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Taro Kono also sounded the alarm about the dangers of spent fuel pools Attacks on nuclear power plants became a reality with the invasion of Ukraine

Taro Kono in Nagoya City on January 28, 2011.

February 22, 2023
It will be one year on the 24th since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. During this period, attacks on nuclear power plants shocked the world. When considering preparedness in Japan, the handling of spent nuclear fuel becomes important. Once it finishes its role in the reactor, it is mainly stored in storage pools, but that group and those politicians see the vulnerability of the pools as a problem. If they are left as they are now, they will become a “weak spot” in the event of an attack on a nuclear power plant, which could result in extensive damage. The Kishida administration should not focus its efforts only on nuclear power plant operation. (Naoaki Nishida and Yuichiro Yamada)

◆Russia targeted nuclear power plants immediately after the invasion.
On the 18th, the Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, expressed the following opinion: “The Russian media is advocating an attack on Ukraine’s nuclear facilities in order to cut off the power supply to the plants.
 The next day, the 19th. The following day, on the 19th, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine issued a statement regarding the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant in Ukraine, which has been occupied by Russian troops and turned into a military base. It accused Russia of refusing to replace the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts stationed there to ensure safety.
 Attacks on the plant were feared early on. As early as last January, Sergiy Korsunsky, Ukraine’s ambassador to Japan, expressed concern. The bad predictions were right on target, and nuclear power plants were targeted immediately after the Russian invasion.
 The attack continued, and a bomb landed near a spent nuclear fuel storage facility. The Russians claimed that they had been attacked from the Ukrainian side and that the greatest risk from the attack was not the reactor but the spent fuel storage facility.
 Spent nuclear fuel, which can cause extensive damage, is made from uranium. It is used in nuclear reactors for four to five years and then removed.
 According to Chihiro Uesawa of the Nuclear Data and Information Center, the amount of heat generated and radiation levels remain high even under these conditions. In Japan, the heat value is mainly stored in a storage pool inside the reactor building, and water is circulated to lower the heat value and other parameters.
 Storage pools are not the only storage method. There is also a type of cask called a “dry cask,” which is cooled for five to six years in a pool and then placed in a metal container and cooled by air circulation. The sturdier casks are several steps ahead of the dry casks in terms of safety, but due to cost considerations, the use of dry casks is still on the road to widespread use. Compared to Europe, dry casks have lagged behind.

“Vulnerable to external attacks,” points out…
After the invasion of Ukraine, Yuki Kobayashi, a researcher at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, has been raising the issue of the vulnerability of storage pools.
 On the foundation’s website, he wrote, “The reactors are made of steel and are protected by a containment vessel, which has a certain degree of robustness against external attacks,” but he also pointed out that the spent fuel storage “often does not have a multiple protection system,” “is vulnerable to external attacks,” and “if the spent fuel is exposed to the atmosphere (e.g., because the water runs out), it will be exposed to high concentrations of radiation over a wide area. If the spent fuel is exposed to the atmosphere (e.g., when the water runs out), high concentrations of radiation will be emitted over a wide area.
 When the hydrogen explosion occurred in the Unit 4 reactor of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the possibility of an anomaly occurring in the spent nuclear fuel storage pool was discussed. When interviewed, Kobayashi said, “Even after the Fukushima accident, Japan had not decided what measures to take. It can be said that we were somewhat naive in our understanding of the situation.
 The late Ryoichi Sasakawa was honorary chairman of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. Shunichi Yamashita, vice president of Fukushima Medical University, is a trustee of the Sasakawa Health Foundation, another organization that is a descendant of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. In a lecture after the Fukushima nuclear accident, he expressed his optimism, saying, “The effects of radiation will not come as long as you are smiling and laughing.
 The Sasakawa Peace Foundation also warned of the vulnerability of the storage pools. Uesawa, mentioned above, also spoke of the vulnerability of the storage pool, saying, “If the storage pool and other facilities are destroyed in an emergency, the buildings will be inaccessible. This would cause an irreversible situation.

◆Taro Kono, who was a member of the opposition party, also called it “a potential weak point.
In the past, some have pointed out the fragility of the storage pools for spent nuclear fuel.
 The vulnerability of the spent fuel pools became clear after 3.11.” “How will the security system be changed?”
 The speaker was Taro Kono, the current digital minister. He is the current digital minister. In November 2011, a little more than six months after the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, he asked these questions at a meeting of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Monitoring the Settlement of Accounts. This was when he was a member of the opposition party. In September 2012, he wrote on his blog, “Nuclear reactors and spent fuel pools are potential weak points that could be targeted by terrorists or missiles.
 Does he think the same way now as he did then? We asked him through his office, but had not received an answer by the evening of September 21.
 So how is the Kishida administration handling the situation?
 At a Lower House Budget Committee meeting last October, Katsuya Okada, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan’s Constitutional Democratic Party, asked, “Spent nuclear fuel in the pool is a real nuisance,” and “What would happen if a missile hit us? He asked that the spent fuel be removed from the storage pool and transferred to a dry cask in a metal container to increase protection.
 In response, Yasutoshi Nishimura, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, said, “The Nuclear Regulation Authority is in charge of this issue centrally” and “METI would like to refrain from doing so.

◆The Nuclear Regulation Authority “is virtually unable to do so.
In March of last year, immediately after the invasion of Ukraine, Toyoshi Sarada, then chairman of the Regulatory Commission, said at a press conference that “we have no plan to discuss a facility that is robust against armed attack, and it is virtually impossible. He then went on to say that, in general terms, “dry casks are more defensible than spent fuel pools. Shinsuke Yamanaka, the current chairman of the committee, echoes this view.
 A spokesperson for the Regulatory Commission said, “There is no change in our view that the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law does not assume an armed attack. There is no indication that the Regulatory Commission has given a new directive to switch to dry casks as a counterterrorism measure,” he clarified.
 Masashi Goto, a former nuclear power plant design engineer, said, “The power companies are planning to move to casks, but the fuel must be cooled in a pool after use before being moved. This takes a considerable amount of time,” he said, pointing out that as long as nuclear power plants continue to operate, storage in storage pools is an unavoidable problem.
 He resents the Kishida administration’s bluntness, saying, “There are major risks, such as accidents and terrorism. Despite the existence of major risks, such as accidents and terrorism, the government has deemed the probability of their occurrence to be low and has failed to take effective countermeasures.

◆The nuclear fuel cycle is failing, but the government is moving forward with its utilization.
 The amount of spent nuclear fuel stored at nuclear power plants in Japan is enormous. The amount of spent fuel stored at nuclear power plants in Japan is enormous, amounting to about 20,000 tons, most of which is kept in storage pools. The government has been pushing for the reuse of this fuel under the banner of the “nuclear fuel cycle,” but the completion of a reprocessing plant under construction in Rokkasho Village, Aomori Prefecture, has been postponed for some time. Even if the government wants to reduce the amount of nuclear fuel used for reuse, it has been unable to do so because the key facilities are not functioning.
 The Kishida administration, however, is pushing forward with the use of nuclear power plants. It has taken the lead in allowing the operation of nuclear power plants for more than 60 years and in permitting the rebuilding of next-generation nuclear power plants. The amount of spent fuel stored in vulnerable pools will continue to increase, which will require more time and effort to protect.
 The government is treating the spent fuel cycle as if it were still running, and is avoiding confronting the problem,” said Teru Honma, a professor at Aoyama Gakuin University. The government is treating it as if it is going around and avoiding facing the problem,” said Terumitsu Honma, Professor Emeritus of Nuclear Damage Compensation System at Aoyama Gakuin University.
 The nuclear accident at Fukushima and the invasion of Ukraine have exposed the huge risks involved in operating nuclear power plants,” he continued. We have not taken responsibility for the unmanageable risks and costs. If we are going to make a decision to operate nuclear power plants, at the very least, we should take steps to address counterterrorism and safety measures that are a prerequisite.

◆Desk Memo
 It is easy to imagine the fear of nuclear power plants becoming targets of spent fuel storage pools. It is also easy to imagine the damage to civilians that would result in the event of an attack. Despite this, discussions on preparedness have stalled. In contrast, the Self-Defense Forces are even discussing the possibility of moving their headquarters underground as a protective measure. Abandoning someone and protecting someone else. Is this the kind of country we are supposed to love? (Sakaki)


February 26, 2023 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO to delay emptying fuel storage pools at Fukushima plant

reactor 1 left reactor 2 right 21 sept 2017.pngThe No. 1 reactor building, left, and the No. 2 reactor building at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant


Plans to remove fuel rods from two spent fuel pools at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant will be delayed by up to three years because of difficulties in clearing debris and reducing radiation levels.

The government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. originally expected to start emptying the storage pools at the No. 1 and No. 2 reactor buildings in fiscal 2020.

But they plan to move the starting time to fiscal 2023 in their first review in two years of the roadmap for decommissioning the stricken nuclear plant, sources said Sept. 20.

They are expected to announce the revised roadmap later this month.

A survey of the upper levels of the two reactor buildings, where the storage pools are located, found debris piled up in a much more complicated way than initially envisaged.

That will lengthen the time needed to clear the debris, thus delaying the removal of the fuel rods, the sources said.

In addition, radiation levels remain extremely high inside the buildings.

The No. 1 reactor’s storage pool holds 392 nuclear fuel assemblies, while the No. 2 reactor’s pool has 615 assemblies.

Work to remove the 566 assemblies from the No. 3 reactor’s pool is scheduled to begin in the middle of fiscal 2018 as originally planned.

The three reactors melted down in the 2011 disaster, triggered by the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

The review of the decommissioning roadmap is also expected to revise the target of “starting the removal” of melted nuclear fuel and debris in the three reactors in 2021 to “aiming to start the removal” in 2021.

But the government and TEPCO will maintain the goal of completing the decommissioning in “30 to 40 years,” the sources said.

September 22, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima could have been even worst than it is already

San_Onofre_spent fuel.jpg

A spent fuel pool at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station near San Clemente, California.

Near miss at Fukushima is a warning for U.S., panel says

By Richard Stone May. 20, 2016

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary called it “the devil’s scenario.” Two weeks after the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastated the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, causing three nuclear reactors to melt down and release radioactive plumes, officials were bracing for even worse. They feared that spent fuel stored in the reactor halls would catch fire and send radioactive smoke across a much wider swath of eastern Japan, including Tokyo.

Thanks to a lucky break detailed in a report released today by the U.S. National Academies, Japan dodged that bullet. The near calamity “should serve as a wake-up call for the industry,” says Joseph Shepherd, a mechanical engineer at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena who chaired the academy committee that produced the report. Spent fuel accumulating at U.S. nuclear reactor plants is also vulnerable, the report warns. A major spent fuel fire at a U.S. nuclear plant “could dwarf the horrific consequences of the Fukushima accident,” says Edwin Lyman, a physicist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., who was not on the panel.

After spent fuel is removed from a reactor core, the fission products continue to decay radioactively, generating heat. Many nuclear plants, like Fukushima, store the fuel onsite at the bottom of deep pools for at least 5 years while it slowly cools. It is seriously vulnerable there, as the Fukushima accident demonstrated, and so the academy panel recommends that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and nuclear plant operators beef up systems for monitoring the pools and topping up water levels in case a facility is damaged. It also calls for more robust security measures after a disaster. “Disruptions create opportunities for malevolent acts,” Shepherd says.

At Fukushima, the earthquake and tsunami cut power to pumps that circulated coolant through the reactor cores and cooled water in the spent fuel pools. The pump failure led to the core meltdowns. In the pools, found in all six of Fukushima’s reactor halls, radioactive decay gradually heated the water. Of preeminent concern were the pools in reactor Units 1 through 4: Those buildings had sustained heavy damage on 11 March and in subsequent days, when explosions occurred in Units 1, 3, and 4.

The “devil’s scenario” nearly played out in Unit 4, where the reactor was shut down for maintenance. The entire reactor core—all 548 assemblies—was in the spent fuel pool, and was hotter than fuel in the other pools. When an explosion blew off Unit 4’s roof on 15 March, plant operators assumed the cause was hydrogen—and they feared it had come from fuel in the pool that had been exposed to air. They could not confirm that, because the blast had destroyed instrumentation for monitoring the pool. (Tokyo Electric Power Company, the plant operator, later suggested that the hydrogen that had exploded had come not from exposed spent fuel but from the melted reactor core in the adjacent Unit 3.) But the possibility that the fuel had been exposed was plausible and alarming enough for then-NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko on 16 March to urge more extensive evacuations than the Japanese government had advised—beyond a 20-kilometer radius from the plant.

Later that day, however, concerns abated after a helicopter overflight captured video of sunlight glinting off water in the spent fuel pool. In fact, the crisis was worsening: The pool’s water was boiling away because of the hot fuel. As the level fell perilously close to the top of the fuel assemblies, something “fortuitous” happened, Shepherd says. As part of routine maintenance, workers had flooded Unit 4’s reactor well, where the core normally sits. Separating the well and the spent fuel pool is a gate through which fuel assemblies are transferred. The gate allowed water from the reactor well to leak into the spent fuel pool, partially refilling it. Without that leakage, the academy panel’s own modeling predicted that the tops of the fuel assemblies would have been exposed by early April; as the water continued to evaporate, the odds of the assemblies’ zirconium cladding catching fire would have skyrocketed. Only good fortune and makeshift measures to pump or spray water into all the spent fuel pools averted that disaster, the academy panel notes.

At U.S. nuclear plants, spent fuel is equally vulnerable. It is for the most part densely packed in pools, heightening the fire risk if cooling systems were to fail. NRC has estimated that a major fire in a U.S. spent fuel pool would displace, on average, 3.4 million people from an area larger than New Jersey. “We’re talking about trillion-dollar consequences,” says panelist Frank von Hippel, a nuclear security expert at Princeton University.

Besides developing better systems for monitoring the pools, the panel recommends that NRC take another look at the benefits of moving spent fuel to other storage as quickly as possible. Spent fuel can be shifted to concrete containers called dry casks as soon as it cools sufficiently, and the academy panel recommends that NRC “assess the risks and potential benefits of expedited transfer.” A wholesale transfer to dry casks at U.S. plants would cost roughly $4 billion.

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | 1 Comment