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Japan town mayor OKs restarting nuclear reactor over 40 years old

The No. 3 reactor at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Mihama Nuclear Power Station is seen from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter on Oct. 20, 2020.

February 16, 2021

TSURUGA, Fukui — The mayor of a central Japan town hosting a nuclear power plant operated by Kansai Electric Power Co. informed the speaker of the municipal assembly on Feb. 15 that he would approve the restart of a reactor at the plant that is more than 40 years old.

Mayor Hideki Toshima of the Fukui Prefecture town of Mihama told Mihama Municipal Assembly Speaker Yoshihiro Takenaka that he would approve the restart of the No. 3 reactor at Mihama Nuclear Power Station, which began operating in the 1970s. The assembly had already approved the reactivation of the aging reactor.

Meanwhile, Mayor Yutaka Nose of the prefectural town of Takahama, home to Kansai Electric’s Takahama Nuclear Power Station, whose No. 1 and 2 reactors are also over 40 years old, has given the green light for resuming the operations of the two rectors, while the Takahama Municipal Assembly has also approved of the move.

Now that local consent has been secured, the focus has shifted to the decisions expected from Gov. Tatsuji Sugimoto and the prefectural assembly.

The Mihama plant’s No. 3 reactor went online in December 1976. In response to the meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station following the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, the Japanese government limited the operational life of nuclear reactors to “40 years in principle” in July 2013, while allowing a one-time extension of up to 20 years if the reactor fulfilled safety standards. The No. 3 reactor at the Mihama power station, along with the No. 1 and No. 2 rectors at the Takahama plant, have passed screening by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

Mayor Toshima said on Feb. 15 that conditions to approve the restart “have all been met, including understanding from the townspeople and consent from the municipal assembly, as well as promising feedback over regional development by the central government and Kansai Electric.” He added, “Both supporters and skeptics of the reactor restart are concerned about its safety. I will make sure to pay attention to the process.”

Toshima had spoken with Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama online three days prior. He had then expressed his intension to approve the reactivation, saying that the central government had given him positive responses about regional development and other measures he had requested.

As a general rule, a nuclear power plant operator is expected to obtain consent for restarting a rector from the local governments around the plant as well as local assemblies. As a condition for approving the restart, the Fukui Prefectural Government said Kansai Electric would need to present candidate sites outside the prefecture for interim spent nuclear fuel storage facilities. The prefectural government maintained that until that condition was achieved, the parties were “not even at the starting line of discussion.”

However, after Kansai Electric proposed on Feb. 12 that it would finalize a planned site for the storage facilities by the end of 2023, the prefectural government demonstrated a positive attitude toward reactivation. Discussion on restarting the aging reactor may develop further at the prefectural assembly session convening on Feb. 16.

February 21, 2021 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Miyagi’s Onagawa NPP reactor’s final approval to restart

Miyagi Gov. Yoshihiro Murai (center) hold talks Wednesday in the city of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, with Yoshiaki Suda (left), mayor of the town of Onagawa in the prefecture and Hiroshi Kameyama, mayor of Ishinomaki

Tsunami-hit Onagawa reactor in northeast Japan gets final approval to restart

November 12, 2020

Sendai – A nuclear reactor in Miyagi Prefecture damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami disaster in 2011 has cleared the last hurdle to resume operations, getting the green light Wednesday from local officials.

The No. 2 unit of Tohoku Electric Power Co.’s Onagawa plant is the first of the reactors damaged in the disaster to win final approval with local consent to restart.

Miyagi Gov. Yoshihiro Murai and the mayors of Onagawa and Ishinomaki, the two municipalities that host the unit, gave their consent at a meeting after the plant cleared national safety screening in February.

“There is an excellent, stable supply of electricity in a nuclear plant, and the plant can also contribute to the local economy,” Murai said during a news conference after the meeting in Ishinomaki.

A Tohoku Electric official said the utility will “continue to do its best to ensure safety” in plant operations.

Tohoku Electric says it plans to restart the No. 2 reactor in fiscal 2022 at the earliest after work on safety and disaster prevention measures is completed, such as the construction of an 800-meter-long seawall at the plant.

The Onagawa plant is the closest nuclear plant to the epicenter of the magnitude-9.0 earthquake that struck nine years ago.

The central government has been pushing for the reactor to be reactivated so as to ensure a stable power supply, with trade minister Hiroshi Kajiyama seeking Murai’s consent in March.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said during a news conference that gaining local consent marks an “important” step.

The municipal assemblies for Onagawa and Ishinomaki had already given their consent, as had the prefectural assembly. On Monday, the leaders of most of Miyagi’s 35 municipalities agreed at a meeting to support the decisions of Onagawa and Ishinomaki.

Part of the reason for local approval is the money generated by hosting the reactor, with Onagawa having received from the central government around ¥27 billion ($256 million) in grants in the past, as well as hefty property taxes from Tohoku Electric.

Masanori Takahashi, chairman of the town’s chamber of commerce lobbying local leaders to support the restart, said, “We are getting closer to the end of disaster-linked infrastructure development projects,” adding it is now “absolutely necessary to restart the reactor to get the town’s economy going.”

Some local residents, however, believe the approval was rushed, saying concerns linger over whether evacuation plans can actually be implemented in the event of a nuclear accident.

The 825,000-kilowatt boiling water reactor won approval to restart from the Nuclear Regulation Authority earlier this year, becoming the second disaster-damaged reactor to pass stricter safety standards put in place after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

A massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, triggering one of the worst nuclear disasters since the 1986 Chernobyl accident in Fukushima Prefecture, which is adjacent to Miyagi.

At one point, the disaster caused all of Japan’s 54 reactors to be brought to a halt. So far, nine units at five plants in the country have restarted following regulatory and local approval.

At the Onagawa complex, all three reactors — the same boiling water reactors as were used at the Fukushima No. 1 plant run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. — shut down but the underground floors of the No. 2 unit were flooded, after the facility was hit by a tsunami of up to 13 meters.

In Onagawa, more than 800 people were listed as killed or missing.

As the plant’s emergency cooling system functioned normally, there was no meltdown of the type that occurred at three of the six reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

The utility has decided to decommission the reactor’s No. 1 unit, and is considering whether to request a review by the authority to restart the No. 3 unit.

Other boiling water reactors at sites including the Tokai No. 2 plant of Japan Atomic Power Co. in Ibaraki Prefecture have also won the regulator’s approval to resume operations, but have yet to obtain local consent.

From left: Yoshiaki Suda, mayor of Onagawa, Miyagi Governor Yoshihiro Murai and Hiroshi Kameyama, mayor of Ishinomaki, hold a news conference in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, on Nov. 11.

Approval given for 1st restart of nuclear plant damaged in 3/11

November 12, 2020

SENDAI, Miyagi Prefecture–Citing expected economic benefits, local governments approved the first restart of a nuclear power plant damaged in the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

Miyagi Governor Yoshihiro Murai on Nov. 11 said the decision on resuming operations of the No. 2 reactor at the Onagawa nuclear plant was “not an easy one.”

Required safety measures must still be completed at the plant, and questions remain about the evacuation route that will be used in the event of a disaster at the plant, which straddles the municipalities of Onagawa and Ishinomaki on the Pacific coast.

However, residents near the nuclear plant have requested a resumption of nuclear power operations to revive their depleted communities.

“We can expect many jobs to be created if the nuclear plant resumes operations,” Murai said. “Municipalities hosting the plant will also have increased tax revenues through the restart of the plant in terms of fixed property tax and nuclear fuel tax.”

His announcement followed a meeting with the mayors of Onagawa and Ishinomaki earlier in the day, in which the governor confirmed their approval of the planned restart.

Tohoku Electric Power Co., operator of the Onagawa plant, needed the consent from the host communities as well as Miyagi Prefecture although it is not a legal mandate.

The utility expects the reactor, with an output capacity of 825 megawatts, to be brought online as early as in 2023, when it plans to complete an array of projects designed to strengthen the safety of the plant.

“A critical decision was made as we are aiming at a restart,” the utility said in a statement about Murai’s announcement. “We are determined to strive in full force to enhance safety features of the facility.”

If restarted, the No. 2 unit will be the first boiling water reactor in Japan brought online since the 2011 nuclear disaster. The reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, which suffered a triple meltdown after being swamped by the tsunami, are also boiling water types.

All reactors in Japan were shut down after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Since then, nine reactors at five nuclear plants have resumed operations. They were all pressurized water reactors located in western Japan.

When the 13.0-meter tsunami hit the Onagawa plant after the Great East Japan Earthquake, the No. 2 reactor building was just high enough to escape the water.

Still, part of the equipment to cool the reactor failed, and more than 1,000 cracks were discovered in the reactor building.

The Onagawa plant has two other reactors. Tohoku Electric decided to retire the No. 1 reactor, but it is preparing to apply for a restart of the No. 3 reactor.

The utility compiled a set of safeguards for resuming operations of the No. 2 reactor, including construction of a 29-meter-high sea wall as protection against tsunami.

In February, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, the government nuclear watchdog, certified the No. 2 reactor as meeting the more stringent reactor regulations put in place after the Fukushima disaster.

The following month, industry minister Hiroshi Kajiyama urged Murai to agree to the restart of the Onagawa plant.

Japan had 54 nuclear reactors before the disaster struck in the Tohoku region.

Since the Fukushima accident, the number has fallen to 33, as other reactors were retired.

The central government needs to bring around 30 reactors online to achieve its target of nuclear energy representing 20 to 22 percent of the nation’s overall energy output in fiscal 2030.

The government hopes the restart of the Onagawa nuclear plant will prompt other municipalities that host boiling water reactors to accept a resumption of their operations.

(This story was written by Shinya Tokushima and Susumu Okamoto.)

November 15, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Restart of Japan’s tsunami-hit Onagawa nuclear reactor to be OK’d

October 14, 2020

Sendai – A nuclear reactor in northeastern Japan damaged by the 2011 earthquake-tsunami disaster is all but certain to resume operations as the governor of the prefecture hosting the facility has decided to give consent, local officials said Wednesday.

For the No. 2 unit of the Onagawa nuclear plant in Miyagi Prefecture to restart, winning consent from local government leaders is the last remaining step needed after it cleared a national safety screening in February.

Tohoku Electric Power Co.’s Onagawa nuclear plant, as pictured in August 2020

Miyagi Gov. Yoshihiro Murai will formally announce his consent by the end of the year, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

By doing so, he would be the first governor of a disaster-hit prefecture to give the green light to the restart of a nuclear reactor.

The other heads of local governments whose consent is essential are the mayors of the city of Ishinomaki and the town of Onagawa where the plant operated by Tohoku Electric Power Co. straddles.

Of them, Ishinomaki Mayor Hiroshi Kameyama has already expressed his willingness to give the nod, and such a move is backed by the two municipalities’ assemblies.

After the quake triggered one of the world’s worst nuclear crises in neighboring Fukushima Prefecture and caused all of Japan’s 54 reactors to halt at one point, nine units at five plants in the country have restarted following regulatory and local approval.

Murai has come to believe residents will support his stance after the prefectural assembly adopted a plea seeking his consent at a panel meeting Tuesday and is set to approve it at a plenary session next week, the officials said.

“When the plenary session shows its stance, I will make a decision upon hearing the opinions of mayors of cities, towns and villages within the prefecture,” Murai said.

The 825,000-kilowatt reactor won the approval of the Nuclear Regulation Authority in February, becoming the second disaster-damaged reactor to pass stricter safety standards after the Fukushima nuclear disaster — the worst since the 1986 Chernobyl accident.

At the Onagawa complex, all three reactors — the same boiling water reactors as in Fukushima — shut down when a massive quake and a 13-meter tsunami hit northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, flooding the underground floors of the No. 2 unit.

However, the plant’s emergency cooling system did not fail and there was no meltdown of the type that occurred at three of the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.

Tohoku Electric Power Co. aims to restart the Onagawa No. 2 reactor in 2022 at the earliest, after completing anti-disaster work such as the construction of an 800-meter-long seawall at the plant. It has already decided to scrap the No. 1 unit.

Other boiling water reactors at TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture and the Tokai No. 2 plant of Japan Atomic Power Co. in Ibaraki Prefecture have also won the regulator’s approval to resume operations but have yet to obtain local consent.

October 18, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Tohoku reactor restart: What is the state of Japan’s nuclear policy?

Their contempt for the Japanese’ public’s will and the health and well being of people, animals, plants, oceans, rivers, lakes, genetic pools and the economies of the northern hemisphere is appalling. Abe, LDP, nuke industry, anyone that’s pro-nuke.’

n-nuclear-a-20191210-870x666Members of the government’s expert panel inspect Tohoku Electric Power Co.’s Onagawa nuclear power plant in Miyagi Prefecture in April.

Dec 9, 2019

OSAKA – In late November, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) gave the green light for restarting the No. 2 reactor at Tohoku Electric Power Co.’s Onagawa plant in Miyagi Prefecture, which had been damaged in the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami. The announcement once again put the spotlight on the country’s nuclear power policy, not only in Tohoku but nationwide.

Why did the Onagawa restart attract so much attention?

While the Onagawa plant is actually the second damaged on 3/11, after the Tokai No. 2 power station in Ibaraki Prefecture, to pass the NRA’s new safety regulations for nuclear power plants prepared after the disaster, it happens to be the nuclear plant closest to the epicenter of the magnitude 9 quake that struck off the Tohoku coast that day.

The Onagawa facility is located near Ishinomaki, which received extensive damage and much domestic and international media attention after the tsunami claimed the lives of 74 Okawa Elementary School students.

In addition, the Onagawa reactor, which was flooded on 3/11, is the first boiling water reactor to have its restart application approved by the NRA.

There are three kinds of nuclear reactors in operation in Japan: 14 pressured water reactors (PWRs), four advanced boiling water reactors (ABWRs) and 13 boiling water reactors (BWRs), which are the same kind as those at the Fukushima No. 1 plant destroyed by the 3/11 quake and tsunami. The PWRs are considered more technologically stable than the other kinds, and have a better ability to contain radiation.

Now that the NRA has greenlighted Onagawa’s restart, does that mean it will happen anytime soon?

That depends on a number of factors. The Onagawa plant is not ready to be fired up tomorrow. It must first complete the installation of various anti-disaster measures, including a 29-meter-high, 800-meter-long seawall along the Pacific coast to guard against tsunami as high as 23.1 meters. That will not be completed until sometime in fiscal 2020, which begins April 1.

Furthermore, various local governments, including Ishinomaki and Miyagi Prefecture, will have to give their consent to the restart. That could involve long, drawn out negotiations between the utility and local residents and politicians. It’s also probable that lawyers and local citizens opposed to a restart will seek a court injunction to halt the move based on safety concerns. If a court approves an injunction, that will create further delays.

How many other nuclear power plants are there and what are their statuses?

As of this month, there are nine reactors officially in operation. Four belong to Kansai Electric Power Co. (Kepco), which provides electricity mainly to Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Hyogo, Shiga and Wakayama prefectures. Another four belong to Kyushu Electric Power Co. One of Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s reactors at its Ikata plant is also operating.

Another six reactors have made improvements to meet the new, post-3/11 quake safety standards and have received NRA approval to restart. These include two reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings’ Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture, two of the four reactors at Kepco’s Takahama plant (the other two are in operation) in Fukui Prefecture, one reactor at Kepco’s Mihama plant (the other two have been decommissioned), also in Fukui Prefecture, and one reactor at Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tokai No. 2 plant in Ibaraki Prefecture. The other reactor at the facility has been decommissioned.

Nearly a dozen reactors are now in the process of undergoing safety reviews and will have to upgrade their facilities to meet tougher NRA standards for disaster preparedness, and then, if they receive approval to restart, will go through the process of obtaining local consent.

These include reactors in Hokkaido, Aomori, Shizuoka, Ishikawa, Fukui and Shimane prefectures.

Finally, another nine reactors have not applied to be restarted under the new regulations, and 24 reactors, including all six Fukushima No. 1 plant reactors and all four Fukushima No. 2 plant reactors, as well as four of Kepco’s 11 reactors in Fukui Prefecture, are being decommissioned.

How much electricity does nuclear power provide?

Figures vary, sometimes greatly, depending on how many plants in operation were shut down for inspection during a particular year. The latest figures from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Agency for Natural Resources show that in 2017, nuclear power provided 3.1 percent of Japan’s electricity. The Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies, a nonprofit research institute, estimates that based on its own surveys of utilities, nuclear provided 4.7 percent of Japan’s electricity last year.

What about the future for nuclear power in Japan?

The government’s long-term energy policy for 2030 calls for nuclear power to make up around 20 to 22 percent of the nation’s energy mix, and it is pushing hard for the restart of as many idled reactors as possible. By then, the plan calls for renewable energy to account for 22 to 24 percent of the mix, LNG to make up 27 percent, coal 26 percent and oil 3 percent.

But the obstacles to restarting, or continuing to operate, nuclear plants in the coming years are vast. In addition to local opposition that could delay restarts for months or years, costing the utilities money, they include such issues as the economics of running reactors past 40 years, for which the utilities must first spend money to upgrade their facilities in order to meet new NRA standards regarding reactors older than four decades.

While Kepco has secured permission to operate three reactors already over 40 years old for another two decades at the most, other utilities with reactors currently more than 30 years old — such as Tepco’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa No. 1 reactor (34 years old) — will have to decide within a few years whether it’s worth the investment of money and time to apply for a two-decade extension or whether it’s cheaper to decommission.

A second problem has to do with spent nuclear fuel generated by the restarted reactors.

Tokyo is making efforts to find local governments able and willing to have a midterm spent fuel storage facility built in their backyard, and has agreed to offer financial incentives for anyone willing to accept a facility. No luck so far. Meanwhile, in Fukui Prefecture, which has the largest concentration of reactors (13 commercial reactors plus the Monju experimental fast-breeder reactor) in the nation, Gov. Tatsuji Sugimoto is insisting that such storage facilities be built outside the prefecture. His position could lead to other prefectures hosting nuclear power plants to take a firmer stance with utilities and the central government over what to do with spent nuclear fuel when they come seeking local consent for their own restart plans.

December 17, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Safety concerns linger although Onagawa reactor cleared to restart

The Onagawa nuclear power plant in Miyagi Prefecture.
November 29, 2019
Tohoku Electric Power Co. announced Nov. 27 that the No.2 reactor at its Onagawa nuclear power plant in Miyagi Prefecture has cleared the regulatory screening for a restart, more than eight years after it was damaged in the earthquake and tsunami that triggered the Fukushima disaster.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has produced a draft report on its safety inspections of the reactor, saying it has met the new safety standards introduced after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. The NRA’s action means the unit, which is a boiling water reactor like those at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, has passed a key test for its reactivation.
The nuclear safety watchdog has spent six years assessing the safety of the reactor since the utility applied for a license to bring the unit back online.
Tohoku Electric Power has taken safety measures to ensure that the reactor will withstand an earthquake with a shaking intensity twice larger than previously assumed. The company has also promised to build a 29-meter high seawall in line with the lessons learned from the 2011 disaster, when the plant came close to being hit by the tsunami. Special facilities to respond to a severe accident will also be installed.
Despite all these new safety measures, the risk of the unexpected occurring, resulting in damage to the reactor, should not be ruled out.
There are still more things that should be done and considered before debating the appropriateness of allowing the utility to restart the reactor when the promised measures have been taken. The work is expected to be completed in fiscal 2020.
The biggest worry about the plan to bring the reactor back on stream is the lack of a viable plan for emergency evacuations of local residents.
The Oshika Peninsula, where the nuclear plant stands, has a rugged coastline that turns back upon itself repeatedly. This topographic feature limits possible emergency escape routes.
The local populations of both Onagawa and Ishinomaki, which host the plant, are aged, with people 65 years or older accounting for more than 30 percent of all the residents. One in every five local residents lives alone.
An evacuation plan based on the use of private cars and buses will be difficult to carry out. That will be all the more so in cases of complex disasters such as an earthquake and tsunami occurring in succession.
Some 210,000 people live within 30 kilometers from the nuclear plant including residents of five other neighboring municipalities. The local governments within this radius are legally required to develop evacuation plans. It will be a herculean task to secure evacuation centers that can take in all these people.
The governments of many nuclear host communities in rural areas where the local economy is heavily dependent on state subsidies and jobs provided by nuclear plants will agree to reactor restarts.
But many local residents in these communities remain deeply concerned about the safety of the reactors in their towns and cities.
Earlier this month, a group of Ishinomaki citizens filed a request with the Sendai District Court for an injunction to ban the Miyagi governor and the Ishinomaki mayor from approving the utility’s plan to restart the reactor. The legal action clearly reflects local residents’ anxiety.
A proposal to hold a local referendum on the planned reactor restart based on 110,000 signatures was submitted to the prefectural assembly although it was rejected.
The heads of some local governments in the region have expressed their opposition to the utility’s plan to resume operation of the reactor, saying they cannot take the responsibility to protect the lives of local residents during emergencies.
The Asahi Shimbun has argued that a wider scope of communities around nuclear power plants should be involved in the process. As for the Onagawa plant, there is a system to communicate the opinions of the five surrounding municipalities to Tohoku Electric Power through the prefectural government.
The Fukushima disaster has shown in a graphic manner that a wide range of areas are affected by any serious nuclear accident.
Both the Miyagi prefectural administration and Tohoku Electric Power should pay serious attention to the voices of local communities in wide areas surrounding the nuclear plant.
Nuclear power generation has been promoted under a national policy while nuclear plants have been operated by private-sector companies.
Commenting on Tohoku Electric Power’s plan to resume operating the reactor at the Onagawa plant, Miyagi Governor Yoshihiro Murai has said the central government should make the final decision and take responsibility for it.
In addition to the local administrations and utilities involved, the central government needs to address doubts and concerns among local residents related to a plan to restart a nuclear reactor.
Already, nine reactors have been reactivated under the new nuclear safety standards.
But the Onagawa plant is located in an area that has been repeatedly hit by earthquakes and tsunami. Experts say there are risks of the plant being struck by a major disaster. These facts should not be forgotten.

December 2, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Nuclear watchdog approves restart of Onagawa reactor in Miyagi hit by 3/11 tsunami

First Japanese boiling water reactor (like Fukushima Daiichi) has just been approved for restart of operations. This is the tenth Japanese nuclear power plant to restart since all nuclear power operations were shutdown following the March 11, 2011 triple catastrophe (earthquake, tsunami and triple meltdown.)
Interesting that Japanese nuclear regulators required the restart of these boiling water reactors be predicated on the installation of filtered hardened containment vents (FHCV). The FHCV allows the operator during a severe nuclear accident to vent to the General Electric design’s vulnerable and substandard containment structure of extreme pressure, heat, explosive non-compressible hydrogen gas and while retaining the radioactivity in newly constructed high efficiency filtration system housed in a separate hardened containment. The original FHCV was proposed by US Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff in November 2012 as a requirement for the continued operation of 23 U.S. General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors and rejected by a majority vote of the Commissioners. For U.S. reactors financial margins come before public safety margins.
Tohoku Electric Power Co.’s Onagawa nuclear power plant in Miyagi Prefecture is seen on Feb. 18
Nov 27, 2019
A nuclear power plant reactor that was damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster and idled under stricter safety standards following the Fukushima crisis won approval from the nuclear watchdog on Wednesday for operations to resume.
The No. 2 unit of Tohoku Electric Power Co.’s Onagawa plant in Miyagi Prefecture received the green light after the addition of disaster prevention measures, including a towering seawall that is nearing completion.
The approval, given in a unanimous vote, was the first to be secured by the operator under the revised standards. The reactor is only the second of those damaged in the March 2011 calamity to clear the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s new safety regulations, after the Tokai No. 2 power station in Ibaraki Prefecture.
Before the reactor can be restarted, the plant, which straddles the town of Onagawa and the city of Ishinomaki, still needs to finish installing anti-disaster measures, which are expected to be completed in fiscal 2020, and receive consent from the local governments.
Tohoku Electric expects to spend ¥340 billion ($3.1 billion) on the measures, the bulk of that being spent the seawall — which will run along 800 meters of Pacific coast and rise 29 meters above sea level to guard against tsunami as high as 23.1 meters. In the March 2011 disaster, parts of the basement floors of Onagawa’s No. 2 unit were flooded.
Costs for enhanced safety measures have ballooned and are expected to swell further with the construction of facilities to be used in the event of a terrorist attack, also required under the new safety standards.
The Onagawa plant is the closest nuclear plant to the epicenter of the magnitude 9.0 quake that struck northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, and heavy shaking triggered an automatic shutdown of its three reactors.
Its No. 2 reactor building suffered flooding from the subsequent 13-meter tsunami, losing up to 70 percent of its capacity to resist earthquakes, and tremors damaged four out of five external power supplies at the plant. But the remaining line was enough to cool the reactors into a cold shutdown, unlike the situation at the Fukushima No. 1 plant run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., or Tepco, where the triple meltdowns occurred.
Tohoku Electric applied for safety screening for the No. 2 reactor at the Onagawa plant in December 2013, and its restart should save the utility ¥35 billion annually in fuel costs.
The No. 1 reactor is scheduled to be decommissioned, and the utility is still considering whether to seek approval to restart the No. 3 reactor.
The Onagawa No. 2 reactor may become the first boiling water reactor — the same type used at the Fukushima No. 1 plant — to resume operations following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, which claimed nearly 16,000 lives. More than 2,500 remain missing today. In Onagawa, those killed or missing total more than 800.
Other boiling water reactors at Tepco’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture and the Tokai No. 2 plant of Japan Atomic Power Co. have already secured NRA approval to resume operations, but have yet to obtain local consent.
Onagawa’s approval will be formalized following a roughly one-month period where the NRA will accept comments from the public. During the meeting Wednesday, NRA Commissioner Shinsuke Yamanaka said the safety of the plant’s structural design had been reviewed carefully, in consideration that the Tohoku region has been hit by big earthquakes in the past.
At Onagawa, more than 80 percent of houses were damaged following the March 2011 tsunami, and locals were divided on whether to back the restart of the plant.
“It is OK to restart if it’s safe,” said Shoichi Chubachi, 82, who still lives in public housing for people who lost their homes in the disaster. “The town has reaped benefits from the nuclear plant. I cannot say I’m opposed.”
“I think there’s sufficient electricity without nuclear power,” said housewife Chisato Uno, 69. “Taking into account our children and grandchildren, no nuclear power is better.”
A woman in her 80s who lives alone expressed concerns. “I can’t drive a car and I cannot evacuate because my legs are weak,” she said.

December 2, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

JAPC denies granting local prior consent for Tokai reactor restart

The Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, which is operated by the Japan Atomic Power Co.
January 8, 2019
Although telling six municipalities they have the right to prior consent before restarting the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant, operator Japan Atomic Power Co. (JAPC) is apparently reneging on that promise.
JAPC reached a draft agreement with the local governments to obtain their consent before restarting the Tokai No. 2 plant reactor in Ibaraki Prefecture, according to documents from Naka in the prefecture.
The documents, obtained by The Asahi Shimbun through an information disclosure request, detail the six years of negotiations between JAPC and the six local governments and a new safety agreement reached in March 2018.
The six are Tokai village, which hosts the plant, and the five surrounding cities of Hitachi, Hitachinaka, Naka, Hitachiota and Mito.
However, when asked by The Asahi Shimbun if the agreement contained a clause that JAPC would obtain prior consent from the six municipal governments on the restart, the company replied “No.” The six municipalities said the right to prior consent had been agreed upon.
JAPC has apparently changed its stance.
The new safety agreement, concluded on March 29, 2018, stipulates that when JAPC seeks to restart the Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant or extend its operation, it will effectively obtain prior approval from Tokai village and five surrounding municipalities.
The apparent break from tradition to give surrounding local municipalities the right of prior consent drew widespread attention as the “Ibaraki method.”
The concept of working out an agreement started in February 2012 when the heads of the six municipalities met to discuss nuclear power and local vitalization.
Tatsuya Murakami, then Tokai village chief, talked about the wide-ranging effects from the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
He said that the issue of whether to allow a restart of the Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant couldn’t be decided by Tokai village alone and that it was necessary for surrounding municipalities to have the same right.
However, JAPC rejected the proposal, saying that it needed to maintain a consistent approach with another nuclear plant it operates.
The negotiations continued, and in March 2017 the circumstances changed. In a meeting held that month, JAPC President Mamoru Muramatsu proposed a new safety agreement to the six municipalities.
As for their prior consent, he said, “We’ve determined that we can’t restart the nuclear plant until we obtain consent from the municipalities.”
The municipalities asked Muramatsu if that effectively meant they had the right to “prior consent.”
The JAPC president replied, “That’s correct.”
On Nov. 22, 2017, JAPC presented a new safety agreement, which included “effective prior consent,” in a meeting of the heads of the municipalities.
The municipalities again asked whether they had the right to prior consent. A JAPC official replied, “Yes.”
On Nov. 24, 2017, JAPC applied to the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) for a 20-year extension of the operation of the nuclear plant. The deadline for the application was Nov. 28, 2017.
On Nov. 7, 2018, immediately after the NRA approved the 20-year extension, however, JAPC Vice President Nobutaka Wachi said, “The word ‘veto power’ can’t be found anywhere in the new agreement.”
The remark caused a backlash from the six municipalities, and Wachi apologized for his remark. However, relations between JAPC and the municipalities have deteriorated.
In the fall of 2018, The Asahi Shimbun conducted a survey of JAPC and the six municipalities. It asked them, “Is there anything in writing that states that JAPC must obtain prior consent from the six municipal governments in the new agreement?”
In response, JAPC said, “No.” A JAPC official explained, “The new agreement is a plan to effectively obtain prior consent from the six municipalities (by continuing to talk thoroughly with them until they grant their consent).”
The Asahi Shimbun told JAPC that official documents have a description that can be interpreted as granting the municipalities the right to prior consent.
The JAPC official said, “We will refrain from making a comment about the content of discussions from closed meetings.”

January 9, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Ikata NPP’s reactor to restart as Hiroshima court judges volcanic erution frequency to be extremely low

Ruling puts onus on anti-nuclear plaintiffs citing volcanic risks

Capture du 2018-09-27 10-21-00
Lawyer Hiroyuki Kawai, center, explains the Hiroshima High Court’s decision on Sept. 25 to lift a temporary injunction barring operations of the Ikata nuclear plant.
September 26, 2018
HIROSHIMA–The Hiroshima High Court has significantly raised the bar for plaintiffs seeking suspensions of nuclear plant operations on grounds of a possible volcanic eruption.
In a ruling handed down on Sept. 25, the court overturned a temporary injunction order that had halted operations at the Ikata nuclear plant, saying the plaintiffs must present highly credible evidence of the risk of a catastrophic volcanic eruption.
The plaintiffs argued that Shikoku Electric Power Co. must suspend operations of its Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture because of the dangers posed by Mount Aso in central Kyushu, Japan’s southern main island.
They said a pyroclastic flow from the volcano would reach the plant about 130 kilometers away in the event of an eruption on a scale similar to one that occurred about 90,000 years ago.
But the high court dismissed their argument by referring to “socially accepted ideas.”
“The frequency of such an eruption is extremely low,” Presiding Judge Masayuki Miki said. “The government has not taken any measures to deal with it, and a large majority of the public don’t see the risks of a major eruption as a problem, either.”
He added, “Unless the court is given reasonable grounds for the possibility of a major eruption, it is a socially accepted idea that the safety of a facility will not be undermined even if measures are not in place to prepare for such a scenario.”
The ruling was based on an assessment issued in March by the Secretariat of the Nuclear Regulation Authority that risks to nuclear facilities from a catastrophic volcanic eruption are within a socially acceptable range.
Kenta Tsunasaki, one of the plaintiffs, said he was appalled by the ruling.
“We are again witnessing the exact same attitude toward a massive eruption of a volcano,” he said, referring to the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that caused the 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. “The judiciary must have forgotten about the Fukushima disaster.”
Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant operator, has argued that the scale of the tsunami that struck the nuclear complex could not be foreseen.
Many volcanologists agree that catastrophic eruptions rarely occur.
But Yoshiyuki Tatsumi, professor of volcanology at Kobe University, questioned the court’s dismissal of the possibility of a huge eruption.
“The low occurrence does not assure safety,” he said. “A catastrophic eruption is one of the worst disasters in terms of the degree of danger, which is calculated by multiplying the expected number of victims and the rate of occurrence.”
Tatsumi also said it is difficult to predict when Mount Aso will have a major eruption because its eruption cycle is irregular.
(This article was compiled from reports by Sotaro Hata, Toshio Kawada and Shigeko Segawa.)


Reactor can restart in Japan after little risk seen from volcano

Shikoku Electric plans to resume operations at the Ikata plant in October
ikata npp.jpg
The No. 3 unit at the Ikata power plant in Ehime Prefecture
September 25, 2018
OSAKA — A Japanese court ruled Tuesday that a nuclear reactor operated by Shikoku Electric Power could restart, clearing the way for it to join the small handful of nuclear facilities that have resumed operating following a catastrophic earthquake in 2011. 
The Hiroshima High Court overturned Tuesday its own provisional injunction from December, accepting the utility’s claim that a volcano in the vicinity poses little risk.
Following the decision, Shikoku Electric said it will restart the No. 3 unit at its Ikata power plant in Ehime Prefecture on Oct. 27.
High courts have often overruled suspensions handed down by district courts. Examples include the Nos. 3 and 4 units at Kansai Electric Power’s Oi and Takahama plants in Fukui Prefecture. With the Hiroshima high court’s decision, all reactors that had temporary suspension orders on them are able to restart.
The chief issue in the Ikata case was whether a nearby caldera of Mt. Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture is at risk of erupting.
“No proof has been shown of the possibility that a large-scale, catastrophic eruption will occur, and the likelihood that [lava flows] will reach the reactor is sufficiently low,” the court said in its ruling Tuesday.
But the restart could be stopped again by an Oita District Court decision due Friday on another provisional injunction to halt the Ikata unit.
The 890-megawatt No. 3 reactor is one of five across three plants nationwide to restart under standards introduced after the 2011 tsunami. It resumed operations in August 2016, but was halted in October 2017 for routine inspections. The shutdown has cost Shikoku Electric about 30 billion yen ($266 million), the company said.

September 27, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Hiroshima High Court signs off on restart of reactor at Shikoku Electric’s Ikata nuclear power plant

Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata nuclear power plant is seen in Ehime Prefecture.
Sept. 25, 2018
HIROSHIMA – The Hiroshima High Court on Tuesday accepted an appeal by Shikoku Electric Power Co. allowing it to restart a halted reactor at its Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime Prefecture, saying worries over a volcanic eruption damaging the plant are groundless.
The decision is an about-face from its earlier provisional injunction that demanded the utility halt the No. 3 unit at the plant until the end of this month, citing safety risks associated with potential volcanic activity in a nearby prefecture.
The temporary suspension order, issued last December following a request from a local opposition group, marked the first case in which a high court had prohibited operations at a nuclear plant since the 2011 triple meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant led to a nationwide halt of such plants.
Presiding Judge Masayuki Miki said in the ruling, “There is no reason to believe in the possibility of a destructive volcanic eruption during the plant’s operating period and there is only a small chance of volcanic ash and rocks reaching the plant,” which is about 130 kilometers away.
Following the court’s decision, Shikoku Electric said it will reboot the No. 3 reactor on Oct. 27. The unit has been idle for maintenance since October last year.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority, the country’s nuclear watchdog, said, “Drawing on the lessons learned from the nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, we will continue to impose strict regulations based on scientific and technical knowledge.”
Separately, residents in nearby Oita, Kagawa and Yamaguchi prefectures have also been seeking to stop the reactor in pending court cases. The Oita District Court is scheduled to hand down a decision on Friday.
In addition, a request to extend the period of the injunction beyond Sunday has been filed with the Hiroshima District Court.
In the injunction, the high court had said the power company underestimated the risks of heated rocks and volcanic ash reaching the plant if a big eruption occurs at Mount Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture.
That decision constituted a major victory for the nation’s anti-nuclear movement and dealt a blow to the central government and utility firms, which are hoping to bring more reactors back online.
Shikoku Electric claimed in the appeal that it believes there is a “low possibility” of the volcano having a large-scale eruption while the reactor is in operation.
Plaintiffs, however, argued that the resumption of operations at the plant is “unreasonable” because of a “high risk of an accident.”

September 27, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Trouble-hit nuclear reactor in southwestern Japan resumes operations

genkai npp.jpg
In this Nov. 6, 2016 file photo, from left, the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Genkai Nuclear Power Plant are seen from a Mainichi helicopter in Saga Prefecture
June 16, 2018
FUKUOKA (Kyodo) — A nuclear reactor at a trouble-hit complex in southwestern Japan restarted operations Saturday for the first time in more than six and a half years amid lingering safety concerns.
The No. 4 unit at the Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture is the fourth reactor of operator Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s to go back online and the ninth nationwide under stricter safety rules implemented after the Fukushima crisis in 2011. The utility aims to generate and supply electricity from Wednesday and start commercial operations in mid-July.
The restart sparked local protests, with around 100 people gathering in front of the plant.
Hajime Aoki, an 80-year-old farmer living about 6 kilometers away from the plant, said, “Everyone knows that nuclear plants are dangerous. If I think about the Fukushima nuclear accident, I certainly cannot agree to this.”
Recognizing the opposition of the local residents, Saga Gov. Yoshinori Yamaguchi promised to deal with the issue seriously, while Michiaki Uriu, president of Kyushu Electric, separately said the plant’s operation will proceed by taking into account “safety as a top priority.”
At the same time, there were some residents who said that while they were worried about plant safety, they also saw the economic benefits to having such plants in the area.
The restart comes after the Genkai complex has been mired in troubles. In May, pumps installed to control the circulation of cooling water at the No. 4 unit suffered malfunctions, following a steam leak from a pipe at the No. 3 reactor just a week after it was reactivated in March.
Kyushu Electric estimates cost savings of 11 billion yen ($100 million) per month due to the restarts of the No. 3-4 units at Genkai, as this will reduce its reliance on thermal power generation.
The No. 4 unit, which began undergoing a regular checkup in December 2011, won approval for restart by the Nuclear Regulation Authority in January 2017 under the tougher rules implemented after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi complex, triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.
Some local residents opposed to the Genkai plant’s operation question the validity of safety standards and cite the risk of volcanic eruptions in the region. The Saga District Court rejected in March a request for an injunction to suspend the plant’s restart.

June 22, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

No. 4 reactor at Oi nuclear plant restarted after nearly five years offline

10 may 2018 oi restart.jpg
Oi nuclear power plant’s No. 4 reactor (far left) in Fukui Prefecture is seen on Wednesday before being restarted by Kansai Electric Power Co.
May 10, 2018
OI, FUKUI PREF. – Kansai Electric Power Co.’s No. 4 reactor at its Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture inched closer toward running at full capacity Thursday, four years and eight months after operations were suspended.
The reactor has reached criticality, its nuclear fission chain reaction having reached a self-sustaining state, and is set to begin power generation and transmission Friday. It is projected to reach full capacity early next week.
The reactor, which was halted in September 2013 for regular checkups, is the eighth to have been reactivated under the country’s new safety standards for nuclear plants. The new standards were introduced in the wake of the March 2011 triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s tsunami-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
Kansai Electric plans to put the No. 4 reactor into commercial mode in early June and cut its electricity prices this summer.
Commercial operations of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Oi plant are projected to help reduce the firm’s fuel costs by about ¥120 billion a year. The No. 3 unit was brought back online in March this year and entered commercial mode in April.
The utility lowered its electricity rates for households by 3.15 percent on average in August 2017, after it resumed commercial operations of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at its Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture.
As each of the two Oi reactors has a capacity of 1.18 million kilowatts — larger than the 870,000 kilowatt capacity of each of the Takahama reactors — the forthcoming rate cut may be more significant than the previous one and could bring the company’s electricity prices down to levels from before the Fukushima nuclear accident, industry observers said.
Kansai Electric owns 11 reactors — four each at the Oi and Takahama plants, and three at the Mihama plant, also in Fukui Prefecture.
Besides the four currently in operation, the Mihama No. 1 and No. 2 units and the Oi No. 1 and No. 2 units are set to be decommissioned. The Mihama No. 3 unit and the Takahama No. 1 and No. 2 units are undergoing work to allow them to continue to operate after reaching 40 years of service.
With the Oi and Takahama plants located as little as 13.5 kilometers from each other, the plant operator has been urged to draw up measures that should be taken in case accidents occur at the same time at the two facilities.
This summer the government plans to carry out a comprehensive anti-disaster drill assuming simultaneous accidents.

May 12, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Ohi No.4 reactor restarted

Japan’s 8th reactor is back online. Kansai Electric Power Company on Wednesday restarted a reactor at the Ohi plant in Fukui Prefecture, central Japan.
At the plant, workers pulled out the control rods that suppress atomic fission of the No.4 reactor.
The facility is expected to reach criticality early Thursday, begin power generation and transmission on Friday and go into commercial operation in early June.
The reactor had complied with new government regulations put in place following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.
Two months earlier, the utility reactivated the No.3 reactor at the plant. Two more reactors are running at its Takahama plant about 13 kilometers west of Ohi.
Although they all passed the government’s new regulations, attention is now focused on the threat of multiple accidents at these plants in the event of an earthquake and tsunami.
This summer, the government plans to hold its first drill based on a scenario that accidents have occurred simultaneously at the Ohi and Takahama plants.
In 2014, the Fukui District Court ruled against putting the No.3 and No.4 reactors at Ohi back online. It said estimated tremors of possible quakes at the plant are too optimistic. The ruling was appealed to a higher court, which has yet to decide the issue.


May 10, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Coastal nuclear reactor resumes operations, joins 2 units nearby

Oi march 14 2018 n3 restart.jpg
The No. 1 to No. 4 reactors (from top to bottom) at the Oi Nuclear Power Plant are seen from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter, in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, on March 14, 2018.
March 14, 2018
FUKUI, Japan (Kyodo) — Kansai Electric Power Co. restarted Wednesday a reactor at its Oi plant on the Sea of Japan coast, located close to two other units already online, amid lingering safety concerns following the Fukushima disaster.
It is the first time that multiple nuclear reactors within the same vicinity have been in operation since the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The No. 3 reactor at the Oi plant is a mere 14 kilometers from the No. 3 and 4 units at the Takahama plant, all in the central Japan prefecture of Fukui.
Local residents are worried about the lack of an effective evacuation plan in the event accidents hit both the Takahama and Oi complexes at the same time.
The No. 3 Oi unit is the sixth reactor to resume operations in Japan after clearing stricter safety regulations implemented in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, seeing nuclear power as an “important base-load power source,” is promoting the restart of nuclear reactors considered safe by regulators.
Under the current national energy policy, the government plans to generate between 20 and 22 percent of total electricity using nuclear power in fiscal 2030.
Kansai Electric aims to start commercial operations of the No. 3 Oi reactor in early April. The No. 4 reactor at the Oi plant is also expected to restart in May, having cleared the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety review along with the No. 3 unit in May 2017.

March 16, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Japan’s Nuclear Regulator Not Agreeing to Tepco’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP Reactor Restart Plans

Nuclear regulator does dizzying U-turn on TEPCO reactor restart plans

Screenshot from 2017-09-08 00-09-16.pngFrom left, the No. 5, 6 and 7 reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant are seen in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, in this April 21, 2016 file photo.


Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the utility responsible for the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and its March 2011 triple meltdown, is aiming to get the reactors at its other power plants back on line.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), which must approve any restarts, had been holding to a very strict line on TEPCO applications. However, on Sept. 6 the NRA abruptly changed track, taking a more sympathetic attitude and indicating that the No. 6 and 7 reactors at the utility’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture would likely pass their safety inspections — a prerequisite for restart approval.

Despite the NRA’s suddenly sunny attitude, the prefectural government has not budged from its more cautious position. And TEPCO, which has made the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant a chief pillar of its business recovery plans, cannot flip the reactors’ “on” switch without the prefecture’s imprimatur, meaning the plant still has no clear restart schedule.

When the NRA summoned TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa and other top managers on July 10 this year to testify on the utility’s competence to keep running nuclear plants, authority chairman Shunichi Tanaka was unequivocal and unforgiving.

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Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka speaks to the Mainichi Shimbun during an Aug. 29, 2017 interview. (Mainichi)

“If TEPCO is unwilling or unable to finalize the decommissioning of the Fukushima (No. 1 station) reactors, it is simply not qualified to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant,” Tanaka told the executives, adding, “I don’t see TEPCO showing any independent initiative whatsoever.”

The NRA chairman was referring to the longstanding problems with contaminated water and radioactive waste disposal plaguing TEPCO’s Fukushima plant decommissioning efforts. The utility tends to focus too much on trying to read the government’s mind on any and all Fukushima issues — an attitude that has long drawn NRA criticism.

When the NRA inspected the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant’s No. 6 and 7 reactors, it added a new evaluation category to the usual technological checklist, though it was not part of the new safety standards: “eligibility.” That is, TEPCO’s eligibility to run a nuclear power plant at all. After all, it was one of TEPCO’s plants that had succumbed to the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. “TEPCO is different from other (power) companies,” Tanaka had said.

TEPCO President Kobayakawa and Chairman Takashi Kawamura are also a source of NRA concern. The two had no role in the utility’s response to the 2011 meltdowns, and Kobayakawa replaced a much more experienced hand in Naomi Hirose, a TEPCO managing director when the disaster struck. After his NRA dressing-down in July, Kobayakawa apparently visited the Fukushima disaster zone seven times.

However, there has been an apparent U-turn in Tanaka’s stance. A document submitted on Aug. 25 to the NRA under Kobayakawa’s name was sewn with phrases like, “We will carry the (Fukushima) reactor decommissioning through to the end,” and other terms suggesting a determined TEPCO attitude. At the same time, the document was bereft of details on specific preparedness measures or progress benchmarks for the decommissioning work.

Nevertheless, when Kobayakawa again appeared before the NRA on Aug. 30, the body indicated its acceptance of TEPCO’s position. Taking the contaminated water problem “as one example,” Tanaka stated that he recognized TEPCO’s lack of concrete countermeasure planning couldn’t be helped under the circumstances. One NRA executive revealed to the Mainichi Shimbun, “We avoided demanding a detailed (disposal measures) plan because we don’t legally have that authority, and doing so could pose legal risks.”

Pro-TEPCO sentiment was on conspicuous display when the NRA met again on Sept. 6, including acting Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa’s declaration that he “felt TEPCO’s drive to pass on the lessons of the (Fukushima nuclear) accident.”

Committee member Nobuhiko Ban stated that while the document the utility had submitted in the summer was a “declaration of intent,” he was “concerned over whether this alone can constitute eligibility” to run a nuclear plant. However, Tanaka wrapped up discussion by saying that “circumstances are not such that we can deny (TEPCO’s) eligibility.”

Tanaka will leave his NRA post on Sept. 18 after completing his five-year term in the chairmanship, and at a post-meeting news conference he was asked if he had wanted to bring the TEPCO issue to a close while in office.

“I can’t say that I’ve never felt that way,” Tanaka replied.

NRA doubts TEPCO’s safety vow in Niigata, plans legal move

Screenshot from 2017-09-08 00-11-58.pngTokyo Electric Power Co. wants to restart the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors, shown in the forefront, at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture.


The Nuclear Regulation Authority, skeptical of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s promise to put safety ahead of profits, plans to gain legal assurances before allowing the embattled utility to start operating nuclear reactors again.

TEPCO has applied to restart two reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture, which would be the first run by the company since the disaster unfolded at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in March 2011.

Although NRA members agreed that the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant passed new regulations on technological aspects, they could not agree on whether the company has learned its lessons about safety management since the triple meltdown at the Fukushima plant.

To ensure TEPCO will put safety at the forefront of its operations, the NRA is considering holding the utility legally responsible for completing the entire decommissioning process of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The regulator expects to draft a checklist to verify the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant’s safety and other steps before it makes a final decision on whether to allow TEPCO to restart the reactors. The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 13.

The NRA had previously determined that 12 reactors at six nuclear plants met new nuclear reactor regulations shortly after completion of their technological examinations.

The NRA also finished its technological examinations of the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors, the newest ones at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

The plant has seven reactors, making it one of the largest nuclear power stations in the world. The two reactors that TEPCO wants to put online each has a capacity of 1.36 gigawatts.

TEPCO has said the resumption of the reactors are needed to turn around its business fortunes.

But NRA commissioners are reluctant to allow TEPCO to bring the plant online based solely on the results of the technological screening.

After the chairman and president of the utility were replaced in June, the NRA summoned the new top executives in July.

The watchdog demanded that they give a written response to the regulator’s position that TEPCO “is not qualified to operate the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, given the seeming lack of determination and spotty track record to take the initiative in decommissioning (the Fukushima No. 1 plant).”

In August, the company submitted a paper to the NRA promising to “take the initiative in addressing the problem of victims of the nuclear disaster and to fulfill the task to decommission the plant.”

The paper also said the company “has no intention whatsoever to place economic performance over safety at the (Kashiwazaki-Kariwa) plant.”

Tomoaki Kobayakawa, the new president of TEPCO, called the paper a “promise to the public.”

Although the NRA commissioners on Sept. 6 recognized TEPCO’s commitment to safety to a certain degree, doubts remained.

Nobuhiko Ban, an NRA member who is a specialist on radiological protection, called for a system that would keep TEPCO committed to safety management in the future.

Is it all right for us to take TEPCO’s vow at face value?” he said.

The NRA then decided to consider legal ways to hold TEPCO accountable for safety issues.

September 7, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Sendai Reactor Back Online


Workers in the control room restart reactor 1 at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture Thursday night

Sendai reactor goes back online

Operators have powered on a nuclear reactor at a plant in western Japan on Thursday night after 2 months of inspections.
Officials at Kyushu Electric Power Company say workers have begun pulling control rods out of the Number One reactor at their Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture.
The reactor has been offline since October. Before that, it operated for 14 months as the first reactor in the country to go online under new regulations following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
The utility says it found no abnormalities during its regular and special inspections.
The special checks were added at the request of Kagoshima Governor Satoshi Mitazono, who took office in July. He asked the utility to see if strong earthquakes that occurred at nearby Kumamoto Prefecture in April had affected the plant.
Officials say they expect the reactor to reach criticality on Friday and begin transmitting electricity to the grid on Sunday. They also expect the plant to resume commercial operations in early January.
A group opposing the restart held a rally on Thursday outside the facility. Group leader Yoshitaka Mukohara said a proposed prefectural panel should first give a judgment before the reactor is brought online.
Governor Mitazono had promised to set up an expert panel to look into the reactor’s safety, but it has yet to be launched. Mukohara urged the governor to stick to his position.

Kyushu Electric fires up Kagoshima reactor after governor gives OK

FUKUOKA – Kyushu Electric Power Co. restarted a nuclear reactor in Kagoshima Prefecture on Thursday after the prefectural governor, who is opposed to nuclear power, effectively permitted the move last week.

Reactor No. 1 at the Sendai nuclear power complex is one of five reactors to have been reactivated under stricter safety regulations adopted in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima reactor meltdowns. Following resumption in August 2015, its operation had been suspended for a regular checkup since Oct. 6.

The utility pulled out control rods from the reactor at around 9:30 p.m. The reactor is expected to achieve criticality by Friday morning and to start power generation from Sunday. Commercial operation is set to resume from Jan. 6.

Kyushu Electric on Tuesday notified Kagoshima Gov. Satoshi Mitazono of the planned restart of the reactor and was not requested to suspend it this time, it said.

Mitazono, who was elected in July on an anti-nuclear platform, asked the utility in August and September to immediately suspend operation of the plant. Reactor No. 1 came to a halt in October for a regular checkup.

The Sendai complex’s reactor No. 2 is scheduled to be suspended for regular checks from Dec. 16 to Feb. 27.

Mitazono had told the prefectural assembly earlier this month that he had no legal power to decide whether to restart the reactor, paving the way for the latest move.

On Thursday, however, Mitazono said that he will take “strong action, regardless of the reactor’s operation,” if an experts’ committee, which he plans to set up to examine safety at the plant, finds any safety problems.

Some 30 local residents and anti-nuclear group members gathered in front of the Sendai plant Thursday morning to protest the reactivation.

December 9, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment