News Watch 106 (May/June 2005) Nuke Info Tokyo No. 106

10th shipment of High-Level Radioactive Waste

Application for permission to construct MOX plant

Shika Nuclear Power Plant suspended due to a fallen transmission line tower

Construction Approved for Shimane-3

Two Nuclear Bills Passed the House of Representatives

10th shipment of High-Level Radioactive WasteOne hundred twenty-four canisters of high-level radioactive waste (HLW) returned from France arrived on April 20th at the storage facility of Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL) in Rokkasho-mura, Aomori Prefecture. This was the 10th shipment, bringing the total number of canisters which have been returned from France to 1,016. The total number to be returned from France is said to be about 1,350. Shipments from the U.K. are scheduled to begin in FY2007. The total number of HLW canisters from the U.K. is reported to be about 850, but it may increase to about 1,000 canisters. In addition to high-level radioactive waste, TRU (transuranic) waste is also scheduled to be returned, but the U.K. has proposed to Japan that in the place of the TRU waste, HLW with an equivalent ‘integrated toxic potential’ be returned.

In any case, two more HLW shipments from France and eight or nine shipments from the U.K. are planned. The transport of TRU waste from France is predicted to begin in FY2013 and to be completed within 10 shipments. In the case where TRU waste is not substituted with HLW, there may be as many as 37 TRU waste shipments from the U.K..

The anxiety of the people living along the coasts of the transport routes will continue.

Application for permission to construct MOX plantJNFL filed an application with the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry on April 20th for permission to construct a MOX fuel processing plant next to the reprocessing plant which is now under construction in Rokkasho-mura, Aomori Prefecture. The plan is to start construction in April 2007 and to complete it in April 2011. The annual MOX fuel production capacity would be about 130 tHM and the construction cost is estimated at 120 billion yen. MOX powder (plutonium 50% and uranium 50%) will be carried in from the reprocessing plant through an underground trench. This will be diluted with depleted uranium, and be processed into MOX fuel with the required plutonium content. The annual amount of plutonium to be handled will be about eight tons (fissile component being about five tons).

At a hotel in Aomori City on April 19, the day before the application was submitted, representatives of Aomori Prefecture, Rokkasho-mura and JNFL signed a basic agreement for the construction. It was three years and eight months since JNFL had made a request for cooperation in August 2001. If you exclude the period during which consideration of the MOX plant application was suspended because of fraudulent work at the reprocessing plant, the prefectural and local governments accepted the MOX plant construction plan in less than one year.

There is no clear prospect for the use of this MOX fuel.

Shika Nuclear Power Plant suspended due to a fallen transmission line towerOn April 1st there was a landslide in Hakui City, Ishikawa Prefecture. The landslide brought down a 500 kV transmission line tower. The transmission line is to transmit the electricity generated at Hokuriku Electric Power Company’s Shika Nuclear Power Plant to Kanazawa City, in the center of Ishikawa Prefecture. Shika-1 (BWR, 540 MW), having nowhere to send the electricity it produces, was manually shut down. It was finally restarted on April 22nd, when the transmission line was restored.

Shika-2 (ABWR, 1,358 MW) is currently under construction, and fuel loading began on April 26th. It is planned that it will go critical for the first time at the end of May, begin power generation in July and start commercial operation in March 2006. If Shika-2 had been in operation, there would have been a much larger amount of power (1,898 MW) with nowhere to be transmitted. The accident revealed the vulnerability of non-distributed power systems, which directly transmit power from large power sources to a consuming area via high-voltage cables. However, other power companies transmit from even bigger power sources over long distances using extremely high voltage cables.

Construction Approved for Shimane-3On April 26th the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry approved the construction of Chugoku Electric Power Company’s proposed Shimane-3 reactor (ABWR, 1,373 MW). The proposed site of the reactor is Matsue City in Shimane Prefecture. The name of the town was Kashima-machi, but at the end of March seven municipalities, including the former Matsue City, were merged into the new Matsue City. As a consequence, this will be the first time a nuclear plant has been located in a prefectural capital.

The application for the construction license was filed in October 2000. The final approval was made after the Nuclear Safety Commission double checked the results of an examination conducted by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (April 2004) in terms of safety and the Atomic Energy Commission confirmed that the use would be strictly restricted to peaceful purposes, and that the accounting basis was sound. (These checks are actually just a formality).

According to the plan, construction will start in September and commercial operation will begin in December 2011.

Two Nuclear Bills Passed the House of RepresentativesTwo nuclear bills, whose contents include raising funds for the operation, dismantling and eventual disposal of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant, introduction of a clearance system and strengthening of nuclear material safeguards (see NIT 105), passed the House of Representatives on April 26th. They were then sent to the House of Councilor, which approved them on May 13th.

With regard to the reuse of radioactive waste which is ‘cleared’, for some time after the bill is passed, such waste will be used inside the power plants themselves. The people in the movement against these bills have expressed their intention to press ahead with their campaign to prevent these wastes from being moved out of the companies’ premises.

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