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Ministry mulls 2020 start for Monju decommissioning after nine-month activation

Just before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, very nice…. Is the ongoing catastrophe at Fukushima Daiichi, yet not under  control, yet unsettled, not enough for them???

“Under the plan, a nine-month trial period will be created from the spring of 2019 during which the reactor will run for four months in a bid to minimize the risk of accidents.”

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The science and technology ministry overseeing the trouble-prone Monju fast-breeder reactor is considering starting decommissioning of the facility in 2020, ministry sources said Tuesday.

It is the first time a specific time frame for decommissioning work for the Monju reactor in Fukui Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast has been revealed in a proposed plan by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

The move comes as the government is fundamentally reviewing the Monju project, including the decommissioning of the reactor, which has been plagued with a series of safety problems and has come under fire for being costly.

The plutonium-burning Monju has hardly operated over the past 20 years, due to a spate of problems and incidents, despite its intended key role in Japan’s nuclear fuel recycling policy.

The plan to start scrapping the reactor is on the condition of running the reactor for a short period of time to obtain necessary data for the future development of fast reactors.

Under the plan, a nine-month trial period will be created from the spring of 2019 during which the reactor will run for four months in a bid to minimize the risk of accidents.

Other countries have also shown interest in fast-reactor technology due to its purported use in radioactive waste reduction among other benefits.

But the Nuclear Regulation Authority has been reluctant to allow the reactor’s restart.

During a government panel meeting held Oct. 7, the ministry presented an estimate that if Monju is reactivated, at least ¥540 billion ($5.2 billion) would be necessary over a 16-year period.

One of the sources said the cost of running the reactor for only a short period of time would be ¥200 billion at most. With necessary safety measures in place following the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns in 2011, the ministry believes no additional work is needed to meet regulatory requirements for its brief operation.

The government will continue to discuss the matter through the panel and formally decide by the end of the year.

The Monju reactor dates back to 1980, when the nation began trying to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. Almost all oil, coal and gas burned in Japan is imported.

Still, the reactor was costly and suffered under mismanagement and repeated accidents, only going live for a few months during its more than three decades of existence.

Monju first reached criticality in 1994 but was forced to shut down in December 1995 after a leak of sodium coolant and a fire. There was a subsequent attempt at a cover-up.

In November 2012, it emerged that the operator, Japan Atomic Energy Agency, had failed to properly check as many as 10,000 of the reactor’s components, as required by the safety rules in place at the time.

In November last year, the Nuclear Regulation Authority declared that the government-affiliated JAEA was “not qualified as an entity to safely operate” the facility.

It told the government either to find an alternative operator or scrap the project. The government was unable to find new management.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/10/26/national/ministry-mulls-2020-start-monju-decommissioning-nine-month-activation/#.WBBIpDzL9VZ.facebook

 

October 27, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Another nuclear plant restarted amid lingering safety concerns

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Ikata nuclear power plant, foreground, is located at the root of the Sadamisaki Peninsula.

The No. 3 reactor at Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata nuclear plant in Ehime Prefecture was restarted Aug. 12, becoming the fifth reactor to be brought online under the stricter safety standards introduced in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The move followed the restart of the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture and the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture. However, the two reactors at the Takahama plant have remained offline since March after the Otsu District Court ordered the operator to shut them down.

The No. 3 unit at the Ikata plant is now the only operating reactor in Japan that burns mixed oxide, or MOX, fuel, composed of plutonium blended with uranium.

But this reactor shares many of the serious safety problems that have been pointed out for the reactors at the Sendai and Takahama plants. It is impossible for us to support the decision to resume operations of the Ikata plant reactor without resolving these problems.

What is particularly worrisome about the Ikata plant is the anticipated difficulty in securing the smooth evacuation of local residents in the event of a serious accident.

The facility is located at the root of the Sadamisaki Peninsula, a 40-kilometer-long spear of land that juts westward into the sea with a maximum width of 6 km or so.

This narrow strip of land west of the plant is home to about 5,000 people.

The only land route for the emergency evacuation of local residents is a national highway that passes near the nuclear plant into inland areas.

Under the evacuation plan crafted jointly by the local governments in the region and the central government, local residents are supposed to be evacuated mainly by ship from ports in the peninsula if the highway becomes impassable because of an accident at the plant.

But many of the communities in the peninsula are located on slopes in coastal areas. They could be cut off from the rest of the peninsula if a landslide occurs.

There are seven radiation protection facilities within the town of Ikata, but four of them are located in designated landslide-prone areas.

People aged 65 or older account for more than 40 percent of the town’s population.

The municipal government has plans in place to support the evacuation of residents of each district. But residents say there is no way to secure evacuation of the entire town if multiple disasters occur.

People living in areas located between 5 and 30 kilometers from a nuclear power plant are supposed to take shelter in their own homes or public facilities, in principle, when a serious nuclear accident takes place.

But the series of earthquakes that rocked central Kyushu around Kumamoto Prefecture in April underscored anew the devastating effects of multiple disasters. The swarm of quakes included two registering a maximum intensity of 7 on the Japanese seismic scale, which caused severe damage to buildings across wide areas of Kumamoto Prefecture.

Ehime Prefecture is likely to be shaken violently if it is struck by the predicted massive Nankai Trough earthquake.

But the prefecture is ill-prepared for such a gigantic quake, with the ratio of public facilities that are quake-proof in the prefecture being the third lowest in Japan. These public facilities are supposed to play a key role in disaster response scenarios.

Evacuation plans are designed mainly to cope with situations in the wake of a single nuclear accident.

At the very least, however, the central and local governments should give serious consideration to the possibility of a nuclear accident being triggered or accompanied by other disasters like an earthquake and a landslide, and evaluate whether the lives of local residents will be protected in such situations.

Satoshi Mitazono, the new governor of Kagoshima Prefecture who took office last month, has indicated his intention to ask Kyushu Electric Power to halt the two reactors at its Sendai plant in response to local anxiety that has been aroused by the Kumamoto earthquakes.

Shikoku Electric Power’s decision to bring the Ikata reactor back on stream despite the fresh safety concerns is deplorable.

Another sticky issue is how to dispose of spent nuclear fuel.

If the No. 2 reactor at the Ikata plant is also restarted following the No. 3 unit, the spent fuel pool will become full in six to seven years. But there is no prospect of building a new storage facility for spent fuel.

There is no practical way, either, to reprocess spent MOX fuel.

The utility, which covers the Shikoku Island, has apparently enough capacity to meet power demand during this summer too.

The company has estimated that restarting the reactor will boost its annual earnings by 25 billion yen ($247 million). But this offers no compelling case for bringing the reactor back online at this moment.

Electric utilities, the central government and local governments in areas where nuclear power plants are located should all stop seeking to restart reactors until they have first dealt with the raft of safety issues.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201608130031.html

August 14, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Shikoku Electric restarts reactor under post-Fukushima regulations

Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime Prefecture, is restarted.

After the Tepco Fukushima Daiichi earthquake/tsunami disaster and the Kumamoto recent earthquake, it is to be wondered what Japan has learned?

The Ikata nuclear power plant is located on the Hinagu fault zone and Futagawa fault zone, themselves extension of Japan’s largest active fault “Median Tectonic Line”.

In case of any accident, for the residents living on Sadamisaki Peninsula evacuation would be only possible by boat to Kyushu Island, such evacuation would be therefore difficult, even impossible.

Unless there would be a Japanese Moses to open the sea, such evacuation plan should be referred to as an escape from reality.

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The Ikata Nuclear Power Plant in Ikata, Ehime Prefecture

MATSUYAMA, Japan (Kyodo) — Shikoku Electric Power Co. restarted a reactor at its Ikata power plant in western Japan on Friday, making it the fifth unit reactivated under tougher regulations set following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The No. 3 reactor at the plant in Ehime Prefecture is the only restarted unit in Japan that runs on uranium-plutonium mixed oxide, or MOX, fuel, as a court ordered Kansai Electric Power Co. in March to suspend two reactors at its Takahama plant after they resumed operations earlier this year, citing safety concerns.

MOX fuel, created from plutonium and uranium extracted from spent fuel, is a key component of the nuclear fuel recycle program pursued by the nuclear power industry and the government.

The government aims to bring reactors back online after the Fukushima crisis led to a nationwide halt of nuclear plants, as it plans to have nuclear power account for 20 to 22 percent of the country’s total electricity supply in 2030 to cut greenhouse emissions and lower imported fuel costs.

The Ikata unit is expected to reach criticality, or a state of sustained nuclear chain reaction, on Saturday and begin generating and transmitting electricity on Monday before resuming commercial operation in early September for the first time since it was halted in April 2011 for regular inspection.

“We will take steps toward criticality and resumption of power generation with priority on ensuring safety,” Shikoku Electric President Hayato Saeki said in a statement on Friday.

Meanwhile, around 70 residents and others opposing the reactor restart gathered around the seaside plant early Friday morning, chanting slogans such as “Don’t contaminate the Seto Inland Sea,” and “Stop the nuclear plant.”

Junko Saima, a 72-year-old woman from Yawatahama, adjacent to the town hosting the plant, which is located on one side of a narrow peninsula, said, “I am nervous that some kind of accident may occur.”

Opponents are concerned about the effectiveness of government-prepared evacuation plans in case of an accident and about potential major earthquakes that are not taken into account in the plans, while proponents are hailing the resumption as it could bring economic benefits.

The restart follows the reactivation of two reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture last year and the brief run of the Nos. 3 and 4 units at Kansai Electric’s Takahama complex in Fukui Prefecture.

The mayor of Ikata town and the governor of Ehime Prefecture have already given their consent to restart the No.3 reactor after regulators approved its restart in July last year.

In June, Shikoku Electric loaded nuclear fuel at the power plant eyeing to reboot it on July 26. However, reactivation was postponed due to problems with the reactor’s cooling system.

A group of local residents filed a suit in May seeking an injunction to halt the restart arguing that a series of earthquakes that have hit nearby Kyushu Island in April could trigger quakes along the median tectonic line running close to the Ikata reactor.

The plant is about 170 kilometers east of Kumamoto Prefecture, the epicenter of the quakes.

Meanwhile, in Kagoshima, new Gov. Satoshi Mitazono is planning to ask Kyushu Electric to suspend the two reactivated reactors at the Sendai plant to double-check any safety impact on the units from the powerful earthquakes that hit neighboring Kumamoto in April.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160812/p2g/00m/0dm/035000c

August 12, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ikata Reactor to Restart Friday August 12

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Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata nuclear power plant is shown in this photo taken in July.

Ikata nuclear reactor to be restarted this week

Workers at the Ikata nuclear power plant in western Japan are engaged in the final inspection of control rods ahead of a planned restart of a reactor there on Friday.
The Ikata plant will be the 3rd to come back online under new regulations adopted after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.
Inspectors from the Nuclear Regulation Authority are also participating in the final checkups on Wednesday at the plant’s number 3 reactor, operated by Shikoku Electric Power Company.
The checks include confirming whether 16 control rods work properly in the reactor. They are designed to operate automatically during an earthquake and other emergencies.
If the inspection finds no problems, workers will restart the reactor on Friday by pulling out the control rods. The operator plans to start generating electricity and feeding it to the grid 3 days later.
The company initially planned the restart for late July. But trouble with a water cooling pump caused a delay.
Two reactors at the Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, southern Japan, have already resumed power generation.
The regulator also approved the restart of 2 reactors at the Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture, central Japan. But a court injunction suspended their operation.

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160810_23/

Ikata nuclear reactor to restart on Friday morning

MATSUYAMA, EHIME PREF. – Shikoku Electric Power Co. said Wednesday it will reactivate the No. 3 reactor at its Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime Prefecture around 9 a.m. on Friday.

It will be the first time in some five years and three months for the reactor to be switched on, since it was suspended for a routine safety inspection in April 2011.

The Ikata No. 3 reactor will be the fifth to go back online under the county’s new safety regulations, introduced in July 2013 after the March 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.

The Ikata plant will be the second nuclear plant in operation in Japan, joining Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture.

The reactivated reactor is slated to reach criticality, or a self-sustained nuclear fission chain reaction, early on Saturday morning. On Monday, it will begin the generation and transmission of electricity, reaching full capacity on Aug. 22.

Shikoku Electric aims to start the plant’s commercial operations in early September.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/08/10/national/ikata-nuclear-reactor-to-restart-on-friday-morning/#.V6zFfzXKO-c

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