News Watch 116 Nuke Info Tokyo 116
HLW dump developments
Over four years have passed since the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NUMO) called applications for candidate sites for a high-level radioactive waste dump. There is still no official candidate, although on several occasions municipalities have shown signs of applying, only to be forced to back down in the face of local opposition.Following this pattern, on 6 December 2006 the mayor of Yogo Town in Shiga Prefecture announced that he had given up the idea of submitting an application. The reason was that a petition opposing the dump signed by over half of the residents had been lodged with the local council the day before. In fact, the mayor never intended to accept a HLW dump. He stated publicly that his intention was simply to allow a study to be carried out, so that Yogo Town could be listed as a candidate and receive a subsidy from the government. Whether or not they say so publicly, this is the intention of many of the mayors who consider submitting applications.
The HLW dump saga took another extraordinary turn when, on 15 January, it was revealed that the Mayor of Toyo Town (Kochi Prefecture) had actually submitted an application to NUMO on 20 March 2006. However, NUMO refused to accept it as an official application, because he had not first sought endorsement from the local council.
In other developments, a few members of the Tsushima City Council in Nagasaki Prefecture have set up study groups and it is reported that the mayor of Higashi-doori Village in Aomori Village is interested in submitting an application.
Opposition to impact assessment for HLW dump
On 30 November 2006 the governor of Iwate Prefecture and the mayor of Tono City expressed their opposition to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s (JAEA) plan to conduct boring to a depth of approximately 400 meters from the middle of December as part of an impact assessment for geological disposal of HLW. The assessment was commissioned by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and the purpose is to collect data to help establish standards for the government’s safety regulations. JAEA explained that the purpose was not to select a HLW dump site and once again sought the cooperation of Tono City, where the boring was to be carried out. The mayor responded by submitting a written request for boring to be cancelled. On the same day the local council passed a resolution demanding that the boring be cancelled immediately.
Another line stops at Rokkasho uranium enrichment plant
On 30 November 2006 another line of the Rokkasho uranium enrichment plant stopped operating, bringing the number of lines which have stopped to five. The plant has seven lines, each with a capacity of 150 tSWU, but only two are still operating. The first line commenced operations in 1992. The intention was that by 2004 ten lines would be operating with a total capacity of 1,500 tSWU. However, centrifuges broke down one after the other and the first line was forced to stop operating in 2000. Since then more lines have stopped operating before completing their 10-year design life.Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL) is developing a new type of centrifuge and plans to introduce it in 2010. Until then JNFL intends to continue operating with just two lines, but it continues to stick to its original intention of eventually operating at a capacity of 1,500 tSWU. On November 24th JNFL announced that it plans to test a cascade of the new type of centrifuges in 2007.
ITER related facilities to be built in Rokkasho
On 21 November 2006 Japan, USA, Russia, China, South Korea, India and the EU signed an agreement for the implementation of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project. The following day Japan and the EU provisionally signed a draft agreement titled “Broad Approach”. The previous week, on November 16th, the first step was taken towards construction of the Aomori International Fusion Energy Research Center when a site (Iyasakatai in Rokkasho Village) was selected just across the road from the Rokkasho reprocessing plant. It is expected that the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) will be chosen to manage the center. “Broad Approach” is a joint project between Japan and the EU and the cost for the first ten years (estimated at 92 billion yen) will be divided equally between them.
Toshiba runs course on nuclear power in Vietnam
An intensive course on nuclear power, subsidized by Toshiba, was held for the first time from October to November 2006 at the Hanoi University of Technology (HUT). Classes were held two days each week for six weeks for a total of 28 hours. Participants included nineteen students and researchers from HUT, seven staff members and researchers from the Vietnam Atomic Energy Commission, and five people from the Vietnam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety and Control. The course covered a wide range of issues including the following: the international situation in regard to nuclear power; the basic physics of nuclear power; an outline of the nuclear fuel cycle; and construction, operation, maintenance and regulation of nuclear power plants.Toshiba boasted that it has also established a permanent classroom in HUT’s Institute of Engineering Physics, furnished with 26 computers, a projector and reference materials, in order to provide a good study environment.
FNCA pushes nuclear power in Asia
On 27 November 2006 the Forum for Nuclear Cooperation in Asia (FNCA), which is led by the Japanese government, held a ministerial meeting in Kuantan Malaysia. All countries agreed to a Japanese proposal that a new panel be established to discuss cooperation in the area of nuclear power in Asia. Japan undertook to provide the secretariat for the panel. The panel will consider the following topics: securing safety, assuring nuclear security, developing human resources, carrying out PA activities, implementing financial planning, evaluating economic efficiency, and developing the foundation for nonproliferation.Participants also agreed that nuclear power should be discussed as part of the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol at conferences held among signatory nations to the Framework Convention on Climate Change.
While previously FNCA’s focus was solely on radiation applications, in 2004 a panel was established on the “Role of Nuclear Energy for Sustainable Development in Asia” to carry out basic discussions about nuclear power generation.
FNCA is made up of ten countries: Japan, Australia, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. This time Bangladesh participated for the first time as an official FNCA member.
Pattern of data falsification
On 15 November 2006 it was revealed that a computer program used by a Chugoku Electric thermal power plant had been altered to reduce the temperature difference shown between intake and outflow water. Subsequent checks of all nuclear and thermal power plants revealed similar alterations at seven reactors at the following nuclear power plants: Kashiwazaki-Kariwa (Tokyo Electric), Fukushima I (Tokyo Electric), Onagawa (Tohoku Electric), Tsuruga (Japan Atomic Power Company), Ohi (Kansai Electric). At some the outflow temperature was lowered, while at others the intake temperature was raised, indicating that the data was falsified independently at each plant and that data falsification was routine practice.In addition, it was discovered that all of the power companies owned hydro-electric power stations at which repairs had been carried out without the necessary approvals and data on alterations to dams, thickness of feedwater pipes, etc. had been falsified.
On January 10th, Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) restarted its Mihama-3 reactor (PWR, 826 MW). Operations had been suspended since 9 August 2004, when steam from a ruptured pipe killed 5 workers and injured six others (NIT 102, 103, 106). According to media reports, police intend to lay charges against several KEPCO employees for professional negligence.
Japan and US announce nuclear cooperation plan
Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Akira Amari, and US Secretary of Energy, Samuel Bodman, have announced a plan for cooperation on energy security. In a statement released on January 9th, DoE described the nuclear component of the plan (which it said would be completed by April 2007) as follows:
The United States and Japan will jointly develop a civil nuclear energy action plan that will provide a framework for collaboration. The plan will place focus on: (a) research and development activities under the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership initiative that will build upon the significant civilian nuclear energy technical cooperation already underway; (b) collaboration on policies and programs that support the construction of new nuclear power plants; and (c) regulatory and nonproliferation-related exchanges.
Though not mentioned in DoE’s press release, media reports claim the deal will allow Japan to offer trade insurance to Japanese companies investing in the construction of nuclear power plants in the United States.