News Watch (NIT No. 172)

Establishing a liaison for exports to China
In an article dated March 23, The Denki Shimbun (a Japanese daily newspaper covering energy and electricity) reported that Japan’s nuclear energy industry had teamed up to organize a system for exports to China and were floating the idea of setting up a consortium. Coordinating with efforts by China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC) to create a supply base for nuclear power equipment and parts in Hayan County, Zhejiang Province, their idea is to establish a joint venture with a Chinese corporation in that area to import to the Chinese market. A delegation organized by the Japan Engineers Federation is said to have visited Hayan County in April and held talks with the CNNC and Hayan County People’s Government.
  China’s rush to build nuclear power plants continues and they are also trying to expand their own exports. Many Japanese small-to-medium sized firms, wanting to take part in this business opportunity, are keen to export nuclear plant parts to China, but they hesitate because of the complicated contractual procedures and the burden some negotiations with the Chinese. To facilitate these matters, the consortium being established under the tentative name of “International Nuclear Power Equipment & Components” aims to serve as a liaison and smooth the way for making inroads into the Chinese market.
As tremors in Kumamoto and Oita continue…
The earthquakes that started on April 14 in Kumamoto Prefecture, Kyushu, with a magnitude of 6.5, followed by one of 7.3, are continuing. The tremors frequently reach up to magnitude 5.9, some of which have been centered in the adjoining Oita Prefecture. These have resulted in enormous damage, including landslides, and it is feared that there may be more large aftershocks or induced seismicity in the future, with the possibility of increased volcanic activity.
  Located nearby are Shikoku Electric Power Company’s Ikata NPP and Kyushu Electric Power Company’s Genkai and Sendai NPPs. Sendai Units 1 and 2 are the only reactors currently in operation in Japan, and the earthquakes’ occurrence within a stone’s throw of Kagoshima Prefecture might be considered to have some kind of mystical significance.
  The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) held a special session on April 18 to discuss conditions at the nuclear facilities. They couldn’t have overlooked public opinion in favor of halting the Sendai reactors; and of course, many were expressing concern over the Ikata NPP, located on an extension of the Median Tectonic Line traversing Japan, along which the earthquakes have been occurring.
  Regrettably, their conclusion was that under the conditions at that time there was no need to halt the reactors at the Sendai NPP. However, when a series of strong tremors continues as it has in Kumamoto and Oita, with tremors also extending into distant areas, if an accident were to occur at one of these nuclear plants, efforts to bring the situation under control inside and outside the facilities could be impeded, and evacuation of residents, already a difficult prospect, could be made even harder. Such factors were not considered at all by the NRA in its examination of compliance with the new regulatory standards.
Experts contradict each other completely regarding the effects of the tremors on volcanism and the spread of the seismic focal region. We must bear in mind once again that more remains unknown about earthquakes than known.
Suit filed to prohibit operation of Takahama reactors beyond 40 years
Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) filed requests with the NRA on April 30, 2015, seeking permission to extend the operating period of Takahama units 1 and 2 by 20 years. 41 years have elapsed since operation of Unit 1 (PWR, 826 MW) began, and more than 40 years in the case of Unit 2 (also PWR, 826 MW). Japan’s Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law was revised in 2012, making the operating period for nuclear reactors 40 years as a general rule. If a petition is made to the NRA for approval, however, and approval is granted, this can be extended for a maximum of 20 years one time only. Reactors already exceeding 40 years in operation would be considered to have operated 40 years as of July 7, 2016, three years after the revisions went into effect. This is why KEPCO has filed the requests for approval.
  Such extensions, though, are supposed to be the exception, so on the premise that approval should not be granted easily, about 80 citizens of Fukui, Aichi and other prefectures filed a suit in the Nagoya District Court in Aichi Prefecture on April 14 seeking an injunction against approval of these extensions. A number of lawsuits have been filed regarding nuclear plants (see pages 1-3), but this is Japan’s first lawsuit seeking to prohibit approving extension of operating periods.
Actualizing sub-seabed deep geological disposal
The Agency of Natural Resources and Energy submitted a draft report on April 19 to the third meeting of the Study Group on Technical Issues Associated with Geological Disposal in Coastal Areas. The report deems the realization of this type of disposal of radioactive waste is possible. Excavation would proceed from land, it says, so it would not be in violation of the London Convention and Protocol prohibiting disposal of radioactive wastes at sea.
  Upon learning of these conclusions, the mayor of Genkai Town, Saga Prefecture, where the Kyushu Electric Power Company’s Genkai NPP is located, was reported to have changed his mind regarding insufficient space in his town for creating a high-level radioactive waste disposal site (Mainichi Shimbun, April 27, 2016). Reactions to his comment are growing, within the town and beyond, but the mayor denies any intention to invite such developments.
Fukushima Fishermen Opposed to Proposed Release of Tritium into Ocean
At a meeting of the Tritiated Water Task Force of METI’s Committee on Countermeasures for Contaminated Water Treatment held on April 19, a comparison was made of disposal methods for tritium remaining in water from the Fukushima Daiichi NPP after multi-nuclide removal. As a result of calculating the requirements for deep geological injection, oceanic release, evaporative atmospheric release, electrolyzed atmospheric release and cementation with land burial, it was found that oceanic release would require the least amount of time and enable low-cost disposal. However, everyone from the head of the Fukushima Prefecture Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives to the leaders and membership of the member fisheries unions unanimously opposed this, and the prefecture has requested that the matter be handled with care.
Unfair Judgement in Umeda Trial
The Fukuoka District Court, on April 15, rejected a suit filed by former nuclear plant worker Ryusuke Umeda, a Fukuoka resident, seeking workers’ compensation. Umeda was involved in work on piping as part of periodic inspections at the Shimane and Tsuruga NPPs in 1979. After completing the inspections, Umeda suffered nosebleeds, nausea, vertigo and general malaise of unknown origin, and testing at Nagasaki University confirmed internal exposure to cobalt, manganese, cesium and other radionuclides. He received a miniscule amount of compensation from his former subcontractor company, but having been deprived of his health, Umeda had to give up the career he had proudly pursued as a plumber.
  Umeda suffered a myocardial infarction in 2000 and resolved to apply for workers’ compensation for occupational injuries, but this was denied (see NIT No. 139). He then filed suit in the Fukuoka District Court in February 2012. In the course of nearly four years of deliberations, testimony by Umeda and other similarly exposed laborers has revealed the conditions nuclear plant workers had to deal with then, more than 30 years ago (see NIT No. 168).
  The Fukuoka District Court, however, refused to consider the testimony of Umeda and other nuclear plant workers. The court completely denied the fact of falsification of the workers’ dose records, and recognized Umeda’s recorded dose level of 8.6 mSv, denying a causal relationship between that and his myocardial infarction. Proceedings have moved on to the Fukuoka High Court, with Umeda determined to continue his battle for as long as he lives for the sake of other workers, who are being exposed even now in Fukushima.
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