News Watch 127 (November/December 2008) Nuke Info Tokyo No. 127
Plan to double nuclear indemnity requirements
On October 17 the first draft report on Japan’s nuclear liability system was endorsed by a study committee established within the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). The report has now been opened for public comments and it is expected that it will be finalized late November.The draft report recommends doubling the value of insurance required of nuclear enterprises (nuclear power companies, reprocessing companies, etc.) in the form of contracts with insurance companies or indemnities provided by the government to cover compensation claims. Taking into account the level of insurance required in Europe, it recommends that the value be increased from 60 billion yen to 120 billion yen per plant for nuclear power plants and reprocessing plants. The value for other facilities varies.
Under the Japanese system, nuclear enterprises are liable for damages that exceed the insured value, except in cases of “damages caused by extremely large natural disasters and civil disturbances”. However, under the nuclear accident compensation law the government is able to provide direct financial support and low interest finance when damages exceed the insured value.
Permission given to reclaim sea for Kaminoseki Nuclear Power Plant
On October 22, Governor Sekinari Nii of Yamaguchi Prefecture handed a document to Takashi Yamashita, President of Chugoku Electric Power Company, granting approval for an area of sea to be reclaimed in preparation for construction of the proposed Kaminoseki Nuclear Power Plant (2 x 1, 373MW, ABWR). Around 140,000m2 of the 330,000m2 site is located in an area that is now sea. The plan is extraordinary in that the reactor itself will be located in this area.The area of sea that will be reclaimed is an ideal fishing ground for the fishermen from the island of Iwaishima off the Kaminoseki coast (see NIT 125). It is also a confirmed habitat for many rare and endangered species (NIT 84). Many residents of Yamaguchi Prefecture are opposed to the reclamation and 74 Iwaishima fishermen had only just lodged an appeal on October 20 to the Yamaguchi District Court to prevent approval being granted. Prior to that, on October 16, a petition signed by over 50,000 people had been handed to Governor Nii. At the press conference Governor Nii said, “I was certainly not pleased to grant approval.” He justified himself by saying that if the requirements are met “the Prefecture has to make its judgment according to law.” To Chugoku Electric President Yamashita he said, “I request you to exert your utmost effort to ensure safety and protect the environment.”
Ohi-3 to be restarted without being repaired
As reported in NIT 126, during a periodic inspection of Kansai Electric Power Company’s (KEPCO) Ohi-3 nuclear power plant (1,180MW, PWR) a crack was found in a weld in a primary coolant outlet nozzle in the reactor vessel. On September 26, KEPCO informed the Nuclear Industrial and Safety Agency (NISA), Fukui Prefecture and the Ohi local government that it would restart the reactor without repairing the area where it had ground down to remove the crack. Because the area where the crack was located is highly radioactive, repairs require special techniques and tools have to be prepared. KEPCO plans to wait until the next periodic inspection in autumn 2009 to carry out build-up welding. NISA and the prefecture’s expert safety committee blithely approved this plan.
Fire at Onagawa-1
On November 13 a fire broke out in a pump room in the residual heat removal system of the Onagawa-1 reactor (BWR, 524MW). The fire lasted nearly an hour and one worker was injured.The fire was caused by a spark from welding carried out during work to increase the reactor’s seismic resistance. Onagawa-1 has been undergoing a periodic inspection since February 14.
The operator, Tohoku Electric Power Company, said that there was no radiation leak.
JAEA, EDF to cooperate on fast reactors
On October 1, Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) and Electricite de France (EDF) signed an agreement concerning technical cooperation on fast reactor systems. The agreement revised a previous agreement, which covered operation and maintenance of fast reactors. The new agreement expands the scope of cooperation to include fast reactor systems. EDF technologists will be able to train at the Monju prototype fast breeder reactor (280 MW) and the Joyo experimental reactor. Information exchange regarding design concepts for future demonstration reactors and commercial reactors is also covered by the agreement.
Agreement for cooperation between JAEA and KAERI
On September 4, Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) and Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) signed an agreement relating to cooperation on research into the “peaceful” use of atomic energy. Previously KAERI had agreements with Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI) for cooperation on research into the “peaceful” use of atomic energy and with Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute (JNC) for cooperation on research and development relating to geological disposal of high-level radioactive waste. JAERI and JNC have since merged to form JAEA, so the old agreements have been adjusted to fit the new organizational structure. The range of cooperation is broad, covering nuclear research, development and utilization.
BTC to accept trainees from the US
BWR Operator Training Center Corp. (BTC) was established by boiling water reactor (BWR) makers Toshiba and Hitachi GE Nuclear Energy and Japanese power companies operating BWRs. In July, BTC received five technologists from South Texas Project (STP) Nuclear Operating Company for training with ABWR operator instructors. It plans to accept more trainees in future.STP has been selected to manage the construction and operation of two ABWRs for the independent power producer NRG Energy Inc.’s proposed South Texas Project Units 3 and 4. BTC also plans to accept trainees from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
In the Japanese market, in addition to its existing training programs for operators, it is diversifying through the development of training programs for plant maintenance workers. In this way it hopes to stem a downward trend in enrolments.
Nuclear energy seminar and exhibition in Vietnam
From September 4~6, Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) and Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), in association with Vietnam Electricity (EVN) and Vietnam Atomic Energy Commission (VAEC), held a seminar and exhibition on nuclear energy in Phan Rang, Ninh Thuan Province. (Phan Rang is just south of Cam Ranh Bay, which was used as a naval base by a succession of foreign powers.) About 3,000 people attended the exhibition, while 650 people attended the seminar.On September 3, a national nuclear power assessment committee was established within the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI). Vietnam plans to construct nuclear power plants with a total capacity of 4,000 MW by 2020. Two sites have been selected in the south-eastern Province of Ninh Thuan. Some of the Japanese participants in the above seminar and exhibition visited these two sites.