13 Octobre 2017
KOBE STEEL MAJOR SUPPLIER TO JAPANESE NUCLEAR INDUSTRY – AS EMBATTLED COMPANY ADMITS SUPPLYING TEPCO’s FUKUSHIMA DAINI REACTORS
GREENPEACE DEMANDS IMMEDIATE DISCLOSURE
Tokyo, 13 October 2017 - Kobe Steel products are widely used inside nuclear reactors in Japan with major safety implications for operating reactors and those due to restart, Greenpeace warned today. Kobe Steel is currently embroiled in a scandal involving the supply of aluminium, copper and steel products. However, for decades Kobe Steel and its subsidiaries have supplied components to the Japanese (and worldwide) nuclear industry. Kobe Steel confirmed late on 13th October, that suspect aluminium and copper tubes had been supplied to TEPCO’s Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant, but had not been installed.(1)
“This is an urgent matter. Four reactors are operating in Japan most likely with Kobe Steel supplied components. These include some of the most critical inside a nuclear plant and for which failure is not permitted under regulation – the reason being the consequences would be so severe,” said Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany in Tokyo. “Quality assurance and the nuclear industry is a contradiction in terms – but at least Kobe Steel and all of Japan’s utilities must disclose their supply chain and which components are at risk. Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority must also immediately act in the interests of public safety – not those of the nuclear industry,” said Burnie.
Greenpeace is particularly concerned with the supply by Kobelco Steel Tube (a subsidiary of Kobe Steel) of steel tubing which is used in pressurized components inside nuclear reactors. These include steam generators and condensers inside Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs). Four PWR’s at Takahama and Sendai nuclear power plants are currently operating. Each steam generator contains 3-5000 tubes. Equally worrying is that Kobelco has supplied steel tubing for feed water systems in both PWR’s and Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs). The reliability of feed water systems is essential both in routine operation but also in the event of emergency shutdown.
All of these components operate under enormous temperature and physical pressures with the risk that if they fail it could lead to the loss of essential cooling function to the reactor core and risking a severe accident, including reactor meltdown. Zirco Products Co., Ltd, a joint owned subsidiary of Kobe Special Tube Company and Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd. and based in Shimonoseki, also supplies zirconium alloy fuel cladding tubes which are used in Japan and globally to contain fuel rods inside nuclear reactor cores.
The revelations of deliberate falsification at Kobe Steel follows a major scandal involving two other steel suppliers to the nuclear industry, Japan Steel Works and JCFC. Steel manufactured by these two companies was under investigation in France and Japan, following revelations of falsified quality control supplied to French nuclear reactors. The underlying manufacturing problems were not resolved following Greenpeace investigations despite assurances in that the components were safe by the French regulator.(2)
Kobe Steel also supplies aluminium for the baskets inside spent fuel casks. The integrity of these is essential to prevent damage to the fuel which under certain conditions could lead to a criticality.
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Notes to editors:
1 – See NHK - Tampering with piping of Kobe Steel Fukushima Dai-ni Nuclear Power Plant, 13 October 2017
2 – see Japanese Reactor Steel at Risk of Catastrophic Failure - JCFC, JSW and JFE Holdings under Suspicion, http://www.greenpeace.org/japan/ja/news/press/2016/pr201612131/