News Watch 150 Sep./Oct. 2012 Nuke Info Tokyo No. 150
Restart of Ohi Reactor Units 3 and 4
Government Presents Twelve Candidate Areas for Contaminated Soil Storage from Decontamination Work
Shizuoka Prefecture Citizens’ Referendum Request on Hamaoka Nuclear Plant Restart
Nuclear Abolition Law, Proposal in Parliament
“Innovative Energy and Environment Strategy” Announced
Nuclear Safety Commission Finally Inaugurated
Restart of Ohi Reactor Units 3 and 4
Kansai Electric’s Ohi Unit 3 (PWR 1,180 MW) was reactivated on July 1. Electrical power generation began on July 5, and commercial operation started from August 3. Also at Ohi, Unit 4 (PWR 1,180 MW) was reactivated on July 18, started electrical power generation on July 21, and commercial operation on August 16. During this time there were successive occurrences of various kinds of problems on the site, but nothing very serious. Scheduled inspections are required by law after thirteen months of operation, but governors in the Kansai area say that once the peak summer demand for power is over the reactors should be shut down. Moreover, as this long summer of intense heat continues, it has become clear that the electrical supply from Ohi Units 3 and 4 was not actually needed.
On August 19, the government presented to towns in the vicinity of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Okuma and Futaba Towns, and Naraha Town, nearby Fukushima Daini NPP, twelve candidate locations to be investigated as “mid-term storage facilities” for contaminated soil from the decontamination work in the prefecture. Plans exist to dispose of waste and incinerated ash from the earthquake disaster at the industrial waste disposal facility in Tomioka Town, where Fukushima Daini NPP is located. There is strong resistance from each of the towns, and whether or not an investigation will take place is uncertain. Moreover, according to a television broadcast on August 27, the town of Minami Osumi in Kagoshima Prefecture became a candidate for a final disposal site after “mid-term storage,” and voices of opposition are rising from the surrounding cities and towns.
On August 27, a request from a citizens’ movement with 160,000 attached signatures to enact a prefectural referendum ordinance on the question of the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant restart was handed directly to Heita Kawakatsu, the prefectural governor of Shizuoka. Similar requests were made to the Tokyo governor and Osaka mayor, who both opposed referenda, which were also rejected in the assemblies. On September 19, Governor Kawakatsu submitted the proposal for the ordinance to the Prefectural Assembly, attaching his argument for enactment of the ordinance. However, his party holds only a minority in the assembly and the chances of approval are low.
On September 7, a proposal from 13 Diet members for a nuclear phaseout was submitted to the Lower House. Stipulations include no new construction of nuclear plants, decommissioning after forty years of operation, and decommissioning of all plants at the latest in the 2020 to 2025 period. The outlook during the current parliament is unfavorable, but since the proposal is likely to become a point of contention in the upcoming Lower House election, one aim of the proposal is to increase the number of Diet members who support such a nuclear phaseout.
On September 14, the “Innovative Energy and Environment Strategy” was announced following a decision by the Cabinet-formed Energy and Environment Conference. The Strategy included wording such as “zero operating nuclear plants,” which the Japan Business Federation fiercely opposed, and a planned Cabinet decision did not take place. While the September 19 Cabinet meeting was based on the contents of the Strategy, the Strategy itself was not the subject of a decision, and it was simply decided “to have responsible discussions with related municipalities and the international community, gain the understanding of the public, and to accomplish this with flexibility, and continual verification and revision.” Uncertainty also marks the contents of “zero nuclear plant operation,” which is referenced as “we will employ all policy resources required to make zero nuclear plant operation a possibility in the 2030s.” Also included is a continuation of the contradictory reprocessing efforts. Having once decided on the “Strategy for a National Debate,” it is impossible to ignore the voices of the overwhelming majority of citizens, who have demanded realization of the “zero option.” At the same time, the business world and municipalities with nuclear facilities also have intentions that cannot be ignored. The Strategy has thus become incoherent, and the fact that it was not finalized by a Cabinet decision only serves to increase misunderstanding.
On September 19, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was inaugurated, and the nuclear regulatory arm finally achieved independence from METI. Even so, the Commission got off to a highly irregular start with the Prime Minister personally appointing the committee chairman and committee members without the agreement of both the Upper and Lower House. There is also strong opposition regarding the committee chairman and two of the committee members, who have just resigned from organizations that they will now have to regulate, and it was not possible to reach agreement on this. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission began activities together with its new secretariat, the Nuclear Regulatory Authority, of which about 350 of the 460 workers have largely moved in a group from NISA’s nuclear regulatory section, and it is thought uncertain that the Authority will be able to instigate a regulatory administration differing from that of the past.