News Watch 140 January/February 2011 Nuke Info Tokyo No. 140
New nuclear policy drafting process beginsThe first meeting of a committee to review Japan’s nuclear policy was held on December 21. The committee intends to draft a new policy over a period of about a year. The current Framework for Nuclear Energy Policy was established by the Japan Atomic Energy Commission in 2005.
CNIC Co-Director Hideyuki Ban is once again a member of the review committee (refer NIT 109). Most of the other 25 committee members are nuclear energy proponents, or at least tolerant of nuclear energy. Nevertheless, some statements critical of the current situation were heard from among the other committee members at the first meeting.
Mihama-1 passes 40 years operationOn November 28 Kansai Electric Power Company’s (KEPCO) Mihama-1 Nuclear Power Plant (PWR, 340MW) passed the 40-year mark. Prior to this, on November 8 the governor of Fukui Prefecture and the Mayor of Mihama Town communicated to KEPCO their consent for the plant to operate for up to ten more years.
On November 24 KEPCO announced its intention to launch its own feasibility study in regard to a replacement for the Mihama-1 reactor. It began the study on December 13 with a survey of the distribution of land plants and animals.
Rush to sign nuclear agreementsSouth Korea: On December 20 Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and South Korean Ambassador Kwon Chul-hyun signed a nuclear cooperation agreement between the two countries. Clause 9 of the agreement, which has not yet been submitted to the Diet for approval, states, “nuclear material recovered or produced as a by-product shall not be enriched to twenty percent or more in the isotope uranium-235 or reprocessed within the jurisdiction of the State of the receiving Party without the prior written consent of the supplying Party.” This is weaker than the same clause of the agreement signed with Jordan on September 10, 2010, which states, “Nuclear material transferred pursuant to this Agreement and nuclear material recovered or produced as a by-product shall not be enriched or reprocessed within the jurisdiction of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.” (Refer NIT 138.)
Vietnam: A bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement between Japan and Vietnam was signed on January 20, but the text has not yet been released.
India: The third round of negotiations for a nuclear agreement between Japan and India were held from November 22-24. Previously negotiations were held in June and October. According to the November 26 edition of the Denki Shimbun (Electric Daily News), official sources said that India would not budge from its claim that “development of nuclear weapons for deterrence is itself peaceful use” and that India was unsympathetic to Japan’s demand that nuclear equipment exported by Japan be used only in facilities covered by IAEA safeguards. Reports were more sanguine after former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi on January 17. Hatoyama was variously reported as saying that negotiations were in the final stages and that Japan wanted wording in the text of the bilateral agreement or associated documents to the effect that India promises not to conduct a nuclear test.
Turkey: A “Memorandum of Cooperation between the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan and the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources of the Republic of Turkey in the Development of a Nuclear Power Program in the Republic of Turkey” was signed on December 24. Turkey is planning to construct nuclear reactors at two sites. Russia will build nuclear reactors at a site in southern Turkey, but it is said that negotiations with South Korea for reactors at a site on the coast of the Black Sea have broken down and that Turkey has turned to Japan instead.
Saudi Arabia: On January 8, during a visit to Saudi Arabia by Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Akihiro Ohata (replaced by Banri Kaieda in a Cabinet reshuffle on January 14), Japan and Saudi Arabia agreed to expand cooperation in the nuclear field. It is expected that they will sign a Memorandum of Cooperation in the near future, but it is unclear when they will sign a legally enforceable bilateral cooperation agreement. The latter is required before Japan can export nuclear material, equipment and technology. To sign such an agreement with Saudi Arabia before it signs and ratifies an Additional Protocol (AP) with the International Atomic Energy Agency would undermine Japanese non-proliferation policy. In a joint submission to last year’s Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference (NPT), Japan and Australia proposed that NPT states, “call on all states to apply this [AP] safeguards standard to the supply of nuclear material and equipment.” However, undoubtedly there is strong pressure from industry to relax this condition, given that in July last year Japanese nuclear power plant maker Toshiba and United States companies Shaw Group and Exelon agreed to jointly bid for contracts for nuclear power projects in Saudi Arabia.
Industry nuclear cooperation agreementsJapan Atomic Power Company (JAPCO) and Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) signed a technical cooperation agreement regarding Thailand’s nuclear power program on November 22. Thailand plans to begin operating its first nuclear power plant (1000MW scale) in 2020 and to have five plants operating by 2030. It is said that four potential sites are being considered.
Kansai Electric Power Company announced on November 17 that it had signed a cooperation agreement with EDF relating primarily to information exchange in the nuclear field, including aging of nuclear power plants.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) announced on December 27 that its US subsidiary Mitsubishi Nuclear Energy Systems had agreed with Dominion to continue pre-construction, engineering and planning work for a US-APWR at Dominion’s North Anna site. Dominion submitted a combined construction permit-operating license application for North Anna-3 to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the end of June 2010, but spokesman Richard Zuercher said on December 27 that the agreement with Mitsubishi does not indicate Dominion intends to build the unit.
Mitsubishi Nuclear Fuel Co. and Areva have formed US Nuclear Fuel, a 50-50 joint venture that plans to produce nuclear fuel in the United States for MHI’s US-APWRs (1700MW).
Toshiba announced on December 21 that it had signed a technical development agreement relating to construction of a nuclear power plant with Finland’s Fennovoima. Along with its subsidiary Westinghouse, Toshiba is proposing a 1600MW ABWR reactor. Fennovoima has also signed a technical development agreement with Areva in regard to its EPR and plans to choose a plant supplier in 2012.
Japanese Electric Power Companies Join French Uranium Enrichment ProjectOn November 4 Kyushu Electric Power Company and Tohoku Electric Power Company announced that they would participate in the George Besse (GB) II uranium enrichment plant, constructed at Tricastin in southern France by Areva NC. They join Kansai Electric Power Company and Sojitz Corporation, which had already invested in the project. On September 17 the four Japanese companies established Japan France Enrichment Investing (JFEI). JFEI gained a stake in GB II by acquiring shares in SET Holdings (the holding company which will operate GB II) from Areva. SET Holdings shareholders are Areva NC (88%), GDF Suez (5%), Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (2.5%), Kansai Electric (2%), Kyushu Electric and Tohoku Electric (1% each) and Sojitz (0.5%).
Permission granted for installation of TEPCO’s Higashidori-1On December 24, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry gave permission to Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to install reactor Higashidori-1 (ABWR, 1385 MW). After receiving permission, on the same day TEPCO submitted an application for approval of the first construction plan. Construction is scheduled to commence in January 2011 with the goal of beginning commercial operation in March 2017.
Stage set for submission of application for permission to install Sendai-3On December 16, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry handed the president of Kyushu Electric Power Company a notice designating Sendai-3 (APWR, 1590MW) as “an important electric power development”. The notice was issued after Kagoshima Prefecture’s governor gave his consent on November 19 and a conference of related ministries on December 9 raised no objections to such a designation. Having received the designation, Kyushu Electric will now commence procedures for applying for permission to install the nuclear reactor.
Pluthermal permission for Tomari-3On November 26, the Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry gave permission to Hokkaido Electric Power Company (HEPCO) for its pluthermal plan in Tomari-3 (PWR, 912MW). Pluthermal will be implemented at Tomari-3 in spring of 2012 at the earliest. On December 1, HEPCO contracted to buy about 40 kilograms of plutonium from Tokyo Electric Power Company for use in MOX fuel. While HEPCO possesses about 68 kilograms of plutonium stored in France, this is insufficient for fabrication of 4 MOX fuel assemblies.
Pluthermal starts at Takahama-3On December 5, eight MOX fuel assemblies were loaded into Kansai Electric Power Company’s (KEPCO) Takahama-3 (PWR, 870MW) reactor. On the 22nd the reactor was activated, on the 23rd it reached criticality, and on the 25th electrical generation began.
Pluthermal postponed in Hamaoka-4On December 6, Chubu Electric Power Company announced that it had postponed implementation of pluthermal at its Hamaoka-4 reactor (BWR, 1137MW). It had planned to start up the reactor with MOX fuel in January 2011 after loading MOX in December 2010 during a periodic inspection.
The reason given for the delay is that the government’s seismic safety evaluation, based on seismic design guidelines revised in 2006 (see NIT 112 and 114), is running behind schedule. Since the loading of new fuel is usually carried out during periodic inspections, the delay could extend to 2012 or beyond.