News Watch (NIT No. 172)
In an article dated March 23, The Denki Shimbun (a Japanese daily newspaper covering energy and electricity) reported that Japan’s nuclear energy industry had teamed up to organize a system for exports to China and were floating the idea of setting up a consortium. Coordinating with efforts by China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC) to create a supply base for nuclear power equipment and parts in Hayan County, Zhejiang Province, their idea is to establish a joint venture with a Chinese corporation in that area to import to the Chinese market. A delegation organized by the Japan Engineers Federation is said to have visited Hayan County in April and held talks with the CNNC and Hayan County People’s Government.
The earthquakes that started on April 14 in Kumamoto Prefecture, Kyushu, with a magnitude of 6.5, followed by one of 7.3, are continuing. The tremors frequently reach up to magnitude 5.9, some of which have been centered in the adjoining Oita Prefecture. These have resulted in enormous damage, including landslides, and it is feared that there may be more large aftershocks or induced seismicity in the future, with the possibility of increased volcanic activity.
Experts contradict each other completely regarding the effects of the tremors on volcanism and the spread of the seismic focal region. We must bear in mind once again that more remains unknown about earthquakes than known.
Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) filed requests with the NRA on April 30, 2015, seeking permission to extend the operating period of Takahama units 1 and 2 by 20 years. 41 years have elapsed since operation of Unit 1 (PWR, 826 MW) began, and more than 40 years in the case of Unit 2 (also PWR, 826 MW). Japan’s Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law was revised in 2012, making the operating period for nuclear reactors 40 years as a general rule. If a petition is made to the NRA for approval, however, and approval is granted, this can be extended for a maximum of 20 years one time only. Reactors already exceeding 40 years in operation would be considered to have operated 40 years as of July 7, 2016, three years after the revisions went into effect. This is why KEPCO has filed the requests for approval.
The Agency of Natural Resources and Energy submitted a draft report on April 19 to the third meeting of the Study Group on Technical Issues Associated with Geological Disposal in Coastal Areas. The report deems the realization of this type of disposal of radioactive waste is possible. Excavation would proceed from land, it says, so it would not be in violation of the London Convention and Protocol prohibiting disposal of radioactive wastes at sea.
At a meeting of the Tritiated Water Task Force of METI’s Committee on Countermeasures for Contaminated Water Treatment held on April 19, a comparison was made of disposal methods for tritium remaining in water from the Fukushima Daiichi NPP after multi-nuclide removal. As a result of calculating the requirements for deep geological injection, oceanic release, evaporative atmospheric release, electrolyzed atmospheric release and cementation with land burial, it was found that oceanic release would require the least amount of time and enable low-cost disposal. However, everyone from the head of the Fukushima Prefecture Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives to the leaders and membership of the member fisheries unions unanimously opposed this, and the prefecture has requested that the matter be handled with care.
The Fukuoka District Court, on April 15, rejected a suit filed by former nuclear plant worker Ryusuke Umeda, a Fukuoka resident, seeking workers’ compensation. Umeda was involved in work on piping as part of periodic inspections at the Shimane and Tsuruga NPPs in 1979. After completing the inspections, Umeda suffered nosebleeds, nausea, vertigo and general malaise of unknown origin, and testing at Nagasaki University confirmed internal exposure to cobalt, manganese, cesium and other radionuclides. He received a miniscule amount of compensation from his former subcontractor company, but having been deprived of his health, Umeda had to give up the career he had proudly pursued as a plumber.