News Watch 152 Jan./Feb. 2013 Nuke Info Tokyo No. 152
Hitachi’s General Headquarters for Overseas Nuclear Power Strategy
Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant Begins Glass Vitrification Tests
Fracture Zone Investigations Show Active Faults Highly Probable in Nuclear Plant Areas
Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant’s Embankment Barrier Raised to 22 Meters
Britain “Can Accept” Japan’s Plutonium
Japan Atomic Energy Commission’s Position on High-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal
LDP-New Komeito Return to Power
The Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety
Shipment of Vitrified Canisters from Britain in February
On December 1, Hitachi established a new general headquarters for its in-house Hitachi Power Systems’ overseas nuclear power strategy. General Manager Masaharu Hanyu serves concurrently as CEO of the Nuclear Systems Division. The headquarters will bear the function of facilitating the smooth operation of the British and Lithuanian nuclear plant industrial machinery business.
On December 7, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. began performance tests to confirm the stable operation of vitrification furnace B at the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant in Rokkasho Village, Aomori Prefecture. The performance test was finished on January 3, 2013. After that, vitrification furnace A is to be tested from the spring, and by August receive pre-operational inspections from the government, hoping to achieve plant completion in October.
The Nuclear Regulatory Authority conducted fracture zone investigations on November 2 at Kansai Electric’s Ohi Nuclear Power Plant, on December 1 and 2 at the Japan Atomic Power Company’s Tsuruga Nuclear Power Plant, and on the 13th at Tohoku Electric’s Higashidoori Nuclear Power Plant. Tsuruga and Higashidoori are thought to lie on active faults, as each investigation team has concurred. For Ohi, consensus has not been reached, and the reinvestigation on December 28 and 29 failed to reach a conclusion. The decommissioning of Tsuruga became highly probable as important equipment sits above the fault, and a revision of Higashidoori’s earthquake resistance has become necessary
On December 20, Chubu Electric announced a revision of its tsunami countermeasures by raising the height of the embankment barrier from 18 meters to 22 meters on the seaward side of the suspended Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant (2 BWRs 2,237 MW, 1 ABWR 1,380 MW). The huge steel barrier will be built with a total length of 1.6 km. After work commenced on the 18 meter embankment barrier, a Cabinet investigative commission of experts forecast the highest tsunami at 19 meters, and results of an analysis predicts the tsunami rising to a maximum of 21.4 meters on embankment impact.
In an explanation of “Britain’s plutonium management” given at the Japan Atomic Energy Commission on December 21, first secretary of the British Embassy in Japan Richard Oppenheim (Energy and Environment Section Head) indicated a perception that the UK could accept plutonium that is being stored in Britain for Japan’s electric power companies. Two options are being proposed for plutonium owned by Britain’s overseas clients:
1) Accept and process the plutonium into MOX fuel at a new British plant targeted to begin operation in 2025, or
2) Britain’s acquiring the ownership rights and managing the plutonium according to British policy.
However, in the latter case, as seen from the comprehensive viewpoint of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), it would be necessary to demonstrate to the British government that the benefits for Britain would actually be forthcoming, thus indicating that there were still high hurdles to be overcome before the UK would consider taking possession of the plutonium.
On December 18, the Japan Atomic Energy Commission finalized its views in a document entitled “Future Efforts for the Geological Disposal of High-level Radioactive Waste.” In September 2010, the Commission requested proposals from the Science Council of Japan, and the current document is based on the “response” received in September 2012. However, the Commission’s position is to not consider the Science Council’s proposal to create a limit on nuclear waste by introducing “total volume management.” In addition, they are not adopting another proposal, “temporary storage,” as they have taken the aggressive attitude that geological disposal can secure both reversibility and recoverability, ultimately remaining sold on geological disposal.
On December 16, the Liberal Democratic Party won a convincing victory in the Lower House election, and on the 26th, the Shinzo Abe Cabinet was inaugurated as the LDP formed a coalition with the New Komeito Party. On the 29th, Prime Minister Abe inspected the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and then told a group of reporters he would not follow the previous administration’s nuclear power policies.
From December 15 to 17, the Japanese government held “The Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety” in Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture, in which 117 countries and 13 international organizations participated. A ministerial level meeting was held on the 15th, and a meeting of experts took place on the 16th and 17th. On the 15th, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and Belarus Minister of Emergency Situations Vashchenko signed a cooperation agreement for the promotion of post nuclear accident responses. In addition, Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato and Director General of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, signed a memorandum of cooperation on decontamination and related issues.
It has been announced that 28 of the vitrified glass containers of high-level radioactive waste fabricated from reprocessed spent fuel from Japan’s electric power companies at the British Sellafield Reprocessing Plant will be shipped soon to Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd’s storage facilities in Rokkasho Village, Aomori Prefecture. The shipment departed the port of Barrow-in-Furness on January 9 bound for Japan via the Panama Canal. It is estimated that it will arrive at Rokkasho Village’s Mutsu-Ogawara Port in second half of February.