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Proposed storage of spent nuclear fuel sparks resistance in Aomori Pref. City

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The Recyclable-Fuel Storage Co. interim storage facility is seen fenced off in Mutsu, Aomori Prefecture, on March 6, 2018
March 22, 2018
The selection of a site to house an interim storage facility for spent fuel from nuclear power plants operated by Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) has run into rough waters. In January, the Aomori Prefecture city of Mutsu surfaced as a candidate, but resistance quickly emerged from locals.
 
With KEPCO’s nuclear power plants being concentrated in Fukui Prefecture, the prefectural government has set a basic premise of storing spent nuclear fuel outside the prefecture. The utility aims to announce a candidate site this year, but there remains fierce opposition to accepting nuclear fuel from other prefectures, and because of this, its prospects of settling on a site are unclear.
 
After a 20-minute drive along a national route from central Mutsu during a visit by the Mainichi Shimbun in early March, an imposing fence could be seen along a snowy field. Beyond the fence was a square building — an interim storage facility that is being built by Recyclable-Fuel Storage Co. (RFS), a company founded by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. and Japan Atomic Power Co. The facility’s storage capacity is around 3,000 tons of spent fuel. There are plans to build a second building in the future.
 
In January, this facility gained nationwide attention. As the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) came to the final stage of its screening of the facility, news organizations reported that KEPCO was considering transporting spent nuclear fuel from its plants to the facility.
 
Mutsu Mayor Soichiro Miyashita immediately held a news conference, saying he had heard no such thing from the central government, KEPCO, or RFS. “The feelings of the region are being completely ignored,” he said.
 
In an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun on March 6, Miyashita suggested it was unlikely KEPCO would bring its nuclear fuel into the facility as things stand. “Operations at the site haven’t started yet. Without the facility having cleared the NRA’s screening, it’s unthinkable that they could change the status quo,” he said.
 
The Shimokita Peninsula in northern Aomori Prefecture, where the city of Mutsu is located, not only houses the interim storage building, but has a collection of other nuclear facilities including the Higashidori Nuclear Power Plant in the Aomori Prefecture village of Higashidori, the Oma Nuclear Power Plant in the town of Oma and the reprocessing plant for spent nuclear fuel in the village of Rokkasho. But since the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, construction of nuclear facilities has been suspended or delayed.
 
“We had expected our nonresident population to increase in line with nuclear power plant construction and inspections. But taxi companies are going out of business, and the economic chill is severe,” Miyashita said.
 
Alongside concerns about the storage of nuclear fuel, there are also deeply rooted aspirations regarding the operation of nuclear power plants in the region. Katsura Sonoda, head of the Mutsu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, commented, “In local economic circles, there is little resistance to reactivating nuclear power plants, and we want the interim storage facility to go into operation quickly. Fixed property taxes and subsidies will also increase.
 
A figure in the energy industry commented, “The mayor is up for election for a second term in June. It’s not the case that he lacks understanding of nuclear power-related projects; I guess it’s just that he had to be sensitive toward antinuclear public sentiment in the wake of the nuclear disaster (in Fukushima).”
 
In late January, KEPCO announced that it would set up an office in Aomori in June to handle payment-related issues, employing about 70 people. A public relations representative for the company maintained that this had nothing to do with the interim storage facility, but this has not swept away the view that the company is entering Aomori Prefecture to warm the region to the idea of hosting the facility.
 
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March 22, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , , , | Leave a comment

Zero-nuclear policy can lead opposition to victory: Koizumi

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Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, center, appears at a Niigata gathering on Nov. 4 with Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama, right, and Niigata Mayor Akira Shinoda.

NIIGATA–An anti-nuclear stance taken by opposition parties could lift them from their doldrums and defeat the ruling coalition, former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said, pointing to the recent Niigata governor’s election.

We now know that the ruling parties will lose if the opposition parties back a unified candidate and focus on a nuclear-free energy policy in the campaign,” Koizumi said at a gathering here on Nov. 4. “The effects of this have not yet surfaced but they are huge.”

Koizumi cited the victory by Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama, who was backed by the opposition Japanese Communist Party, Social Democratic Party and Liberal Party. Running on a plank urging caution about restarting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in the prefecture, Yoneyama defeated a candidate supported by the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito.

The former prime minister said Yoneyama’s win should be a wake-up call to both ruling and opposition parties to focus on nuclear energy in the next national election.

If the opposition parties realize the significance of this, the LDP cannot feel complacent,” Koizumi told reporters at the gathering. “If the opposition parties change, the LDP will also be forced to change.”

However, Koizumi scratched his head at the inability of the largest opposition party, the Democratic Party, to come out clearly against nuclear energy. The party’s major backer, Rengo, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, includes unions made up of employees of electric power companies.

For that reason, the Democratic Party did not formally support Yoneyama in the Niigata gubernatorial election.

There are only about half a million votes from labor unions with ties to electric power companies and that support nuclear energy,” Koizumi told reporters. “I wonder why the party does not make the effort to win 5 million or 50 million votes.”

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201611050034.html

November 8, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Opposition to nuclear energy grows in Japan

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Opinion polls show the Japanese people oppose nuclear plants going back into operation. It underlines the scale of the problem facing the government in convincing everyone that it’s safe. Julian Ryall reports from Tokyo.”

Before October 16, Ryuichi Yoneyama had contested four regional elections and been soundly beaten each time. Now, however, the 49-year-old qualified doctor and lawyer is to be sworn in as governor of Niigata Prefecture after defeating a candidate who had the backing of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and was considered the firm favorite.

Yoneyama worked hard for his victory over Tamio Mori, a former bureaucrat with the construction ministry, but when the voters stepped into the voting booths there was a single issue that occupied their minds.

Mori and the LDP want to restart the world’s largest nuclear power station, the sprawling Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, which lies on the prefecture’s coast. They insist that as Japan moves towards the sixth anniversary of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, triggering the second-worst nuclear crisis in history, new safety measures have been implemented that ensure the same thing could not happen in Niigata.

The voters did not agree, with 528,455 supporting Yoneyama’s pledge to not grant approval for Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s (TEPCO) Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant to be restarted. In comparison, 465,044 voted for Mori.

Nationwide opposition

Those figures are broadly replicated across Japan, with a poll conducted by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper on October 15 and 16 determining that 57 percent of the public is against the nation’s nuclear power plants being restarted, and just 29 percent supporting the resumption of reactors that have nearly all been mothballed since 2011.

At present, only two of the nation’s 54 reactors have been restarted – and that after much wrangling through the courts after local residents and environmental groups expressed their opposition.

Nevertheless, a report issued by the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ) in July predicts that seven additional reactors will be on-line by the end of March next year and a further 12 will be operational one year later.

But as the opinion polls show, the majority of the public is against a policy that the government tells them is in the nation’s best interests.

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“Since the accident at Fukushima, many people have realized the negatives that go along with the positives of nuclear power, and they simply do not want to take that sort of risk again,” said Hiroko Moriwaki, a librarian who lives in Tokyo.

“And many think that we do not need to,” she added. “Since the disaster, the reactors have not been operational and look around you; we have all the electricity that we need, there are no blackouts and everything is normal.

“Just after the earthquake, we were told to do everything we could to save energy, but not any more,” Moriwaki told DW.

“So maybe we have reached the point where we don’t actually need nuclear energy and that this is in fact an opportunity that the country can take advantage of,” she said.

Japan is an advanced and industrialized nation with vast amounts of skills and technologies that could be put to use to develop and then commercialize new sources of safe, environment-friendly energy, she said.

As well as solar and wind power, which are already visible across Japan, there are moves afoot to harness Japan’s tidal and wave energy, while vast amounts of potential geothermal energy remain virtually untapped.

“We have so much technology, so wouldn’t it be best to divert some of that away from more investment in nuclear energy and put it into fuel sources that are safer and do not harm the environment at all?” Moriwaki asked.

Japan’s energy needs

Critics of this approach – of which the government is one – say Japanese industry needs a secure supply of energy right now and that Japan is presently importing 84 percent of its energy needs, primarily in the form of coal, gas and oil. And that is both expensive and to blame for the nation’s emissions of carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases climbing.

Still, the Japanese public is far from convinced that nuclear energy is the answer.

“It’s complicated and we keep hearing from the government how important it is to have the nuclear plants operating again, but after Fukushima, I think, a lot of people no longer trust the operators or the government,” said Kanako Hosomura, a housewife whose family home is north of Tokyo and only about 250 km from the Fukushima plant.

Inquiries after the disaster revealed that TEPCO ignored experts’ warnings about the potential size and power of tsunami and had failed to take precautions such as ensuring a backup power supply in the event the generators used to cool the reactors were out of operation.

The government also came under fire after the media reported that it did not have a full understanding of the severity of the crisis, while it was also issuing statements that the situation was completely under control at the same time as drawing up plans to evacuate tens of millions of people from a huge swathe of eastern Japan.

“When it comes down to it, I have a young son and a family and their safety is my number one priority,” said Hosomura. “Maybe Japan was lucky the Fukushima disaster was not worse than it was. Maybe next time we will not be so lucky.”

http://dw.com/p/2RVwE?fb

October 22, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , , | Leave a comment

Nuclear plant scheme halted in eastern China after thousands take part in street protests

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The government in Lianyungang in Jiangsu province issues brief statement saying work on nuclear fuel reprocessing plant project suspended

The authorities in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, have ­suspended plans to build a ­nuclear fuel reprocessing plant after several days of street protests against the project.

Observers said the decision could put other nuclear projects under greater public scrutiny, and urged backers of similar schemes to improve transparency.

The Lianyungang city government announced the halt in a one-sentence statement issued early Wednesday morning.

The government has decided to suspend preliminary work on site selection for the nuclear recycling project,” the statement said.

It came after thousands of protesters launched a series of street demonstrations from Saturday, protesting about the potential ­radiation risks and the alleged lack of transparency in the decision-making process for the project.

Residents used social media platforms to question the process but the comments were soon deleted by censors. “What if there is any radiation leakage? Why does the government want to make a decision on such a big issue on its own, a decision that will affect ­future generations?” they asked.

China National Nuclear Corporation planned to use technology supplied by French firm Areva to develop the spent ­nuclear fuel reprocessing plant.

Residents of Chinese city protest for third day over possible plans to build nuclear fuel reprocessing centre

The companies previously said construction would start in 2020 and be completed by 2030, but had not settled on a site.

The process has been shrouded in secrecy, with Lianyungang residents discovering that their city could be the site for the plant after the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence announced in a press ­release that a deputy head visited the city on July 26 and claimed “much progress has been made on site selection”.

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The Lianyungang city government issued a statement on ­Sunday to try to calm the public, saying the plans were still at an early stage and no location had been confirmed.

Sporadic protests continued on Monday and Tuesday, with video footage posted online showing police mobilised to protect the city government’s office building from protesters.

Xiamen University energy policy specialist Lin Boqiang said the plan was shelved as a result of a lack of transparency and communication by the government and state-owned nuclear companies.

Residents come out in force to protest against Sino-French nuclear project

Public concerns can be contagious and spill over to other ­cities, as has been the case with various incinerator and PX [chemical] projects,” he said.

Many local governments have been forced to scrap plans for such projects after public protests over health and safety concerns.

A series of deadly blasts at industrial sites over the years has only worsened public fears and deepened distrust of government.

China’s PX industry suffered a severe setback. If the developers of nuclear projects do not learn a lesson, they could be faced with similar problems in future,” Lin said.

China is the world’s most ­active builder of nuclear power plants. It has 32 reactors in operation, 22 under construction and more planned.

The government has also spent heavily to build up its ability to produce nuclear fuel and process the waste.

http://m.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2001726/nuclear-plant-scheme-halted-eastern-china-after

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August 11, 2016 Posted by | China | , , , , | Leave a comment

Residents come out in force to protest against Sino-French nuclear project

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Rumours that Lianyungang, Jiangsu province will be site of plant sparks rally in city

Residents in Lianyungang in Jiangsu province ignored police warnings and filled a square for a demonstration over rumours the city would be the site of a Sino-French nuclear project.

The rally over a used-nuclear-fuel processing and recycling plant underscored the tension ­between public concern over ­nuclear safety and the growing pressure on China to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.

The scene appeared to turn tense on Sunday night, the second night of the protest, with pictures posted on Weibo claiming to show police in riot gear, and messages claiming police scuffled with demonstrators. The claim could not be independently verified.

The Lianyungang city government also issued a statement late on Sunday, saying the site for the project was still being deliberated. The government pledged to ­ensure transparency and consult the public, but also warned it would deal with rumour-mongers severely.

Residents started to gather in a square downtown on Saturday night, with some chanting the slogan “boycott nuclear waste”, videos and photos circulating on mainland social ­media showed.

The government only highlights the mass investment in the project and its economic benefit, but never mentions a word about safety or health concerns,” a local resident surnamed Ding told the Post by phone. “We need to voice our ­concerns, that’s why we went on our protests,” he said.

Police had issued a warning late on Friday saying that the demonstration organiser had not applied for the gathering, and calling on residents not to be misled by information circulating on the internet. Large numbers of police officers were also deployed to the demonstration venue.

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Saturday’s demonstration appeared to be peaceful, with no reported conflicts.

Meanwhile over the weekend, the country conducted its first comprehensive nuclear-emergency drill, which aimed to test and improve responses to nuclear ­incidents, according to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence, Xinhua reported.

Dubbed Storm-2016, the drill had no pre-planned scripts or ­expected results, Xinhua added.

China’s ambition to develop nuclear power was briefly hampered in 2011, after Beijing suspended approval for new nuclear power stations and started to conduct nationwide safety checks of all projects in the wake of the ­disaster in Fukushima, Japan.

The moratorium was lifted last year when at least two nuclear power plants, including one in ­Lianyungang, were given the green light for construction.

The nation’s five-year plan covering 2016 to 2020 calls for a dramatic increase in non-fossil-fuel energy sources, with six to eight new nuclear plants to be built each year.

China has 35 nuclear reactors in operation and 20 under construction, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Six provinces – including Guangdong, Shandong , ­Fujian, Zhejiang and Gansu – the only inland province – are listed as candidates for the Sino-French project, according to China Business News.

However, public anger was triggered late last month when comments on a government news website hinted that Lianyungang would be the site of the new project. According to CNNC’s website, the plant was to be the biggest ever project between China and France, and would be built by CNNC using technology from ­Areva, France’s state-owned maker of nuclear reactors.

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2000561/residents-come-out-force-protest-against-sino-french

August 11, 2016 Posted by | China | , , , | 1 Comment

Thousands in Eastern Chinese City Protest Nuclear Waste Project

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Jean-Bernard Lévy, left, chief executive of the French power company EDF, with Qian Zhimin, center, president of the China National Nuclear Corporation, and Philippe Knoche, chief executive of Areva, in Paris last year.

BEIJING — China’s efforts to expand its nuclear power sector suffered a backlash in one eastern seaboard city over the weekend, as thousands of residents took to the streets to oppose any decision to build a reprocessing plant in the area for spent nuclear fuel.

The government of Lianyungang, a city in Jiangsu Province, tried to calm residents on Sunday, a day after thousands of people defied police warnings and gathered near the city center, chanting slogans, according to Chinese news reports and photographs of the protests shared online.

They chanted “no nuclear fuel recycling project,” the state-run Global Times reported, citing footage from the scene. “It is unsafe to see another nuclear project coming and besieging us,” one resident told the paper.

Residents used WeChat, a popular Chinese messaging service, to share video footage showing downtown Lianyungang at night crowded with hundreds of people, many of them middle-aged, walking down a broad street in waves and chanting loudly, “Oppose nuclear waste, defend our home.”

The city government responded with the mix of reassurances and warnings that Chinese officials often use in the face of protests over pollution and environmental concerns. “Currently, the project is still at the stage of preliminary assessment and comparing potential sites, and nothing has been finally decided,” the city government said in a statement issued on Sunday.

But officials did not rule out that the site chosen might be somewhere near Lianyungang, and they warned against any more protests. “The relevant departments will use the law to strike hard against a tiny number of lawbreakers who concoct and spread rumors and disturb the social order,” the city government said.

On Monday, there were no signs of renewed demonstrations in the city. But the residents had made their point: Another possible building block of China’s nuclear power expansion had come under passionate public attack, defying the police warnings and government attempts to defuse alarm.

The Chinese government has said that it will accelerate building nuclear power and processing plants to wean the economy more quickly off coal. In March, the national legislature endorsed a five-year plan that promises to push forward with more nuclear power plants and a reprocessing plant for used fuel from China’s growing number of reactors. Japan also has plans to open a reprocessing plant.

But in Lianyungang and elsewhere, fears over the safety of nuclear power — magnified by the Fukushima calamity in Japan in 2011 — could frustrate those plans.

Lianyungang is just 20 miles southwest of a coastal nuclear power plant at Tianwan, which has two units operating, two under construction and approval to build two more. But the idea that used nuclear fuel might be reprocessed in the area seemed to renew anxieties about radiation risks.

A 2010 survey of 1,616 residents in the area already showed widespread apprehension about the Tianwan plant: 83.5 percent of respondents said they “worried about improper handling of nuclear waste.”

Complaints over industrial pollution, waste incinerators, toxic soil and other environmental issues have become one of the biggest causes of mass protest in China. And nuclear facilities have also become a source of worry for many.

In July 2013, officials in southern China shelved plans for a nuclear fuel fabrication plant after hundreds of nearby residents protested. Proposals for new nuclear power stations have also been met by online denunciations and petitions.

The demonstrations in Lianyungang broke out on Saturday after rumors spread that the area had been chosen as the site for a nuclear fuel processing and recycling plant to be built by the China National Nuclear Corporation, in cooperation with a French company, Areva. The companies have said construction will start in 2020 and be finished by 2030.

The companies have not reported settling on a site, nor have they revealed many other details about the proposed plant. But when China’s premier, Li Keqiang, visited France in June of last year, the companies agreed “to finalize the negotiations in the shortest possible time frame.”

Last month, a unit of the China National Nuclear Corporation said on its website that managers had visited Lianyungang to “study the proposed site.” That news appeared to sow alarm among some residents, who, in addition to the street protests, have taken to social media and online forums to voice opposition to the idea.

On Sina.com Weibo, a popular Chinese site that works like Twitter, messages have sprung up using a picture of a face in a heavy protective mask holding up a nuclear radiation sign with a red X across it. “The people of Lianyungang don’t want radiation,” the picture says.

The China National Nuclear Corporation’s nuclear fuel reprocessing unit said on its website on Saturday that the proposed plant would help the country become a “nuclear strong power.” But it emphasized that a site had not been chosen. It said places in six provinces, including Jiangsu, were under consideration.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/09/world/asia/china-nuclear-waste-protest-lianyungang.html?_r=0

August 9, 2016 Posted by | China | , , , | Leave a comment