News Watch 98 (Nov 03-Feb 04) Nuke Info Tokyo No. 98
On December 8 the Fukui Prefectural Assembly decided to press for the extension of the Hokuriku Shinkansen (bullet train) to Fukui Prefecture. The Fukui Prefectural Assembly demanded that the central government approve the extension of this Shinkansen, which is now under construction, to Nan’etsu and that it quickly commence work on the line within Fukui Prefecture. It demanded that work within Fukui be commenced at the same time as the Nagano-Toyama section. It stated that, ‘depending on the attitude of the central government on this matter, we are prepared to oppose the nuclear energy policy in future’. It is possible then that the prefectural government might oppose the commencement of work on the modification of Monju and the building of two additional reactors at Tsuruga (Nos.3&4, each APWR 1358MW).
The Mayor of Tsuruga and the Tsuruga Local Assembly are strongly opposed to this line of thinking. They take the view that this would amount to treating Tsuruga City with contempt, given that the city is host to both Monju and the Tsuruga Nuclear Power Plant. They believe that the modification of Monju and the expansion of the Tsuruga Power Plant would give a big economic boost to the Tsuruga construction companies and eating houses, which are currently languishing in depression.
On December 26 Tsuruga Mayor Kawase visited Fukui Governor Nishikawa to request that he promote the plan to build Tsuruga Reactors 3&4. By indicating support for commencement of the modification work, the Mayor also put pressure on the Prefecture for a response on Monju. For his part, Governor Nishikawa refused to budge from his position that he would make an ‘overall judgment’ taking into account the Prefectural Assembly’s decision.
The expansion of Tsuruga Power Plant was included in the central government’s Basic Plan for Electric Power Development in August 2002 and in December the Fukui Governor and the Mayor of Tsuruga agreed to the Japan Atomic Power Company approaching the central government for approval. However in regard to the destination of the power, due to reduced demand, Kansai Electric Power Company is showing some reluctance and is yet to make a request.
The Fukui Prefectural Government and Tsuruga City Council are in conflict due to their differing economic interests, but they are on common ground in regard to their lack of interest in such questions as the need for and safety of nuclear energy.
The Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPCO) reconfirmed on December 19 that it would stick firmly to its target for the pluthermal project. FEPCO originally announced the target in February 1997. According to this target it would start in FY1999 to use plutonium in two thermal reactors and by FY2010 this number would increase to between 16 and 18 reactors. However the plan to start in FY1999 collapsed and, as of the end of 2003, the plan has not been implemented. What was reconfirmed this time was merely the final goal of 16-18 reactors by FY2010.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), whose cover-up scandals at its nuclear facilities were exposed in August 2002, withdrew Fukushima 1 and Kashiwazaki-Kariwa from the list of reactors where pluthermal was to be implemented and also removed the word ‘implement’ from the plan. TEPCO has made ‘the recovery of the trust of the local people its top priority task.’
Other than Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO), which still maintains its plan to implement the pluthermal project in two reactors at Takahama and the Japan Atomic Power Company, which plans to implement it in one reactor at Tsuruga (both by 2008), the other utilities have no concrete plan, although they say they will implement the project by 2010. Electric Power Development Co. Ltd. (now trading under the name J-Power) has stated that it will start the project in 2011 at Oma nuclear plant, making it clear that it is unable to keep the 2010 deadline. There seems to be no chance of them achieving this goal.
A ministerial level meeting of the Forum for Nuclear Cooperation in Asia (FNCA) was held from December 2-4, 2003 in Nago City, Okinawa Prefecture. FNCA is hosted by the Atomic Energy Commission of Japan, and the venue of the annual ministerial meetings alternates between Japan and the other countries. It was held in Thailand in 2000, Japan in 2001, South Korea in 2002, and the next meeting is scheduled to be held in Vietnam.
The 4th meeting in 2003 was attended by ministers from Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines and vice-minister level officials from China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and Australia. At the meeting ministerial round-table discussions were held on two topics: (1) ‘the increased social and economic effects of the use of radiation and radio-isotopes’; and (2) ‘sustainable development and nuclear energy’.
With regard to the first topic, the point was made that major users of radiation and RI are ‘outside’ of the nuclear power industry, such as those in agriculture and medical care, and the importance of strengthening cooperation with research and development institutions ‘inside’ the nuclear industry was emphasized.
As for the second topic, there was a consensus that nuclear power is an important energy supply option in the Asian region, where there is such strong economic growth. There was also agreement that nuclear power should not be excluded from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) in the second commitment period (2013-17) under the Kyoto Protocol.
At the meeting the participants agreed on a new project for a discussion panel to consider ‘the sustainable development of Asia and the role of nuclear power’. Preparations for this topic have been underway for the last two years. The first panel meeting is scheduled to be held in the early part of 2004. It is said that, as well as clarifying demand and supply of energy in Asia and greenhouse gas reductions resulting from nuclear power generation, the panel will assess the use of nuclear power for purposes other than power generation, such as for desalination of seawater and production of hydrogen.
ANIS (Agency for Nuclear and Industrial Safety) has made a decision to form a new organization in 2004 to respond to terrorism against nuclear facilities. Legislation will specify steps that should be taken by companies with nuclear facilities, such as electric power companies. The new organization will inspect the protective systems in place at such facilities. ANIS is also considering the possibility of recruiting people with expertise in anti-terrorist measures from outside of ANIS.
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