News Watch

 

Genkai Town, Saga to Accept Literature Review

Mayor Wakiyama Shintaro of Genkai Town, Saga Prefecture expressed acceptance on May 10 of a literature review. This is a step toward the town’s selection as a high-level radioactive waste disposal site. Matsuyama Yasuhiro, Chief Policy Coordinator for Final Disposal Policy at the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) had handed Mayor Wakiyama application documents on May 1 with a request from Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Saito Ken for cooperation in conducting the review. That is what he was responding to. For more information on the sequence of events leading to this application for a literature review, see the CNIC Statement here: cnic.jp/english/?p=7169
We wish to protest once more this hasty decision taken without consulting the town’s citizens for their views. Even at the press conference following the declaration of acceptance, the local daily The Saga Shinbun reported that Mayor Wakiyama said, “It has been a very difficult decision for the town (where the Genkai nuclear power plant (NPP) is situated) to cooperate further with the literature review,” but he did not seem to be giving it his best effort. 

Let’s examine a few points raised in the questions and answers at the press conference.
 Q. What did the members of the town council have to say about this?
 A. They said they would accept the proposal from the national government. There have been municipalities that have raised their hands to accept the siting of facilities, saying they will be grateful if a suitable place can be found.
 Q. It is said that you are not doing this for the grant of two billion yen, but will you apply for it anyway?
 A. We have given no thought the grant and are not consulting with the national government on it. We felt, however, that it would not be good if we wound up establishing a trend that would make it hard to receive it later on.
 Q. Do you think the town has a duty to host the site? Isn’t it the first time a town hosting an NPP has accepted a literature review?
 A. We don’t think of it as a duty. All parts of Japan should be considered. The two municipalities in Hokkaido (where literature reviews are proceeding) are also adjacent to NPPs. What is important is not whether a town is hosting nuclear facilities or adjacent to them, but whether it takes an interest in this issue and holds various discussions.
 Q. If the literature review determines the town to be a suitable site for final disposal, are you thinking of accepting it?
 A. The results will come out in about two years, I think, but it would be difficult for me to comment on it. This is not the situation for talking about not accepting it. How can I put it?
 Q. What are your thoughts at this time on accepting a final disposal site?
 A. It is very difficult for me to say here that we would not accept it. The literature review will be over in about two years. My mayoral term ends in about two years too. I don’t know that I will still be mayor then, so I cannot say anything about future events two years from now.

This amounts to saying that he does not intend to accept a disposal site. Accepting a literature review anyway is absurd. The town is an unsuitable place and the prefectural governor is also opposed to its selection. The mayor must have accepted the literature review while knowing to begin with that the results would not find it suitable for a site. Nonetheless, METI is recommending it. This is what was written in the letter of request from the Minister: “A literature review is not directly related to the selection of disposal sites, but is meant to deepen the discussion,” and “Even if the only thing that happens is the literature review is carried out, it is very significant from the viewpoint of promoting future activities for understanding and accumulating technical knowhow.”

The national government considers that to be okay. In other words, even if they can just pretend to make progress on the disposal issue, that’s fine. How long can they keep that up?

 

Nuclear Fuel Loaded into Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Unit 7

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) loaded 872 nuclear fuel assemblies into the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Unit 7 reactor between April 15 and 26. These assemblies had been stored in the spent fuel pool since the reactor underwent a regular inspection in August 2011, and the reactor has been shut down since. The loading operations started early on April 15 and were interrupted for three hours due to an error in a work-monitoring device and another interruption on the 17th of about 16 hours due to a power failure in the control rod drive motor.

The nuclear fuel has been loaded, but there is no outlook for restarting the reactor. Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Saito Ken called Governor Hanazumi Hideyo of Niigata Prefecture, Mayor Sakurai Masahiro of Kashiwazaki City and Mayor Shinada Hiroo of Kariwa Village on March 18 by telephone, requesting their understanding. Then on the 21st, Director Murase Yoshifumi of the Energy Agency visited the Niigata prefectural office while senior officials of the Energy Agency visited Niigata municipalities to make direct requests. The Kariwa Village Council had adopted a petition from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry on the 8th of that month for restarting the plant as soon as possible, and the Kashiwazaki City Council did likewise on the 21st. Although the city and village are making haste to restart the reactor, one mayor after another in the surrounding area has said it would be “premature.” The “UPZ* Council Member Study Group,” consisting of members from seven municipalities in Niigata Prefecture, issued a statement on April 23 requesting the national government not to restart the reactor without the understanding of the municipalities within the 30-kilometer zone. They say that at the regular sessions of each municipal council in June, the council members will ascertain their mayor’s views on restarting the reactor.

A questionnaire survey was conducted of Niigata Prefectural Assembly members, Diet members elected from Niigata Prefecture and mayors of municipalities in Niigata Prefecture, and the Niigata Nippo local daily newspaper relayed their responses, which were received from 52 prefectural assembly members, excluding the chairman. More than half, 28 people, responded that they opposed the restart. Even among the 31 Liberal Democratic Party (LDP; Japan’s conservative mainstream party), 12 were opposed and only three responded that they favored it. Fifteen responded that they couldn’t judge the matter, and one responded that they had “no legal authority for favoring or opposing it.”

*UPZ: Urgent Protection action planning Zone.

 

Plans to Send Spent Fuel from Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP to RFS Facility

The Recyclable-Fuel Storage Company (RFS) has formulated a storage plan for its recycled fuel storage center. It submitted the plan to Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) and reported this to Aomori Prefecture and Mutsu City on March 27. In the first half of FY2024, 69 spent fuel assemblies (about 12 tons of uranium) are to be loaded into one cask for pre-use testing. Two more casks are to be emplaced in the last half of FY2025, three more in the first half of FY2026, and two more in the second half. It is said that all of these casks and spent fuel will originate from the Kashiwazaki- Kariwa NPP.

On March 29, TEPCO announced that it would also send 69 assemblies to RFS in the second quarter of FY2024 (July to September).

To implement the plan, separate safety agreements will need to be concluded between RFS and Aomori Prefecture as well as RFS and Mutsu City.


 

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