News Watch 112 (May/June 2006) Nuke Info Tokyo No. 112
Local authority gives green light to Genkai-3 pluthermal plan
On March 22nd, the Saga prefectural assembly decided to recommend that prior consent be given for the pluthermal (MOX) plan at Kyushu Electric Power Company’s Genkai-3 (PWR, 1180 MW). On the 26th, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Toshihiro Nikai, visited Saga’s governor Yasushi Furukawa to assure him of the safety of the plan. After receiving the minister’s assurance, on the same day Governor Furukawa and the mayor of Genkai, Tsukasa Terada, delivered the prior consent documents to Kyushu Electric’s President Shingo Matsuo. The 26th was a Sunday and it is extremely unusual for such administrative procedures to take place on a weekend.The main reasons behind the rush were: (1) a larger subsidy (nuisance fee) would be given to local governments which gave their prior consent by March 31st (the end of the fiscal year); and (2) showing how the plutonium separated at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant would be used would push the start of active commissioning. Another possible reason relates to the fact that Kyushu Electric has started to supply electricity to a huge shopping mall in Hiroshima. Before liberalization of the electric power market began, Chugoku Electric Power Company had monopoly supply rights for Hiroshima. Kyushu Electric has attracted criticism from other utilities for selling power into another company’s traditional market and some people suspect that it is trying to soften these criticisms by becoming the “front runner” in the pluthermal plan. That is an honor that no other utility is keen to take on.
Local citizens set up a sit-in camp in front of the prefectural office building and also held a gathering with about 1,200 participants to show their opposition to the attitude of Saga prefecture and Kyushu Electric. Citizens also surrounded the prefectural office building with a “human chain”. This will certainly further strengthen the local opposition movement now that prior consent has been granted.
Approval given for the use of MOX fuel at Ikata-3
On March 28th, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry granted approval for the pluthermal plan at Shikoku Electric Power Company’s Ikata-3 (PWR, 890 MW) in Ehime prefecture. In order to stop Ehime Prefecture and Ikata Town giving their prior consent, on April 11th members of the Coalition of Citizens of Ehime to Stop the Pluthermal Plan began visiting all 20 towns and cities in Ehime Prefecture to urge them to handle this matter “very cautiously”.
Chugoku Electric holds meeting to explain Shimane-2 pluthermal plan
Chugoku Electric Power Company plans to implement pluthermal at Shimane-2 (BWR, 820 MW) in Matsue City in Shimane Prefecture. It held meetings in former Kashima Town (April 15th), former Shimane Town (April 16th) and former Matsue City (April 22nd) to explain the plan to the local residents. (These three merged with another town on 31 March 2005 to become the new Matsue City.) The majority of questions at the meeting expressed opposition or anxiety, but Chugoku Electric says, “there is greater understanding now.”On April 26th, Shimane Prefecture’s Plutonium Round-table Meeting released a report that endorsed the granting of prior consent. It will make a final decision at its next meeting before submitting the report to the governor.
Damage to reputation from JCO accident recognized
On April 19th, Tokyo District Court dismissed a claim against nuclear fuel manufacturer JCO by a natto (fermented soy bean product) producer for 1.6 billion yen in lost income caused by damage to the manufacturer’s reputation following the criticality accident at JCO’s Tokai plant on September 30, 1999. The court recognized the damage to the manufacturer’s reputation. However, it limited the amount to only 180 million yen. Since JCO had already made an advance of 210 million yen, the court decision in fact means that the plaintiff must repay the difference of 30 million yen.
Data falsification at Higashidoori
In the NIT 111 News Watch column we reported on Toshiba’s falsification of testing data related to a feed water flow gauge at Fukushima 1-6 and also at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa-7. On April 11th, Toshiba reported to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) that it had discovered another incidence of the same type of data falsification at Tohoku Electric Company’s Higashidoori-1 (BWR, 1100MW). The number of reactors where such data falsification has been found is now three. Data falsification is suspected at five other reactors, but it is impossible to confirm these cases, because the data has been lost. Seven cases have been discovered at thermal power plants and these are now under investigation.In order to prevent a recurrence, the company is taking the following measures: imposing more severe penalties for improper conduct; establishing an internal contact for whistle-blowers; establishing a new nuclear quality control division.
Revision of earthquake design safety guidelines
On April 28th, the Subcommittee on Earthquake Resisting Design, which is under the Special Committee on Nuclear Safety Standards and Guides at the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC), released a draft proposal for new guidelines on earthquake-resistant design for nuclear power plants (see article about Shika-2 verdict in this issue of NIT). The draft will be discussed at the Special Committee, as well as at the Commission itself, before becoming an official proposal. The proposal will then be put out for public comment. After this procedure, the proposed guidelines will again be examined by the Subcommittee and the Special Committee before the NSC issues a final decision. NSC’s decision is expected around August.It took the Commission more then eleven years (including the preparatory phase) to produce this draft revision. The review process began on 3 February 1995, after a huge earthquake hit southern Hyogo Prefecture on 17 January 1995. It is the first revision of the guidelines by the Japanese government for 25 years.