News Watch 130 (May/June 2009) Nuke Info Tokyo No. 130
Subcommittee releases draft international strategy
On April 22, a committee looking into international strategy submitted a draft report to the Nuclear Energy Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy. Public comments have been invited and a final decision is expected in May. The report’s main points are as follows:
- Establishment of the nuclear fuel cycle – international expansion and links with overseas businesses through early introduction and expansion of enrichment equipment, early consideration of a second reprocessing plant to follow the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant, active support of capital involvement by power companies and plant makers in uranium fuel business;
- Industry structure – promotion of links between power companies and plant makers, links between industry bureaucracy and academia;
- Nuclear energy diplomacy – conclusion of flexible nuclear cooperation agreements;
- Response to business risk – establishment of a conducive environment in the areas of human resources, finance, and systems;
- Response to international competition – support for technological development of materials and component makers, strengthening of government and civilian cooperation in development of next generation light water reactors, active involvement by power companies in self-reliant development of FBR.
The desire to bind power companies to enrichment, reprocessing and FBR comes across very strongly, but since power companies would prefer to get out of these fields, it is hard to imagine things going according to plan.
Institutional preparations for international cooperation
The past few months have seen the following new initiatives.On April 1, the Nuclear Energy Policy Planning Division of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy established an office for the promotion of international cooperation. The intention is to support the expansion of Japan’s nuclear industry overseas by establishing a system for building inter-government frameworks, including bi-lateral nuclear cooperation agreements.
On March 18 the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) established the JAIF – International Cooperation Center, which opened an office on April 1. In cooperation with the Federation of Atomic Power Companies and the Japan Electric Manufacturers’ Association, they are trying to accelerate the international expansion of Japan’s nuclear industry by conducting an all-Japan effort to support the introduction of nuclear power into countries such as Vietnam and Thailand.
It is planned that a joint public-private council for international nuclear cooperation will be established in May or shortly thereafter.
On April 1 Fukui University established the Research Institute of Nuclear Engineering. The Institute has the following four fields of activity: nuclear engineering basics, nuclear engineering research and development, nuclear disaster prevention engineering, medical physics and chemistry research and development. It intends to invite overseas students, in particular from Asia.
Memorandum of Cooperation with Jordan
In Tokyo on April 14, Toru Ishida, Director-General of Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE), and Suhair Al-Ali, Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, signed a “Memorandum of Cooperation” concerning cooperation in the development of Jordan’s nuclear power program. Jordan is aiming to begin operating its first nuclear power plant in 2017. Besides cooperation in preparation, planning and promotion of nuclear power development in Jordan, Japan agreed to cooperate with Jordan on training, human resources and infrastructure development, nuclear safety and security, and identification of uranium and other nuclear related materials. The initial term of the agreement is fives years, but it may be extended thereafter by mutual consent.
Work begins on China’s first AP1000
On April 19, work began on China’s Sanmen No. 1 reactor (PWR, 1,100 MW). It is being supplied by Westinghouse and the Shaw Group and will be the first ever AP1000 reactor to be built. Westinghouse and the Shaw Group also have contracts for a second AP1000 at Sanmen, as well as two more at Haiyang.
Kharasan uranium mine opened
Kazakhstan’s Kharasan mine has two uranium deposits. Kharasan-1 began mining on a trial basis in September 2008 and on April 24, 2009 it held an opening ceremony for the commencement of full operations. Japanese companies that have invested in the mine attended the ceremony, including four electric power companies, Tohoku Electric, Tokyo Electric, Chubu Electric and Kyushu Electric, along with Marubeni, Toshiba, the Japan Bank of International Cooperation, Nippon Export Insurance and Mizuho Corporate Bank.Kharasan-2 began trial operations in March. At peak production the two deposits are expected to yield about 5,000 tons of uranium per year. Of this, 2,000 tons will be taken by Japan.
Hitachi falsified data about heat treatment of pipe welds
On April 13, Hitachi and Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy revealed that data relating to heat treatment of welds in moisture separation heating devices was falsified during construction of the Hamaoka-5 (ABWR, 1,380 MW) and Shimane-3 (ABWR 1,373 MW) reactors. In both cases, the data was falsified by the same employee of Japan Industrial Testing Co.. Due to an error in operation of the electric heater, the temperature fell suddenly giving rise to data that deviated from the permitted standard. The worker erased the non-compliant data with bleach. An employee of Chugoku Electric Power Company discovered the error in relation to Shimane-3 in March and confirmed the matter with Hitachi.A similar case of data falsification by a Hitachi subcontractor was discovered in 1997. Procedures to prevent a repetition should have been implemented, but evidently they were not effective.
Nuclear compensation law amended
An amendment to the Law on Compensation for Nuclear Damage was passed by the House of Councillors on April 10. The law, which is valid for a limited period, was extended by ten years. It doubled the amount of insurance that operators of nuclear facilities must take out to cover damages. For example, in the case of nuclear power plants and reprocessing plants the amount was doubled to 120 billion yen.A supplementary resolution requires a multi-dimensional study concerning joining the international nuclear compensation framework. Japan is not currently a party to any international nuclear liability regime.
Delay to construction of MOX fuel fabrication plant
On April 16, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd (JNFL) announced a delay in the commencement of construction of the MOX fuel fabrication plant (130 ton/year MOX fuel). JNFL plans to build the plant in Rokkasho Village, Aomori Prefecture. Commencement of construction was set back two years and one month to November 2009, while the completion date was set back two years and eight months to June 2015. The estimated cost of construction was increased 60 billion yen from approximately 130 billion yen to approximately 190 billion yen.
Frequent fires at nuclear power plants
The frequency of fires at nuclear power plants has increased. On April 23 the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) announced that of the 105 fires that have occurred since 1967, 49 occurred since 2000. There have been 21 fires since 2007, 11 of which occurred at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant. NISA said that it will establish a panel of experts to analyze the reasons why there have been so many fires at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa and to find if there is a common cause.