On November 11 in Tokyo, the India-Japan Nuclear Cooperation Agreement was signed, amidst loud protests outside the Japanese Diet, and in cities across India. For Japan, the only country to have suffered nuclear attack, this represents the abandoning of its fundamental policy of supporting the Non-Proliferation Treaty and working towards a world free of nuclear weapons. India is a nuclear-weapon state, having used ‘peaceful purpose’ nuclear materials provided by other countries to conduct nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998. Yet Japan signed the deal without even including a cause that would allow Japan to cease all nuclear cooperation if India broke its self-imposed moratorium and conducted another nuclear test. Instead, the agreement allows either party to terminate the agreement with one year’s notice, a much weaker position for Japan. This deal had been eagerly awaited by global nuclear corporations, as they will now be able to access vital components available from Japan, and actually begin India’s planned massive nuclear expansion. However, the people in India who will lose their land and livelihoods to these NPPs, and will also be exposed to safety risks, strongly decried the deal, calling it a ‘disaster.’
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) on November 16 approved an extension of the operating period of Kansai Electric Power’s (KEPCO’s) Mihama Unit 3 (PWR, 826 MW) to 60 years. Prior to that, on October 5, amendments to the reactor’s license were approved, meeting the new regulatory standards, and on October 26, revisions in its construction plan were also approved.
Kyushu Electric Company has refused requests from Governor Satoshi Mitazono of Kagoshima Prefecture, newly elected on July 10, to shut down Sendai Units 1 and 2 (both PWR, 890 MW), but from October 8, the Unit 1 reactor was shut down for its periodic inspection as scheduled. The “special checks” the company has proposed in response to the governor’s request are being conducted concurrently. The reactor is planned to come back on line on December 11, with Unit 2 being shut down from December 16 for its periodic inspection.
The four companies, Hokkaido Electric Power, KEPCO, Shikoku Electric Power and Kyushu Electric Power, that own pressurized water reactors (PWR) announced on October 19 that they had entered a technical cooperation agreement for improving the reactors’ safety. Each company had been exchanging information with entities overseas on its own, on the basis of which they say they plan to share knowledge and knowhow.
There have also been reports that they may consider establishing a joint venture, but all four companies have denied this.
The Pacific Grebe, laden with 132 canisters of vitrified high-level waste (HLW) being returned from the UK, arrived on October 20 in the port of Mutsu-Ogawa in Rokkasho-mura, Aomori Prefecture. The vitrified HLW was transported to Japan Nuclear Fuel, Ltd.’s (JNFL’s) High-Level Radioactive Waste Storage Center , where unloading was completed on October 22.
This is the sixth shipment from the UK; all of the scheduled returns of radioactive waste from France have been completed.
The Fukushima-Minpo local daily of Fukushima Prefecture reported on October 24 that more than 83,000 tons of water had collected in buildings at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, with another approximately 917,000 tons being held in tanks. The amount of contaminated water is certain to increase in the future, with a shortage of tanks continuing.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is funding courses at two universities in Vietnam. In the current academic year, it held lectures spanning about three weeks during August to October at Vietnam’s Electric Power University. It has also initiated scholarship grants to students with excellent academic results to advance to Japanese graduate schools for study abroad. It is holding about two weeks of lectures during November at Hanoi University of Science and Technology. This contribution to the development of human resources in nuclear power is part of plans for Vietnam to purchase the ATMEA 1 medium-sized PWR reactor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries developed jointly with Areva of France.
A bill, however, was submitted to the National Assembly of Vietnam on November 11, seeking total retraction of all plans for nuclear power. It was adopted on November 22. The reasons given for this about-face include financial difficulties, with construction costs exceeding estimates, and concerns about radioactive waste.
Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy, a joint venture between Hitachi Ltd. of Japan and General Electric of America, announced on October 31 that an agreement had been reached with Imperial College London and Bangor University on technical support to their researchers. To implement the Wylfa B plan for constructing Britain’s first BWR, the two universities established a BWR research network in June. The technical support being considered includes dispatching researchers from Hitachi to the network and providing internships for UK students in Japan.
The Nuclear Reprocessing Organization of Japan was established on October 3 as a new spent fuel reprocessing venture. It is an organization authorized by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry under the Spent Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Implementation Act, which was approved on May 11. Its operations are entrusted to the JNFL, funded by obligatory contributions from each electric power utility.