News Watch

NRA Suspends Review of Tsuruga Unit 2

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) of Japan decided on August 18 to discontinue its review of the Unit 2 reactor at Japan Atomic Power Co.’s (JAPC’s) Tsuruga Nuclear Power Station for conformity to the new safety standards. The trouble started at a review meeting in February 2020, when the NRA officials in charge of the review noted the data submitted had been seriously tampered with. The data in question were from borehole logs from a survey of geological strata on the plant’s premises. Data on strata that had been recorded as “unconsolidated” (not solidified) were rewritten as “consolidated.” The documents had been rewritten in a variety of other ways as well and were in such a state that NRA Chairman Fuketa Toyoshi at a House of Representatives Special Investigative Committee on Nuclear Power Issues meeting on March 26 remarked, for the most part, “I could see they had been revised in ways that would be advantageous in terms of their own claims.” JAPC gave explanations such as “We revised it because it was inconsistent with other data obtained later,” but if that had been the case, they should have presented the original data together with the new data containing that information. That rewriting the original data is in itself wrong is common sense.

The above decision to suspend the review is said to be pending “confirmation that processes have been organized to guarantee that both (1) ensure the traceability of survey data, and (2) when the results of assessments by multiple survey methods are presented as review data, clarify the basis for that decision,” but condition (2) is obviously a matter of course to begin with. JAPC can respond sensibly with “Yes, we will follow common sense from now on,” and that will be the end of it. Condition (1) presents the type of deviation from common sense as the issue, but fails to consider whether the lapse was deliberate or merely thoughtless, so as a condition, it is extremely lax. At the press conference after the NRA meeting on August 18, reporters asked if focusing on those two points for improvement was too lenient. Fuketa responded, “The problem, in other words, is that they hadn’t done what they normally should have, so I am just proposing that they do it like they should.” Isn’t that nice of him?

At the NRA meeting, Fuketa had told JAPC, “If we cannot get you to follow basic scientific methods, you are wasting our time, and I think there is no use talking in this case.” Isn’t the act of presenting such data in itself evidence of JAPC’s lack of “necessary technical abilities for installing nuclear reactors for electrical power generation,” one of the criteria for approval to establish a nuclear power plant? It has been revealed that about 1,000 erroneous entries were found in the data JAPC submitted for review in August 2019. This also indicates a lack of technical ability. The alterations in the set-up of the Tsuruga Unit 2 reactor should not be approved.

Plans for Marine Release of ALPS Processed Contaminated Water Solidify

Government ministers and others concerned with implementing the release of Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) processed water (with contaminants such as tritium) met on August 24 to carry out a joint review of a “summary of immediate measures.” These measures included among others temporary purchases of freezable marine products and establishment of a fund for expanding the sales of marine products that cannot be frozen. Offended fishers responded, “It’s not a question of money.” Schemes such as catering lessons for the younger generation and the use of side readers in educational venues are still among the countermeasures. Later, on September 5, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO Holdings) announced its review of the situation. The ALPS treated water is to be diluted with sea water collected outside of harbors. It is then to be released via a tunnel (about 1 km) drilled through rock mass under the sea floor. This is set to begin in the spring of 2023. Breeding of marine organisms is also to take place in sea water containing this same treated water. Policies for compensation in case of damage from “harmful rumors” are also indicated, but nothing beyond the conventional framework has been included.

MOX Fuel Shipment to Takahama Leaves Port

A transport ship loaded with MOX fuel for use by Takahama Units 3 and 4 departed from the port of Cherbourg, France on September 8. It is expected to arrive in Japan in mid-November.

Ikata NPP Hard Pressed to Make October 12 Restart

On July 2, Shikoku Electric Power Co. reported to the NRA Secretariat that one of the personnel (who is now retired) that were required to be on hand as a measure against serious accidents had departed without permission from Ikata Nuclear Power Station’s currently halted Unit 3 reactor while working the night shift. This had occurred five times between 2017 and 2019, including twice when the Unit 3 reactor was in operation, with his longest absence taking two hours. This temporarily left the reactor with less than the 22 minimum personnel required under security rules. The facts were said to have been revealed by an investigation based on anonymous reports. The NRA Secretariat recognized the resulting violations of rules on September 8. Shikoku Electric Power Co. submitted a report on September 10 to Ehime Prefecture and Ikata Town summarizing the causes of the problem and measures it would take to prevent recurrences. With its policy of allowing expression of views on reactor restarts based on discussions at experts’ meetings, it has become much more likely that the prefectural government would delay the reactor’s restart, which Shikoku Electric Power Co. had scheduled for October 12.

The Hiroshima High Court had ordered a temporary injunction to halt the Ikata Unit 3 reactor on January 17, 2020. A different judge at the same high court rescinded the injunction on March 18, 2021, but as the deadline for installing anti-terrorism safety facilities passed on March 22, the reactor remained shut down.

Occupational Disease Recognition for Work Performed after Fukushima Nuclear Accident

Two male workers who had been assigned to clear debris after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident and had developed throat cancer were recognized on September 8 by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare as having an occupational disease, acknowledging a causal relationship between their work and the cancer. Thus far, among cancer cases connected with the nuclear accident, three cases of leukemia, two of thyroid cancer and one of lung cancer had been granted occupational disease recognition, making these the first cases of throat cancer to be recognized.

One of the men, a TEPCO Holdings employee in his 60s, had been engaged in work with radiation for 35 years from 1977 to 2015. Prior to the accident, he had been engaged in nuclear reactor operation and supervision, and after the accident he was involved in work such as clearing debris on Fukushima Daiichi plant grounds and laying hoses to inject water into the nuclear reactors. Of his total exposure of 199 milliSieverts (mSv), 85 mSv resulted from responding to the accident. He developed cancer in December 2018.

The other man was employed by a cooperating company and was in his 40s when he developed cancer. For 15 years of his service from 1996 to 2019, he was engaged in work with radiation. After working as a radiological technician for a medical institution, he carried out duties such as dose management of nuclear plant workers. After the accident, he was involved in measuring radiation doses at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant site. Of his total exposure of 386 mSv, 44 mSv resulted from responding to the accident. He developed cancer in January 2019, and has since passed away.


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