On December 13, 2017, the Hiroshima High Court handed down a provisional decision to suspend operation of Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata Unit 3 reactor (PWR, 890 MW) until the end of September this year. The reactor had remained idled even after that time, having been shut down for a periodical inspection. Prior to the end of that period, however, a different judge at the Hiroshima High Court accepted Shikoku Electric Power’s objection and decided on September 25 to rescind the injunction. The Unit 3 reactor was restarted on October 27.
Units 1 and 2 are being decommissioned, and an encircling network has formed locally in Ehime Prefecture, where the plant is located, along with Hiroshima, Yamaguchi and Oita Prefectures facing it across the Seto Inland Sea to attempt to halt operation of Unit 3, the sole remaining reactor, through provisional injunctions. The district courts of Ehime, Hiroshima and Oita have all dismissed their requests, and the Hiroshima High Court’s injunction was overturned, but another hearing is underway at the Yamaguchi District Court Iwakuni Branch, and complaint hearings are continuing at the Takamatsu High Court after dismissal by the Ehime District Court, and the Fukuoka High Court after dismissal by the Oita District Court. Also, the principal suit is still in progress in various district courts.
Commercial operation of the Tokai No. 2 Power Station (BWR, 1100 MW) will reach the 40-year mark in November. It is the oldest among Japan’s operating boiling water reactors. The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) approved nuclear reactor installation alterations on September 26, 2018 for the new standards conformity inspection, leaving many issues unresolved, such as inflammable cables. The inspection for approval of extending the operating period to 60 years and inspection for approving construction plans were conducted in parallel to meet the swiftly approaching operating term limit in November, proceeding as an exceptional case. Approval was granted for the construction plans on October 18 and that for extending the operating period, on November 7.
Even if the needed construction is completed in the future, restarting the reactor and extending its operating term will not necessarily go smoothly. In addition to the safety agreement concluded with the village of Tokai, where the Tokai No. 2 plant is located, the Japan Atomic Power Company concluded a new safety agreement covering a greatly expanded scope, including five cities in the vicinity of Tokai Village, in March 2018 regarding the restart and extended term of operation. Under that agreement, the company must obtain a consensus of all six municipalities through prior understandings before undertaking actions such as restarts. In October, the mayor of Naka City declared his opposition to restarting the reactor, and the Mito City Council adopted a memorandum in June opposing it.
In November, JAPC Vice President Nobutaka Wachi remarked that nowhere in the agreement was there any mention of a right to refuse. In twisting the meaning of the agreement, he provoked an outraged response from the six municipalities. He finally apologized and retracted his words, but JAPC’s idea is to bide their time and obtain a consensus in the long term.
On October 25, the Tohoku Electric Power Co. decided to decommission the Unit 1 reactor at its Onagawa Nuclear Power Station, reporting the decision during a visit by President Hiroya Harada to the Miyagi Prefectural Government Office, where he met with Miyagi Governor Yoshihiro Murai. This comes less than a month after a regular press conference on September 27, where Harada declared that they were “considering decommissioning” the reactor, and thus can be considered exceptionally prompt.
Addition of the four reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daini plant (BWR, 1100 MW each), which the company has declared it is considering decommissioning and for which decommissioning is for all practical purposes a certainty, and the Onagawa Unit 1 reactor, for which the decision has been made, make it 20 nuclear reactors of the 54 counted prior to the Fukushima nuclear accident that are slated for decommissioning. Applications have yet to be filed for a further nine reactors to undergo testing for compliance with Japan’s new regulatory standards. No application has been filed for the Onagawa Unit 3 reactor (BWR, 825 MW). Tohoku Electric Power Co. says it is making preparations for filing, but there is a possibility that this reactor will also be decommissioned.
This is the first time lung cancer has been recognized as a disease caused by exposure to radiation.
NUMO (the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan) released its “Comprehensive Technical Report” on November 21, posing it as a summary of technical grounds for declaring geological disposal of high level radioactive waste (HLW) safe. Among reasons for asserting its safety, the report says that the overpack (steel 19 cm in thickness) containing the vitrified HLW canisters can resist corrosion for 17,000 years without being penetrated, that disposal sites can be chosen away from volcanos so as not to be affected by them for at least 100,000 years, and that even if magma penetrates a disposal site in 100,000 years, spewing the radioactive material therein via volcanic ash, the radiation from it would have no notable impact.
TEPCO filed an application with the NRA on November 20 to revise its operational safety program, putting its nuclear power operations under an in-house “Nuclear Power Company.” It will integrate all of the company’s nuclear operations aside from the Fukushima Daiichi plant, bringing together the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, Higashidori and Fukushima Daini NPPs and all of TEPCO’s other organizations involved in that field.
Nobuaki Kurumatani, Chairman and CEO of Toshiba, announced on November 8 that the company would liquidate its subsidiary NuGen, which had been planning to build three new AP1000 reactors (with a total capacity of 3.6 million kilowatts) in West Cumbria, UK. This withdrawal is expected to entail a loss of 15 billion yen, but even so, Toshiba is calling it “an economically rational decision.”
NuGen was organized in 2009 by the Moorside NPP project as a consortium of three companies, SSE of the UK, Iberdrola of Spain and GDF Suez (which later changed its name to ENGIE) of France. SSE withdrew in 2011 and Iberdrola in 2013, selling their respective stakes to Toshiba. With the bankruptcy of Westinghouse in 2017, ENGIE sold its shares to Toshiba, leaving the latter as NuGen’s sole owner. After that, Toshiba considered selling NuGen to the Korea Electric Power Corporation, but did not go forward with that deal. Brookfield Asset Management Inc., which bought Westinghouse from Toshiba, also showed interest in NuGen, but ultimately talk of that faded too.
There were plans for construction of new nuclear reactors at three sites in England to provide a total of 16 million kilowatts of electric power by 2030, and the Moorside NPP was one of them. Regarding the remaining two sites, EDF of France has started building two EPRs (European pressurized reactors) at Hinkley Point, but the project planned by Hitachi’s subsidiary Horizon Nuclear Power at Wylfa Newydd is facing various difficulties including high costs and mode of financing.