News Watch

Takahama Unit 4 Reactor Restarted
Kansai Electric Power Co.’s (KEPCO’s) Takahama Unit 4 reactor (PWR, 870 MW) was restarted on May 17. It began power transmission on the 22nd and full operation on the 25th. Following up, KEPCO aims to restart Unit 3 (also PWR, 870 MW) in early June.
  Together with Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai Units 1 and 2 (both PWR, 890 MW) and Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata Unit 3 (PWR, 890 MW), which have previously resumed operation, this will make five nuclear reactors that have been restarted in Japan. All of them are pressurized water reactors (PWR). Not one boiling water reactor (BWR) has yet been restarted.
Fukui Buddhist Priest Goes on Hunger Strike
As a protest against the restart of Takahama NPP, the priest at Myoutsuji Temple in Obama City, Fukui, Tetsuen Nakajima, went on hunger strike. Myoutsuji Temple was built in the Kamakura Period and its main building and a 22 meter high three-story pagoda have been designated as national treasures. The hunger strike was conducted on May 15-17 outside the KEPCO head office in Osaka and continued on May 18-19 in the lobby of the Fukui Prefectural government office. Only drinking water Nakajima commented: “I put my trust and hope in the multiple and unspecified public which is opposed to the restart of  nuclear reactors.”

Buddhist priest Tetsuen Nakajima (center) protesting the Takahama Unit 4 restart. Demonstrations took place daily from May 7 through 12. Photo by Yasuhiko Matsubara

TEPCO Making New Management Reorganization Plans
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO) applied to the government on May 12 for approval of its new management reorganization plans. It received approval on May 18. It says it intends to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP “while making safety the top priority.” The company is appealing for early restarts, because if the restarts begin from fiscal 2019 and include all seven reactors (totaling 8212 MW), it would mean an additional 55 billion yen per year in ordinary profits for the company, compared to restarting only four reactors (totaling 4912 MW) beginning from 2021.
  Currently, Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama maintains that verifying the causes of the Fukushima nuclear accident and countermeasures for emergencies will take several years, so there are no prospects for gaining local consent.
  The new management reorganization plans also specify establishment of a framework for cooperation with other electric power companies regarding the Higashidori Unit 1 reactor (ABWR, 1385 MW), the construction of which has been suspended for the past six years, with a target for 2020. However, the candidate for this cooperation, Tohoku Electric Power Co., has indicated its rejection, saying “We have nothing whatsoever like that in mind.”
Toshiba’s Final Deficit 950 Billion Yen
On May 15, Toshiba announced its provisional projected consolidated results for fiscal 2016 without its auditors’ approval. These show a net loss of 950 billion yen, worse by 490 billion yen compared to the previous fiscal year. Its subsidiary, Westinghouse, suffered massive losses from its nuclear power construction business and has filed under Chapter 11 bankruptcy laws in the US, with a net loss from discontinued operations of 1.36 trillion yen. IHI Corp., which owned 3% of Westinghouse’s stock, exercised its put option, giving Toshiba 90% ownership of the stock in May. (Kazatomprom, which owns the remaining 10%, has not expressed an intent to exercise its put option). Toshiba is seeking buyers for Westinghouse, but it would be a difficult sell to companies in China or Russia, and Korea Electric Power Corp. denies intentions to buy it.
Toshiba Holding 100% of UK NuGen Stock
Toshiba has held a 60% share of NuGen, which has plans for building a nuclear plant at Moorside, northwestern England, while ENGIE (formerly GDF Suez, established by Gaz de France) has held a 40% share. ENGIE, however, has been seeking a way to back out of the project, and on April 4 started negotiating the sale of its stake to the troubled Toshiba, but the negotiations are expected to be difficult.
Hitachi Applies to UK Nuclear Regulator for a License to Build Wylfa Newydd NPP
Hitachi filed on April 5 for approval from the UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation to construct the Wylfa Newfydd Nuclear Power Plant. Japan Atomic Power Co. (JAPC) teamed up with Exelon Generation of the US on April 13 to establish a joint venture company, JExel Nuclear, to provide operation and maintenance support for Horizon Nuclear Power, the Hitachi subsidiary in the UK which is developing the nuclear reactors for the site.
NRA Approves Plans for Decommissioning 5 Reactors
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority approved decommissioning plans on April 19 for KEPCO’s Mihama Unit 1 (PWR, 340 MW) and Unit 2 (PWR, 500 MW), Chugoku Electric Power Co.’s Shimane Unit 1 (BWR, 460 MW), Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai Unit 1 (PWR, 559 MW), and Japan Atomic Power Company’s (JAPC) Tsuruga Unit 1 (BWR, 357 MW) reactors. An application has also been filed for decommissioning Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata Unit 1 reactor (PWR, 566 MW).
  According to the plans, dismantling of  machinery and buildings for Mihama Units 1 and 2 and Shimane Unit 1 will take 30 years, Genkai Unit 1 will take 28 years and Tsuruga Unit 1 will take 24 years. It has not been decided where the radioactive waste will be disposed of. The cost of decomissioning each unit is estimated to be slightly less than 40 billion yen.
Federation for Nuclear-Free Renewable Energy Launched “Genpatsu Zero – Shizen Enerugi Suishin Renmei” (translated as “Federation to Promote Nuclear-Free Renewable Energy”) was established on April 14, with a press conference held in Tokyo. Tsuyoshi Yoshiwara, who has served as advisor to the board of the Johnan Shinkin Bank and has appealed for elimination of nuclear energy from a managerial standpoint, was appointed as president, and Hiroyuki Kawai, who jointly represents “Datsu Genpatsu Bengodan Zenkoku Renrakkai” (translated as “Nationwide Liaison Association of Nuclear-Free Defense Lawyers”), was appointed managing director. Two former prime ministers Junichiro Koizumi and Morihiro Hosokawa, are also listed as advisors.
India-Japan Nuclear Cooperation Agreement approval bill passes the Lower House of the Diet
The India-Japan Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, which was signed with great fanfare when Indian PM Narendra Modi was visiting Japan last November, has since been working through the Japanese ratification process. It was presented to the Lower House of the Diet on 14 April and was then referred to the Lower House Committee on Foreign Affairs for deliberation. After two hours of deliberations on 28 April, when Committee members questioned three witnesses, and then another full day of questioning the Minister of Foreign Affairs and related bureaucrats on 10 May, the Committee approved the Agreement in the vote on 12 May. Many serious questions were raised by both the independent witnesses and opposition lawmakers, such as whether provisions in the Agreement would adequately prevent India, a country possessing nuclear weapon, from using Japanese technology for military purposes; if India conducted another nuclear test, would Japan even be able to end the Agreement? And even if they could, how could Japan actually withdraw nuclear reactors that they had already sold to India? There were no clear answers from the Minister down and it seemed that they were hardly serious about debating this vitally important issue, knowing that they had the numbers to push it through.
  After clearing the Committee in this way, the bill was sent back to the Lower House where Shinji Oguma, an MP from Fukushima, led the opposition against it. Once again, however, because of the ruling coalition’s overwhelming majority, the serious problems with the Agreement, which were again emphasized by Oguma and others, were ignored and the bill passed. The battleground now shifts to the Upper House, which is expected to vote on ratifying the Agreement on 7 June.
Japan Atomic Energy Agency to build a research hub for decommissioning technology in Tsuruga
On 21 May the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) held a groundbreaking ceremony on the premises of the Tsuruga Project Headquarters in Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture, commencing construction of the “Fukui Smart Decommissioning Technology Demonstration Hub.” The facility is expected to be completed within this fiscal year and to commence operations in the new fiscal year (April 2018).
  JAEA is now proceeding with the decommissioning of prototype advanced thermal converter reactor Fugen and the prototype fast breeder reactor, Monju, will be decommissioned without ever achieving full operations. Within Fukui Prefecture, KEPCO’s Mihama Units 1 and 2 and JAPC’s Tsuruga Unit 1 are also slated for decommissioning and both companies will work together on developing the necessary technology. At the same time, it is hoped that jobs will be created and economic stimulation will occur within the prefecture due to increasing technical strength of local companies.
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