News Watch 129 (March/April 2009) Nuke Info Tokyo No. 129
Otsuki Town rejects radioactive waste dump
Search for a site to dispose of radioactive waste categorized as “waste from research facilities etc.” has begun in earnest. In May 2008 a law was enacted establishing the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) as the responsible organization, then in December the Ministry for Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and the Ministry for Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) established the basic policy.The Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan (NUMO) is the organization responsible for geological disposal of high-level radioactive waste and trans-uranium waste (TRU), while Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL) is the organization responsible for disposal of low-level radioactive waste generated at nuclear power plants. The responsible organization for other radioactive waste had not been decided, but last year’s decision established JAEA as the responsible organization for the disposal of radioactive waste generated at research agencies (JAEA being the main one), universities and nuclear energy-related civil facilities, and radioactive waste generated in association with the use of radioisotopes (RI). All these types of radioactive waste were bundled together under the classification of “waste from research facilities etc”.
On December 1, 2008, six residents of Otsuki Town in Kochi Prefecture submitted a petition to the local council asking it to accept a study into the siting of a dump for this waste. Consideration of the petition began on January 23, 2009 and the council unanimously rejected it on February 4.
Close-down of Tsuruga-1 to be delayed
The Tsuruga-1 Nuclear Power Plant (BWR, 357 MW) was scheduled to be closed down in 2010, after 40 years of operation. However, on February 17, Japan Atomic Power Company (JAPCO) applied to the Minister of Economy Trade and Industry for permission to continue operating the reactor beyond that date. JAPCO also communicated to Tsuruga City and Fukui Prefecture its intention to extend the operation of the Tsuruga-1 plant. If the extension is approved, Tsuruga-1 will be the first plant in Japan to operate longer than 40 years.The original plan was for Tsuruga-3 (APWR, 1,538 MW) to begin operation in 2008 and Tsuruga-4 (APWR, 1,538 MW) to begin in 2009. However, demand for the power companies which the Tsuruga plant supplies*, Kansai Electric, Hokuriku Electric and Chubu Electric, has plateaued. Also, JAPCO has had to respond to the requirements of the new earthquake guidelines (NIT 112). For reasons such as these, plans to construct units 3 and 4 have been postponed year after year and they are now not scheduled to begin operation until 2016 and 2017 respectively. One of the reasons JAPCO gave for extending the life of Unit 1 was consideration for the local economy.
Because Hamaoka-1&2 (BWR, 540 MW and 840 MW) ceased operation after 32 years and 30 years respectively (see NIT 128), it became necessary to show that this was not due to aging. Some people believe that this was the reason for declaring that closure of Tsuruga-1 would be postponed.
Toshiba secures first EPC agreement in US
On February 25, Toshiba announced that it had secured an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) agreement for South Texas Project (STP) Reactors 3 and 4 (ABWR, 1,350 MW each). The agreement is between Toshiba America Nuclear Energy Corp. and STP Nuclear Operating Co., which operates STP-1&2. Construction is scheduled to commence in 2012 and 2013 and commercial operations are scheduled to commence in 2016 and 2017 respectively. The total contract is worth approximately $8 billion. This is the first EPC agreement not just for Toshiba, but for any Japanese company. It is said that Toshiba’s subsidiary Westinghouse will also participate in engineering and supply of parts.
57.8% Capacity Factor in 2008
The capacity factor for Japan’s 55 nuclear reactors (total 49,580 MW) fell to just 57.8% in 2008. Of the 55, ten produced no power in 2008. All seven Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors have been shut down since the July 16, 2007 Chuetsu-Oki Earthquake. Hamaoka-1 has been shut down since an accident in November 2001 and it also has had equipment problems, while Hamaoka-2 has been shut down since April 2004. Both these reactors were officially permanently shut down on January 30, 2009 (see NIT 128). Shika-2 has not operated since the discovery in March 2007 of the cover up of a criticality incident. Two reactors operated at a capacity factor of between 10% and 20%, one between 20% and 30% and two others between 40% and 50%, giving a total of 15 reactors with a capacity factor of less than 50% in 2008.
Restart of Monju delayed again
For a year now false alarms indicating sodium leaks have been going off all over the place in the Monju reactor (FBR, 280 MW) (see NIT 126). There are 3,000 detectors that are identical or similar to the detectors that have given these false alarms. In August 2008 Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) announced that the restart date would be set back from October 2008 to February 2009 in order to allow time to check all these detectors and carry out safety checks.False alarms were still occurring in October 2008 when renewed attention was given to corrosion in the exhaust duct. The corrosion problem itself was not new, but it emerged that corrosion identified during previous inspections had not been attended to.
By rights, the corroded exhaust duct should be replaced, but because JAEA is in a rush to restart Monju it decided to wait until after the reactor is restarted before replacing the duct. JAEA decided to make do for the time being by welding over the corroded spots. Even so, the work will take time, so JAEA decided to further delay the restart date. At this stage, a new restart date has not been announced, but the repairs are expected to take until May at least.