News Watch 165 March/April 2015 -Nuke Info Tokyo No. 165
Green Light Given for Restarting Takahama Units 3 and 4
Taipower Initiates Public Bidding for Overseas Reprocessing Consignments
New Agreement between Kyoto Pref. and KEPCO
Prosecution of Former Management of TEPCO Dropped Again
Talks Begin on Long-term Energy Demand Outlook
FY 2015 Nuclear Power Budget Bill
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) announced on February 12 that Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama NPP Units 3 and 4 (each PWR, 879 MW) had passed the new regulatory screening. The reactors met the new standards and authorizing modifications in the reactors’ installation. Also needed for their restart will be approval of their construction plans and authorization of changes in their operational safety programs. Agreement is also being sought from the local municipalities, but they are thought to have effectively given the go ahead.
Fukui Prefecture, where the reactors are located, requested that the government meet five conditions for their restart. These five conditions are that citizen understanding be promoted; that there be active involvement in creation of interim storage facilities for spent nuclear fuel outside the prefecture; that a clear understanding be given for the realization of the ratio for nuclear power in the power supply composition, to be determined by the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy (more on this in the articles that follow); that the accident control system be enhanced and reinforced; and that consideration be given to the economy and employment in the area where the reactors are located.
Many members of the prefectural and Takahama Town assemblies favor restarting the reactors. While it is too early to say if they will approve the restarts or not, they are rejecting appeals for disapproval and accepting appeals for approval.
Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower) announced on February 17 that it had initiated public bidding for overseas consignment of the reprocessing of 1,200 spent fuel rods. The deadline is March 16 (postponed till April 8) and the budget is 11.25 billion Taiwanese dollars. According to Taipower, Japan, Russia, Britain and France are eligible to bid.
Taiwan currently has six nuclear reactors in operation among the Jinshan, Kuosheng and Maanshan NPPs. The spent fuel in question is from four reactors at the Jinshan and Maanshan NPPs, both of which have almost entirely filled up their spent fuel pools. Dry cask storage is impossible as well because of strong opposition from residents and municipalities. Taiwan has a fourth nuclear plant, the Lungmen NPP, for which Japanese companies have provided the main equipment, but it faces severe public opposition that may prevent it from operating. The Unit 1 reactor has been completed, but is sealed off for safekeeping, and construction has been halted on the Unit 2 reactor. For this reason, Taipower is preparing to extend the operating lives of the Jinshan and Kuosheng NPPs, whose 40-year authorized lifespans will expire between 2019 and 2023. One of the goals seems to be to ensure sufficient spent fuel pool space, so this is an extremely big problem.
The nuclear trade pact between Taiwan and the US that was extended in June 2014 prohibits enrichment or reprocessing without consent from the US, but the minutes of the pact allow for overseas reprocessing. On March 16, the economic committee of the Legislative Yuan demanded that Taipower suspend the bidding process, and this was accepted by Taipower.
Kyoto Pref., which has seven towns and cities within about 30 kilometers of the Takahama NPP, has been seeking an atomic energy safety agreement from the Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) similar to the one it has with Fukui Pref., where the plant is located, and an agreement was concluded on February 27. While the agreement clearly specifies the authority to express opinions on the restart of accident-stricken reactors, it does not incorporate right of consent. Also, since the above-mentioned restarts of Units 3 and 4 are not restarts of accident-stricken reactors, they would not count as targets for expressing opinions.
On the same day, Taizo Mikazuki, governor of Shiga Pref., where there are similarly two cities within about 30 kilometers of the Takahama NPP and also Lake Biwa, a source of water for the Kansai area, once again expressed his wishes for an agreement similar to that with Fukui Pref.
The Complainants for Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster (CCFN) filed a criminal accusation in June 2012 inquiring into the responsibility for the nuclear accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, but the Tokyo Public Prosecutor’s Office dropped the case in September 2013, and the complainants therefore petitioned the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution. In July 2014, the Tokyo Fifth Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution concluded that three former TEPCO officials, former chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, former vice-president Sakae Muto, and former vice-president Ichiro Takekuro, could be prosecuted. But they recognized that it was an injustice that former director Akio Komori was exempted from prosecution. The prosecutor therefore decided to handle the case through a re-investigation. As a result, the Tokyo Public Prosecutor’s Office reopened the investigation, but on January 22, 2014, dropped charges against all of the defendants once again.
The Tokyo Public Prosecutor’s Office explained that the reasons why the case was dropped were that, in 2008, TEPCO had run test calculations on the assumption of a tsunami of the same scale and height as that which occurred after the Great East Japan earthquake, but the actual depth of inundation in the vicinity of the reactor buildings was several times that which resulted from their calculations. Further, it was said to be hard to acknowledge conditions that would necessarily lead to recognition prior to the accident of the danger of major equipment being inundated at the plant as a result of the occurrence of a tsunami on this scale. The reason the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution had taken predictability seriously was because there was sufficient evidence to show that it had indeed been predicted, and that the results had possibly been fudged.
With the case being dropped by the Tokyo Public Prosecutor’s Office, it will be put before the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution a second time. If it is judged again to be worthy of prosecution, a lawyer appointed by the public prosecutor will forcibly institute legal proceedings.
The CCFN filed a second criminal complaint with the Tokyo Public Prosecutor’s Office on January 13 against nine people, including former members of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) and TEPCO workers. It is based on facts newly revealed at a hearing held by the government’s Nuclear Accident Investigation Committee on the Fukushima disaster.
The Subcommittee for Long-term Energy Demand Outlook was established by the Basic Policy Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy, an advisory body to the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), and on January 30, it began drafting an energy demand outlook for 2030.
Its focus was on the proportion of nuclear energy in the electric power supply. The outlook for demand they were trying to draw up is what is called an “energy mix.” This name indicates a combination of energy sources, including coal, petroleum, natural gas, nuclear, hydropower and other renewables in fixed ratios, and is a new term coined during the process of drafting the Basic Energy Plan, which was approved by the Japanese cabinet in April 2014. There are two mixes, one which considers not only electric power, but energy use overall, including heat utilization and fuel for transport, and the second, which is limited to electric power. It is the electric power energy mix that is of public concern, and is where the proportion of nuclear energy is concentrated.
Even before discussions got underway, the mass media were reporting that METI was tending toward a ratio of 20% or more. If the denominator is reduced through energy savings, even a small amount of nuclear power will boost the ratio. Nonetheless, with more than 40 years having passed since nuclear generation began operating, we hear one person after another calling for reactor decommissioning. No matter how it is promoted, a ratio of 20% or more seems unlikely.
Even so, at least three committee members have declared that 25% would be good. Thirteen members, a majority, appear to agree on 20% or more. If one ignores the realities, 20% or more is not unreasonable. From the point of view of committee members promoting nuclear energy, it doesn’t matter if the ratio does not actually reach 20%. Fifteen percent would be acceptable. In any event, if such a figure is formally adopted, it can then be used to assert the need for the construction of new facilities. Nuclear proponents would find it easy, for example, to use the decommissioning of reactors as a pretext for seeking recognition of the need to build new facilities in place of those decommissioned.
FY 2015 Nuclear Power Budget Bill
Japan’s nuclear power budget bill for fiscal 2015 has been drafted, and the amounts for each ministry and agency compiled by the Atomic Energy Commission plus the costs of regulatory enforcement and disaster countermeasures under the jurisdiction of the Cabinet Office and the Japan Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) came to about 387.5 billion yen, a 4% decrease from the previous fiscal year. Part of the requested budget, however, was moved up from the FY2014 supplementary budget. There are also projects that come under the supplementary budget each year, such as METI’s reactor decommissioning and water contamination countermeasures. The budget for maintenance costs of the Ministry of the Environment’s interim storage facilities, for example, is 75.8 billion yen in the FY2015 budget bill, but when combined with the carry-over from the FY2014 budget of 101.1 billion yen, it essentially amounts to about 120 billion yen. The Great East Japan Earthquake Reconstruction Budget Bill does not include appropriations for nuclear power, but it does for dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. While it is very difficult to get a real picture of the nuclear power budget, the amount being invested is enormous.
Of the approximately 167.1 billion yen for MEXT, 85%, or 141.4 billion yen, will go to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency. About 19.7 billion yen has been allocated for the Monju prototype fast breeder reactor, about the same as for the previous fiscal year. That breaks down to 3.8 billion yen for operation and maintenance and 15.9 billion yen for equipment inspections. The total R&D budget for fast reactors is 29.5 billion yen. Another 4.6 billion yen has been allocated to METI as commissions for R&D on fast reactor technology.
Of 142.5 billion yen for METI, 88%, or 125.1 billion yen is as supportive subsidies for countermeasures in areas where electric power plants are located. The “assumed regulations,” which apply to nuclear power plants that have been stopped as if they were still operating, have been in effect for three consecutive years.
As a new project, the Regional Development Grants for Specified Nuclear Power Facilities in Fukushima, being spent locally on interim storage facilities for decontamination waste from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, come to 9.3 billion yen. The budget for a project launched from FY2014 that supports local infrastructure maintenance in the vicinity of nuclear power facilities, under which the holding of product exhibitions and business meetings is entrusted to private organizations by the government, has been increased by 1.5 billion yen, nearly tripling the budget to 2.3 billion yen. The increase reflects new grants to be made under the condition that the reactors are restarted.
Of the 14.0 billion yen for the Cabinet Office, Emergency Safety Countermeasures Grants, which provide aid to local municipalities for nuclear accident countermeasures, have been increased slightly from the previous fiscal year to 12.2 billion. They have been increased by a further 9.0 billion yen in the FY2014 supplementary budget.
If the 2.8 billion yen in the FY2014 supplementary budget is added to the 57.3 billion yen for the Nuclear Regulation Authority, it comes to about the same as in the previous fiscal year. Of this, 31.6 billion yen is necessary outlays for instituting safeguards.