News Watch 118 (May/June 2007) Nuke Info Tokyo 118
Mihama-3 criminal case finalized
On 26 February 2007 the cases of five employees of Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) and an employee of a KEPCO subsidiary were sent to the Fukui District Public Prosecutors Office in relation to the Mihama-3 accident (9 August 2004 – see NIT 102, 103, 106). Five people died in the accident and six others were injured. Police sought charges against the employees for manslaughter resulting from professional negligence.On March 20th the Fukui public prosecutor decided not to indict one of the KEPCO employees and filed only summary indictments against the other five people. On the 23rd the summary court ordered that fines ranging from 300,000 yen to 500,000 yen be paid by May 9th, so the case was all over on May 10th.
Relatives of the deceased expressed dissatisfaction that charges were not laid and that papers were not even filed against KEPCO executives. They indicated that they will apply for a review of the criminal investigation.
MHI and Areva agree on basic specs. for new reactor
On April 11th in Tokyo Mitsubishi Heavy Industries President Kazuo Tsukuda and Areva President Anne Lauvergeon announced agreement on basic specifications for a new reactor. The reactor is a 1100 MW PWR, which would be capable of using MOX fuel. A design outline will be completed in June and work on the basic design will start in July.
Uranium exceeding nuclear limit handled at nuclear fuel plant
On April 5th Nuclear Fuel Industries, Ltd. (NFI) announced that on three occasions on February 24th a quantity of uranium exceeding the permitted nuclear limit was handled at its nuclear fuel fabrication plant in Tokai Village, Ibaraki Prefecture. The problem arose when examining uranium oxide powder enriched to 4.9% in America. Eighteen kilograms remained after a sample was extracted. This should have been transported in a container capable of handling up to 106kg, but by mistake it was transported in a container capable of handling only 15kg.Fortunately criticality was not reached, but on April 13th the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency gave NFI a stern warning and demanded that it implement preventative measures.
Application for clearance for waste from Tokai-1
On April 27th the Japan Atomic Power Company (JAPCO) applied to the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry for confirmation under “clearance” arrangements of radioactivity concentration measurements and assessment results for 107 tons of metal waste arising from dismantling of the Tokai-1 reactor (GCR, 166MW, 1966-98). This is the first application since the introduction of a “clearance” system in Japan (see NIT 104, 105 and 106). JAPCO estimates that a further 4,800 tons of metal and 35,400 tons of concrete will be scheduled for clearance.
Residents of Toyo Town reject high-level waste dump
Toyo Town, Kochi Prefecture, was the first town in Japan to submit a formal application to become a candidate for a high-level waste dump (see NIT 117). However on April 22nd the mayor who submitted the application was defeated in an election and the following day the new mayor submitted a cancellation notice to the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan (NUMO). On the 25th NUMO applied to the Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry for an alteration to its business plan. This was approved on the 26th and Toyo Town’s candidacy was annulled.The former mayor submitted the application to NUMO on January 25th this year. In doing so, he went against the wishes of the townspeople and council members, the governors of Kochi and neighboring Tokushima, as well as the surrounding municipalities. The town council passed a resolution recommending that the mayor resign. After he refused to do so, residents began recall proceedings. He finally resigned on April 5th when it had become clear that if he did not do so he would be recalled. He stood in the election which followed, but was opposed by a former council member of neighboring Muroto City, who promised to cancel the dump application. The former mayor said that if the town became a dump candidate electricity rates would be cut, subsidies would be provided for people requiring nursing care, school lunches would be provided free of charge, and so on, but he only managed to garner 29% of the vote, compared to 71% for the other candidate.
MHI becomes core FBR developer
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPCO), and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), all of which are involved in promoting research and development towards the realization of Japan’s fast breeder reactor (FBR) cycle, announced on April 18th that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI) had been selected as the core plant maker for the FBR development program. Notice of selection was handed by JAEA president, Toshio Okazaki, to MHI president, Kazuo Tsukuda, the following day.The decision to vest responsibility and authority in a single company was due to the failure of the “all Japan” style used in past development projects (Mutsu nuclear powered ship, Advanced Test Reactor, Monju FBR). However, there is also great risk in the one company approach. Two Japanese companies are said to have submitted applications, which means that, of the three major plant makers in Japan, either Toshiba or Hitachi did not apply.
Shake at Shika 1.9 times greater than predicted
On April 19th the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency released the results of the periodic analysis carried out by Hokuriku Electric of the strength of the shake (acceleration) at the Shika nuclear power plant at the time of the March 25th earthquake on the Noto Peninsula. The measurement for the 0.625-second period was 711 gal. Based on the old earthquake guidelines (revised in September 2006 – see NIT 114), the “extreme design earthquake” (S2) was estimated to be 374 gal. The shake caused by the March 25 earthquake was 1.9 times stronger than this. The measurement for the 0.37-second period of 696 gal was also larger than the estimated S2 figure of 645 gal.
Increased uranium imports from Kazakhstan
On April 30th a joint government and private sector mission to Kazakhstan signed a 24-point agreement on cooperation with Kazakhstan companies including national atomic company Kazatomprom. The mission, led by Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Akira Amari, included heads of power companies and other private sector companies. It was predicted that, through participation in development of uranium mines and purchase of refined uranium ore, imports of uranium from Kazakhstan would increase from the current 1% to 30-40% of total Japanese consumption. Besides this, Toshiba Corporation agreed with Kazatomprom to begin investigating the possibility of cooperating in the construction of nuclear power plants and in nuclear fuel business. Also, Global Nuclear Fuel Japan Co. Ltd., Mitsubishi Nuclear Fuel Co. Ltd., and Nuclear Fuel Industries, Ltd. signed a memorandum of understanding with Kazatomprom on cooperation in the field of uranium reconversion. Reconversion in Kazakhstan is planned for Japanese uranium recovered from reprocessing (see article in NIT 117).