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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