News Watch 133 (November/December 2009) Nuke Info Tokyo No. 133
MOX Fuel Shipped to Monju
From October 29 to 30, 18 MOX fuel assemblies were transported from Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s (JAEA) plutonium fuel facility in Tokai Village, Ibaraki Prefecture to its Monju Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR, 280 MW) in Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture. All the new fuel required to restart Monju by March 2010 as scheduled had already been shipped, so the fuel shipped this time will be used to carry out tests raising the reactor to 40% power output.
On October 29 CNIC followed the three trucks from Tokai Village to Shibuya in Tokyo to observe the transport conditions. The police-protected shipment was greeted by protests along the route.
Toshiba Certified as Supplier of U.S. ABWR
On October 8, Toshiba announced that it had been certified by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) as a supplier of the U.S. Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR). The applicant for the design certification was GE Nuclear Energy. It is the first time that a Japanese company has been certified by NRC as a nuclear reactor supplier to the United States.
Earlier this year Toshiba signed an engineering, procurement and construction contract for two ABWRs at the South Texas Project (Units 3 and 4, each 1,350MW – see NIT 129) and Toshiba’s Isogo Engineering Center (Kanagawa Prefecture) and Fuchu Factory (Tokyo) have been accredited as meeting U.S. nuclear reactor design and quality control standards.
UK Ready to Begin Returning Vitrified Waste
On October 20, four Japanese electric power companies (Tokyo, Kansai, Shikoku and Kyushu) announced that vitrified high-level radioactive waste (HLW) canisters produced from spent nuclear fuel reprocessed at Sellafield in the UK will be returned to Japan by March next year and that the necessary preparations have commenced. The canisters will be shipped to the storage facility at the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant in Aomori Prefecture. A total of 28 canisters (7 for each company) will be shipped on this occasion, but for reasons of security the route and schedule have not been disclosed.
These are the first of a total of 1,000 canisters which will be returned to Japanese electric power companies (including power companies other than the above four). Of these, 850 canisters are HLW and 150 are HLW substituted for a radiologically equivalent quantity of intermediate and low-level waste. Already 1,310 canisters have been returned to Japan from the reprocessing plant in La Hague, France, completing the HLW shipments. (As yet no arrangements have been made regarding the return of LLW from France.)
Feasibility Study for Vietnamese Nuclear Power Plant
Japan, France and South Korea are competing to win a contract to carry out a feasibility study (FS) for Vietnam’s nuclear power plant plan. Vietnam aims to introduce nuclear power from 2020. The Japanese government, electric power companies and plant makers have combined forces to secure the FS contract. The government recently awarded Japan Atomic Power Company a maximum of 2 billion yen to carry out a project related to the FS.
Toshiba, Mitsubishi, Hitachi Developing Small Reactors
The October 24 edition of Nikkei Shimbun reported that Japan’s three nuclear power plant makers, Toshiba, Mitsubishi and Hitachi, are all developing small nuclear reactors. As reported in NIT 105 and 121, in cooperation with Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry (CRIEPI) Toshiba is developing the 4S (Super Safe, Small and Simple) reactor (50 MW and 10 MW versions). It hopes to install it in Galena in Alaska and is also eyeing other places, including Canada’s Alberta Province. It intends to submit an application for design certification to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Authority in 2010.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), in cooperation with Kyoto University, CRIEPI and Japan Atomic Power Company, is designing an Integrated Modular Water Reactor (IMR, 350 MW). The concept design has been completed and MHI is now considering the market environment in order to decide whether or not to proceed to the basic design stage. MHI is also jointly developing the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR, 165 MW) with South African publicly owned electric power company ESKOM, although recent reports suggest that South Africa’s pebble-bed reactor demonstration plant has been indefinitely postponed due to lack of financing (Nucleonics Week, September 17, 2009).
Meanwhile, Hitachi is developing a compact BWR (400-600 MW) with U.S. nuclear power plant maker GE.
Tsuruga-1 and Mihama-1 to operate beyond 40 years
On September 3, the Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry approved Japan Atomic Power Company’s (JAPCO) plan to operate its Tsuruga-1 plant (BWR, 357 MW) beyond 40 years. On the same day JAPCO advised Fukui Prefecture and Tsuruga City of its intention to operate the plant for 46 years until 2016. Tsuruga-1 began commercial operations on March 14, 1970. Tsuruga-1 will be the first Japanese nuclear power plant to operate beyond 40 years.
On November 5, Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) applied to the Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry for permission to amend safety protection rules for its Mihama-1 Nuclear Power Plant (PWR, 340 MW) to enable it to operate the plant beyond 40 years. On the same day it advised Fukui Prefecture, Mihama Town and Tsuruga City of its intention to begin consideration of operating the plant beyond 40 years. Mihama-1 began commercial operations on November 28, 1970, making it Japan’s second oldest nuclear power plant.
Utilities wishing to operate their nuclear power plants beyond 40 years are required to submit a technical assessment of the aging of the plant and a long-term maintenance policy.
Irregular power output at Mihama-1
On November 6, the day after KEPCO announced its intention to operate its Mihama-1 Nuclear Power Plant beyond 40 years, the plant was forced to suspend adjustment operations because of problems with a control rod. The plant was undergoing a periodic inspection and adjustment operations had just begun. When checking the operation of the control rods, an alarm went off indicating that the height of one of the control rods was lower than it should be. The height of the control rod was adjusted manually and the test was restarted, but the alarm went off again. A nut securing a power cable connection for the control rod was found to be loose.
Adjustment operations were resumed on November 12. After thirty minutes power output increased suddenly when the load limit switch of the steam adjustment valve was operated in order to increase power output from 5% to 20%. The switch was adjusted to reduce power output and 20 minutes later power output stabilized at 6%. Adjustment operations were suspended again on November 13 to investigate the problem.
Tritium released to sea from incorrectly fitted pipe
On June 30 it was discovered that water containing tritium had been released to sea from Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) Fukushima II-1 Nuclear Power Plant (BWR, 1100 MW). A pipe for treating radioactive material had been erroneously connected to a pipe for treating non-radioactive material. On October 28 TEPCO reported to the Nuclear Industrial and Safety Agency that water contaminated with tritium was released on three occasions since 2001, but that the amount of radioactivity was very low.
TEPCO checked all its nuclear power plants and announced on November 5 that it had discovered a similar mistake at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa-1 (BWR, 1100 MW). In this case the problem had been overlooked ever since the plant began operating in 1985 (see page 5).