News Watch 162 Sep./Oct. 2014 Nuke Info Tokyo No. 162
— Designated Waste Accepted for Interim Storage in Fukushima
— Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. Launched
— Electric Power Companies Considering Decommissioning Old Reactors
— Application for Review of Compatibility of Shika Unit 2 with New Regulatory Requirements
— Nuclear Disaster Prevention Drills in Fukui
— Japan and Kazakhstan Sign Nuclear Power Cooperation Memorandum
— JAEA to Cooperate with Indonesian Agency to Develop High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor
— Hitachi to Conduct Joint Research with Three American Universities
— Judgment Recognizing Causality of Nuclear Accident in Suicide Binding
On September 1, Governor Yuhei Sato of Fukushima Prefecture told Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he would accept the government’s plans to build interim storage facilities in the towns of Okuma and Futaba in his prefecture for storing wastes such as soils contaminated with radioactivity as a result of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and collected in decontamination efforts. One condition is that permanent disposal facilities be built outside the prefecture within 30 years, but there are no prospective sites whatsoever for such facilities.
There is a large amount of contaminated waste within the prefecture, and furthermore, there are no temporary storage sites, with no small amount of it being kept locally at individual houses, offices, school districts, children’s facilities, parks, etc. For the prefecture, accepting storage facilities was a painful choice. Upon accepting them, it received a total of 301 billion yen from the government designated for regional development plans.
The Nuclear Damage Compensation Facilitation Corporation, which was established after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and has taken over management of TEPCO’s compensation fund, exceeding 5 trillion yen, has had another mechanism to support TEPCO’s decommissioning measures added to it, and was relaunched on August 18 as the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation (NDF). The first meeting of Decommissioning Strategy Board, which plays a core role in the NDF’s decommissioning section, was held on August 21, and Shunsuke Kondo, director of NUMO and former chairperson of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, was elected chairperson.
On September 5, Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported that the Kansai Electric Power Co. has begun considering decommissioning Unit 1 (PWR, 340 MW) and Unit 2 (PWR, 500 MW) at its Mihama Nuclear Power Plant. On the same day, Kyodo News sent a release that the Kyushu Electric Power Co. was also considering decommissioning Unit 1 (PWR, 550 MW) at its Genkai Nuclear Power Station. More than 40 years have passed since the Mihama NPP Units 1 and 2 passed their pre-operation inspections, and the Genkai Unit 1 reaches the 40-year mark this year.
Petitions to the Nuclear Regulatory Authority for approval of extended operation of nuclear reactors that have been in operation for more than 40 years and those that will exceed 40 years by July 2015 must be filed between April and July of 2015. A total of seven reactors falls into that category, including Tsuruga Unit 1 (BWR, 357 MW), Takahama Units 1 and 2 (both PWR, 826 MW) and Shimane Unit 1 (BWR, 460 MW), in addition to Mihama Units 1 and 2 and Genkai Unit 1. It was announced on March 27 at a press conference with the president of the Chugoku Electric Power Co. that decommissioning of the Shimane Unit 1 reactor was under consideration.
One reactor after another is reaching the 40-year mark. Each of Japan’s electric power companies is facing decisions on whether to decommission or not.
On August 12, the Hokuriku Electric Power Co. filed an application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for reviewing the compatibility of Shika Unit 2 (ABWR, 1358 MW) with the new regulatory requirements as a prerequisite for renewed operation. It has also proposed consultation with Ishikawa Prefecture and the town of Shika to gain their consent to changes to facilities based on safety conventions.
On August 31, Fukui Prefecture conducted nuclear disaster prevention drills at Takahama Unit 3 (PWR, 870 MW), on the supposition that a reactor core damage accident had occurred. There was a record high participation of 2,083 prefectural residents in the drill, and for the first time, evacuation of residents was tested in two stages, from the zone within about five kilometers from the nuclear power plant, followed by evacuation from the zone of five to 30 kilometers from the plant. Participants expressed the view that in the event of a real accident, if residents living outside the five-kilometer zone were trying to evacuate at the same time that directions to evacuate the five-kilometer zone were issued, evacuation of the five-kilometer zone would not proceed smoothly.
On August 8, Toshimitsu Motegi, at that time Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, visited Kazakhstan, where he signed a memorandum on cooperation in the nuclear power field with Minister of Energy Shkolnik. At the same time, he also confirmed future cooperation in the resources and energy field, including construction of a nuclear power plant, with Prime Minister Massimov.
On August 4, JAEA announced that it had entered an agreement with Indonesia’s National Atomic Energy Agency (BATAN; Badan Tenaga Nuklir Nasional) for R&D cooperation on a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor. JAEA has also concluded a similar cooperative agreement with the National Nuclear Center RK (NNC) in Kazakhstan.
On August 28, Hitachi announced it had embarked on joint research with three American universities on the use of transuranium elements (TRU) as a fuel for resource-renewable boiling water reactors (RBWR). One attribute said to distinguish RBWR from fast reactors is that they can be developed on the basis of boiling water reactor technology, which has proven successful in current commercial reactors.
Hitachi’s joint research partners are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Michigan and University of California, Berkeley. The research began in July and will continue until March 2016.
On August 26, in a case brought by the family of a Fukushima woman (58 at the time) who committed suicide after being compelled to evacuate due to the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi, the Fukushima District Court recognized the causality of the nuclear accident in the woman’s suicide, and passed judgment ordering TEPCO to pay damages of 49 million yen. TEPCO made clear that it would not appeal the judgment, apologizing directly to the woman’s family on September 8.