NEWS WATCH from NUKE INFO TOKYO 77 (May/June 2000)
from NUKE INFO TOKYO 77 (May/June 2000)
— JAIF and VAEC Agreed on the Basic Plan for Cooperation
— Commencement of Partial Liberalization of Power Supply Services
— Plu-Thermal Utilization for Kashiwazaki 3 Approved
— Yaku-machi Establishes an Ordinance to Completely Reject Nuclear Facilities
— MHI Signs an Agreement to Supply Equipment to KEDO
— JCO’s Operation License Revoked
— JCO Accident Costs Parent Company 14.5 Billion Yen
On 27 March, 2000, the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, Inc. (JAIF) and the Vietnam Atomic Energy Commission (VAEC) signed the “Basic Plan 2000” for cooperation in Vietnam’s program to introduce nuclear power generation. The Plan is based on “the memorandum of cooperation on preparatory operations for nuclear power generation in Vietnam,” to which both parties agreed in December 1999. The Plan covers the following areas: (1) personnel development, (2) site selection, (3) preparation for legislation, (4) research and development, and (5) publicity. The site selection is planned to be carried out between 2000 and 2003.
Commencement of Partial Liberalization of Power Supply Services
The “partial liberalization” of power supply services started on 21 March 2000. This allows large power users to purchase electricity from power companies outside of supply areas and also from independent power producers (IPPs). Since many of the large users are those who support the nighttime demand, during which general demand falls, if the power companies lose these users, they will have to give up on nuclear reactors which cannot adjust their outputs. Following the introduction of partial liberalization, power companies are becoming very cautious about raising the ratio of nuclear plants.
Plu-Thermal Utilization for Kashiwazaki 3 Approved
On 15 March 2000, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry approved Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s application for approval to load MOX fuel in Kashiwazaki Unit 3 Reactor (BWR, 1100 MW). The number of MOX fuel assemblies to be loaded into the reactor is said to be 312 at maximum. The total number of fuel assemblies in the core is 764.
The loading of MOX fuel in Kashiwazaki 3 was planned to be carried out in 2000, but it has been postponed for one year in response to the demand of the local prefecture and city, which are gravely concerned about the fabrication of quality control data by British Nuclear Fuels plc (BNFL).
Yaku-machi Establishes an Ordinance to Completely Reject Nuclear Facilities
On 27 March, 2000 the town council of Yaku-machi on Yakushima Island, Kagoshima Prefecture, which is well known for its ancient giant cedars and is designated by UNESCO as a World Natural Heritage, established an ordinance to ban radioactive materials and facilities for the utilization or study of nuclear power. It was made in opposition to the move to build an intermediate storage facility for spent fuel on Tanegashima Island, which is adjacent to Yakushima.
In March, the councils of Yaku-machi, Kamiyaku-machi (another town in Yakushima), and Nishinoomote City in Tanegashima passed resolutions one after another against the construction plan.
Ordinances refusing to allow radioactive waste to be brought in have been established in Yubara-cho, Okayama Prefecture and Toki City, Gifu Prefecture, but Yakumachi’s ordinance is the first one in Japan to refuse any nuclear-related facilities. This ordinance shows people’s distrust of Japan’s makeshift nuclear policy – the policy of an industry which is manifestly avoiding the problem of what to do with spent fuel.
MHI Signs an Agreement to Supply Equipment to KEDO
Korean Heavy Industries & Construction Co., Ltd., which is in charge of construction of a light water reactor to be supplied by the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) to North Korea, signed a contract on March 3 with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI). Under this contract, MHI will supply equipment for the project, including a pressurizer and fuel storage tanks. Toshiba and Hitachi are also expected to supply some equipment such as turbines.
JCO’s Operation License Revoked
On 28 March, 2000, the Science and Technology Agency revoked the operating license given to JCO, the company responsible for the criticality accident in September last year. There have been three cases in which there have been orders to suspend operation for a certain period of time, but this is the first case in which a license of operation has been revoked.
JCO plans to continue clearance work such as removal of radioactive contamination at facilities and management of radioactive materials; it has obtained a permit to handle nuclear fuel substances only for these purposes.
It is thought that Japan will have to be more dependent on overseas companies for the conversion of uranium hexafluoride to uranium oxide. In Japan only one other company, Mitsubishi Nuclear Fuel Co, carries out uranium conversion for PWR fuel.
JCO Accident Costs Parent Company 14.5 Billion Yen
At a press conference on 8 March 2000, Sumitomo Metal Mining, the parent company of JCO Co., announced that it estimates a loss of 14.5 billion yen as a result of the criticality accident in September 1999.
The loss includes an estimated 13 billion yen in compensation payments to residents and businesses. Other expenses related to the accident are estimated at 1.5 billion yen. As of 5 March 2000, JCO has agreed to compensate in 5,150 cases, about 85% of all requests, according to the company. The total amount for those cases is estimated to stand at about 8.57 billion yen. It is unclear as to how much JCO has paid and how much it has borrowed from Sumitomo Metal Mining.
At the end of last year, JCO paid 50,000 yen to each resident of Tokai village living within 350 meters of the site of the accident, and 30,000 yen each to those who were evacuated because of the accident. These payments were accompanied by a letter asking, in effect, that residents not pursue further compensation claims in exchange for receiving this money. A number of residents refused to accept the money.