News Watch 99 (March/April 2004) Nuke Info Tokyo No. 99


MHI Receives Order for U.S. Repair Work

MHI Bids for Reactor Manufacture in China

TEPCO Requests Site for Spent Fuel Storage

Request for Measures against Exposure to Cosmic Rays

A Candidate for the High-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Site?

Nuclear Industry Trends

MHI Receives Order for U.S. Repair WorkMitsubishi Heavy Industries Co., Ltd. (MHI) received an order jointly with Westinghouse Electric Corp. (WH) for the replacement of the upper reactor vessel and control rod drive of H.B. Robinson Nuclear Power Plant in the U.S. MHI will be responsible for the manufacture of the equipment, while WH will be in charge of installation. In 2003 MHI received an order to replace two steam generators for Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant, also in the United States. These are currently being manufactured.

In the past MHI has also received orders for the replacement of steam generators from Belgium. It delivered a total of six steam generators to Tihange Nuclear Power Plant in 1995 and 2001, and two to Doel Nuclear Power Plant this year.

MHIs annual nuclear-related sales amount to almost 200 billion yen. Foreign sales are about 10 billion yen, but MHI aims to increase orders from overseas in future.

MHI Bids for Reactor Manufacture in ChinaMitsubishi Heavy Industries Co., Ltd. (MHI) is planning to enter a joint bid with Westinghouse Electric Corp. of the United States in the international competitive bidding for the construction of two PWRs each (1,000-1,500 MW) at the Ling Dong and Sanmen Nuclear Power Plants in China. It is said that China plans to order the primary (reactor) and secondary (turbine) systems separately, but MHI hopes to win orders for both systems. For the primary system FRAMATOME of France, and for the secondary system General Electric Co. of the United States and Hitachi, Ltd. and Toshiba Corp. of Japan are likely to be MHIs main rivals. As a condition in the awarding of the contract, the Chinese government is demanding that the successful bidder realize about 60% of production domestically through technology transfer to Chinese firms.

TEPCO Requests Site for Spent Fuel StorageOn February 18th President Katsumata of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) visited Governor Mimura of Aomori Prefecture and Mayor Sugiyama of Mutsu City to ask for their cooperation in the siting of an interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel. TEPCOs plan is for the dry storage of about 3,000 tU of spent fuel.

Mayor Sugiyama warmly welcomed the request saying, ‘We are most grateful to you, since we made the request in the first place. We hope that you will ensure that there are no delays.’ Governor Mimura, on the other hand, stated first, that the problem of defective welding in the spent fuel storage pool at Rokkasho Village (see NIT Nos. 95 and 98) was most regrettable from the point of view of the safety of the residents of the prefecture. He further added, ‘The prefectural government is watching the response of the central government and the company very carefully. We will begin to consider the interim storage facility plan only after we assess how the central government is tackling the problem of the soundness and quality assurance of the reprocessing plant.’

Request for Measures against Exposure to Cosmic RaysOn February 6th two trade unions, one covering pilots and the other flight attendants on commercial aircraft, submitted a petition to the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology requesting regulations dealing with exposure to cosmic rays during flights. Cosmic rays are very strong at altitudes above 10,000 meters, where passenger planes on international routes fly. If a pilot or flight attendant shuttles between Narita and New York ten times, he or she may be exposed to 1millisievert, which is the annual dose limit for the general public. It is said that the exposure received during a single long flight over high altitudes during a period of high cosmic ray activity may exceed this dose limit.

In 1990 the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) defined the exposure of aircraft crew to cosmic rays as occupational exposure and recommended that steps be taken to protect against it. The petitioners criticized the Japanese government for neglecting the recommendation during the 14 years that have passed since then, and demanded that it immediately take steps to address the problem.

A Candidate for the High-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Site?It has been more than a year since the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan (NUMO), in December 2002, publicly began its search for candidates for a high-level radioactive waste disposal site. Now a first candidate town may have emerged.

On December 8, 2003 about 30 residents of Saga Town, Kochi Prefecture, located on the Pacific coast of Shikoku Island, submitted a petition to the town council, calling for it to respond to the invitation. The purport of the petition was, ‘in order to achieve a breakthrough in regard to such problems as shrinking population and the decline of local industries, we should seek to revitalize the town through the economic benefits brought by state subsidies and project implementation.’ If the town were to submit an application, it would be granted 210 billion yen per year while a survey is conducted to see whether the site should become a candidate. If it were to become a candidate site, then it would receive a total sum of up to 7 billion yen (the annual ceiling being 2 billion yen) while a further survey is carried out to determine whether it is a suitable site.

NUMO explained at the council meeting that they could withdraw their application even after the process has commenced. NUMO is bending over backwards to interest the council in the proposition, because then they will be able to say to others that they have a candidate and that not everyone has turned their nose up at the project. However, many council members were bewildered, saying that they could not make a judgment until they learnt more about the project. The local fishing cooperative also reacted negatively, worrying that talk of such a proposal might in itself be sufficient to cause a drop in the price of fish. The town mayor is said to be at a complete loss over the matter.

The chances of this being the ‘first candidate’ would seem to be slim.

Nuclear Industry TrendsOn January 15 the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, Inc. (JAIF) published the findings of its FY2002 Nuclear Industry Fact-Finding Survey. This is a series that JAIF has produced every year since 1959 based on a questionnaire sent to relevant companies. This time target companies included a total of 356 businesses with some sort of a track record in the industry in 2002. These included 11 electrical businesses, 318 mining and manufacturing companies, and 27 trading companies.

One notable result was the decline in sales in the mining and manufacturing sector. In FY2002 industry sales were 149.8 billion yen, falling below 150 billion for the first time in 14 years. The slump in the reactor equipment sector is particularly great, with sales remaining below the 500 billion mark for five successive years since FY1998 (less than a half of the peak period). They are expected to decline further in the future.

The number of people working in the nuclear power-related field of the mining and manufacturing industry sector has continued to decrease from 61,007 in the peak period of 1992 to 40,986 in 2002. This is also expected to decrease in the future.

This is the reason why the industry is trying so hard to secure orders from overseas.

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