At a meeting on 21 September, the Cabinet decided to decomission the Monju fast breeder reactor. The Chief Cabinet Secretary announced at the end of the meeting that an expert panel will be set up to review the entire Monju project. It is expected to officially announce the decommisioning by the end of the year. The Cabinet decision comes after the Nuclear Regulation Authority declared last November that the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) was unfit to manage Monju and demanding the the government find a new operator or scap the project. The government has been unable to find someone willing to take on the trouble-ridden project.
Despite Monju’s demise, the Cabinet reaffirmed its committment to the nuclear fuel cycle. Monju was one of the main pillars of the nuclear fuel cycle, where plutonium reprocessed from spent fuel was to be used, but with the its failure, concerns will likely rise over Japan’s plutonium stockpile, which amounts to nearly 50 tons.
As reported in further detail in an article on page 8, Gov. Satoshi Mitazono of Kagoshima Prefecture, newly elected in the July 10th election, requested Kyushu Electric Power Co. on August 26 to shut down Sendai Nuclear Power Station (NPS) Units 1 and 2 (both PWR, 890 MW) for inspection and verification out of consideration of concerns by the prefecture’s citizens resulting from the recent Kumamoto earthquakes. Kyushu Electric Power did not comply with the request for an immediate shutdown in its reply on September 5, but said it would conduct special inspections voluntarily along with the planned periodic inspections on October 6 for Unit 1 and December 16 for Unit 2. Dissatisfied with that, Gov. Mitazono repeated his request on the 7th, to which Kyushu Electric Power replied on the 9th that there would be no changes in its shutdown schedule, but that it would set up a full-time team in charge of all inspections and would go ahead with any of the special inspections that could be performed before the periodic inspections.
Kyushu Electric Power also informed Saga Prefecture, where the Genkai NPS is located, on September 6 that it would perform special inspections of Units 3 and 4 there (both PWR, 1180 MW), but has not decided yet when they would be performed. It was decided to decommission Genkai Unit 1 (PWR, 559 MW) on April 27, 2015, and regarding Unit 2 (also PWR, 559 MW), no request has been made for the inspection for compliance to the new standards toward restarting as of September 2016.
A total of 132 canisters of vitrified high-level radioactive waste departed from the Port of Barrow for Japan on September 1 to return Japan’s portion of spent fuel that had been reprocessed at the Sellafield reprocessing plant in the UK. They are expected to reach Mutsuogawara Port in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, in the latter half of October, and from there will be taken to the Japan Nuclear Fuel, Ltd. high-level radioactive waste storage management center in Rokkasho.
Photo by Ryohei KataokaThe number of canisters of waste that have been returned for storage from the La Hague reprocessing plant in France is 1310, and when the current shipment arrives, Japan will have received 520 of the 1000 canisters it is scheduled to receive from the UK (about 150 of the remainder scheduled for return contain low-level waste in accordance with agreed-upon radiologically equivalent substitution practices).
Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy, Ltd., came to an agreement with the National University of Malaysia (UKM) and Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN) on August 4 to implement a program for cultivating human resources in the field of nuclear power. They are also coordinating with Tokyo Institute of Technology, which has cooperative agreements with both universities.
Seminars led by lecturers from Hitachi-GE and Tokyo Institute of Technology are planned to be held at both universities for students majoring in nuclear power and researchers or other specialists at nuclear power-related institutes in Malaysia.
To foster young leadership, the IAEA has held a “Nuclear Energy Management School” annually or two to three times a year in Trieste, Italy and in other countries since 2010. In 2014, the IAEA also started organizing the School in Japan each year, hosted by Japanese organizations.
This year, it was held on July 11 to 27 at the University of Tokyo and the Wakasa Wan Energy Research Center in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture. The host institutions included the Nuclear Human Resource Development Network, JAEA, the University of Tokyo Nuclear Engineering and Management Department International Nuclear Specialization, JAIF, the JAIF International Cooperation Center and Wakasa Wan Energy Research Center, and the School was cosponsored by the IAEA. The trainees attending included 17 people from 13 countries abroad, mostly Asia, ranging in age from 27 to 43, and 15 Japanese from electric power companies, manufacturers, the JAEA and the Ministry of Defense, who ranged in age from 27 to 50. The courses included lectures, group work and facility tours, as well as an exchange meeting with high school students in Fukui Prefecture.
It has been learned that of the waste materials resulting from the dismantling of Hamaoka NPP Units 1 (BWR, 540 MW) and 2 (BWR, 840 MW), which were decommissioned on January 30, 2009, there are about 8 tons with radioactivity below the clearance levels thus exempted from being regulated as radioactive waste (the average clearance level is around 10μSv per year but the official levels are expressed in Bq and are different for each category of waste). The local Shizuoka Shimbun daily on July 15 reported that Chubu Electric Power Co. will try storing this waste outdoors temporarily. Waste with higher levels of radioactivity is being stored inside buildings at the plant.
The new company mentioned in the News Watch column of Issue 172 that was to expand nuclear power equipment and parts exports to China was established on July 20. The new company’s name is International Nuclear Power Equipment and Components (NPEC), and for the present, it will work jointly with Hayan County and China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC) in China as an export liaison. Furthermore, in the future, it has its sights on building a global nuclear supply chain data infrastructure, including for exports to countries other than China.