News Watch 160 May/June 2014 Nuke Info Tokyo No. 160
— Pumping to Begin at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Ground Water Bypass Plan
— A Mistake or an Intentional Act? Highly Contaminated Water Misrouted
—Hakodate City Files Suit to Halt Construction of Ohma Nuclear Power Station
— Vitrified Residue Returns Shipment Arrives from the UK
— Fukushima Daiichi Decommissioning & Decontamination Engineering Company Inaugurated
— Working Group Compiling a Report on Locations for High-Level Waste Processing Facilities
On April 4, the Fukushima Prefecture Fisheries Cooperative Federation (FPFCF) secured a written response from TEPCO promising strict observance of effluent standards in its plans to divert ground water from the mountain side before it reaches the nuclear plant as a contamination countermeasure at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The FPFCF made a formal decision to accept the response. On April 9, pumping began at special purpose wells. On April 17, however, tritium was detected in excess of standards in water that had been drawn from one of the wells on April 15. Water drawn on April 18 and 22 had returned to within standards, and thus pumping from that well was resumed on April 24. Release of water into the ocean was begun on May 21.
On April 11, the water level failed to rise at a processing building to which contaminated water from a turbine building at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station was being temporarily routed, but instead was falling. An investigation was initiated on April 12 and on April 13 it was discovered that temporary pumps that had been installed in June 2011 as an emergency measure for transferring contaminated water were running, and were thus stopped. On April 14, TEPCO announced that 203 tons of contaminated water had been mistakenly routed to an incineration building. The pump had been actuated by hand, possibly deliberately, but on May 2, TEPCO announced that there was a strong likelihood that it had been human error as a result of mistaking the pump switches for air conditioning equipment switches. Other incidents due to human error have occurred frequently at this nuclear plant, and there continue to be cases which could be either accidental or deliberate.
The Ohma Nuclear Power Station (ABWR, 1,383 MW) being built in Ohma Town, Aomori Prefecture by the Electric Power Development Co. was planned for plutonium-thermal generation as the world’s first commercial nuclear power plant to have all of its reactors equipped to handle MOX fuel. Hakodate in Hokkaido is located just across the Tsugaru Strait from the Ohma Nuclear Power Station, a mere 23 km away. Because the “right to life” of the municipality would be threatened by the effects of an accident at the Ohma Nuclear Power Station, if one were to occur, on April 3, Hakodate City filed a lawsuit in the Tokyo District Court seeking to halt construction of the Ohma Nuclear Power Station, the first time a municipality in Japan has undertaken such a suit.
A ferry connects Hakodate and Ohma, taking an hour and thirty minutes to make the journey, and many of Ohma Town’s citizens travel regularly to Hakodate, which has large hospitals and commercial facilities and other urban functions, for medical care or shopping for daily necessities. In this way, Hakodate and Ohma Town have historically had strong economic and cultural ties.
Vitrified high-level radioactive waste being returned to Japan from the UK, where it had been sent for reprocessing, has arrived in Rokkasho Village, Aomori Prefecture, where it has been transferred to a storage facility belonging to Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. Returns of nuclear waste entrusted to France for reprocessing have ended, but this is the fifth shipment from the UK. The Pacific Grebe departed from the British port of Barrow-in-Furness on February 14, traveled via the Cape of Good Hope and the southwestern Pacific, and arrived at the port of Mutsu-Ogawara on April 22. Two of the transport flasks were unloaded on April 22 and the remaining three on April 23, with the ship departing on the same day, immediately after unloading.
Between ten and twenty people gathered early on the morning of April 22 for a protest rally, but their voices were drowned out occasionally by roars from fighter jets circling on practice runs above the adjacent Amagamori firing range. About 30 people participated in a protest in front of the Aomori Prefectural Government offices.
On April 1, TEPCO established the Fukushima Daiichi Decommissioning & Decontamination (D&D) Engineering Company as an internal entity. The company is attempting to create underground frozen walls as a means of solving the problem of water contamination from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. On April 24, the company announced that it had confirmed the efficacy of frozen soil in small-scale experiments conducted in March through April. The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) says there are safety issues with this, and is not satisfied with TEPCO’s explanation regarding the necessity for underground frozen walls. On May 26, the NRA recognized a partial start to the construction of the walls in June.
The radioactive wastes working group established by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Advisory Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, produced an interim report on April 30 on the problem of high-level radioactive waste disposal. A formal decision was announced on May 23 after revision of the report. Hideyuki Ban, Co-director of CNIC, who is a member of the working group, called for continued deliberation on the basis of the large number of public comments the issue had drawn, but he was overruled and the revision of the report was entrusted to the chairman.
The interim report said that making a necessary thorough review of measures taken so far had been considered, but it rejected the proposed “provisional storage for a period of several tens of years to several hundreds of years” put forth by the Science Council of Japan in September 2012, and the main thrust of the report is reconfirmation of the policy of deep geological disposal.
Furthermore, regarding the disposal site selection process, the interim report says, “The national government must explain the characteristics of the geological environment of the candidate regions from a scientific standpoint, indicating areas which are more highly scientifically suitable, and seek to promote understanding of the site selection.
A conference of the concerned ministers on December 17 of last year determined that the national government should indicate prospective sites based on scientific studies, and then take a leading role in efforts to gain residents’ understanding of the important points and making proposals to a number of regions. It recommended choosing disposal sites through public solicitation of candidate sites, but met with strong criticism from the pro-nuclear faction because little progress was apparent. However, if the government makes proposals without first achieving agreement on nuclear energy policy, the result will only be chaos among the regions and the problem will remain unsolved. It will be necessary first to ascertain anti-nuclear sentiment in order to achieve the other proposal by the Science Council of Japan for “total volume management.”