News Watch 108 (September/October 2005) Nuke Info Tokyo No. 108

Mitsubishi wins order from EDF

Will development of next generation reactors be led by manufacturers?

Tokai Reprocessing Plant to be dismantled in 5 years

Mihama-3 accident: one year on

Modification work begins at Monju

Mitsubishi wins order from EDFMitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) announced on August 24 that it had won an order for six steam generators (SGs) for two PWR reactors from Electricite de France (EDF). Previously, EDF had placed orders for all major nuclear equipment with FRAMATOME. However, EU demanded the liberalization of the French market, so for the first time EDF decided to place an order overseas. Fifteen replacement SGs for five reactors were put out for international bidding and FRAMATOME won orders for nine SGs for three reactors. In addition, Westinghouse Electric Corporation of the United States made a bid for the SGs. The actual manufacturing would have been commissioned to Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction Co., Ltd. of South Korea.

Using this order as a springboard, MHI hopes to expand its business into maintenance work for French nuclear plants and other replacement equipment.

Will development of next generation reactors be led by manufacturers?During its August 9 meeting, the Nuclear Power Sub-committee of the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy approved a new policy for the development of next generation light-water reactors. Hitherto, development has been carried out by the government, hand-in-hand with the private sector, but from the next fiscal year manufacturers will be asked to take the lead. Until now, electric power companies led the initiative, but it has become difficult for power companies to lead large projects, due to deregulation and sluggish demand for electric power.

However, these same reasons make us wonder whether power companies will buy the next generation reactors that are developed. The manufacturers also are getting cold feet and the future prospects for the development appear dim.

Tokai Reprocessing Plant to be dismantled in 5 yearsThe Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has been formulating medium-term goals for the period after the integration of Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute (JNC) and Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI). A controversial proposal would see the Tokai Reprocessing Plant dismantled in five years.

MEXT stated that the content of the proposal could not be disclosed, as it was still under discussion. However, it was reported as comments of some officials involved by the Denki Shimbun (Electricity News) on August 15. The Tokai Reprocessing Plant’s contracts for reprocessing spent fuel produced at commercial reactors have already been completed and only spent fuel from JNC’s Fugen (an advanced thermal reactor which ceased operations in March 2003) remains to be done. MEXT wants to dismantle the Tokai plant in FY2010, when reprocessing of Fugen’s spent fuel has been completed. However, electric power companies, which want the government to do research and development into the reprocessing of irradiated MOX fuel, and JNC, which wants to carry out this research, are opposed to the proposal.

Mihama-3 accident: one year onOne year has passed since the accident at Kansai Electric Power Company’s, (KEPCO) Mihama-3 reactor (PWR, 826 MW). The accident, in which five people were killed and six suffered serious burns, occurred on 9 August 2004 (NIT 102). Of the six with burns, one has returned to work, three have begun clerical work while continuing to visit the hospital as outpatients, one is recuperating at home and one still remains in hospital. Aiming to resume operations, on August 4 KEPCO submitted a written plan to Fukui Prefecture, Mihama Town and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency for the replacement of the ruptured pipe. Work began on the 8th.

Fukui Prefectural Police Headquarters has been investigating criminal liability for the accident. Naoomi Nakayama, chief of criminal investigations, stated that they “would continue investigations, including into the nature of KEPCO, which lies behind this accident”, and that they “would like to establish a criminal case as soon as possible”. It seems, however, that it will still take some time.

Modification work begins at MonjuOn September 1, the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute (JNC) began modification work at its Monju prototype fast breeder reactor (280 MW) in Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture. With regard to the thermocouples which caused the sodium leakage from the secondary cooling system in 1995, 6 out of 48 were considered to be unnecessary and will be removed. The remaining 42 will be replaced with improved ones. As a protection against sodium leakage from the primary coolant system, an electric-powered motor will be installed to enable valves to be operated by remote control, in order to swiftly recover leaked sodium. So that the sodium in the secondary cooling system can be drained out, a drain pipe will be added.

According to JNC’s plan, testing of these modifications will begin by the end of 2006. Tests to check the plant as a whole will be carried out in the middle of 2007 and Monju is scheduled to recommence operations at the beginning of 2008. However, since sodium is still flowing in the A loop of the primary system, the work has to be done in an environment of nitrogen gas. JNC says, “it will be more difficult than building a new one”, so the possibility of an accident occurring during the modification work cannot be ruled out.

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