News Watch from NUKE INFO TOKYO 80 (Nov./Dec. 2000)
On 14 September 2000, a meeting of promoters was held to establish the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan which will carry out the final disposal of high-level radioactive waste. It is planned that they will apply for an establishment permission from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) within October. The twelve promoters include the presidents of nine utilities across the country, the president of Japan Atomic Power Co, the president of the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute, and the vice chairperson of the Federation of Electric Power Companies. It was officially decided that Kazunao Tomon, an advisor to Tokyo Electric Power Co., would become the chairperson of the Center, and Asao Kuroda, former president of Japan Asahan Aluminum Co. and an ex-official of MITI, the vice-chairman.
On 22 August 2000, the Atomic Energy Commission’s Council for the Formulation of a Long-Term Program submitted to the Commission the revised draft of the Long-Term Program for Research, Development and Utilization of Nuclear Energy. The Commission is accepting public comments until early October, and after revision the plan is expected to be officially decided by December.
Its most striking characteristic is that it does not contain numerical figures such as the target capacity of nuclear power and the time for the commercialization of fast breeder reactors. Instead, it presents no more than an outline of policy. This is a result of accommodating the claims of utilities which don’t want to be bound by the plan.
The Hokkaido Prefectural Assembly began its session on 20 September, 2000. Its agenda focused on the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute’s plan to build an Underground Research Laboratory in Horonobe-cho in Hokkaido for high-level radioactive waste disposal.
Earlier on 14 September, a local opposition group published the result of a survey of the residents of Horonobe and seven neighboring municipalities. According to this, 76% of the respondents were against the plan, far exceeding the 16% who were in favor. People against the plan organized a motorcade consisting of a tractor and a number of cars, and on 16-18 September drove from a town near Wakkanai, the northernmost city in Japan, to Sapporo City, the capital of Hokkaido, to hand the survey results to the governor.
At the 5 September 2000 Prefectural Assembly meeting, the Hokkaido Governor officially announced his approval of the construction of Tomari 3 (PWR, 912 MW). On 18 September, he submitted to the secretariat of the Electric Power Development Coordination Council a written agreement for the Prefecture to have the reactor included in the national government’s basic plan for power-source development. In the document, the Prefecture has asked the national government to: 1) conduct a safety review in which the residents’ opinions will be reflected; 2) expand the target of receivers of grants-in-aid; and 3) provide measures for medical care in case of emergency.
A worker became sick when he was working in a sump tank in the radioactive waste treatment building at Hokkaido Electric Power Co.’s Tomari nuclear plant (2 PWRs, 579 MW each). Several workers tried to rescue him, and when they tried to take him out of the tank using a rope ladder, one of them, who was pushing him up from behind, fell flat on his back in radioactive liquid waste. He died in hospital, evidently as a result of suffocation rather than injuries from the fall.
Radioactivity of 21 Bq/cm2 was detected from his hips and 95 Bq/cm2 from his underwear, but no warning was given to those who had taken him to the hospital in an ambulance. It was reported that since the hospital had no prearranged measures for dealing with exposed patients, physicians and nurses were in a great panic. The injured man was treated by physicians who wore protective gears for X-rays.
It was found on 24 August 2000 at Mihama 3 (PWR, 826 MW) during its regular inspection that some alien objects had found their way into the steam generator (SG), and had rubbed down three pipes. A later survey found out that these objects were metal chips (54 mm x 42 mm, 0.3-2 mm thick, and warped into a shape like a plate), which had been produced when pipes of the main feed valve were being welded during a regular inspection conducted in April last year. It was also found that these chips had entered through a pipe which is connected to the SG, due to a failure to clean properly after construction – a rudimentary error.
The reactor is equipped with three SGs. All pipes of these SGs used to be checked in earlier periodic inspections, but after the SGs were replaced by new ones in 1997, only one was checked at each regular inspection. Luckily, the damage was found because the particular SG containing the chips happened to be the one due for periodic inspection. Otherwise, the damage may have become more serious, leading to pipe severance.
On 18 September 2000, the City Council of Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture adopted a statement calling for disclosure of quality control data on the MOX fuel to be used at Kashiwazaki 3 (BWR, 1100 MW). The MOX fuel, manufactured by Belgonucleaire (BN), is scheduled to be transported by sea in the near future. See pp. 4-5 for questions on the quality control data for BN’s fuel.
On 8 September 2000, Kyushu Electric Power Co. informed Kagoshima Prefecture and Sendai City of its intention to conduct an environmental impact assessment to investigate the feasibility of the construction of Sendai 3 (APWR, 1,500 MW). People opposed to the plan carried out a sit-in at the front of the prefectural office building to protest. On 18 September three fishing cooperatives from Kushikino City, which is adjacent to Sendai City, submitted a joint petition opposing the plan to the Kushikino City Council.