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Confusion to the public” and “embarrassing expressions”…Nuclear Regulation Commission blacked out documents provided by METI, which were not made public

Three internal review documents of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), which are conspicuously blacked out, in Minato Ward, Tokyo, on March 3.

February 3, 2023
On February 3, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), the secretariat of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), released documents on its review process in response to the issue of undisclosed information exchange between the NRA and officials of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) over the review of nuclear power plant operation periods. The Agency did not disclose any of the materials it had provided to the Regulation Authority, and most of the internal review materials were “blacked out” with only three pages. The Agency’s backward-looking attitude toward information disclosure was conspicuous, and it was not clear whether the views of the Agency, which promotes nuclear power generation, had any influence on the regulatory system.
◆The Regulatory Agency reiterated that it had “exhausted all necessary explanations.
 What was made public was the status of internal studies at the Regulatory Agency for reviewing the operating period, which was stipulated to be “40 years in principle, with a maximum of 60 years. Although the Regulatory Agency received from the Ene Agency an imaginary diagram of the revision of the law and other materials, it did not disclose any of the materials prepared by the Ene Agency, saying that the Ene Agency, the preparer, should decide whether or not to disclose the information.
Although the Regulatory Agency’s internal study materials were believed to envision multiple patterns of legal revision related to the operation period and describe the advantages and challenges of each, the majority of the materials were not disclosed. At the press conference, Yoichiro Kurokawa, director of the Regulatory Agency’s General Affairs Division, explained, “The documents contain the views of the person who prepared them and are far removed from the views of the organization, so disclosing them would cause confusion among the public.
 When asked by the media about the content of the blacked-out section, Mr. Kurokawa stated that in the section on the advantages of the proposed amendment of the articles to the minimum necessary, it was stated that “on the surface of the text, it looks almost unchanged,” and added, “In the first place, since we are changing the regulations for the operation period, it is inappropriate to say that ‘almost unchanged’ is the case. There were expressions that seemed embarrassing, and we determined that it was not appropriate to disclose them.”
 At the press conference, a number of people pointed out that the disclosure was insufficient, but Section Chief Kurokawa reiterated that “we have done all the necessary explanations.
 Before the Regulatory Commission ordered a review of the regulatory system regarding the operation period in October of last year, the Regulatory Agency had met with EneAgency officials at least seven times between July and September to exchange information. (Nozomi Masui)


February 4, 2023 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Regulatory Commission to Approve Plan for Ocean Discharge of Treated Water on 22nd, TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

July 20, 2022
The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) announced on July 20 that it will discuss at an extraordinary meeting on July 22 a draft review report on TEPCO’s plan to discharge contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant after purification and treatment, stating that the plan has no safety problems and meets the requirements of government policy. Based on the results of a public comment period, the committee is expected to decide on the review report and approve the plan.
 According to the Regulatory Commission, it received approximately 1,200 comments from the public during the period from May 19 to June 17. The Regulatory Commission will also present its views on the opinions at the meeting.
 According to the plan, the treated water, which is mainly tritium, will be diluted with a large amount of seawater to less than 1/40th of the national discharge standard, and then discharged through a newly constructed undersea tunnel about 1 km offshore. More than 1.3 million tons of the treated water is stored in tanks on the plant’s premises, and TEPCO plans to finish releasing it over a period of about 30 years starting next spring.
 TEPCO is preparing for the construction of the tunnel by installing a shield machine to excavate the tunnel on a site near the seawall of the plant. Tunnel excavation can only begin after receiving approval from the Regulatory Commission and obtaining the consent of Fukushima Prefecture and the two towns of Okuma and Futaba, where the plant is located.
 Fishermen and fishermen are strongly opposed to the release of treated water. (Shinichi Ogawa and Kenta Onozawa)

Processed water at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Contaminated water generated when cooling water injected into the reactors of Units 1-3 came into contact with nuclear fuel debris that melted down in the accident and mixed with groundwater and rainwater that flowed into the buildings, and was purified by a multinuclide removal system (ALPS). Tritium, a radioactive substance that cannot be removed, remains in concentrations exceeding the national discharge standard. In April 2021, the government decided to discharge the treated water into the ocean by the spring of 2023. TEPCO is proceeding with a plan to use a large amount of seawater to dilute the tritium concentration to less than 1/40th of the discharge standard and discharge the water into the sea.

July 22, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Release of treated water from Fukushima Daiichi: TEPCO applies for implementation plan to the Regulatory Commission

December 21, 2021

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has announced its plan for the release of treated water containing tritium and other radioactive substances that continues to accumulate at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the sea.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) held a press conference on April 21 and announced that it has applied to the Nuclear Regulation Authority for an implementation plan in line with the government’s policy that the treated water that continues to accumulate at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant will be discharged into the sea in the spring of the next year after being diluted to a concentration below the standard.

The plan describes the procedure for diluting the treated water with seawater and the design of an undersea tunnel to be constructed to release the diluted water from 1 km offshore.

After receiving approval from the regulatory board and gaining the understanding of the local community and other related parties, the company plans to start construction of the equipment to dilute the treated water with seawater and the undersea tunnel around June next year, aiming to complete the work around the middle of April next year in accordance with the national policy.

Junichi Matsumoto, the executive officer of TEPCO who is in charge of the plan, said, “Based on the government’s policy, we would like to explain the plan to the local community and many related parties in parallel with the regulatory committee’s examination, and study specific designs and operations to ensure safety.

With regard to the release of treated water being promoted by the government and TEPCO, there are deep-rooted concerns about harmful rumors, especially among local residents, and the issues that remain to be addressed are how to gain the understanding of those concerned and how to take effective measures to deal with the rumors.

What is “treated water”?
At the TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, so-called “contaminated water” is being generated at a rate of 140 tons per day, including water used to cool the nuclear fuel in Units 1-3 that melted down in the accident 10 years ago, as well as groundwater that flows into the buildings.

The contaminated water is treated in a special purification system to remove most of the radioactive materials, but the water containing tritium, a radioactive material that is difficult to remove, or “treated water,” remains and is stored on the plant grounds.

According to the current plan, 1.37 million tons of water can be stored in a large tank on the site, but more than 90% of the tank is already filled with treated water, and it is expected to be full after next fall.

Therefore, the government has decided to dilute the treated water to less than 1/40th of the standard by adding seawater and discharge it into the sea around the spring of 2023, as it is unlikely to affect human health if the concentration is reduced below the standard.

What is the outlook for the future?
The implementation plan applied for by TEPCO will be reviewed by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will examine the plan, which includes the following: (1) measures against natural disasters, such as equipment to dilute the treated water with seawater and an undersea tunnel, and (2) a function to stop the release of water in case of abnormalities.

Toyoshi Sarada, chairman of the regulatory board, said, “There are no major technical difficulties in diluting and checking the concentration of the treated water, and it will not take a long time.

On the other hand, there are deep-rooted concerns about the release of treated water, especially in the local community, and Mr. Sarada pointed out that “the understanding of the local community and other related parties is extremely important, and even if the plan is approved, the period until the start of construction is unpredictable.

On April 20, TEPCO submitted a “Request for Prior Approval,” which is required for the construction of new facilities and expansion of facilities, to Fukushima Prefecture and the municipalities of Futaba and Okuma.

In addition, the construction work is expected to take about a year, so the government’s goal of releasing treated water in the spring of 2023 is still uncertain.

After TEPCO reported to fishermen in Iwaki that it had applied to the Nuclear Regulation Authority for a plan to release treated water, Tetsu Nozaki, chairman of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, said, “It’s unfortunate and frustrating that we have been opposed to the release of treated water into the ocean, but we are moving forward without hesitation. We want them to think of other ways. We have no choice but to send out the message that fishermen are against it.

December 21, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan’s nuclear safety chief raps Tepco’s attitude on Fukushima No. 1 crisis, restarting other reactors


The head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority told Tepco’s top management he questions their attitude toward decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and the company’s ability to resume operating its other reactors.

I feel a sense of danger,” NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said during a special meeting Monday with the top management of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.

Tanaka also said Tepco does “not seem to have the will to take the initiative” toward decommissioning the crippled nuclear power station that suffered three reactor meltdowns in March 2011.

Tepco Chairman Takashi Kawamura and President Tomoaki Kobayakawa attended the meeting. The authority felt it is necessary to hear from the top executives before it could make a decision on whether to approve Tepco’s plan to resume operation of reactors 6 and 7 at its massive Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture.

Tepco filed for a safety assessment of the two reactors in September 2013 to reactivate them, hoping to restore its financial condition as it needed massive funds to pay compensation related to the Fukushima disaster and to scrap the plant.

The NRA’s safety screening found that Tepco failed to report insufficient earthquake resistance for an emergency response center at the Niigata complex even though it knew about the insufficiency for three years.

In June, Tepco submitted to the watchdog its revised safety measures for the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex.

An operator lacking the will to take the initiative does not have the right to resume operation of nuclear reactors,” Tanaka said.

Tepco’s chairman responded by saying: “There are citizens who believe nuclear power is necessary. Operating reactors is our responsibility.”

But Kawamura also admitted there is room for only two more years’ worth of space in the tanks to accommodate the contaminated water building up at Fukushima No. 1.

During the meeting the NRA asked Tepco’s management about the company’s safety measures for the Niigata complex — the biggest nuclear power station in the world — as well as its safety awareness.

Tanaka said the NRA does consider Tepco’s responses at the meeting as sufficient and requested that it submit further explanations on its plan to decommission Fukushima No. 1 and resume operation of the two reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa.

Tanaka plans to conduct on-site checkups at the two reactors, saying, “Tepco, which caused the (Fukushima) accident, is not an ordinary operator.”

The two boiling water reactors at the Niigata plant are the same type that suffered core meltdowns at Fukushima No. 1, and no such reactors have cleared the authority’s safety screening since the 2011 crisis.

July 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | 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.

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.

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

Nuclear regulator OKs additional 20-yr operation for aging reactors


The Takahama Nuclear Power Plant’s No. 1 and 2 reactors (from left in the front row) and No. 3 and 4 reactors (from left in the back row) are pictured in this photo taken from a Mainichi helicopter in Takahama, Fukui Prefecture, on June 15, 2016.

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japan’s nuclear regulator on Monday approved an additional 20 years of operation for two aging reactors on the Sea of Japan coast that will become the first such reactors to resume operation under new rules introduced after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority granted its approval of Kansai Electric Power Co.’s plan to continue the operation of its No.1 and No.2 reactors at the Takahama nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture, both of which are over 40 years old.

The rules, tightened after the 2011 nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, set the maximum length of operation for nuclear reactors at 40 years in principle but also stipulate that their operations can be extended for an additional 20 years if the NRA allows.

Since December 2014, Kansai Electric has been checking on degradation of the two reactors in a stricter manner than regular checkups to obtain approval for extending their operations.

After confirming there were no abnormalities, the utility applied in April last year for an NRA screening.

In order for the reactors to resume operation, the company needed to complete three procedures by July 7. The two reactors had already passed a test for compatibility with the new rules and received approval for a construction plan that detailed equipment design. The only remaining test was for measures against the degradation of the reactors.

In the screening, preventing long electric cables from catching fire and covering the containment vessels with concrete were raised as issues to be addressed, and the company submitted a plan to complete such necessary measures by October 2019.

The reactors are therefore expected to resume operations after these steps have been completed.

The No.1 reactor began operating in November 1974, while the No. 2 reactor did so in November the following year. Both reactors have been suspended since regular checkups in 2011.

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