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JAEA to cooperate with Vietnam on nuclear non-proliferation
On June 25 the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) concluded a memorandum of understanding with Vietnam's Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety regarding nuclear non-proliferation. The cooperation will include exchange of information concerning regulations and systems for nuclear safeguards and security, human resource development, meetings of experts and visits to facilities. JAEA carried out a survey of Vietnam's nuclear non-proliferation activities in 2007 and held a meeting of experts in 2008.

Cabinet approves Basic Energy Plan and New Growth Strategy
On June 18 the Cabinet approved the Basic Energy Plan and the New Growth Strategy. The Basic Energy Plan was formulated under the June 2002 Basic Act on Energy Policy. The first plan was adopted in October 2003. Since then it has been revised twice, first in March 2007 and now this time. Aiming to promote energy policy and economic growth strategy in a unified fashion, the government has essentially incorporated the Basic Energy Plan unchanged into the New Growth Strategy.

However, the order of the draft Basic Energy Plan prepared by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry was rearranged by the National Policy Unit. Nuclear energy was originally placed before renewable energy as an energy supply strategy, but the order was reversed. In third place was the highly efficient use of fossil fuels. In the New Growth Strategy, targets for construction of new nuclear power plants and capacity factor were omitted. Nuclear power stations and coal fired power stations are both promoted and in both cases it is claimed that exports will contribute to economic growth. In this respect, the basic content was not changed, but it seems that alterations were made to take into account public support for renewable energy.

Fukushima I-2: loss of offsite power during scram
On June 17, Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima I-2 (BWR, 784MW) scrammed due to a problem with the generator. Power was lost for a time, because the switchover to the offsite power supply was unsuccessful. As a result, the feedwater pump stopped and the water level in the reactor core fell about 2 meters. The emergency diesel generator started up just in time, so the Emergency Core Cooling System was not activated. The water level was restored by an alternative pump in the core isolation cooling system.

Chugoku Electric reprimanded
Details of the failure by Chugoku Electric Power Company to carry out checks of equipment at Units 1 and 2 of its Shimane Nuclear Power Plants (BWR, 460MW & 820MW) were reported in NIT 136. According to Chugoku Electric's final report, submitted on June 3 to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), 511 planned checks were not carried out and a further 1,160 checks would probably have been missed eventually. All other power companies reported to NISA that no such problems had arisen at their plants.

On June 11, NISA ordered Chugoku Electric to amend its safety rules (government permission required) and issued a severe reprimand. NISA does not intend to allow the plants to be restarted until it has confirmed Chugoku Electric's preventative measures.

Assessment of safety activities at nuclear power plants
On June 14, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) announced its comprehensive assessment of the safety activities at all nuclear power plants except Shimane Units 1 and 2. It subsequently announced its assessment of Shimane-1&2 on July 9. Shimane-1&2 were the only plants where NISA found issues that it assessed to be "unacceptable". In addition to the "unacceptable issues" at Shimane, "serious issues" at 21 plants and "issues" at 2 more plants require follow up inspections. Follow-up inspections were not demanded for 19 plants with "minor issues", or 10 plants with "no identified issues".

Final compensation claim from JCO criticality accident rejected
On May 13, the Supreme Court rejected claims for damages associated with the JCO Criticality Accident by husband and wife Shoichi and Keiko Oizumi. Their claims related to worsening of skin disease and Post Traumatic Syndrome respectively. On June 3, JCO announced that this brings to an end all outstanding negotiations and legal suits for compensation from the JCO accident, which occurred on September 30, 1999. According to JCO, compensation was paid for 6,983 out of a total of 8,018 claims. The total amount paid was 15.4 billion yen. It did not admit damage to health for any of these claims.

MHI signs agreement with Iberdrola Engineering
On June 2, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) announced that it had agreed with Spanish company Iberdrola Engineering to cooperate in marketing the European version of its 1,700-MW PWR, the EU-APWR. MHI will be responsible for overall engineering of the NPP and major NPP components and equipment while Iberdrola will take charge of installation work and design, procurement and commissioning of the nuclear island.

Mihama-1 to operate for a maximum of 10 more years
Kansai Electric Power Company's (KEPCO) Mihama-1 Nuclear Power Plant (PWR, 340 MW) will reach 40 years of operation in November. On June 28 the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) approved KEPCO's long-term maintenance management plan. On the same day KEPCO reported to Fukui Prefecture and Mihama Town that it planned to continue operating the plant for a maximum of ten years and begin consideration of a replacement.

Moves towards loading MOX fuel into Fukushima I-3
A periodic inspection of Fukushima I-3 Nuclear Power Plant (BWR, 784 MW) began on June 19. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is increasing pressure on Fukushima Prefecture to allow MOX fuel to be loaded in August. A petition opposing this, which had been submitted to the Fukushima Prefectural Assembly, was put to the vote on June 30 without referral for debate in committee. The petition was supported by a few assembly members, but was voted down. As conditions for the loading of MOX fuel, the prefecture is demanding confirmation of the integrity of the fuel (which was fabricated 13 years ago), a plan for dealing with aging of the reactor, and confirmation of seismic safety. The central government and the prefecture are currently considering TEPCO's report.

MOX fuel arrives from France
On June 28, 20 MOX fuel assemblies were delivered to Kyushu Electric Power Company's Genkai-3 (PWR, 1180 MW). From there, the ships proceeded to Kansai Electric Power Company's Takahama Nuclear Power Station, where 8 MOX assemblies and 4 MOX assemblies were delivered on June 30 to Takahama-3 (PWR, 870 MW) and Takahama-4 (PWR, 870 MW) respectively. The fuel for Genkai-3 will be used in its second MOX load, while the fuel for Takahama Units 3 & 4 will be used in their first MOX load. The fuel was fabricated in France's Melox Plant and shipped amid protests from the Port of Cherbourg on April 8. It was unloaded at the nuclear power plants' own ports.

Application to implement pluthermal at Shika-1
On June 28, Hokuriku Electric Power Company applied to Ishikawa Prefecture and Shika Town for permission to implement pluthermal* at its Shika-1 Nuclear Power Plant (BWR, 357 MW). On the same day, it applied to the Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry to have its license amended. Now only Japan Atomic Power Company has yet to apply for permission to implement pluthermal.

* MOX fuel is nuclear fuel made of a mixture of uranium and plutonium oxides. The term 'pluthermal' refers to the use of plutonium in thermal reactors - i.e. the use of MOX fuel in normal light water reactors as opposed to fast breeder reactors.

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