News Watch 100 (May/June 2004) Nuke Info Tokyo No. 100


Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant Project Further Postponed

Operational Trials Commence at Hamaoka 5

Spent-Fuel Storage Facility Developments

Still no candidates for High-Level Waste site

Japanese Government to sound out the idea of an Asian version of IEA

Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant Project Further Postponed

It was announced on 30th April that uranium tests at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant would be postponed until June. The tests had been scheduled to begin in April. On the same day the President of Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL) stated that although the plant is currently scheduled to commence operations in July 2006, the schedule, including the possibility of postponement, is under consideration.

There have even been expressions of opposition to the plant from within the Liberal Democratic Party. House of Representatives member Taro Kono, a leading opponent within the LDP, wrote an article in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper on 15th April calling for the suspension of the reprocessing project.

Operational Trials Commence at Hamaoka 5

Hamaoka 5 (ABWR, 1,380 MW) is being constructed by Chubu Electric Power Company in Hamaoka Town, Shizuoka Prefecture. The reactor went critical for the first time on 23rd March, then on 30th April started generating and transmitting electricity with a power output ratio of 5 to 6 percent. Chubu Electric plans to continue the trials, gradually increasing the output ratio, and to commence commercial operations in January 2005.

Spent-Fuel Storage Facility Developments

Tokyo Electric Power Company is planning the construction of a spent fuel interim storage facility (SFISF) in Mutsu City, Aomori Prefecture. On 18th February 2004 it officially approached Aomori Prefecture and Mutsu City to request their cooperation. Mutsu City, which has been trying to attract the facility all along, welcomed the request, but Aomori Prefecture so far has taken a cautious attitude. A big concern for the Prefecture is the fact that there is no foreseeable plan to remove the fuel once it has been placed in storage.

On 14th November 2003, the Chamber of Commerce in Obama City, Fukui Prefecture submitted a proposal to the Chairperson of the City Council to invite a SFISF to their town. Since then a number of petitions, both for and against the proposal, have been presented to the Mayor and to the Council Chairperson and on 18th December a petition was submitted to the City Council demanding that it pass a resolution to invite the facility. Although the petition was adopted on 24th March 2004, the Mayor remains cautious. Meanwhile, both Fukui Prefecture and Kansai Electric Power Company have expressed their view that “the facility should be built outside Fukui Prefecture.”

On 3rd March 2003 the Chairperson of the Gobo City Council in Wakayama Prefecture proposed an investigation into the possibility of inviting a SFISF. This move was aimed at seeking a source of revenue to replace revenue from the construction of a thermal power plant. This was because KEPCO’s thermal power plant plan looked like falling through. However, there was strong opposition and a draft plan to set up a study meeting was never presented to the city council. A year later, on 19th March 2004, three Council Members introduced a motion for the establishment of a “special investigative committee on administrative and financial problems.” The motion was passed and although one of the Council Members who had presented the proposal stated that he “did not have a nuclear fuel facility in mind”, the headline in the local paper read, “nuclear fuel facility the biggest theme for investigation.”

In 2004 there have also been moves to invite a SFISF to Nango Town, Miyazaki Prefecture. The 11th March meeting of the Full Council approved the Mayor’s proposal to ask Kyushu Electric Power Company to conduct a site feasibility study and on the 26th a timeline for officially submitting a request to Kyushu Electric was arranged. Responding to media reports about the matter, the local people and residents of neighboring municipalities immediately launched a campaign in opposition to the proposal and on 15th March the Town Council decided to suspend the plan. However, the Mayor has not given up on the idea.

In each case the interest shown by municipalities is not interest in what the storage facility actually is. The only thing they are interested in is how much money it will bring in. That’s an indication of how pressed local municipalities are by the cutbacks in government grants and subsidies.

Still no Candidates for High-Level Waste Site

A year and a half has passed since the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan (NUMO), the organization responsible for disposal of high-level radioactive waste, began in December 2002 to publicly seek candidate sites for the disposal of high-level waste. There have been signs that a few financially distressed municipalities might put up their hands, but as soon as the local residents and neighboring municipalities find out about it they rise in opposition, so an official candidate is yet to emerge.

On 21st April 2003 NUMO held an explanatory meeting for council staff and council members of Izumi Village Council, Fukui Prefecture, but on 30th April the department responsible within the Village Council stated that it would “not invite the facility.”

On 8th December 2003 some people submitted a petition to the Saga Town Council in Kochi Prefecture requesting that an invitation be issued to site the facility in their municipality. On 29th January 2004 a meeting was held with some invited NUMO directors. At its March meeting the Town Council decided to carry the issue over to the next session. Then at a Prefectural Assembly meeting on 2nd March the Governor stated that he “rejected the plan”.

At the 22nd March Council meeting in Goshonoura Town, Kumamoto Prefecture the Full Council requested the Mayor to submit an application, but the Mayor was cautious. There was strong opposition after the news was reported in the local paper on 5th April and on the 7th the Full Council decided to abandon the plan.

Japanese Government to sound out the idea of an Asian version of IEA

According to a report in an electricity industry journal, the Japanese government will sound out the idea of an Asian version of the International Energy Agency (IEA) at the FTA negotiations and APEC meetings. The gist is to make joint efforts in areas such as (1) building and improvement of oil stockpiling bases in the region; (2) lowering the level of dependence on the Middle East for crude oil imports by diversifying supplier countries; (3) reduction of environmental burden by increased use of natural gas; (4) mutual arrangements for supply of petroleum in times of emergency; and (5) expanded use of renewable energies.

On 30th April the Denki Shimbun (Electricity News) reported that, in addition to the above ideas, “this might become a business chance for the Japanese electric utility industry.” The paper carried the headline, “Aim at the Huge Asian Market,” suggesting a united government effort to sell Japanese energy efficiency technology for both nuclear and thermal power generation.

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