News Watch 119 (July/August 2007) Nuke Info Tokyo No. 119
First application of the “clearance” system
The so-called “clearance” system, under which some radioactive waste is not treated as such, has begun to be implemented. On June 6, four tons of carbon steel from Japan Nuclear Power Company’s (JAPCO) Tokai-1 Nuclear Power Plant (GCR, 166 MW, July 1966 – March 1998) was transported to a foundry in Tokai Village, Ibaraki Prefecture. It was immediately melted in a high frequency furnace, poured into molds and turned into radiation screens for use in nuclear facilities. It is planned that by November a total of 20 tons will be taken to this foundry and turned into radiation screens, reception tables, benches, blocks, and so on.In addition to these 20 tons, the radioactivity of a further approximately 87 tons has been confirmed to be within the regulatory limit. This will be used to make steel for reinforced concrete for construction within nuclear facilities. For the time being, all “cleared” material is destined for reuse by JAPCO, or at other nuclear power facilities. However, once the system has been established, there will be no such restriction.
It is estimated that around 4,900 tons of waste metal and 35,400 tons of waste concrete generated from the dismantling Tokai-1 will be “cleared”. A further approximately 128,700 tons will not be considered as radioactive waste in the first place and, therefore, will not be subject to the “clearance” system. JAPCO estimates that in the end around 23,500 will actually be treated as low-level radioactive waste.
Toyo Town and Uken Village enact ordinances rejecting nuclear waste dumps
As reported in NIT 118, the new mayor of Toyo Town (Kochi Prefecture) cancelled the application submitted by the previous mayor for a study into the suitability of Toyo Town as a high-level waste dump site. Soon after, on May 20, the town council passed an ordinance rejecting radioactive waste and studies for a radioactive waste dump site. One month later, on June 20, the council of Uken Village in Kagoshima Prefecture passed a similar resolution.
Three HLW laws passed
Amendments to three laws related to the disposal of high-level waste were passed by the House of Councillors on June 6. The biggest problem with the legislation is that it allows waste containing long-lived trans-uranic elements (TRU), carbon-14, and iodine-129, which can readily be transported by ground water, to be disposed of at the same site as high-level waste. (All these wastes are generated at reprocessing and MOX fuel fabrication plants.) It is claimed that the two waste types will be kept separate, to prevent them having any effect on each other, but there is no guarantee that this will be sufficient.
MOX fuel fabrication plant passes first assessment
The Nuclear Industrial and Safety Agency’s assessment of the MOX fuel fabrication plant, which Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL) plans to construct in Rokkasho Village, Aomori Prefecture, was completed on July 4th. The assessment concluded that there were no problems in regard to the accounting basis, safety and restriction to peaceful use. After double-checks by the Atomic Energy Commission and the Nuclear Safety Commission, the Minister for Economy Trade and Industry will give the final approval. JNFL hopes that approval will be given in time to commence construction in October. It plans to commence operations in October 2012, but this schedule will definitely not be met. The plant’s maximum capacity will be 130 tHM/year.
Approval of pluthermal for Hamaoka-4
On July 4, the Minister for Economy Trade and Industry approved implementation of pluthermal* at Chubu Electric Power Company’s Hamaoka-4 nuclear power plant (BWR 1137 MW). Chubu Electric submitted its application on 3 March 2006 and on 13 March 2006 it signed a contract with Global Nuclear Fuel – Japan Co., Ltd. (GNF-J) for supply of MOX fuel. GNF-J subcontracted the fuel fabrication to AREVA’s MELOX plant in southern France.
*The term ‘pluthermal’ refers to the use of plutonium in thermal reactors – i.e. the use of MOX fuel in normal light water reactors as opposed to fast breeder reactors.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries GNEP proposal
On June 22 Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) announced that it had submitted a joint technical proposal with AREVA for the US government’s Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). MHI’s contribution to the proposal relates to an Advanced Burner Reactor, while AREVA’s contribution relates to another GNEP facility, a Consolidated Fuel Treatment Center. MHI says that its submission is in accord with the wishes of the Japanese government.