November 29, 2015
A total of 13 out of the nation’s 47 prefectures say they would refuse to host a final disposal site for highly radioactive nuclear waste, a Kyodo News survey showed Saturday.
In the survey conducted between late October and early November, 13 local governments said they would “never accept” such a facility, eight sounded negative, while 24 declined to clarify their position and two said they will “carefully consider the possibility.” None showed a positive stance toward hosting the site.
In May, the government introduced a plan in which it will choose candidate sites for burying high-level radioactive waste based on scientific analysis, rather than waiting for municipalities to express a willingness to host a final depository.
The change of policy reflects the lack of progress made in the process of soliciting candidate sites that began in 2002 due to safety concerns.
For permanent disposal, high-level nuclear waste needs to be stored in a final depository more than 300 meters underground for up to 100,000 years until radiation levels fall and it no longer poses a threat to humans and the environment.
Among the 13 prefectures opposed to accommodating a disposal site, four host nuclear power plants.
Fukui Prefecture, where the largest number of nuclear plants are located, said, “We have accepted (nuclear) power generation, but do not have a duty to take nuclear waste.” Ishikawa Prefecture said municipalities that consume large amounts of electricity should be given a priority as candidate sites.
Kochi Prefecture, whose municipality applied in 2007 for research to be conducted into whether it can host a final nuclear waste disposal site in exchange for government subsidies, said it “cannot afford” a depository. The Kochi town of Toyo canceled its application later that year due to protests from local residents.
One of the eight prefectures that expressed a negative stance toward hosting a disposal site, Aomori Prefecture, which currently hosts a spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, said the central government has promised that the facility will not be transformed into a final depository.
In a multiple-choice question on current concerns, 10 prefectures expressed worry that the state could “force municipalities into accepting” a final disposal site, while 20 were alarmed about the safety of the facility and potential reputational damage, and 17 cited the risk of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that could affect the operation of a depository.
Earlier this month, Finland became the world’s first country to give a green light to construction of a final nuclear waste disposal site, with the aim of having it begin operations in the 2020s.
See also :
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A total of 13 out of Japan's 47 prefectures have refused to host a final disposal site for highly radioactive nuclear waste, a Kyodo News survey showed Saturday.[…]
坂本健 Ken Sakamoto and Tatsuyo Young – Courtesy of 坂本健
Interview with Ken Sakamoto
In the light of the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and its bid to show the world that Japan has fully recovered from the triple disaster that hit Tohoku in 2011, including the ongoing nuclear crisis in Fukushima and beyond, Shinzo Abe and local governments have made it clear to tens of thousands of evacuees that it is time to go home. Japan claims that sufficient decontamination work has been concluded to return evacuees safely to their contaminated land. But most aren’t buying into the many propaganda tactics by local governments and are reticent to go back, rightfully so. In order to speed up the return process, the government has adopted drastic measures, such as cutting all housing subsidies and other compensations to most evacuees, by year 2018, forcing evacuees to return.
Though poorly reported by the Japanese media, Fukushima has experienced an increasing resistance from residents on this issue and numerous citizens have organized into fierce and dedicated groups and NPOs to fight against these pressuring reforms. One of their most dedicated leader is Ken Sakamoto, which I have had the privilege to meet via social Networks and introduced to me by my dear friend and member of Evacuate Fukushima 福島の子供を守れ; Yukiko Young. Sakamoto san is an incredible human being and is fighting, body and soul, to protect the lives of children and residents in Fukushima.
Sakamoto san has accepted to interview with us and we have promised to him to SHARE the voices of Fukushima – otherwise silenced by an unwilling media body. So please, support him and the thousands of victims by reading this interview and to share aplenty. At the end of this, you will find links wherein you may donate money that will directly come in help of these victims. Many people have asked me how they could help in terms of donation, this is it!
November 28, 2015
Nov. 28, 2015 - Updated 14:17 UTC+1
Japan's industry minister Motoo Hayashi says the government will continue to pursue its policy of recycling nuclear fuel.
He spoke to reporters after visiting a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho Village in Aomori Prefecture, northeastern Japan, on Saturday. It was his first visit to the plant since taking office in October.
The facility is a pillar of the government's fuel recycling program. It has suffered a series of problems during test runs. It remains unclear when the plant will start operating.
Observers fear that fuel storage pools at nuclear plants nationwide may become full if more reactors are restarted while the Rokkasho plant remains offline.
Hayashi inspected a central control center and other rooms at the plant. Officials of its operator, Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited, briefed him about the reprocessing system and equipment as well as the prospect for the plant's completion.
The schedule of the plant's completion has been postponed by more than 2 years because the Nuclear Regulation Authority has not yet finished its safety screening.
Hayashi told reporters that the postponement will allow the plant to meet new safety requirements introduced after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident.
The minister added that he asked the operator to make an all-out effort toward the plant's completion.
The industry ministry has mapped out revisions for the spent nuclear fuel recycling program that call for stronger government involvement to ensure stable management of the troubled program, it was learned Saturday.
According to the outline, a new organization sanctioned and supervised by the government will entrust the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel to Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd., which is owned jointly by electric power companies.
The government deemed it necessary that it get more involved in the program as a precautionary measure against possible management difficulties at major power companies when the electricity retail market is fully liberalized in April 2016, sources said.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will hold a panel meeting with experts on Monday where the revisions will be discussed. Based on the discussions, the ministry hopes to submit amendments on related laws to an ordinary session of the Diet next year, the sources said.
Currently, power companies that operate nuclear plants set aside funds for spent fuel reprocessing, which they will tap to make payments to JNFL, based in the village of Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture.
The revision outline calls for making it mandatory for the power companies to contribute reprocessing funds to the government-authorized organization in accordance with the amount of electricity generated at their nuclear facilities.
The funds will also be used to operate a uranium-plutonium mixed oxide, or MOX, fuel plant JNFL is constructing to process plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel.
The switchover to the revised system is designed so that reprocessing funds can still be collected even if power companies go bankrupt amid intensified market competition after the liberalization of the market goes into effect.
With the nuclear fuel reprocessing and recycling program being led by the new organization, which cannot be disbanded without government authorization, power companies will not be allowed to pull out of the program at their own discretion.
The nuclear fuel recycling program is estimated to cost a total of ¥12.6 trillion and power companies have so far set aside ¥5.1 trillion.
But the completion of the fuel reprocessing plant, which will play a central role in the program, has been delayed until the first half of fiscal 2018, after more than 20 postponements from the initially planned date in 1997.
Still, the industry ministry believes the recycling program is essential.
“A nuclear fuel cycle is very important for Japan, which faces a scarcity of natural resources,” a senior official said.
There is persistent skepticism, however, about the profitability of the project.
November 28, 2015
Some 2,900 residents living near the Genkai nuclear plant in Saga Prefecture joined a nuclear disaster drill involving three north Kyushu prefectures on Saturday.
Mock evacuations using Self-Defense Force and Japan Coast Guard ships and helicopters were carried out for residents who live within 30 kilometers of the Kyushu Electric Power Co. nuclear plant.
From Ikinoshima, a remote island in Nagasaki Prefecture, around 10 residents were evacuated by air to Fukuoka.
A planned operation to transport Ikinoshima residents aboard an SDF ship to the port of Hakata in Fukuoka was canceled due to bad weather.
The drill was based on a scenario of a serious accident occurring at the No. 4 reactor at the Genkai plant. Some participants were evacuated to a facility with an air filtration system designed to keep out radioactive substances.
Among the participants was construction company executive Fumihito Yamauchi, 49, who was transported by helicopter from Ikinoshima.
“Nuclear accidents must not happen, but the experience from this drill will help speed up an evacuation if such a thing becomes necessary,” Yamauchi said. “I will pass my experience on to people around me.”
The drill included an operation to practice transporting heavily irradiated Genkai plant workers from a hospital in Karatsu, Saga Prefecture, to Nagasaki University Hospital in Nagasaki by helicopter.
November 28, 2015
The Nuclear Regulation Authority said at a safety screening meeting Friday that it has confirmed active faults at the site of the No. 1 reactor at Tohoku Electric Power Co.’s Higashidori nuclear plant and will base discussions on the restart of the idled reactor on the assumption that the faults will move.
Tohoku Electric, which has denied the existence of such active faults, may be asked to reassess the earthquake resistance of the reactor in Aomori Prefecture, people familiar with the matter said.
In March, a team of experts said in a report to the authority that two major faults called F-3 and F-9 that run near the reactor could move in the future.
At Friday’s meeting, the NRA also offered the view that separate faults similar to the two at the site will likely move as well.
The authority has yet to conclude whether a minor fault running under a cooling water intake channel, a key safety facility for the reactor, is active or not.
If the fault is determined to be an active one, Tohoku Electric will be ordered to decommission the No. 1 unit, as the new nuclear safety standards, introduced in July 2013, prohibit the installation of key facilities, including reactors themselves, over active faults.
The Higashidori plant is the second nuclear power station confirmed by the NRA to have an active fault at its site, after Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tsuruga nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture.
Tohoku Electric hopes to reactivate the 1.1-million-kw No. 1 reactor, which went offline in February 2011 for scheduled inspections, as early as April 2017.
November 27, 2015
By HIROMI KUMAI/ Staff Writer
Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to remove the top part of the No. 2 reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant by fiscal 2018 to empty a nuclear fuel storage pool inside.
Dismantling work will start next summer at the earliest, the utility said Nov. 26.
The No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactors at the plant melted down after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck in March 2011. Hydrogen explosions destroyed the No. 1 and No. 3 reactor buildings, but the No. 2 reactor building remained relatively intact.
The utility said it will come up with a plan in two years on how to remove the 615 nuclear fuel assemblies in the storage pool located in the upper portion of the building. It intends to start removing the fuel assemblies in fiscal 2020.
One tricky part of the dismantling work will be ensuring that radioactive materials do not escape from the building. Airborne radiation levels above the building in 2013 exceeded 800 millisieverts per hour at some locations.
TEPCO plans to spray synthetic resins and take other measures to contain radioactive dust during the dismantling process. It is also considering installing a cover over the building to prevent radioactive materials from spreading when it tears down the building walls using heavy machinery.
TEPCO had considered removing only part of the uppermost portion of the building to contain the large amount of radioactive materials inside. But the company decided to dismantle the entire top-level portion to make it easier to remove contaminated debris and nuclear fuel.
November 27, 2015
OSAKA – Kansai Electric Power Co. formally submitted an application to the Nuclear Regulation Authority on Thursday for permission to extend the life of its aging Mihama No. 3 reactor for up to another two decades.
The reactor will turn 40 years old in December 2016. Under new rules established by the NRA, an operator may apply for a one-time extension to continue operating a 40-year-old reactor for 20 years, assuming it passes additional safety inspections. Kepco has already applied to extend its Takahama No. 1 and 2 reactors, both of which are now over 40 years old.
Kepco president Makoto Yagi said Thursday the decision was taken after the utility decided it would be better to restart the unit than to scrap it, despite the additional costs involved in meeting new earthquake and disaster safety standards.
“We decided there was economic merit to extending the reactor’s operations after taking into account its output and expected revenue,” Yagi told reporters.
How much it will cost to meet the new safety standards is uncertain. Kepco originally estimated it would be around ¥130 billion. That figure could climb if further problems are found during inspections.
Kepco’s decision was also taken partially to ensure Mihama would continue to have one reactor in operation.
Earlier this year, the utility said it would decommission two reactors at the site, the 45-year-old No. 1 and 43-year-old No. 2 units.
At a shareholders meeting earlier this year, Kepco officials indicated that the company might one day build new nuclear power plants to replace Mihama and noted that it wanted to maintain good relations with the town.
Thursday’s decision comes a day after Kepco announced the restart of its Takahama No. 3 and 4 reactors would be delayed by one month each. They were originally slated for restart in December and January, respectively.
Although the NRA has approved a restart, both reactors had a temporary injunction slapped on them earlier this year, which Kepco is seeking to have lifted.
Despite safety concerns among local residents, especially in neighboring Kyoto and Shiga prefectures, Fukui Prefecture and local leaders in Takahama are anxious to have both reactors online again as soon as possible, given the funds they bring in the form of government subsidies and local service industry revenue.
Earlier this week, Mihama town head Yutaka Nose met with Ryozo Tatami, mayor of Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture, to discuss safety cooperation. Parts of Maizuru, a major port city on the Sea of Japan with a Maritime Self-Defense Force base, lie within 5 kilometers of the Takahama plant.
November 27, 2015
Nov. 27, 2015 - Updated 03:21 UTC+1
The European Union will ease restrictions on food imports from Japan that were put in place after the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011.
The EU established mandatory radiation checks on food products from Fukushima Prefecture and neighboring areas before they could be shipped.
But the European Commission decided Wednesday those restrictions will be lifted on certain products if their radiation levels have stayed below safety limits long enough.
Among the items to be exempted are vegetables, beef and other meat products, fruits other than persimmon, buckwheat and tea from Fukushima Prefecture.
All food products from Aomori and Saitama Prefectures, as well as rice and soybeans from 6 prefectures in northeastern Japan will also be exempted.
The easing of the restrictions is expected to take effect by the end of the year, after being approved by the European Commission.
The Japanese government says it will work to have the remaining restrictions lifted as soon as possible.
November 25, 2015
Nov. 25, 2015 - Updated 13:17 UTC+1
The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has found that a wall it built 30 meters into the ground to block the flow of radioactive water is leaning slightly.
Tokyo Electric Power Company built the steel barrier along a coastal embankment to stop contaminated groundwater from seeping into the sea. The utility finished building the wall in late October.
TEPCO inspectors found that the wall is leaning up to some 20 centimeters toward the sea. They say this is due to the pressure of the groundwater flow.
The officials also blamed rising groundwater levels for cracks found in the embankment's pavement.
The utility says workers are buttressing the wall with steel pillars. They are also repairing the cracks to keep out rainwater so groundwater levels don't rise further.
TEPCO says the lean doesn't affect the wall's ability to block contaminated water.