News Watch

Serious Consideration of Overseas Treatment of Radioactive Wastes

The Denki Shinbun energy and electricity industry newspaper reported on July 9th that the Agency of Natural Resources and Energy, under Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), had begun giving serious consideration to overseas treatment of radioactive wastes generated by Japan’s nuclear power plants (NPPs). The article said, “Being considered are large metallic objects such as used metal casks and steam generators (SG). The Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act has thus far been a barrier to this, but measures such as revising bylaws and notifications are envisioned. Despite limited space within NPPs’ radiation management areas for used SGs and other items after their replacement, they are being stored onsite on a long-term basis. If overseas treatment goes well, it would solve one problem common across the industry involving radioactive waste. As the number of plants announcing decommissioning increases, this would help to realize smooth, efficient decommissioning measures.

“Large metallic objects” are being indicated as the target at this time, but considering that delays in decommissioning measures that have become a bottleneck for treatment and disposal of wastes have already manifested, if overseas treatment becomes possible, the targets are likely to expand in scope. Indeed, The Denki Shimbun reported on April 8th about “plans for recycling metals from radioactive wastes and exporting them to America.” The report suggested that the recycling of metals, concerning which there are fears of public opposition in Japan, could be easily carried out overseas.

Suits Filed by Kanden and Five of its Shareholders against Former Executives

Having received a third-party fact-finding committee report on March 14th, Kansai Electric Power Co. (Kanden) established a Directors’ Liability Investigation Committee composed of outside lawyers to investigate a gift and money receiving scandal. The report received from this committee on June 8th recognized liability on the part of five former executives, including a former chairman. On June 16, Kanden thereupon filed a suit at the Osaka District Court seeking a total of about 1.9 billion yen in damages from the five men. However, since Kanden had not filed suit against the current chairman or the former or current executives, on June 23rd the five stockholders who had previously been demanding litigation, joined by a further group of 44 stockholders, filed suit against 22 current and former Kanden executives at the same Osaka District Court, demanding that the present and former executives pay the roughly 9.2 billion yen in damages that Kanden has incurred.

Furthermore, a citizens’ group, Kanden no Genpatsu Mane Fusei Kanryu wo Kokuhatsusuru Kai (Association to Litigate Kanden’s Nuclear Kickbacks), who filed a complaint against the executives in December last year at Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office, filed an additional complaint on June 9th regarding under-the-table cash issues, such as compensating for reductions in remunerations to retiring executives that were revealed by the third-party committee report. Despite telling consumers that the directors’ remunerations would be reduced when electric utility fees were increased, the company compensated for that by providing 260 million yen to 18 retiring executives. Worse than that, 300,000 yen in monthly compensation was provided to former Vice President Hideki Toyomatsu to make up for a tax penalty levied on the gifts and cash he’d received. These travesties are also being named as damages that Kanden should compensate for in the report of the Directors’ Liability Investigation Committee.

During its shareholders’ meeting on June 25th, Kanden transformed itself into “a company with a nominating committee, etc.” On the same day, it established a nominating committee to make proposals on assignment or dismissal of directors, a compensation committee to make decisions on compensation to directors and executive officers and an auditing committee to audit the directors’ and executive officers’ performance of duties.

NRA Censures JAPC over Deleted and Rewritten Data in Tsuruga Unit 2 Inspection

On June 4th, the Japan Atomic Power Co. (JAPC) reported the results of its meeting with the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) to examine its compliance with the new regulatory standards. The meeting was held to address the issue of JAPC having deleted and rewritten geological data for its Tsuruga NPP site, as had been revealed in February. The data had been altered in 80 places. In response, NRA requested the company to resubmit the report due to nondisclosure of some of the data. A second request was made for submission of the primary data from the geological survey company, but JAPC replied that it no longer existed. NRA has asked again and again for the report to be resubmitted, saying “in no way do the data not exist.”

At a press conference after its meeting with JAPC on the 10th, NRA Chairman Fuketa said, “It’s not like we cannot break off the examination, and in the most extreme case, I think it is possible for us to decide to disapprove.” Speaking candidly, he added, “Their behavior is absurd.”

Ibaraki Prefectural Assembly Defeats Bill for Citizens’ Vote on Restart of Tokai Daini

On June 23rd, the Ibaraki Prefectural Assembly accepted the direct request made to the prefecture on May 25th by the citizens’ group Ibaraki Genpatsu Kenmin Tohyo no Kai (Ibaraki Association for a Citizens’ Vote on Nuclear Power), which had garnered 86,703 signatures. The governor submitted the request, but it was defeated by a majority who were opposed to the proposed ordinance for a prefectural citizens’ referendum on whether or not to restart the Tokai Daini NPP.

Thus far, unfortunately, there have been no cases of proposed citizens’ referendum ordinances regarding NPPs or nuclear fuel cycle facilities being adopted at the prefectural level. Even so, there have been cases of governors submitting proposals for ordinances despite stating their flat opposition to them, or in recent years, expressing approval while pointing out flaws in them, such as Shizuoka Prefecture’s governor in 2012 and Niigata’s in 2013. Last year, while essentially expressing opposition, Miyagi’s governor had to admit, “I take the significance of this very seriously.” Governor Kazuhiko Oigawa of Ibaraki Prefecture could not express opposition even though failing to do so put him at odds with the Liberal Democratic Party. He considers a citizens’ referendum “one option.” It seems, after all, it has become impossible to overlook trends in public opinion after the Fukushima nuclear accident.

One after Another Voice Opposes Oceanic Release of Tritium-contaminated Water

In Fukushima Prefecture, many municipal assemblies have been adopting position papers opposing oceanic or atmospheric releases of contaminants, or requesting careful handling of long-term above-ground storage of nuclear wastes. The Japanese fisheries federation JF Zengyoren unanimously adopted a special resolution on June 23rd adamantly opposing oceanic releases of contaminated water. The majority of responses to a questionnaire survey of fishermen’s associations, reported on the same date in the Fukushima Minpo, a local newspaper, were also opposed to the pending releases.

Joint Venture by TEPCO and Toshiba for Safety Facility Construction at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Unit 6.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO) and Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions Corp. (Toshiba ESS) of the Toshiba Group signed a memorandum of agreement on June 3rd to establish a joint venture company to undertake safety facility construction at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Unit 6. The company was established on the 17th and named “KK6 Safety Measures Joint Venture Co. Ltd.” TEPCO and Toshiba ESS are each providing 50% of the funding, for a total of about 300 million yen. The company will have its headquarters in Kashiwazaki City, Niigata Prefecture.


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