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31 janvier 2015 6 31 /01 /janvier /2015 19:46

January 31, 2015



EDITORIAL: Safe and steady needs to be TEPCO’s mantra in Fukushima cleanup

TEPCO's safe and steady mantra


Come March, it will have been four years since the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant triggered massive leaks of radioactive material.

Work to remove unspent nuclear fuel from a storage pool at the heavily damaged No. 4 reactor building was completed at the end of last year as planned. Efforts to clear debris, a major source of radiation, from the wrecked nuclear plant have also made progress. As a result, the areas where workers need to wear full-face protection masks have narrowed.

These facts seem to suggest that the Fukushima cleanup work is finally beginning to move smoothly forward.

However, Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the plant, said last autumn that operations to remove spent and melted nuclear fuel from the No. 1 reactor will be delayed by two to five years from the original schedule. Earlier this month, the embattled electric utility also said the disposal of radioactive water stored in on-site tanks will not be finished on schedule.

Behind these delays is the grim reality that existing technology and expertise is not up to the task of dealing with this unprecedented situation. Things are not going as planned in many ways.

The crippled nuclear plant still poses all sorts of risks and hazards to workers. TEPCO should place top priority on safety and steady progress in proceeding with cleanup work. What it must not do is adopt a slapdash approach in pursuit of accomplishing the task quickly.

Some 7,000 workers can be found on any given weekday at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, more than double the 3,000 or so that were there in April 2013.

The precise locations of the melted nuclear fuel rods of the No. 1 reactor are still not known, nor is their condition. Another unknown is from which part of the reactor the melted fuel can be removed.

First of all, technology has to be developed to ascertain the state of the nuclear fuel under the high levels of radiation.

TEPCO has decided to delay to fiscal 2021 the start of the removal of spent fuel from the No. 1 reactor. The work was originally slated to begin in fiscal 2019 under the road map for decommissioning that was unveiled in June 2013 by the government and TEPCO. Similarly, the start of the removal of melted fuel rods will be postponed to fiscal 2025 from fiscal 2020. The situation is more or less the same with the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors.

In September 2013, Naomi Hirose, TEPCO president, promised Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that the disposal of highly radioactive water would be completed by the end of March 2015. But only about 60 percent of the work has been done so far as a raft of problems, including glitches in equipment to filter out radioactive substances, caused delays.

There are special circumstances behind the individual cases of delay.

A worker at the plant died on Jan. 20 after falling into an 11-meter-high water tank during an inspection. The cause of the accident is under investigation.

The number of work-related accidents at the plant has increased significantly as TEPCO brought in more workers for cleanup operations.

The number of accidents in the current fiscal year, which runs through March, grew to 40 as of November, up sharply from 23 for all of fiscal 2013.

This troubling data raises concerns that safety management may have been put on the back burner under pressure to carry out tasks according to schedule. Errors that lead to accidents involving workers could also cause more cases of radioactive contamination.

Last week, the Nuclear Regulation Authority announced a draft medium-term timetable for efforts to reduce risks at the plant. The draft points out that the growing number of work-related accidents is a serious problem. It calls for a marked improvement in working conditions.

In order to make sure that cleanup work will be carried out safely and steadily, the NRA and the government need to provide appropriate support based on the actual conditions at work sites, which are often fraught with risks.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 30

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31 janvier 2015 6 31 /01 /janvier /2015 19:44

January 30, 2015

Editorial: TEPCO must settle problems hampering water treatment at nuclear plant


Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has abandoned its goal of completing treatment of all radioactively contaminated water stored at its tsunami-ravaged Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant by the end of March this year. The decision once again demonstrates the difficulties of treating such highly contaminated water.

The utility made the decision as the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) that it installed at the plant to remove radioactive substances from the contaminated water is not functioning properly. The situation could affect the company's work to decommission and dismantle reactors at the power station. The government and TEPCO should identify problems relating to the treatment of tainted water and steadily press forward with the treatment of such water.

Numerous tanks to hold radioactive water have been constructed at the Fukushima plant, making it look like an oil storage station. The amount of contaminated water is increasing by about 300 to 400 metric tons a day, as ground water flowing beneath the plant's nuclear reactor buildings comes into contact with nuclear fuel that has melted into the ground. If TEPCO were to continue to store highly contaminated water in tanks, it would increase the risk of such water leaking. Since tainted water emits a large amount of radiation, workers struggling to bring the nuclear crisis under control could be exposed. TEPCO has treated radioactive water using the ALPS and other devices, but over 270,000 tons of water remains untreated.

TEPCO promised to finish treating radioactive water at the plant by the end of fiscal 2014, while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared during Japan's 2020 Olympic bid that the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant "is under control." Since taxpayers' money has been used to introduce ALPS, Prime Minister Abe has stated that the national government will take the lead in efforts to treat contaminated water. As such, the government and the prime minister cannot evade responsibility for the delay.

ALPS can remove 62 types of radioactive materials, excluding tritium. However, since it employed a newly developed technology, there was no guarantee that it would function as expected. The government and the plant operator should reflect on their lack of foresight.

TEPCO intends to freeze soil around the atomic power station's four reactors by March to block ground water from flowing onto the premises of the reactor buildings. Since the attempt is the first of its kind in the world, many experts have raised doubts as to whether the system will function as designed.

The government and TEPCO are expected to review their road map toward decommissioning the reactors at the plant as early as March. They should take effective measures that reflect the lessons learned from past mistakes rather than getting caught up with abiding by a schedule.

The central government set up Japan's Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. in August 2014 to increase state involvement in decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 power plant. There are also other government organizations regulating nuclear plants, such as the Nuclear Regulation Authority. The government should clarify how it will supervise and instruct TEPCO, and state which organizations are responsible for what.

Fatal work-related accidents occurred at the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear plants this month, and work to bring the nuclear crisis under control has been suspended at the No. 1 power station to conduct an emergency inspection of safety measures.

Approximately 7,000 people work at the No. 1 plant a day. The figure is two times higher than two years ago because additional workers have been assigned to work to freeze soil around the plant's reactors. If further work-related accidents were to occur at the power station, it would obstruct efforts to decommission and dismantle the plant's reactors. Top priority should be placed on the safety of workers.


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31 janvier 2015 6 31 /01 /janvier /2015 19:41

January 31, 2015



Around-the-clock convenience store reopens in Fukushima restricted zone

24-hour store and bus service: All set

By HIROKI ITO/ Staff Writer

NARAHA, Fukushima Prefecture--A 24-hour convenience store has reopened in this small town, even though the former residents are still not allowed to stay overnight due to concerns over radioactive contamination.

FamilyMart’s Kamishigeoka outlet servicing the community of Naraha resumed operation on Jan. 30. The store was forced to close on March 12, 2011, as the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant unfolded.

“We want to do our best to help the residents of Naraha return home,” said Tomoe Murao, the 57-year-old manager of the store.

Residents of Naraha, with a population of 7,500, are expected to start returning this spring.

Supermarkets and convenience stores are also operating in Naraha and Namie, a town to the north where residents are also restricted on the time they spend there, according to prefectural authorities.

The Kamishigeoka outlet is the first to return to around-the-clock operations after store employees gained permission to move back into the town.

The store, which is located on National Route No. 6, expects to stay busy at night with trade brought in by workers involved in decommissioning the crippled nuclear power plant some 14 kilometers away.

January 31, 2015

1st bus service starts through Fukushima no-entry zone


MINAMI-SOMA, Fukushima Prefecture--Public transportation has finally returned to an evacuation zone close to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, with a bus route that runs through an area with high radiation levels.

East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) started the temporary bus service Jan. 31 that operates in the government-designated “difficult-to-return zone,” where evacuees will not be allowed to return home until at least March 2017.

The 46-kilometer route connects Haranomachi Station in Minami-Soma and Tatsuta Station in the town of Naraha on the JR Joban Line.

Train services between the stations have been suspended since the nuclear disaster set off by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

Before the first bus departed Haranomachi Station at 6:50 a.m., Minami-Soma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai presented a bouquet of flowers to the driver.

“Although the railway line is still discontinued, today is a memorable day in that the operation of the Joban Line is effectively restored,” Sakurai said. “The bus service gives much needed hope for local residents.”

The mayor has requested that JR East restore the train service as soon as possible and operate the bus service as a stopgap measure.

The bus operates two round trip services daily, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, with no stops along the route. The trip between Tatsuta and Haranomachi stations takes about one hour.

The difficult-to-return zone includes areas of the towns of Futaba and Okuma, which jointly host the stricken nuclear facility.

Thirty-one passengers, including Minami-Soma residents who were visiting their relatives’ homes in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, boarded the first bus, which arrived at Tatsuta Station at 8:15 a.m.

A 62-year-old company executive from Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture, who now works at a factory in Minami-Soma, said it previously took six hours to travel between the two cities by taking roadways that circumvent the evacuation zone.

“I appreciate that I now have more options," he said. "But hopefully, they will increase the number of services each day.”

Bus service starts in Fukushima evacuation zone

Jan. 31, 2015 - Updated 06:13 UTC+1

A Japanese railway operator has started temporary bus service inside an area designated an evacuation zone due to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Trains in the area remains suspended due to damage from the earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

East Japan Railway Company held a ceremony on Saturday before the inaugural bus left at a stop near JR Haranomachi Station in Minamisoma City.

Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai said the opening of public transportation gives hope to local residents, although they still need to wait the resumption of railway service.

The first bus left at 6:50 AM for JR Tatsuta Station in Naraha town, carrying about 30 passengers.

The bus travels nonstop between the 2 stations twice a day. The route is about 46 kilometers.

The operator says the radiation exposure dose during a test operation was between 0.1 and 1.0 micro-sieverts each way.

Local governments say they hope that residents use the service to return home in the evacuation zone and to travel to the Tokyo metropolitan area.

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31 janvier 2015 6 31 /01 /janvier /2015 19:39

January 31, 2015


COMMENTARY: Utilities running a shell game in relying on nuclear power over renewable energy


By TOSHIHIDE UEDA/ Senior Staff Writer

When regional utilities calculated how much electricity generated with renewable energy sources they can purchase from businesses and individuals, they resorted to gimmicks to continue to place an unrealistic reliance on nuclear power.

Seven companies--Hokkaido Electric Power Co., Tohoku Electric Power Co., Hokuriku Electric Power Co., Chugoku Electric Power Co., Shikoku Electric Power Co., Kyushu Electric Power Co. and Okinawa Electric Power Co.--announced those “maximum acceptable quotas” at a meeting of an industry ministry working group on Dec. 16.

At six of the utilities, except for Chugoku Electric, the allotments for solar power were smaller than the combined output capacities that the government authorized for businesses and individuals, from which they are required to buy solar power at fixed rates under the feed-in-tariff system.

The maximum acceptable quotas are calculated by assigning part of the power demand to established types of power plants, such as nuclear, thermal, hydro and pumped storage, and the rest to relatively new renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind.

Allocating more to established energy sources removes an equal amount off the quotas for the new energy sources.

Under the feed-in-tariff system, many businesses have acquired the right to sell renewable energy--while the purchase price is high--but have yet to start plant construction.

The practice, known as paper-only slot reservations, is hampering the introduction of more green energy.

The industry ministry working group is tasked with reviewing how much renewable energy the utilities can purchase from businesses and individuals.

When I listened to its discussions on Dec. 16, I thought, “This is nothing but a new twist on slots being reserved on paper only.” This time around, regional utilities are reserving slots for nuclear power.


How one of their gimmicks works can be seen in the case of the Oma nuclear power plant, being built by Electric Power Development Co. (J-Power) in Oma, Aomori Prefecture. Construction was halted after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, only to be resumed in October 2012.

By coincidence, it was on the day of the working group meeting that J-Power applied to the Nuclear Regulation Authority for safety screenings of the Oma plant based on Japan’s tightened regulation standards, marking a major step toward full-fledged construction work.

Tohoku Electric presupposes, in accepting the supply of renewable energy, that it will receive 280 megawatts of power from the Oma nuclear plant.

But construction of the Oma plant is only 37.6 percent complete. J-Power says it hopes to have the plant operational in fiscal 2021, which means the plant will only begin generating power seven years from now even if everything goes as planned.

And it remains to be seen how long it will take the NRA to complete its screenings.

The Oma plant is designed to use mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel, which contains both uranium and plutonium extracted from reprocessed spent nuclear fuel. The use of MOX fuel in a regular nuclear reactor is called a “pluthermal” program.

While it is customary to use MOX fuel in only about one-third of all fuel, the Oma plant is aimed at full-MOX operations, which involve exclusive use of MOX fuel. Such operations are unprecedented in the world.

Regular pluthermal operations have a track record of more than four decades in Western countries. Japan also implemented pluthermal programs at four nuclear reactors from 2009, so records that are essential for safety screenings are reasonably available.

But full-MOX operations would require screenings to be conducted from scratch.

Kenji Sumita, who served as deputy chairman of the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan, one of the predecessors of the NRA, is a proponent of nuclear power but is skeptical of a full-MOX pluthermal program.

“Germany attempted to do full-MOX operations in the past, but didn’t do so in the end,” said Sumita, a professor emeritus of nuclear engineering with Osaka University. “The practice involves so many unknown factors, including the status of the reactor core during operation. The plan should be cautiously screened.”

The Oma nuclear plant is also under court proceedings.

The city government of Hakodate, Hokkaido, part of which lies within 30 kilometers of the Oma plant, filed a lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court in April 2014 against J-Power and the central government to demand a halt to the construction. The trial could affect the entry into service of the plant.

Tohoku Electric has nevertheless reserved a slot for the Oma plant. The reservation will remain on paper only until the Oma plant is operational.

“We have taken into account the long-term nature of our purchases of renewable energy,” said Hideto Takahashi, who heads the equipment planning division of Tohoku Electric’s Fukushima branch office.

The Oma plant is not the exception.

Tohoku Electric’s calculations include a prospective power supply from the No. 1 through No. 3 reactors of its Onagawa nuclear plant, the No. 1 reactor of its Higashidori nuclear plant, the No. 1 reactor of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant and Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant.

The situation is much the same with five other regional utilities that possess nuclear plants. They have reserved maximum slots for power from nuclear reactors, including two that are so aged that there is talk of decommissioning them--the No. 1 reactor of JAPC’s Tsuruga nuclear plant and the No. 1 reactor of Chugoku Electric’s Shimane nuclear plant.

Of course, no nuclear reactor in Japan is up and running now. And the calculations assume that all nuclear reactors will be restarted.


The assumption of constant nuclear reactor utilization rates, used in the calculations, is also very questionable.

The utilization rates were averaged over a 30-year period preceding the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Tohoku Electric assumes, for example, that nuclear reactors will be generating a constant power supply of 2.35 gigawatts because “that is how the calculations are done in the working group,” in the words of a Tohoku Electric official.

But I doubt that nuclear reactors have actually been utilized to that extent.

Demand in Tohoku Electric’s service area bottoms out at 7.91 gigawatts on May 12. Nuclear power accounts for 30 percent, or 2.35 gigawatts.

Nuclear reactors are obligated to undergo routine inspections at regular intervals. Tohoku Electric’s four reactors underwent a total of 38 regular checks before the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Twenty-one of them were conducted during a period including May 12, the day of the lowest power demand.

It is all too natural for utilities to carry out inspections when the demand for power is low. In the case of Hokkaido Electric, too, 40 percent of its pre-disaster periodic inspections came during a period including May 26, the date of its minimum demand.

The average utilization rate is 69.8 percent for Tohoku Electric and 84.8 percent for Hokkaido Electric. It is unnatural to assume the utilization rates will reach those levels when demand is low.

The central government and regional utilities have nevertheless calculated how much renewable energy can be bought only after setting aside maximum amounts for nuclear power. Their primary concern appears to be about reserving slots for nuclear energy.

We have to be on guard against trickery aimed at putting a priority on nuclear power.

In an emergency recommendation in November, the Fukushima prefectural government called on the central government, Tohoku Electric and other parties to take prompt action to eliminate stalled renewable energy projects. However, there have been no signs of improvement.

“Paper-only slot reservations could be eliminated if only rules were to be set and utilities were to respond properly,” said Shuzo Sasaki, director of the energy division of the Fukushima prefectural government.

“But utilities won’t tell you what is taking place. So, if you want to start a renewable energy project, all you can do is make daily visits to the utility office in charge and keep submitting application forms.”

* * *

The author, based in Fukushima, wrote on other issues.

Fukushima battling utilities' 'no more green energy' decision

In age of LEDs, utilities thinking in incandescent-bulb mode

Fukushima's micro-hydropower ambitions face challenges

Fukushima alive with seeds of industrial innovation

Radioactive pollution endangers cultures of Tohoku mountain communities

Abnormal changes in small birds and the role of science

Disaster-hit Tohoku communities search for a renewable way

January 31, 2015



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30 janvier 2015 5 30 /01 /janvier /2015 20:10

January 30, 2015


Officials resume lives in radiation-hit town in hope of paving way for mass return


By HIROKI ITO/ Staff Writer

NARAHA, Fukushima Prefecture--When Hiroshi Aoki boarded the first train of the day on a recent morning here, he was the only passenger.

Almost all of the town's 7,500 residents remain evacuated nearly four years after the outbreak of the crisis at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011, like 72,500 others from the affected localities.

Aoki, 59, is among four senior officials at the Naraha town government, including Mayor Yukihide Matsumoto, who returned to the town in December to live after obtaining a special permit from the central government and local authorities.

The officials aim at making it possible for residents to return to their homes as early as spring.

Naraha, which has an estimated annual radiation dose of 20 millisieverts or lower, is expected to be among the first of the localities affected by the nuclear fallout that its residents will likely be allowed to return home to live.

They decided to move back after residents urged them at gatherings to do so, to pave the way for the mass return. Many evacuees are anxious about moving back due to fears about radiation. The group is tasked with working out preparations for the town hall based on its findings.

When the nuclear crisis unfolded, most of the town was designated as part of the no-entry zone, a 20-kilometer radius around the beleaguered nuclear station.

Although a ban on entry to the town was lifted in August 2012, residents are still prohibited from staying overnight, except for special occasions such as the Bon summer season and the New Year's holiday.

Aoki, who heads a section that devises anti-radiation measures, lives with his 57-year-old wife, Hiromi, at their home not far from the town government building. He is usually stationed at Naraha town hall.

On that day in December, he took the train to Iwaki, where the makeshift Naraha town government has been operating since the mass evacuation. Train service from the town resumed only in June 2014.

Decontamination of the town by the central government was completed in March that year.

Aoki and his wife did not have much trouble restarting their life, as their home was spared from damage in the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake, as well as an outbreak of rats that affected a number of homes.

Aoki said one thing that struck him about the town was how dark it looked at night. The only lights are street lamps and those of the odd vehicle passing through.

Some town employees reported seeing wild boars in the pitch dark on their way back from work.

"It's no wonder people are wary of returning," Aoki said.

In a survey conducted in October, a combined 45.7 percent of Naraha evacuees said they were willing to return "immediately" or "when the conditions are right." The figure was up 5.5 percentage points from the previous poll last January.

A total of 22.9 percent of the respondents in the October poll said they would not return, down 1.3 points.

Most people who said they will return when conditions are right cited the restoration of infrastructure, including roads and hospitals.

Aoki believes leisure facilities should also be revived as early as possible to persuade people to move back to their communities.

Before the nuclear crisis, the town's baseball stadium was always lit up at night, with many people playing a game there or practicing.

Aoki himself had a daily routine of playing tennis after work.

"I am afraid people are not considering moving back to Naraha unless we reassure them that they will be able to engage in leisure activities as they did before the nuclear disaster."

About 20 town employees, including Aoki, now work in the town hall. Most of them commute to the town to oversee the storage of radioactive debris from cleanup work since operations were transferred to the Naraha town hall from Iwaki.

The remaining senior officials are expected to join the four when their homes become habitable again.

The town government is expected to present details of their plan for the mass return at meetings with residents inside and outside the prefecture starting this month.


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30 janvier 2015 5 30 /01 /janvier /2015 20:07


January 30, 2015

Convenience store reopens near disaster-hit Fukushima plant


IWAKI, Japan (Kyodo) -- FamilyMart Co., one of Japan's major convenience store chain operators, reopened Friday a store in the town of Naraha, most of which remains designated as evacuation zones following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

The store located along a national highway on the Pacific coast was closed after the outbreak of the nuclear crisis. It is now open 24 hours a day to meet the demand of evacuees making temporary visits to their homes and workers engaged in reconstruction work.

Most of Naraha is within the 20-kilometer radius of the disaster-hit plant. More than 7,000 residents of the town were evacuated to other areas after the crisis, but the municipal government and some citizens aim to return to the town in the spring following the completion of radioactive decontamination work there.

A large number of residents and workers visited the store which reopened at 10 a.m. Friday.

Among them, Hideko Morimoto, 67, who was evacuated to the city of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, said she is able to return to her home in Naraha due to the reopening of the store which she said offers a large number of products, including vegetables.

Tomoe Murao, 57, who operates the convenience store with her husband, said she wants to contribute to helping the evacuees from Naraha to return.

January 30, 2015(Mainichi Japan)


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30 janvier 2015 5 30 /01 /janvier /2015 20:06

January 19, 2015

Global nuclear decommissioning cost seen underestimated, may spiral


Mon Jan 19, 2015 4:43am EST

* Decommissioning cost estimates range widely

* Experts see IEA's $100 billion estimate as too low

* Waste disposal and long-term storage not included

* Adequate provisioning more important than cost estimate

By Nina Chestney and Geert De Clercq

LONDON/PARIS, Jan 19 (Reuters) - German utility E.ON's breakup has led to worries that funds set aside for decommissioning reactors will not suffice, but globally the cost of unwinding nuclear is uncertain as estimates range widely.




As ageing first-generation reactors close, the true cost of decommissioning will be crucial for the future of the nuclear industry, already ailing following the 2011 Fukushima disaster and competition from cheap shale gas, falling oil prices and a flood of renewable energy from wind and solar.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said late last year that almost 200 of the 434 reactors in operation around the globe would be retired by 2040, and estimated the cost of decommissioning them at more than $100 billion.

But many experts view this figure as way too low, because it does not include the cost of nuclear waste disposal and long-term storage and because decommissioning costs - often a decade or more away - vary hugely per reactor and by country.

"Half a billion dollars per reactor for decommissioning is no doubt vastly underestimated," said Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based nuclear energy consultant.

The IEA's head of power generation analysis, Marco Baroni, said that even excluding waste disposal costs, the $100 billion estimate was indicative, and that the final cost could be as much as twice as high. He added that decommissioning costs per reactor can vary by a factor of four.

Decommissioning costs vary according to reactor type and size, location, the proximity and availability of disposal facilities, the intended future use of the site, and the condition of the reactor at the time of decommissioning.

Although technology used for decommissioning might gradually become cheaper, the cost of final waste depositories is largely unknown and costs might spiral over time. Reactor lifespans are measured in decades, which means financing costs and provisions depend strongly on unpredictable interest rate levels.

"The IEA estimate is, without question, just a figure drawn out of the air. The reality is, the costs are quite phenomenal," said Paul Dorfman, honorary senior research associate at the Energy Institute, University College London.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission estimates that the cost of decommissioning in the United States - which has some 100 reactors - ranges from $300 million to $400 million per reactor, but some reactors might cost much more.

France's top public auditor and the nuclear safety authority estimate the country's decommissioning costs at between 28 billion and 32 billion euros ($32-37 billion).

German utilities - such as E.ON, which last month said it would split in two, spinning off power plants to focus on renewable energy and power grids - have put aside 36 billion euros. .

Britain's bill for decommissioning and waste disposal is now estimated at 110 billion pounds ($167 billion) over the next 100 years, double the 50 billion pound estimate made 10 years ago.

Japanese government estimates put the decommissioning cost of the country's 48 reactors at around $30 billion, but this is seen as conservative. Russia has 33 reactors and costs are seen ranging from $500 million to $1 billion per reactor.

The IEA's Baroni said the issue was not the exact cost per reactor.

"What matters is whether enough funds have been set aside to provide for it," he said. ($1 = 0.6588 pounds) ($1 = 0.8601 euros) (Additional reporting by Vera Eckert in Frankfurt, Svetlana Burmistrova in Moscow, Scott DiSavino in New York and Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo; Editing by Dale Hudson)



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30 janvier 2015 5 30 /01 /janvier /2015 19:37

 January 30, 2015

Abe: Whether to scrap Fukushima Daini plant

Jan. 30, 2015 - Updated 11:36 UTC+1


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says Tokyo Electric Power Company will decide whether to scrap reactors at its Fukushima Daini plant. It's about 10 kilometers south of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which was crippled by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

TEPCO's Daiichi complex suffered a meltdown after the earthquake, but the Daini plant did not.

Abe was answering a question from Chizuko Takahashi of the Communist Party during a session of a Lower House committee meeting on Friday.

Takahashi said that the government should focus on bringing the situation at the Daiichi plant under control. She stressed it should not try to resume operations at Daini which have been suspended since the disaster.

The lawmaker urged the government to scrap all of them.

Abe said he asked TEPCO to decommission the 2 Daiichi reactors that escaped serious damage because of their proximity to 4 crippled reactors.

He also noted the priority at Daiichi is to establish a system that focuses on clean-up work.

Abe said that's not the case for reactors at the Daini plant which are located away from the crippled Daiichi plant.

He said the operator will decide whether to decommission Daini. It must also take into consideration the country's future energy policy, measures to meet the new safety standards, and opinions of local people.


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29 janvier 2015 4 29 /01 /janvier /2015 19:51

January 28, 2015

Commission begins work on nuclear usage guidelines


Jan. 28, 2015 - Updated 09:26 UTC+1


Japan's government commission on nuclear energy policy has begun hearing from experts to draw up new guidelines after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

The Atomic Energy Commission drew criticism 3 years ago after it was found to have held secret meetings with only pro-nuclear parties, including utilities and bureaucrats. The meetings took place amid compiling of Japan's nuclear energy policy after the accident in March 2011.

The commission is now tasked with presenting basic ideas for nuclear energy use, including processing of nuclear waste, rather than a detailed plan.

On Wednesday, the commission heard from University of Tokyo Professor Emeritus Yotaro Hatamura. He headed a government panel investigating the disaster.

Hatamura said accidents will occur as long as people keep using nuclear energy, and that unseen risk will remain even if certain standards are met.

He said in that sense, the country's Nuclear Regulation Authority is correct to refrain from saying a facility is safe.

He stressed the need to draw up plans for not only evacuation but also decontamination and reconstruction, assuming the possibility of accidents.

The commission is set to compile the basic ideas in just over a year.



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29 janvier 2015 4 29 /01 /janvier /2015 19:49
Hydrogen future: exaggeration and fabrication

Much excitement is permeating within the industrial segments related to hydrogen energy, following the government’s announcement in June 2014 of the “Strategic Road Map for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells.” It calls for creation of a “hydrogen-based society” as a trump card to prevent a further global warming and designates 2015 as the “first year”of the age of hydrogen.

In reality, however, the clean image of hydrogen-based energy and its economic viability are much exaggerated.

The government and business enterprises are rushing to building a hydrogen society in order to create huge public works largely funded by government subsidies, and gain rights and interests from them.

Creating demand for a hydrogen fuel and distributing it would require infrastructure preparations of enormous scales like mass-marketing of fuel cell-powered automobiles, building networks of hydrogen supply stations, construction of hydrogen liquefaction plants and creation of transport systems for liquefied hydrogen.

In contrast, the popularization of electric vehicles would not require large investments. Although battery cars represent another candidate for the next generation of motor vehicles, they can rely on facilities already existing throughout the country to generate and transmit electricity and, besides, quick recharging stations can be built for only around ¥5 million each.

As the infrastructure needed for a broad use of hydrogen is virtually non-existent, hundreds of billions of yen would have to be invested in construction of new hydrogen plants throughout the country. In addition, ¥600 million will be needed to build one hydrogen station to supply hydrogen to fuel cell vehicles — 120 times more than the cost of setting up a quick charging station for battery cars.

With an eye on making the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games an arena to showcase Japan’s hydrogen energy technologies, the government is working on plans to run fuel cell buses around the sports facilities and expanding networks of hydrogen fuel supply stations in the four metropolises of Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka.

Under the plans, the number of hydrogen stations will increase to 1,000 by 2025 nationwide from 100 in 2015, with the government bearing one half of the costs. This alone would represent splashing more than ¥300 billion in the taxpayer money.

In support of the plans, rosy statistics have been released by the government and think tanks. One corporation estimates, for example, that by 2020, the size of the fuel cell auto market will expand to the scale of ¥500 billion while the market for electric power generation using hydrogen will reach ¥900 billion.

Similarly, Deloitte Tohmatsu Consulting Co. forecasts that the sale of fuel cell cars will expand so rapidly that in 2025, 850,000 such cars will be sold in the United States, another 710,000 in Europe and 200,000 in Japan.

Lots of efforts are being made to drive home to the public the clean image of hydrogen as an energy source. The government is feverishly publicizing that hydrogen is the “ultimate clean energy source.” Hydrogen may appear to be the most appropriate substance to be touted as capable playing the principal role in building a carbon-free society because when it reacts with oxygen, only water is emitted. Moreover, some experts claim that if the exhaust heat is utilized in an energy supply system, the overall energy conversion efficiency could reach 90 percent, far surpassing 40 percent for thermal power generation.

These views would be correct if hydrogen was a primary energy source existing independently in nature. But hydrogen is a secondary energy source that must be obtained by reforming the composition and characteristics of hydrocarbons, which are the main components of natural gas and kerosene.

Since carbon dioxide is emitted in the process of producing this secondary energy source, it becomes clear that the government’s claim that hydrogen is the “ultimate clean energy source” is fishy.

Furthermore, hydrogen will have to be liquefied and refrigerated at 253 C below zero in order to be transported. This process would consume large amounts of energy and generate carbon dioxide. Thus it is no exaggeration to say that the claim of hydrogen being carbon free is a sheer fabrication.

Studies are being conducted on directly combusting hydrogen to power cars and generate electricity, rather than using it for fuel cells. Although no carbon dioxide is emitted in this process, nitrogen oxides, which form when nitrogen in the atmosphere combines with oxygen, are emitted, as in the case of gasoline-powered automobiles and thermal power stations.

Another shortcoming is the small size of the hydrogen molecule and a technological solution has yet to be found to prevent hydrogen leakage from pipe seams.

The aforementioned rosy statistics about the impact of the use of hydrogen on the economy are a pie in the sky because they are based on an optimistic assumption that all problems related to technologies and costs would be resolved easily. In other words, it represents a wishful thinking of those hoping to make windfall profits from colossal investments.

Some people say that even from a geopolitical standpoint, Japan is not fit to become a hydrogen society. European countries, for example, have closely meshed networks of pipelines that supply natural gas from Russia and they can easily obtain hydrogen with a simple method of reforming natural gas. The abundance of facilities to generate electricity through renewable energy sources, like solar and wind power, will make it possible to obtain hydrogen by using excess electricity to electrolyze water almost free of cost.

These processes are not feasible in Japan, which doesn’t have gas pipelines or excess electricity. As a result, it faces the high costs of obtaining hydrogen by reforming expensive liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas imported from the Middle East. There is no prospect in sight of the costs of producing hydrogen dramatically falling.

The recent fall in crude oil prices has reduced the cost competitiveness of hydrogen as an energy source. Moreover, hydrogen cars costing ¥7 million each cannot be expected to be sold in large volumes in the most competitive, Asian auto market.

If the present trends continue, fuel cell automobiles made in Japan may survive solely with large subsidies provided by the government and may be sold and used only in Japan.

In the long run, it is essential to continue research on fuel cells. Development of an alternative material to platinum, which is used as catalyst in the production of hydrogen but is the cause of the high costs, is necessary.

While a number of domestic organizations are engaged in such research projects, the government appears to be making the foolish move of providing subsidies to spread immature technologies that have not yet reached the level of practical use. This could turn out to be a repeat of a similar folly the government committed in the promotion of solar power generation.

Politicians, bureaucrats and business circles are all rushing to the hydrogen-related projects, for which huge investments will be made, on the pretext of “reducing reliance on Middle Eastern oil” and “creating a low carbon society.”

Ultimately, the taxpayers would have to pick up the bill for the public works projects the government will undertake blindly without assurance for their economic viability.

This is an abridged translation of an article from the January issue of Sentaku, a monthly magazine covering political, social and economic scenes.

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