— Kagoshima Prefecture and Satsumasendai City Agree to Sendai NPS Restart
— Two NRA Members Replaced
— Problems Soon Arise with Monju’s New System
— Tokai Reprocessing Plant to be Permanently Shut Down
— Completion of Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant Postponed
— Early Decision Sought on Operating Reactors Past 40 Years
— Interim Waste Storage Bill before the Diet
— Two Bills Related to CSC Approval come before Diet
— EUR Certification of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ EU-APWR
Japan has 48 nuclear reactors with a combined capacity of 4,416 MW, none of which is currently operating. In the lead for restarts are the Sendai NPS Units 1 & 2 (both PWR, 890 MW) operated by Kyushu Electric Power Company. The Sendai NPS is located in the city of Satsumasendai, Kagoshima Prefecture.
On October 28, Mayor Hideo Iwakiri of Satsumasendai accepted the city council’s adoption of an appeal from citizens seeking a restart and rejection of an appeal by opponents, declaring his agreement with the restart. On November 7, Governor Yuichiro Ito of Kagoshima Prefecture similarly accepted the prefectural assembly’s adoption of a petition for restarting the reactors and declared his agreement.
The construction plans for upgrading safety at the power plant have been examined and approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), so if the facilities pass the official inspection before commercial operation upon completion of construction work, and if revisions in the safety regulations being similarly investigated by the NRA are approved, conditions for reactor restarts will be fulfilled. Neighboring municipalities, however, have expressed dissatisfaction with the “local consensus” involving only Kagoshima Prefecture and Satsumasendai City, and there is deep-rooted opposition to the restarts among peple in Kagoshima Prefecture and Japan. More twists and turns are expected in the road to restarting the reactors.
Two of the five NRA members were replaced on September 19. Akira Ishiwatari, a former Tohoku University professor, took over for Kunihiko Shimazaki, professor emeritus of the University of Tokyo, who was seen as opposing the electric power companies in the assessment of active fault lines; and Satoru Tanaka, former professor at the University of Tokyo Graduate School, replaced Kenzo Oshima, former ambassador to the United Nations. Tanaka is one of the key figures of the so-called “nuclear village,” so his appointment was decided while ignoring voices that opposed or questioned the appointment.
The Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) has launched the new system for the Monju reactor, holding an inaugural ceremony on October 1 in Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture, where the reactor is located, for the Monju Planning Research and Development Center. This will be a support organization for the Monju fast breeder reactor (280 MW) under the direct control of the director of the JAEA. The “Monju reformation,” undertaken in response to omissions in equipment inspections, had not been completed at the time (September 2014) and was delayed for half a year.
Then, on October 11, a local newspaper in Fukui Prefecture reported that about one third of the 180 cameras installed around the secondary sodium coolant pipes were malfunctioning and that nothing had been done about the problem for over a year and a half. The Nuclear Regulation Authority determined this to be in violation of safety regulations at its meeting on October 29. A lack of progress in reforming awareness has again come to light.
On September 29, the JAEA announced its intention to shut down the Tokai Reprocessing Plant permanently. To bring the plant into compliance with new regulatory standards, an additional outlay of more than 100 billion yen would have been needed, and getting the superannuated facilities to meet standards was deemed too difficult. The plant had already finished processing spent commercial nuclear reactor fuel entrusted to it by the electric power companies by March 2006, and there is no urgency to process the remaining spent fuel from the Fugen prototype advanced thermal reactor (currently undergoing decommissioning) that it is storing at its own facilities. It has the options of entrusting the work to reprocessing plants overseas or disposing of it directly.
Regarding the Recycle Equipment Test Facility (RETF) for reprocessing spent fuel from the Monju fast breeder reactor, planned to be built adjacent to the plant, only the buildings have been completed, so it is said they will be used for packing vitrified waste into shipping canisters.
Japan Nuclear Fuel, Limited (JNFL) has announced that completion of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant building in Rokkasho-village, Aomori Prefecture, which it previously extended from December 2013 to October 2014, has been delayed a further year and five months as of the end of October, to March 2016. In fact, even when only counting the period after construction began, this is the 18th time completion has been delayed. Conclusion of a safety agreement with the local municipality and the beginning of operations was planned for no later than September 2016.
At a press conference on October 30, Kenji Kudo, president of JNFL, said that there was strong determination to complete the work this time, but added that uncertainties could not be ruled out.
As noted in the previous issue of News Watch, application for restarts of nuclear reactors exceeding or about to exceed 40 years of age, as measured from the official inspection prior to commercial operation, are to be made in April to July 2015.
Prior to that, they must meet the new regulatory standards, and if the time limit is not kept in mind, the deadline will be exceeded and approval will be denied. The NRA issued a directive on October 15 to Japan’s eleven electric power companies that own or are building nuclear power plants, urging them to hasten their decision on whether to continue operating or to decommission these reactors. On October 17, Yuko Obuchi, then Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, requested a speedy decision from Federation of Electric Power Companies Chairman Makoto Yagi (also president of Kansai Electric Power Company).
The Act on Revision of the Japan Environmental Safety Corporation, which will determine interim storage facilities for radioactive decontamination waste in Fukushima Prefecture, was approved at a cabinet meeting on October 3 and submitted to the Diet. The bill calls for changing the name “Japan Environmental Safety Corporation,” a special company wholly owned by the government involved in treatment of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) waste, to “Interim Storage and Environmental Safety Corporation,” which will handle interim storage of decontamination waste.
It also specifies that the waste will be transported out of the area within 30 years of the start of the storage and taken to final disposal facilities.
Two bills related to ratification of the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC) were approved by the cabinet on October 24 and submitted to the Diet. One of the bills is the Act on Supplementary Compensation of Nuclear Damage Upon Enforcement of the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, which would collect funds from nuclear power companies to enable them to be prepared at any time to cover damages as needed under the CSC, which requires signatory nations to provide a set amount of compensation for damages exceeding a certain amount. It is meant to help cover part of the costs in case an accident occurs in Japan that requires nuclear power companies to provide compensation for damages. The other bill is the Act on Partial Revision of the Law on Nuclear Damages Compensation and the Law on Contracts on Insurance for Nuclear Damages Compensation. It proposes several revisions for consistency with the CSC.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries announced on October 27 that it had had been awarded European Utility Requirements (EUR) certification for its new large-size reactor, 1,700 MW EU-APWR, the first time for a Japanese company to achieve such recognition. The company says it will strengthen its sales activities in Europe for the 1,100 MW ATMEA-1, developed by ATMEA, its joint venture with the French company AREVA, as well as for the large reactors it has developed on its own. It has already tendered a bid for the Unit 4 reactor at the Olkiluoto NPP in Finland.