NEWS WATCH from NUKE INFO TOKYO 79 (Sep./Oct. 2000)
from NUKE INFO TOKYO 79 (Sep./Oct. 2000)
— Moves toward New Reactor Construction Plans
— Successive Reactor Shutdowns Lead to Restart of Thermal Power Generator
— Court Rules that a Public Hearing is Not a Place to Hear Public Opinion
— Municipalities Issue Ordinances Refusing Radioactive Wastes
— Jet Planes Crash in the vicinity of Onagawa Nuclear Plant
On 24 July, Governor Nobuyoshi Sumita of Shimane Prefecture submitted to the secretariat of the Power Development Council a written agreement to include Simane 3 (ABWR, 1,373 MW), which the Chugoku Electric Power Co. plans to construct, in the national government’s basic plan for power source development. The council will meet in August, during which it is expected to officially decide to include Shimane 3 in the basic plan. The governor’s agreement reflects the approval of “the Regional Development Plan,” which was jointly prepared by the Prefecture and the three municipalities concerned, given on 27 June by the Council’s Advisory Group on Power Plant Location. The Council is composed of related ministries and agencies, and the approval of the plan means that these ministries and agencies have pledged to cooperate in the 117 billion yen regional development project, which is one of the largest of its kind. However, it is not clear how far their pledges will be fulfilled.
Meanwhile, at the Prefectural Assembly on 14 July, Hokkaido Governor Tatsuya Hori expressed his intention to approve construction of Tomari 3 (PWR, 912 MW), signaling a move toward an agreement on this project. The majority of the participants at the “Meeting to Listen to the Citizens’ Opinions” sponsored by the Prefectural government voiced opposition to this plan, or were cautious about it. A group of academics who advise the governor have also made a statement asking to freeze the plan. With these mounting protests against the governor’s intention, it is hard to predict what will happen in this case.
Four out of 17 reactors in the three nuclear power plants owned by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) were shut down between 14 and 25 July due to various troubles. In addition, three other reactors have been suspended for regular inspections. Following these suspensions, the company hastily decided to re-start a thermal power generator to remedy the power supply shortage. In April, TEPCO suspended two of the generators at the thermal power station at Kashima, Ibaraki Prefecture, for five years due to excess supply.
Reactors owned by other power companies have recently been suspended as well due to various problems – further evidence of the unreliability of nuclear power.
On 13 July, the Hakodate District Court dismissed a demand filed against the state by plaintiffs claiming compensation for the fact that they had not been given an opportunity to express their opinions at a public hearing. The hearing in question was held by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry in December 1998, regarding plans for the construction of the Ohma nuclear power plant (ABWR, 1,383 MW). Only those living in Ohma-machi, the planned site in Aomori Prefecture, and bordering municipalities were allowed to speak at the hearing. The plaintiffs – citizens of Hakodate City in Hokkaido, which is located just across the sea from Aomori Prefecture – were not permitted to speak.
In the trial at Hakodate District Court, the state argued that a public hearing “aims to promote local residents’ understanding and seek their cooperation, and is not an arena for hearing their views.” The ruling has prompted angry protests from those who were able to attend and speak at the 1998 hearing.
Local ordinances rejecting radioactive waste were established one after another at various municipalities. One concerns a plan to construct intermediate storage facilities for spent fuel. On 27 March, in reaction to rumors that Tanegashima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture might be selected as a potential site, the Yaku Town Council of Yakushima Island, located next to Tanegashima, passed a draft ordinance rejecting the plan. A similar ordinance was then passed on 30 June by Nishi-no-omote City Council in Tanegashima.
Another case involves a plan for an underground research facility for high-level radioactive waste disposal. On 11 May, Horonobe Town Council in Hokkaido passed an ordinance bill. The ordinance declares that although they would promote the construction of the facility, they would not permit radioactive waste to be brought in. On 28 June, the adjacent Hamatonbetsu Town Council adopted a resolution against the plan, stating that they will refuse to accept radioactive waste or the construction of waste disposal-related facilities anywhere in the northern part of Hokkaido.
The plan to build an underground research facility is being pursued by the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute (JNC). On 6 and 7 July, Yasumasa Togo, chairman of JNC, visited six municipalities concerned, asking for cooperation with the proposal. All these municipalities except Horonobe Town expressed opposition and doubts about the plan. The local explanatory meetings held by JNC on the 17th in Horonobe and on the 18th in Wakkanai City were overwhelmed by residents’ objections to the scheme.
On 4 July, two jet training planes of the Self Defense Force crashed on a mountain 4.5 km south of the Tohoku Electric Power Company’s Onagawa Nuclear Plant (2 BWRs). Also, on 22 March, a jet training plane crashed on a mountain 9.5 km north of the plant. All of the planes belonged to the Air Self Defense Force’s Matsushima Base which, like the plant, is located in Miyagi Prefecture. Planes from the Matsushima base have been conducting acrobatic flight training. A total of 700 planes are making these flights each month, and they are said to avoid an area of 3.6 km diameter around the nuclear plant. Local residents are worried that these jet planes may crash directly into the plant. There is no protective ceiling above the reactors that would withstand the impact of a jet plane.