News Watch 93 (Jan/Feb 2003) Nuke Info Tokyo No. 93


Citizens File a Complaint against TEPCO

Suspension of Incoming Spent-Fuel Deliveries

Second Line Stopped at Uranium Enrichment Plant

NUMO Begins Inviting Candidate Sites for HLW Disposal Facility

Introduction of “Defects Standards” Decided

Citizens File a Complaint against TEPCOOn December 12, 2002, the ‘Association to Accuse TEPCO of Its Nuclear-Damage Cover-Ups’ filed a complaint to the district public prosecutor’s offices in Niigata, Fukushima and Tokyo to pursue employees of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. for their responsibility for a series of falsification cases. The complainant consists of 982 citizens of Niigata Prefecture, 509 of Fukushima Prefecture, and 1,689 from all over the country, amounting to a total of 3,180 people. The number of lawyers representing the accusers has totaled to 110.

From this large number one can see many people’s distrust and anger over the present situation in which those who committed criminal acts have not been punished. Their action demonstrates their wish that the prosecutor’s compulsory investigation should disclose the whole picture of unlawful conduct, which has not been revealed by utilities’ in-house investigations or the investigation of the Agency for Nuclear and Industrial Safety (ANIS) which tries to cover up for utilities and hide its own responsibility.

The charges are as follows: (a) hindering business (by fraud), (b) falsifying public documents and fraud for acts such as: not reporting to the state, which is required, when finding cracks in shrouds during a regular inspection; (c) obtaining a certificate for passing the regular inspection by making false reports; and (d) obtaining a certificate of approval of a work plan for shroud exchange by hiding damages and making a false statement that the work is for preventive maintenance.’

Other charges added include hindering regular inspections (only this is covered in the Electric Utility Law and all the other infringements are dealt with the Criminal Code) and suppression of evidence. The former involves an act of obtaining a certificate for passing the regular inspection by, for instance, illegally injecting air into the containment for an airtight test. The latter is the act of removing and demolishing cracked shrouds to make inspection impossible.

The defendants consist of TEPCO’s five directors (including former directors), persons in charge of maintenance and inspection of reactors at Fukushima 1 and 2, and Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, and those from TEPCO and Hitachi who conducted airtight tests for the containment at Fukushima 1. The complainants feel that the officials of the ANIS in charge, who can be regarded as joint principal offenders, must be the ones to be punished. Unfortunately, however, under the present legal system it was not possible to charge them. But more than 3,000 people’s filing a criminal suit in place of the ANIS, which should have accused TEPCO of its falsification scandals, in fact socially demonstrates their action against ANIS.

Suspension of Incoming Spent-Fuel DeliveriesJapan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL) announced on December 23 that it would suspend the transport of spent fuel into the reprocessing plant which was under construction in Rokkashomura, Aomori Prefecture. The reprocessing plant is scheduled to begin operation in July 2005, and a cold test run is currently taking place. The storage pool of the spent fuel has already completed, and in December 2000 a full-scale delivery of the fuel began.

In December 2001, however, a leak of water from the storage pool was revealed. After about one year, in November 2002, the location of the leak was finally identified and the cause was found to be defective welding. It has thus become necessary to inspect the entire pool as well as the whole facility where similar welding was done. The decision was made to suspend the reception of fuel until the total inspection was completed.

Second Line Stopped at Uranium Enrichment PlantOn December 19 the production line called RE-1B at the JNFL’s uranium enrichment plant in Rokkashomura Aomori Prefecture stopped, because centrifugal separators had been having frequent problems. At RE-1B more than 4,000 centrifugal separators halted. RE-1A also stopped in March 2000. Of the seven lines (each 150 tons SWU/annum) at the plant, RE-1B is the second line to stop. At RE-1C more than 3,000 centrifugal separators have stopped, suggesting the stoppage of the third line is imminent. RE-1A stopped after nine years of operation, and RE-1B after ten years.

NUMO Begins Inviting Candidate Sites for HLW Disposal FacilityThe Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan (NUMO) announced on December 19 that it had begun inviting candidate sites for a high-level radioactive waste disposal facility. In December the organization sent out a package of documents containing the outline of the plan, conditions of the site, economic merits and the instruction for the application to about 3,200 municipalities throughout Japan, and it is waiting for applications. The facility is planned to begin operation in the mid-2030s, which involves burying 40,000 containers of vitrified waste in 50 years.

Responding to this, a citizens’ group in Okayama Prefecture took an action asking the heads of 78 municipalities not to apply for the project. As of January 2003 no municipality head in the country has expressed his/her intention to apply.

Introduction of “Defects Standards” DecidedIt was decided to introduce the so-called ‘defects standards,’ allowing nuclear reactors to continue operating with cracks and rust as long as the level of safety assurance is met (See NIT No. 92, pp. 6-7). On December 11 a bill to revise the Electric Utility Law passed the House of Councilors, effectively establishing the revised law. Concrete standards will be decided within a year.

The parliament passed a bill by a Nuclear Saety Foundation Institutewas also passed on the same day. The Institute is to take over regular inspections of reactors and other duties which have undertaken done by the Agency for Nuclear and Industrial Safety (ANIS). It is planned to be established in October with a staff of about 460 people, who will be recruited widely from the industry. It is said that the Institute will not accept personnel loaned from other parts of the nuclear industry, as it is important to maintain neutrality. However, it is quite likely that staff will be close to the industry.

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