Newswatch ~Nuke Info Tokyo No. 170
Earthquake-related Deaths Top 2,000 in Fukushima Prefecture
Fukushima Prefecture announced on December 25, 2015 that the number of certified “related fatalities” occurring within the prefecture as a result of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in March 2011 had passed 2,000. The number increased by 185 during the past year. Along with health impacts of stress among the refugees arising from the loss of their homes and living long-term in temporary housing, the number of suicides has also increased.
As time passes, it becomes more difficult to determine a cause and effect relationship between evacuee status and fatal outcomes, and there are many cases that have not been certified.
Volume of Contaminated Water Doubles
TEPCO disclosed on December 18, 2015 that the amount of contaminated water at the Fukushima Daiichi NPS had doubled. The sea side water barrier was completed on October 26 to prevent contaminated underground water from flowing into the ocean. However, the underground water flowing through the contaminated area behind the barrier and entering the underground water drains, from which it is pumped up, had a higher than expected concentration of tritium. The cause is said to have been an increase in the amount of water conveyed through the reactor buildings. That had been estimated at about 50 tons per day, but has risen to about 400 tons per day.
While the amount of underground water flowing into the plant has decreased from about 300 to 200 tons per day after operations were started in September to remove water from the sub-drains of the wells around the reactor buildings, exclude some of the radioactive contaminants and discharge it into the sea, the amount flowing through the reactor buildings has doubled to about 600 tons per day.
The possibility of changes in underground water flow due to the pumping up from the sub-drains has been indicated as a cause of the water level rise in the underground water drains.
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) gave an extraordinary advisory to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), the supervisory authority for the Monju prototype fast breeder reactor, on November 13, 2015 regarding the facility, which is owned by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA). The NRA said that the JAEA lacked the ability to operate the plant and requested that a new operator be found within six months or, if that was not possible, that the ministry “fundamentally review” the reactor’s status. Operations first commenced at Monju in August 1995, but were halted in December of that year due to a major sodium leak and fire. They resumed briefly in May 2010 only to be halted again in August when an accident occurred in which a 3.3 ton fuel replacement crane fell into the reactor vessel. During that time, safety regulation violations were noted repeatedly during safety inspections, calling into question the competence of maintenance management. JAEA has received “multiple” safety measure orders, but there has been no improvement whatsoever.
Upon receiving the advisory, MEXT organized meetings of experts to consider the issue, with the first one held on December 28. MEXT is making the continued existence of Monju its top priority, attempting to force through a resolution not in line with the intentions of the NRA.
Citizens seeking Monju’s decommissioning filed a suit against the NRA in the Tokyo District Court on December 25 seeking to have Monju’s reactor installment permit revoked. For legal reasons, the NRA had to be designated as the defendant, despite the favorable intention behind its advisory.
Takahama Units 3 and 4 Headed for Restart
The temporary injunction by the Fukui District Court on April 14, 2015 suspending operations, preventing Takahama Units 3 and 4 (both PWR, 870 MW) from restarting, was overturned on December 24 by a different judge in the Fukui District Court in a decision that recognized all of KEPCO’s objections.
KEPCO wasted no time loading fuel rods, starting the next day, December 25 and continuing to the 28th in preparation for restarting the reactors. Of the 157 fuel assemblies, 24 contain MOX fuel. The governor of Fukui Prefecture told the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry on December 23, the day before the court decision, that he would recognize the restarts. The actions of KEPCO and the governor suggest they knew the details of the decision beforehand.
Application for Plan on Measures to Decommission Genkai Unit 1
The Kyushu Electric Power Company completed its plans for measures to decommission the Genkai Unit 1 reactor (PWR, 559MW) on December 22, 2015 and applied to the NRA for approval. Under the plan, work would begin in FY2016, with dismantling and removal of the buildings and equipment to be completed by FY2043. The total cost is expected to come to about 36.4 billion yen.
Hamaoka NPS Tsunami Wall Completed
A gigantic wall 22 m high and 1.6 km in total length to guard against tsunamis was completed on December 26, 2015 on the sea side of the Hamaoka NPS (two BWRs and one ABWR with a total output of 3,617 MW). Chubu Electric Power Company began constructing the wall in November 2011 as a countermeasure to tsunamis after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in March of that year.
The Hamaoka NPS is located in the hypothetical focal area of a megathrust earthquake predicted for the Nankai Trough, so this wall can in no way be called a sufficient safety countermeasure. The allocation of about 150 billion yen in total construction costs is raising suspicions that the company will try to restart the reactors.
Prospective Areas for High-level Radioactive Waste Disposal Sites to be Proposed in 2016
The government held a ministerial meeting on final disposal on December 18, 2015, where it decided to aim for designation of “scientifically-based prospective areas” by the end of 2016 for the siting of final disposal facilities for high-level radioactive waste. The scientific criteria for prospective areas were established on December 11 by specialists’ working group serving as an advisory body to the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. Currently another working group is establishing social conditions such as restrictions on land use, and when those are ready, the plan calls for drawing up a three-colored map covering all of Japan and dividing it into areas of high suitability, moderate suitability and low suitability.
Prospective areas will be narrowed down in accordance with the colored map, and the government will make proposals for surveys to local governmental bodies. These surveys are to begin with a review of literature over a two-year period and a 1.0 billion yen subsidy. This is not so much an investigative period, but more an effort to gain local consent.
331 kg of Plutonium to be Sent to the Savannah River Site
Based on the March 24, 2014 Joint Statement by the Leaders of Japan and the United States on Contributions to Global Minimization of Nuclear Material, Japan is scheduled to ship plutonium to America in March this year. Most of the 331 kg of plutonium is accounted for by nuclear weapons grade plutonium, which was being used in the JAEA’s fast critical assembly (FCA). The plutonium will be sent to the Savannah River Site facility.
The transfer has been scheduled to coincide with the 4th Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in March, seemingly to extol the success of the 3rd summit in 2014.