News Watch 156 Sep./Oct. 2013 Nuke Info Tokyo No. 156
The four Fukushima NPP host towns demand decommissioning of all reactors
Compensation negotiations ongoing for Monju in-vessel transfer machine accident
Basic policies proposed for the Children and Victims Protection Law
Basic directions for restructuring JAEA released
Construction of sodium engineering research facility begun in earnest
The Association of Fukushima Municipalities with Atomic Power Stations, which consists of the four local Fukushima municipal governments of Ōkuma and Futaba Towns, where the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station is located, and Tomioka and Naraha Towns, where the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Station is located, held an extraordinary general meeting on August 9, 2013, where the mayors of the four towns and the chairpersons of their assemblies confirmed the Association’s policy of requesting the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to decommission all ten nuclear power reactors in Fukushima Prefecture.
Of the ten reactors, TEPCO took the decision on April 19, 2012 to decommission Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4 (BWRs, 2,812 MW in total). However, the power company has ignored the request from Fukushima Prefecture to decommission Fukushima Daiichi Units 5 and 6 (BWRs, 1,884 MW in total) and Fukushima Daini Units 1 to 4 (BWRs, 4,400 MW in total), on the excuse that the company will comply with the judgment of the national government.
On September 19, Prime Minister Abe inspected Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and requested that TEPCO also decommission Units 5 and 6 of the plant. TEPCO president Naoki Hirose replied that the company would make a decision before the end of the year.
Concerning the Monju reactor accident that occurred in August 2010, during which an in-vessel transfer machine for fuel replacement fell into the reactor (see NIT 138 and 139), JAEA, the operator of the reactor, filed a petition for conciliation under the Civil Conciliation Act with the Tokyo District Court on August 9, 2013, to negotiate with Toshiba, which produced the device, concerning responsibility and compensation for the accident. JAEA claims that the cost of production, installation, and a functional check test of a substitute device totaled about 2.4 billion yen. Strange to say, the substitute device is also a Toshiba product.
On August 30, 2013, Japan’s Reconstruction Agency released a draft of basic action policies on the implementation of the Statute on Protection and Support for the Children and other Victims of Tokyo Electric Power Company Nuclear Power Plant Disaster (Children and Victims Protection Law). The draft limits the areas to be supported by the law to 33 cities and towns in Fukushima Prefecture, and specifies that the other areas that would require those actions should be designated as secondary support areas for each action. Radioactivity measurements of school lunches is planned to be carried out in 11 prefectures, including Fukushima as well as Iwate, Miyagi, Niigata and Nagano.
The Children and Victims Protection Law was established in June 2012 on the initiative of lawmakers. It was passed unanimously in both the House of Representatives and House of Councilors. However, although more than a year has passed since its passage, the basic government policies have not been established and no specific actions have been taken to implement the law. This draft appeared immediately after the victims filed a lawsuit demanding early implementation of the law on August 22.
On August 30, the victims and supporters organized a press conference and released a joint statement demanding reflection of their views in the basic action policies. The statement also demands that all areas where the annual radiation dose exceeds 1 millisievert should be designated as areas to be supported under the law.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology is planning to restructure the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) after it was revealed that the agency failed to inspect more than 10,000 components in the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor (280 MW), which the agency operates. On August 8, the Ministry’s JAEA Restructuring Head Office released a document named “Basic Directions for Restructuring JAEA.” The document says that, as the only comprehensive nuclear power research and development organization in Japan, the activities of JAEA should be reviewed in consideration of its social missions and responsibilities, and that its current all-inclusive operations should be streamlined, indicating that the particle beam research operation and atomic fusion research and development operation, both of which are part of the current agency, should be separated and might possibly be transferred to other research organizations. JAEA’s functions likely to be emphasized instead include:
Handling of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station accident,
Research into safer nuclear power generation,
Basic and fundamental research on nuclear power generation and the development of personnel to support such research, and
Research and development of the nuclear fuel cycle project with Monju as its focus.
The Ministry says that it plans to propose a new law that will drastically renovate the organization, including a change of the name JAEA. More specific renovation plans will be released from JAEA this autumn.
Concerning the administration of Monju in Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture, the present JAEA Tsuruga Head Office will be abolished and the prototype fast-breeder reactor (FBR) will be placed under the direct control of the JAEA President with top officers in charge of safety stationed in Tsuruga. Along with these changes, the current FBR Research and Development Center will be restructured to form the Monju Power Generation Plant (provisional name). The Monju plant as an organization will exclusively handle the operation and control of the prototype FBR, and contract duties and public communications concerning the prototype reactor are to be handled by the newly established “Monju Plant Support Office” (provisional name). The officers in charge of safety stationed in Tsuruga are to be designated from among those who have experience of serving in plant-manager class positions at private power companies. The division managers and deputy division managers, who have conventionally been staffed by JAEA personnel, are to be replaced by employees of private power companies.
Concerning these basic directions, Fukui Prefecture and Tsuruga City are strongly concerned, indicating that the position of the prototype FBR as a base for world-leading research and development will be tarnished. The local municipal governments have also expressed their discomfort about the expected organizational shift that will place the prototype FBR under the direct control of the president of JAEA, saying that the shift is disrespectful of the local communities. Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka also expressed criticism about the planned JAEA changes at a regular gathering of the Authority on August 14, saying: “It is no good to expect power companies to administrate or direct the organization. Concerning the FBR, power companies are amateurs and know nothing about it at all. As a research organization, JAEA should come up with better measures.”
Although the JAEA restructuring plan has not been established (see above article), JAEA began the full-scale construction of its sodium engineering research facility on August 6, 2013. The agency held a ceremony to set up a column at the construction site adjacent to the Monju prototype FBR in Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture, on that day. The purpose of the facility is to assist the safe and stable operation of the reactor. The facility is scheduled to start operation in FY2014. It will have about six tons of sodium onsite as well as testing equipment, such as pipes and tanks, in which the sodium will be circulated.