News Watch 167 July/Aug 2015 -Nuke Info Tokyo No. 167
On July 7-10, the Kyushu Electric Power Company loaded 157 nuclear fuel assemblies into the Sendai NPS Unit 1 reactor (PWR, 890 MW), which is undergoing official inspection by the Nuclear Regulation Authority prior to resuming operation. The company is expected to restart this reactor in mid-August, generating and transmitting electricity in test runs with gradually increasing power, commencing commercial operation in mid-September.
A subcommittee of the Electric Power Development Coordination Council issued a draft energy supply and demand outlook for FY2030 on June 1, and solicited public comments on it for one month. The energy source ratios, which were the focal point, are 20 to 22% from nuclear, 22 to 24% from renewable energy sources (whereby if the former is greater, the latter is less), with 27% LNG-powered, 26% coal-powered, and 3% petroleum-powered.
There is no way to achieve such a ratio for nuclear power except by restarting all of the idled reactors, which presupposes continued operation of reactors past the 40 year limit, stipulated as exceptional under Japan’s Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law. New construction is said not to be under consideration, but it is plain to see that they are insisting against reason that reactors under construction and others for which construction permits have been issued “are not new additions.”
Another big problem is that coal-powered energy is emphasized.
The energy mix plan was finalized on July 16.
The Fukushima Daiichi NPS decommissioning work schedule created by Japan’s government and TEPCO (medium-to-long-term road map) was revised on June 12 for the first time in two years. The work schedule was first drawn up in December 2011, with revisions made in July 2012 and June 2013. The previous revisions accelerated and gave shape to the schedule under the direction of Toshimitsu Motegi, who was then Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. This, however, put a burden on the workers, leading conversely to delays, and therefore the new revisions have laid out a stance emphasizing reduction of adverse risks to people and the environment.
Looking at the actual circumstances, the work schedule can be said not to have been grounded in reality from the start. Removal of fuel rods from the Unit 3 spent fuel pool, which was supposed to have started in June 2015, is being delayed until the latter half of 2017. This was because, despite decontamination efforts, radioactivity at the pool continued to remain above a certain level, necessitating difficult tasks such as installing shielding plates over the collapsed walls. One problem after another occurred, including leaks of contaminated water and accidents involving workers.
On the other hand, though removal of debris (fuel and other fused materials), which was scheduled to commence in early FY2020 for Units 1 and 2 and late FY2021 for Unit 3, was rescheduled for FY2021 for one of the three reactors, this appears to be just a minor delay. One wonders if they are thinking that more revisions are likely anyway, so the work can be delayed further when the time comes. Since no one knows where or in what form the debris is in any of these three reactors, it cannot be said that the current schedule is based in reality either.
As decommissioning measures have advanced and progress has been made in decontaminating the evacuated areas, the policy of repatriating residents to areas with high annual radiation dose levels of 20 mSv is being accelerated. The cabinet resolution “Towards Acceleration of Fukushima’s Recovery from the Nuclear Accident” was passed on June 12, the same day as he work schedule revision. Evacuation orders for the Restricted Habitation Areas and Evacuation Directive Lift Prepared Area are to be lifted by March 2017. They are attempting to further strengthen policies of effectively abandoning people to their own devices under the nice-sounding names of “new life support” and “support for independence and rebuilding of businesses, livelihoods and lives.”
On the basis of these revisions, on June 15, Fukushima Prefecture mapped out a policy of ending the provision of free-of-charge temporary housing and privately leased housing by March 2017. TEPCO decided on June 17 to end compensation for psychological damage to residents of the areas for which evacuation orders had been lifted by March 2018.
The entire population of Naraha Town, Fukushima Prefecture remains evacuated under orders following the Fukushima nuclear accident, and the government’s local nuclear emergency response headquarters has announced its decision to lift these evacuation orders on September 5. The lifting of the orders was initially declared for early August, but there was such an outburst of concerns and opposition expressed at the ward chief administrators’ meeting and residents’ round-table conference in June that on July 2, the town council requested State Minister Yosuke Takagi of METI at the local nuclear emergency response headquarters not to lift the orders until the environment for the residents’ return was in sufficiently good order. In response to these concerns, the lifting of the orders has been delayed by about three weeks, but the residents are not satisfied.
Claiming that lifting the evacuation encouragement point designation on the basis of a dose of 20 mSv/y is in violation of the law, on April 17, 534 residents of 132 households of Minamisoma City, Fukushima Prefecture filed a lawsuit in the Tokyo District Court against the government of Japan requesting the lifting of the designation be rescinded. Evacuation encouragement points are specific points from which evacuation is encouraged, but which lie outside of evacuation order zones, which refer to entire areas. This is the first battle in a court of law with regard to the lifting of evacuation orders or evacuation encouragement.
The return to Japan of high-level radioactive vitrified waste which it had entrusted to Britain and France for spent fuel reprocessing has proceeded with 1,310 casks having been brought in from France to the storage facilities in Rokkasho-mura, Aomori Prefecture. Following that, waste was also brought back from Britain, with 264 casks having arrived so far. Another shipment is scheduled for arrival in September.
This shipment will consist of 124 casks belonging to three companies, TEPCO, Kansai Electric Power Co. and Kyushu electric Power Co. Ultimately, the return of 1,000 casks is planned.
The Federation of Nuclear Accident Victims’ Organizations (abbreviated as “Hidanren”) was founded on May 24 by nuclear accident victims in Japan who have filed suits or taken other action seeking compensation for damages and clarification of responsibility for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. It held a meeting in Nihonmatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture to mark its establishment. It consists of 13 organizations, including ten groups throughout Japan and three observer groups, and may expand in the future.
Hidanren says its goals are to “obtain an apology to the victims from TEPCO and Japan’s government,” to “ensure the victims are completely compensated and can recover their lives and livelihoods,” as well as “implementation of detailed medical examinations for the victims, with medical security and reduction of exposure levels,” and “pursuit of responsibility for the accident.” It adopted a founding manifesto of “Overcoming various forms of fragmentation and combining our strength to fight for restoration of our wounded dignity.”
In Futaba Town, one of the towns hosting TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi NPS, there is a signboard hanging over the town entrance with large letters saying, “Nuclear Power: Energy for a Bright Future.” The slogan’s originator (who was then an elementary school student) learned that a budget had been allocated in the current fiscal year for its removal, and on June 8, he submitted a petition with 6,502 signatures seeking the permanent preservation of the signboard in its location as an embarrassing legacy.
In response, the mayor said that the signboard’s removal could not be avoided, because it was deteriorating and in danger of falling down, but he indicated that he was considering preserving it in a condition in which it could be restored, with a view to displaying it in the future.
Negotiations toward conclusion of a nuclear cooperation pact between Japan and India got underway in June 2010, and on June 18, Kyodo News ran an article saying that Japan’s government had relayed to India’s government its intention to recognize reprocessing by India of spent fuel used in the nuclear reactors Japan was to provide. As a check on diversion for military utilization, Japan is requesting that a record of the amount of plutonium retrieved and the location of its storage be presented each year, but India has rejected that. Ways around this impasse continue to be sought behind the scenes.
Chubu Electric Power Co. applied on June 16 to the Nuclear Regulation Authority of Japan for a review of the Hamaoka NPS Unit 3 reactor (BWR, 1,100 MW) to ascertain its conformity to the new regulatory safety requirements in preparation for a restart of operation. This is the second reactor at the Hamaoka plant for which it has filed such an application, the first being Unit 4 reactor (BWR, 1,137 MW) in February 2014. The Nuclear Regulation Authority opened its first investigation of the Unit 3 reactor on June 23 and indicated its intention to give priority to its review of the Unit 4 reactor, which is currently in progress.