News Watch 91 (Sep/Oct 2002) Nuke Info Tokyo No. 91

ANRE Begins Nuclear Promotion Education in EarnestOn July 8, the Agency of Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE) set up the Energy Information and Planning Division. It is an organization of experts whose major functions include control and supervision of publicity (public information) on energy policies, a role, which used to be performed by the respective sections. The new division will also deal with interactive communications and energy education. What triggered the creation of this division was the discussions held at the MOX Energy Promotion Council organized by related ministries and agencies on the need for such division since the planned program to use plutonium in thermal neutron reactor (Plu-thermal Program) has seen little progress. It is obvious from this fact that the energy education aims at nuclear promotion.

On the basis of the interim report issued by the above-mentioned council in August 2001, ANRE, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), has begun, starting from this fiscal year, to select 60 model schools for energy education, and is distributing teaching materials and a collection of guiding examples for nation-wide elementary and junior and senior high school teachers. A major task of the newly established Energy Information and Planning Division is to further strengthen these measures.

In addition, each power company has been incorporating nuclear promotion in school education using various measures. Officially claiming that they are for energy education, power companies are providing teaching materials including CD-ROM software and sending lecturers.

An ANIS’ Assistant Section Chief Arrested on Suspicion of BriberyAn assistant section chief of the Agency for Nuclear and Industrial Safety (ANIS) was arrested on July 31, on suspicion of bribery. ANIS was established in January 2001 as part of reform of the central ministries to unify the nuclear regulatory administration, which used to be carried out separately by the former Science and Technology Agency (STA) and the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, the former at the development level and the latter at the commercial level. The arrested individual is suspected of receiving about 23 million yen from former officials of industrial waste management contractors during the period between 1998 and 2001 when he was working at STA, and of helping them to procure orders for nuclear-related businesses. The orders they attempted to secure include the project to computerize drawings of nuclear plants. The arrested person provided materials such as drawings and introduced staff in charge at power companies to the officials. But the attempt did not succeed.

New Construction of Tsuruga 3 and 4 Incorporated into the Government’s PlanOn August 2, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry decided to include Tsuruga 3 and 4 (both APWR and 1,538 MW), which Japan Atomic Power Co.(JAPC) is planning to construct, in the government’s Electric Power Development Master Plan. The construction of these reactors will start after approval is given following safety inspection.

With regard to the construction of the reactors, however, the negotiations between three power companies are not going smoothly over the question of who would take over the electricity generated from the reactors. JAPC is the wholesaler, and Kansai, Chubu and Hokuriku Electric Power companies are to take over the generated power. Kansai Electric is expected to guarantee to take over 50% of the electricity, but it is reluctant to guarantee, claiming that it has excess generation facilities. To a question from a Nihon Keizai Shimbun reporter after he submitted a plan in April 2000 for the construction in Fukui Prefecture and Tsuruga City, JAPC’s president Yoshihiko Sumi stated that there is a possibility that the power to be generated from the reactors to be constructed at a cost of 830 billion yen may not be sold. His fear is becoming a reality.

NFI Begins Preparation for PBMR Fuel PlanOn August 1, Nuclear Fuel Industries Inc. newly established the Fuel Plant Development Department. This is an organization for the development of a fuel manufacturing pilot plant for a Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR), for which the company has received an informal order from South Africa. The department was established in expectation of future orders for commercial-size plants. The department is said to start with a director and five or so staff members, and to be gradually expanded.

With regard to PBMR, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. has received an order for the development of a helium gas turbine for power generation.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Making a Large-Scale Investment in Plant and EquipmentMitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) plans to invest some 10 billion yen by the next fiscal year in its plant in Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture, to introduce large-sized machine tools including large cranes. The construction of pressurized water reactors manufactured by MHI had stopped since Kyushu Electric Power’s Genkai 4 was completed in 1997. MHI decided to make a large-scale investment, however, since the construction of Hokkaido Electric Power’s Tomari 3 was decided in November 2000, followed by Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tsuruga 3 and 4 in August 2002 (See article on p. 11). With this large-scale investment, which MHI is going to make over 10 years, the company is planning to reinforce the production system in line with exports of reactor-related equipment for the United States.

Ground-Breaking Ceremony for the Mizumani Underground Research LaboratoryOn July 8, the ground-breaking ceremony was held for the Mizunami Underground Research Laboratory, which the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute (JNC) is planning to construct in Mizunami City, Gifu Prefecture. It is planned to drill a shaft 1, 000 meters deep and 6 meters in diameter, to conduct basic research for underground disposal of high-level radioactive wastes. The ceremony was not for the shaft itself but for a pond to dump mud and other material which would be produced during the development of the site. The ceremony ended in ten minutes after the simple digging a hole, and after the ceremony the hole was reclaimed the construction of the shaft itself is scheduled to begin in FY2004.

However, as a result of this ceremony, Mizunami City will be granted a subsidy from the national government for local development. This was the purpose of the ceremony. The local government accepted the construction of the laboratory for this subsidy. Residents have opposed to the plan in fear of a waste disposal facility adjacent to the laboratory. The ceremony was also intended to encourage citizens’ to give up their opposition.

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