News Watch 151 Nov./Dec. 2012 Nuke Info Tokyo No. 151
Hitachi Buys British Nuclear Power Company
JA’s Nuclear Phase-out Policy
Ohma Nuclear Plant Construction Restarts
Japan-India Joint Statement of Cooperation in Nuclear Power Field
License Expires for Sea Landfill of Planned Kaminoseki Nuclear Plant
Ordinance for Referendum by Citizens of Shizuoka Prefecture on Restart of Hamaoka Nuclear Plant Fails to Pass
Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant Completion Plans Postponed
Regulatory Commission Decision on Countermeasure Policy for Nuclear Damage
Formulation of Nuclear Energy Policy Outline Frozen
On October 30, Hitachi announced the purchase of British nuclear energy company Horizon Nuclear Power Ltd. (HNP, capital stock £540 million) for £670 million pounds. HNP resulted from an effort by E.ON and RWE in January 2009 to establish a company to move into the UK nuclear power industry, but both companies announced their withdrawal on March 29, 2012 due to the negative financial effects from Germany’s nuclear phase-out policy. E.ON also announced complete withdrawal from Finland’s nuclear industry. Both companies will continue to invest in offshore wind power and LNG thermal in Britain.
At first, the buyout of HNP attracted China’s State National Nuclear Power Technology Corp. with Westinghouse Electric Corp., and then China Guangdong Nuclear Corporation with AREVA NP. However, from Britain’s perspective, there were concerns over safety guarantees and unease over nuclear power technology leaks, and from the industry side pessimistic fears developed about investment recovery, leading to withdrawal of all bids by the end of September. Subsequently,
Hitachi participated in the bidding at the request of the British government.
Hitachi bought up all of HNP’s stock, and is now searching for companies to engage in a joint venture to spread the risk. Hitachi’s investment has been reported to be from 50% down to the vicinity of 10%, making the desired risk reduction understood. HNP has construction plans for two to three reactors each for the existing nuclear plant locations at Oldbury and Wylfa (though just one reactor at Wylfa is operating, and that is planned to close in 2014), but, as indicated above, the reason for the Chinese pullout resulted from negative expectations about investment recovery, thus raising questions about the plan’s feasibility. Further, Hitachi’s ABWR construction plans have not undergone a comprehensive design inspection by the British government, and according to a statement at a press conference by Managing Executive Officer Masaharu Hanyu on October 30, approval “will take five years.” During this time, the situation may deteriorate for Hitachi. Even if
Hitachi were able to build nuclear plants, they do not have the operating know-how. This looks like it will end up being an expensive shopping spree.
On October 11, the JA Group, the Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives, held an all-Japan conference and came up with a “future nuclear phase-out” policy. JA, however, received a mixed response from the prefectures, especially those hosting nuclear plants. Those prefectures that are suffering from the effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear accident, Fukushima, Miyagi, and Ibaraki appealed for a nuclear phase-out (effective immediately), while the Fukui, Aomori, and other prefectural conferences decided not to endorse a “nuclear phase-out” policy.
On October 1, J-Power informed Aomori Prefecture’s Ohma Town and Hokkaido’s Hakodate City, across the Tsugaru Strait from the town of Ohma, of the resumption of construction work on the Ohma Nuclear Plant (ABWR, 1,383 MW), which had been suspended following the Fukushima nuclear accident. Construction recommenced on October 11. Strong resistance was expressed by eleven cities and villages centering on Hakodate City in the southern part of Hokkaido, and resulted in city mayors, heads of town assemblies, and representatives of fishing and agricultural cooperatives visiting Tokyo on the 15th with demands for the government and J-Power to implement an indefinite construction freeze. Hakodate City is preparing a lawsuit to stop the construction. At the Hokkaido Assembly on October 5, the resumption of construction was protested by a unanimous assembly resolution.
On October 10, the “Sixth Japan-India Energy Dialogue,” was held at METI. The conference was attended by Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of India’s Planning Commission, and Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano. They issued a joint statement as a pillar of cooperation in the field of nuclear power. Both governments were near to concluding negotiations on a nuclear power agreement, which has been stalled due to the Fukushima nuclear accident, but negotiations did not take place at this meeting.
On October 5, Chugoku Electric Power Company applied for a license extension for a sea landfill at the planned location of the Kaminoseki Nuclear Plant reactors 1 and 2 (both ABWR, 1,373MW) with the governor of Yamaguchi Prefecture. Permission for the license was granted in October 2008, and construction was to be finished by October 6, 2012. The license expired on October 6, but the company applied for an extension on the preceding day. The new Governor Shigetaro Yamamoto won the gubernatorial election at the end of July this year with a promise not to allow the license extension. On October 23, however, Yamaguchi Prefecture requested a supplementary explanation with regards to the content of Chugoku Electric’s application for the landfill license. The decision, planned by Yamaguchi Prefecture for November 6, was therefore delayed.
The true intentions of Chugoku Electric and Yamaguchi Prefecture are seen as a stalling tactic until the national election to be held in December, when a change in ruling parties may bring about a switch to a policy of nuclear promotion.
An ordinance to hold a referendum by the citizens of Shizuoka Prefecture on the restart of the Hamaoka Nuclear Plant, submitted on September on 19, differed from previous examples in the Tokyo Metropolis and Osaka City, where the Tokyo governor and Osaka mayor both opposed the proposal in their respective assemblies. From the start, Governor Heita Kawakatsu attached an opinion in favor of approval, but the Shizuoka Prefecture assembly rejected the original proposal at the General Affairs Standing Committee. The amended nonpartisan version was also rejected by a vote of 48 to 17 in the full prefectural assembly on October 11.
The Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant in Rokkasho Village, Aomori Prefecture, has failed in experiments to vitrify high-level waste liquids into canisters, and facility completion plans continue to be delayed. On September 19, just before the planned completion in October, Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited announced the postponement of completion for a further year, altering the completion schedule to October 2013. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was notified of this on October 4. A widely held view is that the new schedule will be postponed again.
On October 31, in a policy decision on nuclear disaster countermeasures, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission extended the evacuation zone to a thirty-kilometer radius. A detailed policy explanation is expected within the year. Extending the existing radius from the current eight to ten kilometers for the evacuation preparation zone greatly increases the number of municipalities affected.
In a deliberative conference on October 2, the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) decided to abolish the subcommittee that considers the nuclear fuel cycle, since the authority to determine nuclear energy policies has been transferred to the government’s Energy and Environment Council. The reason for the existence of JAEC has therefore come into question, and a conference of experts was created in the National Policy Unit for a review of the JAEC’s functions. On October 31, an opening conference was held, CNIC’s corepresentative Hideyuki Ban participating as one of the experts.