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Japan Nuclear Update

Dale Klein Praises TEPCO’s Progress in 3 Years Since Accident

March 13, 2014—Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and the people of Japan have made great progress in the three years since the accident at Fukushima Daiichi and their commitment to eventual success is a cause for optimism, former U.S. NRC Chairman Dale Klein said this week.

Klein, who currently chairs a group of international experts advising TEPCO on nuclear reform, marked the third anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that led to the accident with his speech at the Foreign Press Center Japan. Klein noted the progress that has been made at the site to date, including the safe removal of nuclear fuel from reactor 4 and safety enhancements at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, which TEPCO intends to restart.

Klein said the world wants Japan’s efforts “to succeed because people understand that if we are to successfully manage climate change and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, nuclear power will be an important part of the mix. But they also know that public confidence in nuclear power can be enhanced, or diminished, by what happens here.”

NRA, JNES Complete Merger

March 6, 2014—Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority has completed its previously announced merger with the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization. JNES’s 400-person staff is expected to give the 600-strong NRA greater resources for processing reactor restart applications. The Japanese cabinet approved the merger last October.

NRA was established after the 2011 Fukushima accident as an independent regulator to replace the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which was part of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. NRA is currently overseeing decommissioning work at the Fukushima Daiichi site and also will be processing at least 17 applications to restart Japan’s idled nuclear reactors.

JNES was established in 2003 as an expert body to inspect nuclear installations and undertake safety analyses. Some of JNES’s experienced staff is expected to take mentoring roles to help existing NRA staff develop their competency.

METI Unveils Pro-Nuclear Energy Policy

Feb. 27, 2014—Three years after the Fukushima accident, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s draft energy policy gives nuclear energy the status of an “important power source that supports the stability of the energy supply-and-demand structure.”

METI’s Basic Energy Plan also compares nuclear energy favorably with the expensive fossil fuel imports Japan has relied on since idling its 48 operating reactors after the accident, characterizing nuclear as “a quasi-domestic source that gives stable power, operates inexpensively and has a low greenhouse gas profile.”

The ministry’s recognition of nuclear’s role in providing Japan’s industrial base with a secure, reliable and low-emission energy supply and its recommendation to restart idled reactors is a turn from the previous government’s policy that recommended a gradual phase-out of nuclear energy by the end of the 2030s.

The Nuclear Regulatory Authority is currently considering applications for the restart of 17 reactors, the first of which could be back in operation this year. The government's draft energy policy, which presents no new obstacle to this process, is expected to be approved by the cabinet in March.

The NRA meanwhile has approved a 10-year life extension for Chugoku Electric Power Co.’s Shimane 1, the first Japanese reactor to obtain one. Chugoku applied for the extension last September. Japanese regulations allow an initial 40 years of reactor operation plus two 10-year extensions.

New Study Finds Fukushima Radiation Doses Insignificant

Feb. 27, 2014—A new study by the Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine finds that most Fukushima residents are unlikely to receive radiation doses as a result of the accident that are significantly different from normal background radiation levels.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, evaluated radiation dose rates from deposited cesium in three areas within 12 miles to 30 miles of the Fukushima Daiichi site. It took into account external doses as measured in August-September 2012 as well as estimated internal doses from inhalation and dietary intake.

The study found that in 2012, the mean annual radiation dose rate associated with the Fukushima event—most of which was from external sources—was close to Japan's average annual background exposure of 200 millirem per year and comparable to variations in background dose across Japan. At these levels, the study concluded, increases in cancer rates are not likely to be epidemiologically detectable—similar to findings made by the World Health Organization in January 2013.

Japan Poised to Shift to Pro-Nuclear Policy, Speed Up Reactor Restarts

Feb. 20, 2014—Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party could move the country toward a new pro-nuclear power energy policy by the end of March, corresponding to the end of the current fiscal year, LDP Chairwoman Sanae Takaichi said Feb. 16.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy is to draft the policy, which if approved by the party would reverse the previous Democratic Party of Japan-led government’s policy to phase out nuclear power by the end of the 2030s.

The government also intends to press ahead with restarting reactors whose safety assessments have been approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. ANRE would issue operating licenses to those reactors, after local government consent has been obtained. So far 17 of Japan’s 48 operating reactors have applied to NRA for safety reviews with a view to restart.

NRA Says Ohi Plant Seismically Sound

Feb. 13, 2014—Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority has formally approved an assessment by a five-member team that found Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Ohi nuclear plant site to have no risky seismic faults.

The team concluded in September that a major seismic fault at Ohi did not result from an earthquake within the past 230,000 years. Under Japanese regulations, safety-related reactor equipment cannot be built on a fault that was formed by an earthquake that occurred within the past 120,000 to 130,000 years.

Ohi is the first site that NRA has determined has no seismic risk. Including Ohi, six sites are being seismically reviewed: Tsuruga, Higashidori, Mihama, Shika and the Monju prototype breeder reactor.

IAEA Report Tracks Fukushima Remediation Efforts

Jan. 30, 2014—Decontamination efforts near the Fukushima Daiichi plant are progressing efficiently, according to the final report of an expert mission organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency to review remediation and reconstruction activities in the Fukushima prefecture.

The report says that progress to remediate affected areas and promote the return of evacuated residents has been made since the first IAEA mission in October 2011. It says authorities must continue to improve its current public outreach efforts and communicate that radiation dose rates below 20 millisieverts per year are acceptable and in line with international standards. IAEA also says that these estimates likely overestimate individual doses and called for greater efforts to measure individual doses with personal dosimeters. IAEA also notes efforts to further reduce air dose rates, which the report says are more accurate than ground-level doses.

The IAEA report also notes successful implementation of food safety measures and progress toward the creation of temporary storage facilities for contaminated materials and interim storage facilities.

TEPCO to Pay Out $40 Billion in Fukushima Compensation

Jan. 23, 2014—Tokyo Electric Power Corp. said in a “New Comprehensive Special Business Plan” that it intends to increase the compensation it awards to those affected by the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident to approximately $40 billion.

The company, which is now under government control, said it will increase the number of personnel involved in the rehabilitation of Fukushima prefecture and create an internal company to handle all decommissioning issues at the facility. Decommissioning the facility is expected to cost around $20 billion.

TEPCO also said in the plan that it intends to build a coal-fired power plant in the prefecture as well as a number of research and development facilities. The plan is a trilateral partnership between Japan’s central government, TEPCO and financial institutions. 

TEPCO to Restart All Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Reactors

Jan. 16, 2014—Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to eventually restart all seven of the reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa site. The company said it hopes to obtain authorization from the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy to restart four of the reactors by March 2015 and the remaining three two years later.

TEPCO filed post-Fukushima safety review requests with the Nuclear Regulation Authority last September for reactors 6 and 7. The company hopes to restart reactor 7 by July this year and reactor 6 by August. Apart from NRA review, the consent of local governments is also a prerequisite to a startup authorization from ANRE.

Reactors 1 and 7 have been shut since August 2011, reactors 5 and 6 since January and March 2012, and 2, 3 and 4 since the Niigata earthquake of July 2007. 

TEPCO: Fukushima Daiichi Accident Due to Tsunami, Not Earthquake

Jan. 9, 2014—A new report from Tokyo Electric Power Co. says the core meltdowns and fuel damage at Fukushima Daiichi reactor 1 directly resulted from the March 11, 2011, tsunami destroying the emergency diesel generators and the consequent failure of the cooling systems.

A Japanese parliamentary commission had previously suggested that the earthquake may have damaged plant components resulting in a loss-of-coolant accident. However, TEPCO’s report, the first in the company’s continuing investigation into the causes of the accident, includes photographic and other evidence showing that reactor 1 survived the 9.0 magnitude earthquake intact.

The company is still studying why water injections into reactors 1, 2 and 3 from fire trucks failed to sufficiently cool the reactors.

The report and supporting documentation are available on TEPCO’s website.

Onagawa 2 Is 16th Japanese Reactor to Seek Restart

Jan. 9, 2014—Tohoku Electric Power Co. on Dec. 27 applied to Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority for a safety assessment to verify its compliance with post-Fukushima safety standards.

The new standards that nuclear reactor operators must meet cover the areas of design-basis safety, severe accident measures, and seismic and tsunami safety. Meeting NRA's new requirements is a prerequisite to a company seeking an operating license from the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy.

According to the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, the 825-megawatt Onagawa 2 boiling water reactor becomes the 16th to move toward restart. None of Japan’s 48 reactors are currently operating, since Ohi 3 and 4 were taken off line in September 2013 for scheduled maintenance and inspections.

Japan Plans Interim Storage Facility for Fukushima Decommissioning Waste

Jan. 9, 2014—The Japanese Ministry of the Environment said it will establish an interim storage facility for soil and other waste generated from decontamination work in areas affected by the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

The Japan Atomic Industrial Forum said the facility is intended for the centralized management and storage of the waste for about 30 years until its disposal outside Fukushima prefecture. Soil and waste generated from decontamination work until now have been stored at temporary sites.