News Watch 158 Jan./Feb. 2014 Nuke Info Tokyo No. 158
— Fukushima Daiichi Units 5 and 6 to be decommissioned
— Completion of Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant and Mutsu Spent Nuclear Fuel Intermediate Storage Facilities postponed
— Successive applications for examination of NPPs conformity with the new regulatory requirements submitted
— Unprecedented process used to formulate The Basic Energy Plan
— Toshiba reaches agreement on the purchase of NuGen shares
On December 18, 2013, Tokyo Electric Power Company made the decision to decommission Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (FDNPS) Unit 5 (BWR, 784 MW) and Unit 6 (BWR, 1,100 MW) reactors as of January 31, 2014, and delivered notice of the decision to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). Fukushima Daiichi reactors, Unit 1 (BWR, 460 MW), Unit 2 (BWR, 784 MW), Unit 3 (BWR, 784 MW), and Unit 4 (BWR, 784 MW) were decommissioned on April 19, 2012. Units 5 and 6 will not be dismantled in the immediate future, but will be used as research and training facilities for the decommissioning of Units 1 to 4.
The Fukushima Prefectural Assembly has demanded that Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Station reactor Units 1 to 4 (BWR, 1,100 MW each) also be decommissioned. The municipal assemblies of Tomioka and Naraha, where the Fukushima Daini NPS is located, adopted the proposal demanding the decommissioning of Fukushima Daini on December 11 and 12, 2013, respectively. On December 20, the municipal assemblies of Ōkuma and Futaba, where Fukushima Daiichi is located, also adopted the proposal.
On December 19, 2013, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd., owner of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant (RRP) and Recyclable-Fuel Storage (RFS), owner of the intermediate storage facility for spent fuel now under construction, informed the governor of Aomori Prefecture that the completion of the individual facilities would be postponed. The completion of the RRP was postponed from October 2013 to October 2014. This was the 20th postponement from the original plan. Completion of the intermediate storage facility was postponed from October 2013 to March 2015, the third postponement thus far.
On the same day, both facilities announced that the seismic motion to be considered for aseismic design will be increased from 450 gal to 600 gal. The Nuclear Regulation Authority’s new regulation standards for nuclear fuel cycle facilities took effect on the previous day, December 18, and the changes in completion dates were based on the new standards. The RRP applied for the examination of conformity to the new standards on January 7, 2014, and the RFS followed suit on January 15. However, it is extremely unlikely they will obtain permission soon, and further postponement is likely.
On December 25, 2013, Chugoku Electric Power sent the Nuclear Regulation Authority an application for examination of its Shimane Nuclear Power Plant Unit 2 (BWR, 820 MW) reactor for conformity with the new regulatory requirements. Tohoku Electric Power also submitted a similar application concerning its Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant Unit 2 (BWR, 825 MW) reactor on December 27. More specifically, the companies have applied for the Permission of Changes in Reactor Installation, for the Approval of the Construction Plan, and for the Approval of Changes in Nuclear Power Facility Security Regulations.
The application concerning Onagawa Unit 2 is the first for a nuclear power plant damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake. After submission of the application, Shigeru Inoue, Executive Vice President of Tohoku Electric Power, said, “There was minor damage due to the earthquake, but onsite inspections have confirmed the integrity of the facility.” Just exactly what the “minor damage” consists of has not been made public, and it is unknown why the application for Unit 2 was sent first. Tohoku Electric Power announced that they will submit the applications for Unit 1 (BWR, 524 MW) and Unit 3 (BWR, 825 MW) soon.
The quakes Onagawa Unit 2 was exposed to during the great earthquake and aftershocks were greater than expected, and the seismic motion to be considered for aseismic design was increased from 580 gal to 1000 gal, the aseismic construction being based on this criterion. Because the plant buildings were flooded after the great earthquake, a wave barrier of about 29 meters above sea level was also built.
The Basic Policy Subcommittee, under the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy, METI, drew up a conclusive report, Opinions Concerning the Basic Energy Plan (draft), in December 2013, and public comments on the report were solicited up to January 6, 2014. After the publication of the report, the parenthesized word “(draft)” was deleted before the end of the comment period: After the start of the comment period on December 6, the report was corrected on December 13, and it was corrected again on the 17th, deleting the word “(draft)”.
The Basic Energy Plan was formulated through an unprecedented process. The Fundamental Issues Subcommittee originally held discussions under the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources. In September 2012, the Democratic Party of Japan, the ruling party at the time, decided on an energy policy that would invest all possible policy resources into phasing out all operating nuclear power plants in the 2030s (See Nuke Info Tokyo151). However, the chairperson of the subcommittee was dissatisfied with the decision, and did not call further subcommittee meetings after that time. Such procrastination was unprecedented. After the Liberal Democratic Party was returned to power, the chairperson formed another subcommittee to draw up the report, this time including fewer antinuclear committee members. This was also unprecedented.
In the released Basic Energy Plan, nuclear power is positioned as an important base power that will support the secure framework of energy supply and demand, and will be continually used on condition of the assurance of safety. Whatever expressions may be used in the report, it was predictable that nuclear power would be positioned as such, based on the process of the formulation of the Plan.
Nuclear power plants have now returned to almost the same position as before the Fukushima accident. What is different is that the newly formed Subcommittee presented the report to the government not as a “Draft Basic Energy Plan” but as Opinions Concerning the Basic Energy Plan. In the past, such a subcommittee drew up a report by the name of a “Draft Basic Energy Plan” and the cabinet approved it as it was, with few changes. This time the report says: “We strongly urge that the new Basic Energy Plan be decided based on these opinions.” When the report was corrected on December 17, an addition was made to the effect that the Subcommittee would entrust the determination of the ratios of energy sources to the government. The Subcommittee probably means that the government is better able to state clearly that it will further promote nuclear power plants.
Better or worse, the Opinions Concerning the Basic Energy Plan includes no indication of further nuclear power promotion. It is simply a mirror of government policy.
On December 21, 2013, Toshiba and Iberdrola, a Spanish electricity utility company, agreed that Iberdrola would sell Toshiba its 50% share in NuGen, a UK company, for 8.5 million pounds. NuGen’s Moorside project, a plan to build three nuclear power plants close to Sellafield, will go ahead, but one of the initial investors, Scottish and Southern Energy, which owned 25%, withdrew after the Fukushima accident. The remaining two, Iberdrola and the French company GDF Suez, took up the shares on a fifty-fifty basis and thus each owned 50% of the total investment. Toshiba will also obtain part of the shares that GDF Suez owns, and aims to ensure that AP1000 pressurized water reactors (PWR) will be ordered from Westinghouse, Toshiba’s subsidiary, for the project. Toshiba is likely to sell most of its shares to power generation companies thereafter, in a similar manner as Hitachi, which purchased Horizon Nuclear Power.