NEWS WATCH from NUKE INFO TOKYO 71 (May/June 1999)


from NUKE INFO TOKYO 71 (May/June 1999)

— Another Trial Ruling Asks for a Social Choice
— Fourth Shipment of VHLW from France to Japan
— Japan Signs Agreement to Provide $1 billion to KEDO
— JNFL to Stop Operation of Rokkasho Uranium Enrichment Plant System
— Toshiba, Hitachi and GE Tighten Cooperation
— No Trouble in Y2K?
— Citizens’ Groups Protest HLW Geological Disposal

Another Trial Ruling Asks for a Social Choice

Following a court ruling on a suit demanding the suspension of Hokkaido Electric Power Company’s Tomari 1 and 2 (see NIT No. 70), Sendai High Court on March 31 handed down a ruling regarding the claim that called for suspension of Tohoku Electric Power Company’s Onagawa 1 and 2 (BWRs, 524 MW and 825 MW respectively).

Although the High Court rejected the plaintiffs’ claim stating, “the court does not acknowledge the existence of any concrete risk of danger to health or life,” it added that “this decision only applies to the present situation.” The court further stated that there is a need for “a social decision and choice based on a firm view of the necessity of nuclear power and the current and future lifestyles of individual citizens, including consideration for the environment to be left for future generations.” This kind of court decision, asking for a choice, is the third one since the court decision on the claim for the suspension of Shika 1 made in September 1998 (see NIT No. 68).

Fourth Shipment of VHLW from France to Japan

Vitrified high level waste (VHLW) from France was transported to the Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited storage facility on April 15. The VHLW was in 40 glass logs. Thus far, the number of glass logs brought into this facility has totaled 168. The total number of glass logs planned to be shipped from France and Britain is about 3,500. On April 17, the Summit meeting of the Association of Caribbean States adopted a statement protesting the transport of such radioactive wastes.

Japan Signs Agreement to Provide $1 billion to KEDO

The Japanese government signed an agreement on May 3 with the Korea Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) on two light water reactors supply project with North Korea. According to the agreement, Japan will contribute $1 billion of the total cost of $4.6 billion. The Export-Import Bank of Japan will provide Japan’s share of the contribution. The agreement between KEDO and the South Korean government, which will contribute $3.2 billion, is expected to be concluded in May, at the earliest. Negotiations on the agreement with KEDO is proceeding on the basis that the Korean Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) will undertake construction of the project.

JNFL to Stop Operation of Rokkasho Uranium Enrichment Plant System

Operation of a system linked to the centrifugal separators of the uranium enrichment plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture will be suspended at any time before this coming summer, announced Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. on April 23.

The plant has several systems, each of which are linked to a large number of centrifugal separators. Because of this, the plant boasts an annual production capacity of 1,050 tons at its separative work unit (SWU). Neither the number of centrifugal separators nor that of the linked systems have been disclosed, apparently for security reasons.

These centrifugal separators have thus far experienced many troubles. 3,633 units have been stopped until the end of March this year. Since suspending the operation of a single unit was not enough to relieve the situation this time, the company was forced to suspend the whole system.

Toshiba, Hitachi and GE Tighten Cooperation

Toshiba, Hitachi and General Electric of U.S. jointly announced on April 12 their intention to establish an international joint venture for nuclear fuel before the end of this year, thereby integrating their operations related to design, production and sales of nuclear fuel.

The companies are also moving toward establishing another joint venture for design, production and sales of nuclear plants. An agreement to jointly accept orders for Fukushima I-7 and8 (ABWRs, 1380 MW each) has already been signed between Toshiba and Hitachi. The actual construction work for both plants is planned to begin in 2001.

No Trouble in Y2K?

The Agency of Natural Resources and Energy issued on April 26 an interim report on the Y2K problem of Japanese nuclear plants. The survey concluded that the companies have been conducting appropriate investigations and necessary modifications, and that the operation of reactors will continue normally. Despite this optimistic conclusion, however, other concerned groups still feel some doubt as to whether all reactors can actually be operated safely. Modifications are projected to be completed in November at the latest, but there is a possibility that they will not all be completed in time. This weak sense of crisis is a matter for concern.

Citizens’ Groups Protest HLW Geological Disposal

Eight citizens’ groups in Hokkaido, Gifu and Okayama prefectures issued a joint statement on March 29 opposing the government’s geological disposal plan. The three prefectures are being raised as the most likely place to become candidates for the geological disposal of high-level radioactive waste. The statement was issued in response to the Agency of Natural Resources and Energy’s preparation for setting up necessary regulations that would back up their plan of establishing in 2000 an organization which will be responsible for the disposal.

The statement criticized the autocratic promotion of the plan and the government’s attitude which seems only concerned about meeting the schedule. It stated that no safety verifications on geological disposal have been carried out, and warned that the plan will simply bequeath the threat of radioactivity to future generations. Furthermore, the groups demanded that the government revise its nuclear policy toward the abolition of nuclear plants, which are responsible for the production of the high-level radioactive wastes.


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