operation. Furthermore, the regulatory body determined that measures to deal with up to 15 centimeters of volcanic ash from the Sakurajima volcano — about 50 kilometers distant — would be enough to maintain plant safety.
The NRA also called on utilities to make preparations to shut down reactors and move the nuclear fuel out of their nuclear plants if there was any sign of an impending cataclysmic eruption detected. Sendai plant operator Kyushu Electric Power Co. assured the NRA that the utility would spot signs of such an eruption by keeping a close watch out for changes in the Earth’s crust caused by magma accumulation, and the regulator accepted this explanation.
However, some volcanologists have pointed out that it is very difficult to predict the timing or scale of a cataclysmic eruption. Furthermore, there is neither a predetermined spot to move the nuclear fuel to nor a set standard for the NRA to order reactor shutdowns.
Across Japan, the Genkai nuclear station’s No. 3 and 4 reactors (which have passed NRA safety inspections ahead of a planned restart), the No. 1 to 3 reactors at Hokkaido Electric Power Co.’s Tomari nuclear plant (where the volcanic risk inspection has nearly been completed), and the No. 2 unit at the Shimane nuclear power station run by Chugoku Electric Power Co. are all close to volcanoes with calderas. However, the NRA has never declared a plant site unfit due to the threat of volcanic activity.
Regarding the Hiroshima High Court’s Dec. 13 decision to order Shikoku Electric Power Co. to shut the No. 3 reactor at its Ikata power plant in Ehime Prefecture, NRA chief Toyoshi Fuketa told reporters, “I am not directly concerned (with the case) so I am not in a position to comment.” He added that the ruling would have “no effect” on NRA inspections.
Hokkaido University specially appointed professor of nuclear reactor engineering Tadashi Narabayashi, meanwhile, said the court decision was the product of “logical leaps.”
“Stopping (reactor) operation based on personal rights requires an imminent danger,” Narabayashi wrote in a comment to the Mainichi Shimbun. “It’s difficult to say that the chance of a cataclysmic eruption, which is thought to happen only about once in 10,000 years, meets that definition. The Ikata plant’s No. 3 unit is protected from falling volcanic material and has an enhanced reactor core cooling system, so there is simply no probability of an incident that would endanger the lives of the people in the city of Matsuyama or Hiroshima.”
Meanwhile, Kobe University magma specialist Yoshiyuki Tatsumi praised the court ruling as “based on scientific knowledge grounded in current volcanology.”
“There is about a 1 percent chance of a cataclysmic eruption in Japan in the next 100 years, so mathematically speaking, one could happen at any time,” he continued. “At present, we do not know what kinds of signs would portend such an eruption. It is also unknown how much magma has built up under Mount Aso (in Kumamoto Prefecture), so the government needs to strengthen its observations there among other measures.”

December 14, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , | 2 Comments

Japan’s quiet payouts to cities near nuclear plants fuels speculation of political ploy

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Shimane and Tottori prefectures hold a joint drill in Hoki, Tottori Prefecture, in October 2015 for residents living near nuclear power plants in the prefectures. The government has expanded a state subsidy for cities hosting plants to include municipalities within a 30 km radius.
In an apparent bid to win support for the restart of nuclear power plants, the state has quietly expanded the scope of subsidies for host cities to include local governments within 30 kilometers of the facilities, a charge the government denied Friday.
The change came into force in April with no announcement to the media from the industry ministry, fueling speculation that it was meant to assuage the concerns of municipalities surrounding host cities about plants taken offline in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.
A government official, however, denied this speculation.
“We reviewed the system after learning that nuclear power plants also influence surrounding areas,” the official, with the industry ministry’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy said, adding that the change had been reported on the ministry’s website and that local governments were briefed.
Under the shift, more than 150 local governments are entitled to the subsidy, for which ¥4.5 billion ($40 million) was allocated in the fiscal 2017 budget, the same amount as in fiscal 2016. The ministry has requested a ¥5 billion budget for fiscal 2018.
According to the agency, the program began in fiscal 2016, mainly to promote renewable energy and other measures to revitalize the economies of municipalities hosting nuclear power plants when the facilities are scrapped due to old age.
Utilities face a constant cycle of reactors going online or offline through decommissioning or the suspension of operations. For example, at Chugoku Electric Power Co.’s nuclear plant in Shimane Prefecture, the No. 1 unit is set to be decommissioned as the operator seeks to restart its No. 2 unit.
The change from fiscal 2017 allowed the subsidies to be paid out to towns and villages within 30 km of a nuclear complex, in addition to the host prefectural governments.
To gain approval for restarts, utilities effectively need to obtain consent from prefectural and municipal governments hosting the nuclear complexes, although such efforts are not required by law.
Since the 2011 nuclear disaster, which caused damage to a wide area, surrounding municipalities have stepped up calls for a stronger voice in deciding whether to resume nuclear reactor operations.
But the state and utilities are reluctant to expand the scope of municipalities from which they need to obtain consent, saying that doing so would make restarts exceedingly difficult.

October 14, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

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

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