On December 21, 2016, the Japanese Ministerial Committee on Nuclear Power formally decided to decommission the Monju prototype fast-breeder (280 MW), Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture, owned by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA). On the same day, the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology requested JAEA to prepare a Monju decommissioning work schedule for submission around April 2017 (see this article in NIT 175).
However, the committee’s decision indicates that research for the development of a fast reactor will be continued and that a new demonstration research reactor will be built on the Monju site in the future. The government’s budget bill for fiscal 2017, which was publicized on December 22, earmarks 11 million yen for study and investigation concerning a demonstration research reactor utilizing the Monju site. The prototype fast–breeder will remain highly costly in terms of electricity before the removal of the liquid sodium loaded as coolant, because high temperatures need to be maintained. The 2017 budget bill includes 17 billion yen as the Monju management cost, and 900 million yen as a cost to be spent on preparation for the removal of the fuel.
On December 21, 2016, the Fukushima Prefectural Assembly adopted a statement that strongly demands the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daini NPS (four BWRs, 4,400 MW in total). This is the fourth time the prefectural assembly has adopted such a statement. It was adopted unanimously. Tokyo Electric Power Company is reluctant to comply with the statement, presenting the excuse that Fukushima Daini NPS has the role of supporting the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi NPS. However even the assembly members of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito indicated that this TEPCO excuse does not justify the continued existence of the Fukushima Daini NPS.
On December 20, 2016, the Japanese cabinet decided on the basic policies for accelerating the restoration of Fukushima Prefecture. One of the policies clearly states that full-scale decontamination in the difficult-to-return zones will start in FY2017 at national expense, instead of at TEPCO’s. This policy runs against the basic law that demands that decontamination be performed at the expense of the entity that caused the contamination. According to the policy, housing preparation in the zones is combined with the decontamination work, and the whole project is treated as public works, justifying public expenditure. The governmental budget bill for fiscal year 2017 allocates 30.9 billion yen for the project.
The Japanese and British governments signed a memorandum to reinforce cooperation in nuclear power generation on December 22, 2016. In the United Kingdom, Horizon Nuclear Power, a Hitachi subsidiary, plans to build two reactors at Wylfa Newydd, and New Generation, 60% of whose capital is funded by Toshiba, plans to build three reactors at Moorside. The memorandum takes the two projects into account.
Prior to the agreement, Nihon Keizai Newspaper reported on December 15 that the Japanese government plans to invest in and loan to the Hitachi project through the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and Development Bank of Japan, and that the funding would be covered by Nippon Export and Investment Insurance. Concerning this article, Yoshihide Suga, Chief Cabinet Secretary, said: “There is no basis in fact that the government has decided to support such a project financially.”
On December 16, 2016, the Japanese and Russian governments signed a memorandum concerning bilateral cooperation in the nuclear industry field, including the resolution of the Fukushima Daiichi NPP accident aftermath and the management of radioactive wastes. To accelerate business cooperation between companies of the two nations, the memorandum states: “In case of any barriers, they will be removed.”
On December 16, 2016, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan (NUMO) and Germany’s DBE Technology GmbH, signed an agreement of cooperation concerning the geological disposal of radioactive wastes. NUMO is an organization specializing in the disposal of high-level radioactive wastes and wastes with high energy beta and gamma rays, while DBE is a waste disposal facility construction and management company. The two organizations plan to exchange information and human resources in a wide range of fields, including disposal site selection.
On December 26, 2016, Shikoku Electric Power applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for approval for its Ikata Nuclear Power Station Unit No. 1 (PWR, 566 MW) decommissioning plan. The decommissioning process is scheduled to take 40 years and cost 40 billion yen, and the resulting amount of low-level radioactive wastes is expected to be 3,060 tons.
On December 16, 2016, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare announced that it had found that a TEPCO employee who developed thyroid cancer is eligible for work compensation. The employee is a male in his forties. He worked at multiple TEPCO nuclear power plants between 1992 and 2012, and was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in April 2014. His total whole-body dose accumulation is 150 mSv, of which 140 mSv is the dose after the Fukushima Daiichi accident of March 2011. About 40 mSv is internal exposure. The employee was working outdoors in the Fukushima Daiichi premises when the reactor buildings of Units 1 and 3 suffered hydrogen explosions.
This is the third case in which a worker has been found eligible for compensation since the Fukushima Daiichi accident. The employee in this article is the first person found eligible as a thyroid cancer patient in which the years before the March 11 accident are included. (In the two other cases, the workers contracted leukemia). The Ministry has for the first time published the criteria for work compensation for thyroid cancer, which is over 100 mSv as accumulated whole-body dose. The dose criterion is the same as that used for lung cancer and stomach cancer, but according to the Ministry, when internal exposure is intense locally near the thyroid, the case will be examined separately.
On December 16, 2016, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries issued a release stating that it had made an investment proposal to Areva SA concerning the Areva holding company and New Co, an Areva subsidiary specializing in the nuclear fuel cycle. On the same day, Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited announced that it is also examining similar investment.
MHI plans to invest in Areva NP, a nuclear power generating company whose business performance is deteriorating rapidly.