News Watch

Evacuation orders lifted for parts of the long-term evacuation zones

Though nine years have passed since the Fukushima nuclear accident, the zones designated as “Difficult-to-return-zones” still exist in seven municipalities, covering a total of about 340 km2. With the goal of lifting the evacuation orders in stages by 2023, parts of these areas covering a total of about 30 km2 in six of the municipalities, excluding Minamisoma City, have been designated “Designated reconstruction and rehabilitation areas.” In addition, parts of those, covering a total of 0.5 km2 in the towns of Futaba, Okuma and Tomioka, have had their evacuation orders lifted ahead of time in March 2020. The orders were lifted for Futaba on March 4, for Okuma on March 5 and for Tomioka on March 10.

The areas affected by this early lifting of orders do not include residential areas. They consist mainly of station buildings on the JR Joban Line and roads in their vicinities, with this being done as part of reopening all of the closed sections of the Joban Line on March 14. Before the Olympics was officially postponed, the Olympic torch relay was scheduled to pass through Futaba, Okuma and Tomioka on March 26, so it would seem very much that the plan was to lift the evacuation orders as part of the Tokyo Olympics/Paralympics. (see more details here).

A liaison office for the Futaba Town Office was opened at the Town Community Center adjacent to JR Futaba Station. Resident repatriation is to begin, with the spring of 2022 as a goal. Preparation of residential areas is progressing, but it appears that not many of the residents will return.

No prospects at all have been put forward as to when the evacuation orders for areas outside the “Designated reconstruction and rehabilitation areas” will be lifted.

Report by ‘Third Party Committee’ on bribes and kickbacks from Kanden

NIT No. 193 included a report on corruption involving bribes and kickbacks by Kansai Electric Power Co. (Kanden). On March 14, the “third party committee” commissioned by Kanden held a press conference and announced the results of its investigation.

The number of Kanden officials who had received money and gifts from Moriyama Eiji, former deputy mayor of Takahama, Fukui Prefecture, increased from 23 people implicated in Kanden’s own investigation to 75, and the amount they received increased from 320 million to 360 million yen. The decision not to disclose this problem was made by three executives at that time, Chairman Yagi Makoto, President Iwane Shigeki and adviser Mori Shosuke, so their responsibility is said to be “particularly heavy.”

Contradicting Kanden’s in-company investigation, which explained the scandal as a mere display of prestige, the report said that Moriyama’s objective for providing them money and gifts was “found through analysis to have had the objective of getting orders placed for construction, etc., with clients or business connections in accordance with his own requests, supporting a framework and scheme by which he could benefit economically from these clients or business connections.” More than 1,200 cases of promises of orders from Kanden or advance notice of information on construction were uncovered. The provision of money and gifts escalated particularly in conjunction with a sharp increase in construction for conformity to the new regulatory standards enacted following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. The timing of each provision of money and gifts, however, was offset from that of the respective orders, so it was difficult to substantiate individual instances.

The report said, “Transparency was lacking and false claims of ‘giving priority to local business’ were used to justify problematic behavior.” At the press conference, Committee Chairman Tadaki Keiichi (former prosecutor-general) pointed out that “As a result of making thorough use of him (Moriyama, in local troubles) because he was handy, the bill has come due.”

To prevent a recurrence, he made the following recommendations.

・Foster awareness of compliance from the users’ perspective

・Revise the inward-looking corporate character (choose someone from outside the company to be its president)

・Increase transparency regarding the policy of giving priority to local business

・Establish clear rules regarding the receipt of money and gifts from persons connected with clients or business connections

・Restructure the governance system to enable direct inquiries at the worksite and quickly relay negative information

Geological data on JAPC’s Tsuruga Unit 2 stealthily rewritten

During the inspection of Unit 2 of Japan Atomic Power Co.’s (JAPC’s) Tsuruga Power Station (PWR, 1160 MW) for compliance with the new regulatory standards, it was revealed that the company had been rewriting the data in its documents without giving notice. The original documents submitted at the inspection meeting had the words “clay film wedged between” entered in at least three places regarding geological data on strata excavated in 2012 and 2015. These entries served as records of observations indicating the presence of soft strata in the samples excavated for examination. In the documents submitted at the inspection meeting on February 7, 2020, however, all of these had been deleted without notice. In addition to these deletions, the documents had been rewritten in at least a dozen places to deny the existence of data on soft strata in the ground, and the expression “unconsolidated,” indicating that the strata had not solidified, had been rewritten as “consolidated,” indicating a hardened state. The Nuclear Regulation Authority’s (NRA’s) inspection team requested JAPC on February 14 to submit all of the data from its geological survey that had served as the basis for the documents. It is unprecedented for the NRA to request the original data for documents from an electric power company. They say they are doing this “because these revisions, etc. render the inspection documents unreliable.” The original data had been prepared by a company that had conducted the excavation survey as ordered by JAPC. Regarding its reasons for rewriting or deleting entries without notice, JAPC claimed it was the result of evaluating the original data and correcting them. Wondering if other alterations had been made, the NRA has suspended the inspection until they get an explanation from JAPC, with its reasons for making the changes.

Sendai Unit I halted prior to deadline for establishing counter-terrorism facilities

As predicted in the News Watch of NIT No. 193, operation of Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai Unit 1 reactor (PWR, 890 MW) was halted on March 16, nine months before it was to undergo its regular inspection. The deadline for establishing Facilities for Dealing with Specific Serious Accidents, which was March 17, could not be met, so to avoid being ordered to shut the reactor down by the NRA, they “voluntarily” halted it. In all probability, the Unit 2 reactor (PWR, 890 MW) will likewise be halted in May.

Miyagi Prefectural Assembly once again rejects proposed referendum on Onagawa Unit 2 restart

A residents’ proposal to hold a local referendum on the restarting of Unit 2 of Tohoku Electric Power Co.’s Onagawa Nuclear Power Station (BWR, 825 MW), which the NRA found to be in compliance with the new regulatory standards on February 26, was submitted by an assembly member to the Miyagi Prefectural Assembly on March 3. In a vote for same-day adoption, 19 supported and 38 opposed the bill, resulting in its rejection.

A similar request by residents for a referendum submitted a year ago, on March 15, 2019, based on about 110,000 signatures collected was also rejected.

See NIT No. 194 regarding issues related to the inspection of Onagawa Unit 2 for compliance with the new regulatory standards.


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