News Watch 159 March/April 2014 Nuke Info Tokyo No. 159
—100t highly contaminated water leaked at Fukushima Daiichi
—Citizens file for compensation against the suppliers of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors
—Mitsubishi Heavy Industries establishes new Turkey Nuclear IPP Development Department
—Japan–Turkey Nuclear Agreement Questioned
—Revisions to Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund Law and Electric Utility Industry Law Presented to the Diet
—Temporary power loss at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 spent fuel pool
100t highly contaminated water leaked at Fukushima Daiichi
Around 23:25 on February 19, 2014, a worker on patrol found highly contaminated water leaking from a storage tank on the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (FDNPS) premises. 100 tons of concentrated saline water overflowed from the upper part of the tank. The concentration of beta-emitter nuclides in the water was about 240 megabecquerels per liter (MBq/l) and radioactive cesium about 11,500 Bq/l. The leak spilled directly onto the soil outside the embankments by way of rainwater guttering. According to TEPCO, the plan had been to transfer the contaminated water to a different tank, but it was directed to this tank by mistake. There were three acceptance valves in the piping to the tank. Around 0:30 on February 20, two of the three valves that were in the open state were closed, and the rainwater guttering end was covered with plastic bags in order not to allow the contaminated water to leak outside the embankments. As of February 28, about 42 tons of contaminated water had been collected with a vacuum car, and about 100 m3 of contaminated soil had been dug up and collected.
At first the mistaken water transfer was attributed to the failure of the valve that was closed. However, it had actually been opened by someone. It was closed again by someone after the leak occurred. The valves to the tank to which the contaminated water should have been sent had also been opened and closed. It is not known who operated the valves, whether the opening and closing of the valves were mistakes that were later covered up, or whether the actions were intentional. The three valves to the tank that leaked the water were controlled in order to keep them closed. The closure of these valves was not included on the patrol checklist, and this omission was questioned. On February 24, it was revealed at a Nuclear Regulation Authority gathering that in April 2013 TEPCO had instructed that the two valves be kept open for operational efficiency. At 14:01 on February 19, an alarm sounded indicating an excessively high water level. Workers assumed, however, that the alarm had malfunctioned and did not make a visual check of the water level from the top panel of the tank onsite or check the tank water level data that must have been transmitted to the water treatment control room.
This incident once again highlights TEPCO’s poor problem management performance. The company urgently prepared an alarm response manual that was introduced on a provisional basis on February 21.
On January 30, 2014, the Class Action Against the Nuclear Reactor Builders (CAANRB), established in August 2013, filed a lawsuit against General Electric, Toshiba and Hitachi, the suppliers of TEPCO’s FDNPS nuclear reactors, at the Tokyo District Court. They claim compensation for emotional distress. All six FDNPS nuclear reactors were boiling-water reactors (BWR), and the prime contractors were GE for Unit 1 (460 MW); GE-Toshiba for Unit 2 (784 MW) and Unit 6 (1,100 MW); Toshiba for Unit 3 (784 MW) and Unit 5 (784 MW); and Hitachi for Unit 4 (784 MW).
The plaintiff team includes 1,058 individuals from Japan, and 357 from 32 other countries. More plaintiffs are expected to join in the second lawsuit. The Japanese Nuclear Energy Damage Compensation Law limits the responsibilities for damages related to nuclear power stations to electric power companies, exempting manufacturers. The lawsuit is an attempt to disconfirm this exemption.
On February 1, 2014, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) established a new in-house Turkey Nuclear IPP Development Department to reinforce its involvement in the Sinop nuclear power plant (NPP) project planned for the Republic of Turkey. The new department is directly controlled by the company’s Energy & Environment domain headed by Senior Executive Vice President Atsushi Maekawa.
The Sinop NPP project is an independent power producer (IPP) project for the construction and operation of four nuclear power reactors in the Sinop area of Turkey’s Black Sea coast (see page 6). In October 2013, the Turkish government signed a commercial agreement called a host government agreement (HGA) with the international consortium proceeding with the project, thereby reaching agreement on an overall framework. The project is expected to employ the ATMEA1 model reactor, a next-generation nuclear power reactor developed by ATMEA, a joint venture of the French company Areva and MHI. The ATMEA1 is a 1,100 MW pressurized-water reactor (PWR).
The new department will perform tasks including feasibility studies, negotiations concerning various contract agreements, the preparation of a funding scheme, and the planning for localization and technology transfer.
The governments of the Republic of Turkey and Japan signed a nuclear agreement in April 2013 on Japan’s side and in May on Turkey’s side. On January 14, 2014, the Japanese government presented the agreement to the House of Representatives for approval. However, voices opposing the agreement are rising from other countries as well as from the two countries concerned. In November 2013 and February 2014, NGOs in Japan submitted a list of names of groups and individuals who endorsed a statement opposing the agreement to the chairpersons of the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors, and other relevant people. A total of 142 groups and 3,270 individuals (including 1,805 from overseas) endorsed the statement.
Voices of opposition to or concern over the agreement have been raised not only from opposition party diet members but also from those of the ruling parties. The reason why the agreement is controversial is that, compared with Japan’s nuclear agreements with other countries, the agreement with Turkey is weak with respect to nuclear nonproliferation. If this agreement is officially approved, other countries may demand changes to incorporate similar wording.
For example, in the agreements with Jordan and Viet Nam, “technology for and equipment for uranium enrichment, spent nuclear fuel reprocessing, conversion of plutonium and production of material and plutonium shall not be transferred under this Agreement .” In the agreement with Turkey, however, the part preventing proliferation reads: “. . . may be transferred under this Agreement only when this Agreement is amended for that purpose in accordance with paragraph 1 of Article 14.” The agreement with Jordan states that “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 .” The agreement with Viet Nam, which does not entirely ban nuclear proliferation, states: “. . . shall not be enriched or reprocessed within the jurisdiction of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, unless the Parties otherwise agree.” However, the corresponding section in the agreement with Turkey reads: “. . . may be enriched or reprocessed within the jurisdiction of the Republic of Turkey, only if the Parties agree in writing.” The Japanese government has made the excuse that proliferation is not possible without the agreement of Japan, but the nonproliferation clauses in the agreement with Turkey sound more positive about nuclear proliferation. (related issue 1, 2)
The Japanese government has decided to revise the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund Act to reorganize the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund in order to enable it to perform decommissioning activities. The government also decided to revise the Electric Utility Industry Act to enable total liberalization of electric power retailing. After cabinet approval, the government presented the two revised bills to the House of Representatives on February 28, 2014. The government aims to have the bills enacted during the current ordinary session of the Diet.
On February 25, a subterranean power cable was damaged during earthworks near Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Unit 4 building, disrupting power supply. The cooling system for the Unit 4 spent fuel pool was halted for 4 hours and 30 minutes until power supply was restored using another cable. The pool water temperature increase due to the power loss was estimated to be less than 1ºC.