News Watch 138 September/October 2010 Nuke Info Tokyo No. 138
Lawsuit to Stop the Use of MOX Fuel at Genkai-3
On August 9, a lawsuit against Kyushu Electric Power Company demanding a halt to the use of MOX in the Genkai-3 Nuclear Power Plant (PWR, 1180MW) was filed in Saga District Court by 130 people from all prefectures in Kyushu. Genkai is in Saga prefecture of Kyushu. The plaintiffs’ claim there is a danger that the reactor vessel could be destroyed for the following reasons: when MOX fuel is in use a space can easily form between the fuel and the cladding; fuel at high temperature melts; as a result of pressure damage to pipes can occur. Additionally, a disposal method for spent MOX fuel has not been established. They pointed out that if MOX is stored long-term, a crack in the storage pool could release radioactively contaminated water.
Lawsuit to Stop Construction of Ohma Nuclear Power Plant
On July 28, a lawsuit was filed in the Hakodate District Court demanding compensation for damages, termination of construction, and annulment of the license for the Ohma Nuclear Power Plant (ABWR, 1383MW) being constructed by J-Power in the town of Ohma in Aomori Prefecture. The claim was filed not in the Aomori District Court as would normally be expected, but rather in the Hakodate District Court, because many of the plaintiffs are from Hakodate. The city of Hakodate is in Hokkaido, across the Tsugaru Strait from the town of Ohma. It is separated by a distance of 18km at the closest point. There are participating plaintiffs from all over Japan. They claim that because the Ohma Nuclear Power Plant will operate with a full MOX core, a wide area would be damaged in a major accident.
Fukushima 1-3 Begins Operating with MOX Fuel
On September 18, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) started up its Fukushima I-3 Nuclear Power Plant (BWR, 784MW) using MOX fuel. It loaded MOX fuel into the reactor on August 21 and plans to begin generating electricity on the 23rd.
Over 10 years had passed since this fuel was fabricated. It was fabricated between 1997 and 1998 and arrived at the nuclear power station in 1999, but it was never loaded. Falsification of fuel quality control data for MOX fuel for Kansai Electric Power Company’s Takahama-3&4 nuclear power plants was discovered and troubles and cover-ups were discovered at TEPCO nuclear power plants. In response, the prefectural government revoked its agreement with TEPCO. On January 20 2010, TEPCO applied again for permission to use MOX fuel and on August 6 the governor gave his consent.
Part of KEPCO’s MOX Fuel Fabrication Plans Postponed
On August 31, Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) announced that of the 36 MOX fuel assemblies scheduled to be fabricated this year, fabrication of 16 of the assemblies will be delayed until next year. The MOX fuel is for use in KEPCO’s Takahama-3&4 Nuclear Power Plants (PWR, each 870MW). The reason is that French company Areva has had trouble at its Melox plant and production capacity fell. It is said that this year between January and June at the Melox factory several items of equipment for handling materials, including uranium, plutonium and cladding tubes, broke down and part of the production line stopped. However, the details are unclear.
Conceptual designs for next generation LWR
Conceptual designs for next generation light water reactors (LWR), development of which is being promoted as a national project by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), have been prepared, and on July 29 a report on future activities was released by METI, The Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPC), Toshiba, Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and The Institute of Applied Energy (IAE). IAE has been contracted to develop the conceptual design. According to the report, the conceptual designs improve safety and economy based on current ABWR and APWR designs. The HP-ABWR (High Performance ABWR) design is for a 1,760MW plant, while the HP-APWR is for a 1,780MW plant. The aim is for the reactors to be operating in 2030. Total development costs, estimated at 55 billion yen, are to be split evenly between government and the private sector.
The plan is to reduce electricity generation costs through large power output, a high capacity factor (target of 97%), fuel that can be used for long periods of time, and improved fuel burning efficiency. The August 18 edition of Denki Shimbun spoke of “attractive merits of scale”, but added, “the risk associated with outages is large. Will it be easy to find a site? The real and the conceptual worlds are different.”
Government-private sector sales pitch to Vietnam
A mission including Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Masayuki Naoshima, and senior executives of Japanese electric utilities Tokyo Electric, Chubu Electric, Kansai Electric and Japan Atomic Power Company, and plant makers Toshiba, Hitachi and Mitsubushi Heavy Industries visited Vietnam from August 24 to 25 to encourage it to order nuclear power plants from Japan. Vietnam plans to build 14 nuclear power plants by 2030. Russia won the order for the first plant, but Japan still entertains hopes of building the second.
The government-private industry mission met with senior members of the Vietnamese Government, including Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Minister of Science and Technology Hoang Van Phong, Minister of Planning and Investment Vo Hong Phuc, and permanent member of the Secretariat of the Communist Party of Vietnam Truong Tan Sang.
A new government-private company, tentatively named ‘International Nuclear Energy Development of Japan’, is due to be launched this autumn to promote power plant projects in emerging nuclear countries.
Troubles at nuclear fuel plant covered up
On August 4 the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) announced details of an incident that occurred in May at Global Nuclear Fuel Japan’s (GNF-J) nuclear fuel plant in Yokosuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture. Hydrogen leaked from a pellet sintering furnace and ignited. The information was provided anonymously to NISA, but when NISA made inquiries GNF-J denied the incident. A committee established within NISA to consider responses to whistleblowers judged that NISA’s response was inadequate and demanded a further written report. GNF-J, which was no longer able to conceal the incident, then admitted that it had put out the fire with a fire extinguisher.
Unfortunately, the company’s attitude in covering up the problem in the first place and NISA’s inappropriate handling of the matter suggest that similar problems will occur again in future.
Another radioactive leak at Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant
On August 2 Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL) announced the possibility that there had been a leak of a tiny amount of high-level radioactive liquid waste from the concentration equipment at its Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant in Rokkasho Village, Aomori Prefecture. Leaked liquid was found in a stainless steel protective pipe around a thermometer that is installed inside the equipment to measure the temperature of the liquid waste. A high radiation reading was noticed near the tip the thermometer on July 30 when it was removed in order to replace it. It seems that the liquid leaked out, with some of it sticking to the thermometer. Radioactive liquid waste also leaked onto one worker, who was exposed to radiation as a result.