Japan Nuclear Update
Japanese Utility to Seek Prestart Safety Review for Shimane 2
Dec. 5, 2013—Japan’s Chugoku Electric Power Co. has requested two local governments for their consent to file a safety assessment application for Shimane reactor 2 to the country’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA).
NRA approval of measures taken to implement the regulatory agency’s post-Fukushima safety requirements is a prerequisite to receiving a license from Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy to restart the 820-megawatt boiling water reactor.
In September the utility announced it had completed building a 50-foot high, mile-long seawall to protect the three reactors at the site, one of which is still under construction and about 94 percent complete.
IAEA Reviewing Fukushima Decommissioning Progress
Dec. 5, 2013—A 19-member team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is on a two-week visit to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility as part of its independent review of efforts and plans to decommission the plant.
The team was present Nov. 27 during Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s (TEPCO) successful operation to transfer the first 22 of more than 1,500 fuel assemblies from reactor 4’s spent fuel pool to the site’s common used fuel storage pool.
Also on Nov. 27, TEPCO began using a remote-controlled high-pressure water jet washer/vacuum cleaner it calls the Raccoon to decontaminate the interior of reactor 2’s building. Reactor 2 was the only one of the four Fukushima Daiichi reactors that did not suffer a hydrogen explosion and thus any radioactive contamination from the damaged core remains within the building at levels that put it off-limits to workers without prior decontamination.
Japan’s NRA Will Consider Kashiwazaki Kariwa Restart Application
Nov. 21, 2013—Japan’s nuclear regulator will consider Toyko Electric Power Co.’s applications to restart units 6 and 7 of its Kashiwazaki Kariwa facility. The Nuclear Regulation Authority will determine whether the plant complies with new standards implemented by the government after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident.
TEPCO submitted applications to restart the two reactors in September, but NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka initially opted to delay consideration in the wake of contaminated water leaks at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi site.
The seven-unit Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant was affected by an earthquake in 2007, which led to safe shutdown of three operating reactors and one reactor in start-up operations. The other units had already been shut down for inspection. Four reactors were restarted after inspections and repair, but all reactors were shut down for refueling and maintenance after the Fukushima Daiichi accident—though the site was unaffected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Four other nuclear operating companies have now submitted inspection applications to restart 10 reactors.
TEPCO Ready to Remove Fukushima Daiichi Reactor 4 Fuel
Nov. 14, 2013—Tokyo Electric Power Co. engineers at Fukushima Daiichi have completed final checks before they begin to remove 1,533 fuel assemblies (1,331 used and 202 unused) from reactor 4's storage pool. TEPCO said the task is the highest safety priority in the decommissioning of the site. The operation is to begin this month and will be completed by the end of next year.
The Nuclear Regulatory Authority granted its approval for the security and radiological protection aspects of the work this week.
Since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that damaged four of the six reactors at the site, the building of reactor 4 has been reinforced and thousands of tons of debris have been removed from its roof. A new cover has been constructed to house fuel-handling equipment. Inspections have shown the fuel to be undamaged and uncorroded.
Fukushima Daiichi Update Addresses Worker Safety, Water Storage
Nov. 14, 2013—In addition to describing preparations for removing the fuel from reactor 4, TEPCO’s latest progress report includes steps to improve working conditions and manage contaminated water at the site.
Measures to improve the working environment at the site include wage increases, improvement to on-site facilities, management controls such as improved operation procedures and clarification of command chains, and improvements of infrastructure put into place immediately after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The steps to manage, contain and treat accumulated ground and rainwater at the site include strategies to minimize their amounts and improve integrity and capacity of storage tanks. Work is also being undertaken to improve facilities to decontaminate the stored water.
DOE’s Moniz Offers US Help in Managing Fukushima Water Issues
Nov. 7, 2013—U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said Nov. 1 that DOE’s national laboratory system and the U.S. nuclear industry are ready to assist Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the Japanese government with the decontamination and cleanup of the Fukushima Daiichi site, especially with regard to dealing with the facility’s contaminated water issues.
Moniz’s statement was made after his trip to Fukushima Daiichi. Moniz also noted that the Japanese government’s recent offer to ratify an international convention on nuclear liability, which would enable the treaty to enter into force, will facilitate the engagement of U.S. and other companies in the cleanup effort.
Photos of Moniz’s visit to Fukushima Daiichi are available on TEPCO’s website.
UNSCEAR Committee Finds No Immediate Health Effects From Fukushima
Oct. 31, 2013—A subcommittee of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) has found that human exposure to radiation after the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident was “low or generally low,” with no immediate health effects.
The Scientific Committee on Human Exposure to Radiation found no immediate radiation-related deaths among the 25,000 workers at Fukushima and expected fewer effects on the general population, “owing to the high rates of evacuation and other protective actions” taken by the Japanese government during and immediately after the accident.
The committee also found from a large thyroid screening of 360,000 children in Japan that although there were increased rates of detection of childhood thyroid cancers and abnormalities, these were not distinguishable from cancers from other causes. A wider comparison of data undertaken after Fukushima, including from the atomic bombings in Japan, Chernobyl and pediatric radiotherapy found that children are physiologically about five times as sensitive to high doses of radiation as adults. The committee recommends that the international community “needs to proceed with more caution” regarding the effects of radiation on children.
NRA Approves TEPCO to Transfer Fuel From Fukushima Daiichi 4 Pool
Oct. 31, 2013—Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority have approved Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s plan to start moving fresh and spent fuel assemblies from the Fukushima Daiichi reactor 4 pool to the common pool.
TEPCO plans to begin the transfer of the fuel—1,331 spent and 204 fresh fuel assemblies—to the Fukushima Daiichi site’s common used fuel storage pool in mid-November and expects to complete the operation within a year. Two fresh fuel assemblies that were transferred from reactor 4 to the common pool in July 2012 were inspected and found to be undamaged.
TEPCO this week posted an animated video clip of the preparations it has made so far for the fuel transfer operation and how the transfer will be conducted.
JNES to Merge With NRA
Oct. 24, 2013—Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority commissioners this week approved staff plans for the agency to merge with the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization by March 31.
JNES’ work as a technical support organization includes assisting in NRA’s reactor safety reviews, which are required prior to an operator receiving a restart license. JNES has about 400 staff members, compared with NRA’s 527.
The law establishing the NRA stipulates that JNES must be absorbed into NRA “as soon as possible.” The proposed merger must be approved by parliament, which is likely.
TEPCO Begins Removing Fukushima Daiichi 6 Fuel
Oct. 24, 2013—Tokyo Electric Power Co. has begun the removal of fuel from the undamaged reactor 6 at Fukushima Daiichi, after workers removed the reactor pressure vessel lid Oct. 5.
Since then, the steam dryer and moisture separator also have been removed, allowing access to the fuel. The fuel is expected to be transferred to the site’s shared used fuel pool by the end of November.
Reactors 5 and 6, located about 200 yards to the north of the four reactors that were damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, were shut down for periodic inspections at the time. TEPCO expects to make a final decision next year on restarting or decommissioning the two reactors.
TEPCO Repairs Fukushima Water Treatment Pipe Leak
Oct. 10, 2013—Tokyo Electric Power Co. said its workers have stopped an inadvertent leak of partially treated recycled water used to cool the damaged Fukushima Daiichi reactors. The hourlong leak was caused when a joint between two pipes was mistakenly loosened in the water treatment plant’s desalination system Oct. 9.
The leaked water, which had already been treated to remove cesium and which TEPCO called “a significant amount,” had accumulated within a dike inside the facility building. The company said the 11 workers involved in the repairs were wearing protective clothing when the leak occurred and none received any radiation dose of concern.
TEPCO Takes First Steps to Bring Kashiwazaki Kariwa Back on Line
Oct. 3, 2013—Tokyo Electric Power Co. will file safety review requests with the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority for Kashiwazaki Kariwa 6 and 7. The process is a precursor to the restart request application with another agency.
TEPCO said that Niigata prefecture has approved the safety review request filing on one condition—further discussion on operation of containment filtered venting systems to protect evacuees and the environment in the event of an accident. Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida said in a news conference Sept. 26 that the prefecture would leave assessment of all other safety matters to the Nuclear Regulation Authority.
Kashiwazaki Kariwa 6 has been shut down since March 2012 and Unit 7 since August 2011.
Japan's Last Operating Reactor Down for Refueling
Sept. 19, 2013—Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Ohi reactor 4, shut Sept. 15 for a scheduled maintenance and refueling outage, following its sister plant Ohi 3, which went down for its outage two weeks ago (see Japan Nuclear Update, Nuclear Energy Overview, Sept. 12).
With Ohi 4’s shutdown, Japan is once again without any nuclear generation from its 50 operable reactors.
Under Japanese regulations, nuclear reactors operate 13 months at a time before shutting down for maintenance, inspections and refueling.
Japan Down to One Operating Reactor
Sept. 12, 2013—Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Ohi reactor 3, one of two reactors operating in Japan, shut down this week for scheduled maintenance and inspections. Ohi 4, its sister facility, will begin its scheduled outage in two weeks, leaving the country with no operating nuclear reactors.
In Japan, all reactors are normally taken off line for refueling, maintenance and safety inspections every 13 months.
Both reactors have undergone the two-phase “stress tests” required by the Japanese government following the March 2011 Fukushima accident. Four utilities have applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Authority to restart 12 reactors.
TEPCO Names US Adviser
Sept. 5, 2013—Tokyo Electric Power Co. has appointed Lake Barrett, an independent energy consultant and former head of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Civilian Nuclear Waste Management, as an adviser to assist the company in the decommissioning and decontamination of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant site. Barrett also led the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s cleanup efforts at the Three Mile Island plant after its partial meltdown in 1979.
The Japanese government last week pledged almost half a billion dollars to assist in containing contaminated water at the site.
Government Plans to Improve Nuclear Communication
Sept. 5, 2013—The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs will set up an international group concerning water issues at Fukushima Daiichi, with one priority being enhanced communication.
According to a statement from MOFA, a new “intergovernmental liaison office” is to be established near the damaged power plant, along with an “intergovernmental council for coordination.” One of the priorities will be “prevention of reputational damage or misinformation and reinforcement of global communications.”
Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority said the leak from a water storage tank at the Fukushima Daiichi site has been stopped and contaminated areas around affected tanks have been treated. The agency also said approximately 350 water storage tanks similar to the one that leaked will be replaced.
There is no risk to the public associated with elevated radiation levels detected near a small number of the contaminated water storage tanks at the site, and radiation at these locations can be easily shielded, the NRA said. TEPCO also confirmed that radiation protection measures for site workers are in place and no workers received severe radiation doses as a result of the leakage.
IAEA Asks Japan for Better Fukushima Communications
Aug. 29, 2013—The International Atomic Energy Agency has told Japan to consider developing “appropriate communications” to explain the safety significance of incidents at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility. A document addressed to Japan’s IAEA permanent mission said a communications plan with “clear content and appropriate frequency of messages” would avoid sending confusing messages.
Last week Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority asked the agency whether it should formally declare the leak of contaminated water from a storage tank at Fukushima Daiichi to be a level 3 “serious incident” on the IAEA’s International Nuclear Event Scale (see Japan Nuclear Update, Nuclear Energy Overview, Aug. 22).
TEPCO Moving to Keep Contaminated Water From Ocean
Aug. 29, 2013—An “impervious wall” Tokyo Electric Power Co. is building between its damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility and the ocean to stop radioactively contaminated water leaking into the sea should be completed by September 2014.
TEPCO also will set up a second “wall” of frozen soil on the other side of the plant to reduce the flow of groundwater into the basements of the facility’s buildings and will pump up existing groundwater from around the buildings.
More information on the water status and TEPCO’s “fundamental” and “emergency” measures can be found on TEPCO’s website.
TEPCO Controlling Fukushima Tank Leak
Aug. 22, 2013—Tokyo Electric Power Co. reported it has transferred all the radioactive water out of a storage tank that developed a leak earlier this week at the Fukushima Daiichi site. The company also said no further leaks have been detected from other water storage tanks on site.
The company estimates that about 300 tons of the partially decontaminated water leaked through a rainwater valve in a dam surrounding the storage tank. The volume and contamination level of the leak reported by TEPCO prompted Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority to raise it from a Level 1 “anomaly” to a Level 3 “serious incident” on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s International Nuclear Event Scale.
Water used to cool the damaged reactors at Fukushima Daiichi becomes contaminated from contact with the cores. The water is collected and decontaminated before being recirculated for cooling. Both contaminated and treated water is being stored onsite in more than 1,000 storage tanks.
Japan Creates International Decommissioning Institute
Aug. 15, 2013—Japan has established the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning, a new research body to bring together international experience in decommissioning nuclear energy facilities. The institute, to be headed by Hajimu Yamana of Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute, is to be set up near the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
The institute will be composed of more than 500 experts from 17 organizations and will conduct research and development to improve technical standards and advice for decommissioning nuclear plants.
NRA to Consider Restarting Reactors
Aug. 15, 2013—Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority has approved the start of debates on specific safety topics for 12 nuclear energy facilities reactors for which the operators have submitted applications to restart.
The agency said six reactors—Tomari 3, Ikata 3, Genkai 3 and 4, and Sendai 1 and 2—will undergo earthquake risk assessments, evaluations of their resistance to tsunamis and volcanoes, and inspections of their measures against severe accidents.
The NRA has requested supplementary safety analyses for Tomari 1 and 2, Takahama 3 and 4, and Ohi 3 and 4. The last two are the only ones of Japan’s 50 reactors that are operating.
Last Fukushima Town Ready for Residents’ Return
Aug. 8, 2013—Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has announced the relaxation of controls on entry to most of Kawamata town near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant.
The town is now classed as an area where residents can freely enter without the use of protective equipment, but they cannot stay overnight. The radiation dose rate for the area is expected to be less than 2 rem a year, which is the Japanese government’s criterion for permanent return.
It is the final evacuated municipality outside of the restricted zones to be redesignated, allowing decontamination work to begin and infrastructure and services to be rebuilt.
Pro-Nuclear LDP Wins Majority in Japan's Upper House
July 25, 2013—Japan's pro-nuclear, Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition won a landslide victory in the upper house of parliament in elections July 21. The LDP won 115 of the total 224 seats and in every constituency that hosts a nuclear energy facility, including Fukushima prefecture. The LDP’s pro-nuclear coalition partners also gained seats.
The LDP also has a large majority in the lower house. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the head of the LDP, returned to power in December with a platform to reverse the previous government’s policy of zero nuclear power by 2040.
Plans to restart Japan’s idled nuclear reactors remain on track—all but two of the country’s 50 operable reactors have remained shut following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Four utilities have so far applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Authority to restart 12 reactors.
Fukushima Daiichi 4 Cover Completed
July 25, 2013—Construction of the cover for Fukushima Daiichi 4’s reactor building has been completed. Equipment to remove fuel from the storage pool will now be installed inside the new structure, including ventilation, filtration and handling gear. The ceiling cranes and fuel handling machine are already being assembled inside the structure.
One of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s highest priorities is to transfer fuel from the storage pool into canisters that will be placed in the site’s shared dry storage facility. Reactor 4 was off-line for maintenance when the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck, and a full core of fuel as well as used fuel from previous operations was in the pool.
Japanese Regulator Details Restart Plans
July 11, 2013—Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) is forming three teams to review the restart applications four companies filed for 10 reactors earlier this month.
According to press reports, the reviews might conclude within a year. NRA commissioners also approved staff plans for starting the review process with a meeting between utility representatives and the NRA scheduled for later this month.
Utilities Ask to Restart Ten Reactors
July 11, 2013—Four Japanese utilities have applied for permission to restart ten of the country's 48 non-operating nuclear reactors.
The utilities asking to restart reactors include:
Kansai's for Takahama reactor 3 and 4 and Ohi reactors 3 and 4
Hokkaido for Tomari reactors 1-3
Shikoku for Ikata reactor 3 and
Kyushu for Sendai reactors 1 and 2.
Forty-eight of Japan's 50 reactors have remained closed following the tsunami and accident at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi in 2011. Only two units, Kansai's Ohi 3 and 4, have been allowed to resume operations.
TEPCO Postpones Restart Application for Kashiwazaki 6 and 7
July 11, 2013—Tokyo Electric Power Co. has shelved plans for submitting a restart application for its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 6 and 7 reactors.
The decision was made after a meeting between TEPCO President Naomi Hirose and Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida.
Hirose said that TEPCO still plans to apply for a restart for the reactors, but did not provide details.