News Watch 141 March/April 2011 Nuke Info Tokyo No. 141

Permission to operate Fukushima I Unit 1 beyond 40 years granted – one month before it was wiped out by an earthquake and tsunamiOn March 26 it would have been 40 years since commercial operations began for reactor Fukushima I Unit 1 (BWR, 460MW). Permission to continue operations beyond that date was given on February 7 by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. It was the third reactor in Japan for which permission was granted to extend operations beyond 40 years. The other two were Mihama-1 (NIT 140) and Tsuruga 1 (NIT 135).
JAPCO: the best laid schemes of mice and menOver the past few months Japan Atomic Power Company (JAPCO) has been signing nuclear cooperation agreements left right and center with companies in countries wishing to develop nuclear power programs for the first time.

Agreements with Thailand, Kazakhstan and Vietnam were reported in NIT 139 and 140. On February 16 this year JAPCO announced that it had confirmed details with Electricity of Vietnam relating to the provision of information and technical support for a feasibility study covering two nuclear power plants referred to in an October 31, 2010 joint statement by Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (see NIT 139). Then on March 3 the Denki Shimbun (Electric Daily News) reported that in January JAPCO had applied to carry out a feasibility study for the Indonesian Government.

However any rewards JAPCO might have hoped to reap as a result of these agreements are drifting away like a mouse on a tsunami. Representatives of the Thai and Indonesian governments have expressed caution since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear earthquake disaster. Vietnam asserted that it was determined to proceed with its plans, but, rhetoric aside, it is hard to imagine that its nuclear power program will be unaffected by the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi. Even if Vietnam proceeds as planned, Japan’s image as a safe operator of nuclear power plants has been severely tarnished and its ability to provide cheap finance will be challenged by the massive cost of recovery from the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. (See page 1.)

Cost Increases at Monju, Rokkasho Reprocessing PlantOn February 14, Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) announced costs of 1.38 trillion yen to recover the relay device that fell into the core of Monju’s nuclear reactor vessel. Recovery of the fallen relay device is expected to cost about 0.94 trillion yen and a newly fabricated device for relay use is expected to cost about 0.44 trillion yen.

On February 21, at a meeting of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission’s nuclear policy planning council, Yoshihiko Kawai, President of Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL), announced a cost increase of about 200 trillion yen as a result of the two-year delay in completing construction of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant. However he explained that an investment in September last year of 400 trillion yen for debt reduction would, in the long-run, only represent a small minus, because of the consequent reduction in interest payments of about 200 trillion yen.

Monju official commits suicideOn February 14, the dead body of a 57 year-old man who was in charge of the fuel environment of FBR prototype Monju (280MW) was found in the mountains of Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture. He went missing on the 13th and it is presumed that he committed suicide. He was in charge of recovering a relay device that accidentally fell into the core of Monju’s nuclear reactor. Also at Monju, after the 1995 sodium leak and fire accident responsibility for falsified reports fell on a public relations executive, who then committed suicide.
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