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Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 Pool Fuel Removal Completed

Operations to remove both spent and fresh fuel rods from the spent fuel pool at the Fukushima Daiichi NPS Unit 4 (BWR, 784 MW) commenced on November 18, 2013, and were completed on December 22, 2014, with all 1,331 spent fuel assemblies and 202 fresh fuel assemblies removed. In addition, fresh fuel assemblies were removed experimentally and transferred to the common pool on December 7.

The initial plans called for transferring all of the assemblies to the common pool, but in order to ensure enough space in the common pool, it was decided to put half of the stored spent fuel assemblies in dry casks and keep them at a temporary storage site. It was discovered, however, that some of the casks failed to meet materials standards, so they were eliminated from use, resulting in a shortage of casks. In order to avoid creating a shortage of space in the common pool, 180 of the unspent fuel rod assemblies were transferred to the spent fuel pool of Unit 6 (BWR, 1,100 MW, to be decommissioned).

Approval under New Regulatory Requirements Sought for Ohma NPP

J-Power has petitioned the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) for an inspection to approve the Ohma NPP (ABWR, 1,383 MW) under Japan’s new regulatory requirements. This is the first time petitioning has been made for a nuclear reactor still under construction.

The Ohma NPP will be a full-MOX reactor capable of accepting MOX fuel in all reactor cores. Yet far from expressing any concerns about full-MOX reactors, NRA Chairman Shun’ichi Tanaka has adopted an unclear attitude, saying there is no particular need for worry.

Regarding spent MOX fuel, the petition says that, as a general rule, it will be reprocessed by reprocessing companies in Japan. Chairman Tanaka has indicated that current reprocessing facilities cannot handle MOX fuel, and therefore, new facilities will have to be created to reporcess this fuel, and plutonium from reprocessed MOX fuel cannot be used unless fast reactors are in operation. He also said he is not in a position to comment on how realistic this is.

Nuclear Regulation Authority has “No Specially Designated Secrets”

Japan’s Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets passed on December 6, 2013 went into effect on December 10, 2014. Its objective is to guard against the release of information involving Japan’s state security that has a particular need to be kept secret.

On December 8, just prior to the Act’s enforcement, the NRA held a closed meeting, in which they declared “At this point in time, since the NRA possesses no information that fills the requirements for Specially Designated Secrets, it has decided not to designate any” (from the disclosed Proceedings Summary). Based on that, it partially revised its rules on guarding Specially Designated Secrets and essential points for managing administrative documents.

It may have no Specially Designated Secrets, but under the Basic Policies for Strengthening Counter-intelligence Functions (August 2007), even the NRA is said to have Special Management Secrets. In addition, there are regulations under Japan’s Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law for guarding secrecy. In reality, information is probably being guarded arbitrarily to protect corporate profits.

Westinghouse Concludes Long-term Contract with EDF for Fuel Orders

On December 19, 2014, Toshiba’s affiliate Westinghouse (WH, the company abbreviates its name as WEC, but WH is generally used) announced it had concluded a long-term contract with EDF (France’s nationally run electric power company) to supply orders for nuclear power plant fuel reloading. A contract for supplying fuel had been concluded previously, about 6,000 assemblies having been received between 2013 and 2014. This is said to be the first long-term contract, spanning 15 or more years.

Originally, France’s own Areva was the exclusive supplier of nuclear fuel for power generation, but WH has encroached on this, claiming a twenty percent share. In the future, this is expected to grow to 40%. Compared to Areva’s product, WH’s is well regarded for fewer cases of damaged fuel.

The fuel will be produced at the Västerås Plant in Sweden, the Springfields Plant in England, and the Juzbado Plant in Spain, which is owned by ENUSA, a partner of WH. WH is said to be capable of supplying fuel for PWR, BWR, AGR and VVER reactors, and received orders from Ukraine, Sweden, Finland, Germany and America during FY2014.

“New” Japan Atomic Energy Commission Inaugurated

Revisions to Japan’s Act  for the Establishment of the Atomic Energy Commission were made in June 2014 and went into effect on December 16. That day, the chairman remarked, “We are launching new Atomic Energy Commission activities.” Never mind that it is called “new,” the three committee members it comprises were appointed and began their activities in April, prior to the revisions. This is a strange way to arrange affairs, but Japan’s government has become more disorderly since December 2012, when the Abe administration came into power, so this is par for the course.

The Atomic Energy Commission was shrunk from five members to three, and its operations were downsized on the basis of reconsiderations made by the previous administration, which we explained in NIT 152. Even though the administration changed hands, legal revisions were made in accordance with the previous administration’s views.

Two of the three commission members are clearly supportive of nuclear energy, and they make no effort to hide it. The third specializes in uses of radiation. While she does not actively promote nuclear power, she expresses her ideas poorly. The chairman, Yoshiaki Oka, is a nuclear engineer and is on record in “Chairman’s Remarks” at the beginning of his term as saying, “It is important that the excellent nuclear technology our country has cultivated and the hard-earned experience gained from TEPCO’s accidents in Fukushima be utilized not only in Japan, but worldwide. Japan should lead the world in the field of nuclear energy.”

Instead of creating new general principles for nuclear policy as the previous commission did, the Atomic Energy Commission drafted “Basic Concepts.” The “Observations Used in Drafting the Basic Concepts” presented by Chairman Oka at the December 24 meeting of the commission, contains the statement, “How about a motto of ‘Leading the World’ (in top-notch R&D and world-class projects)?”

Vice-Chairman Nobuyasu Abe hails from Japan’s foreign Affairs Ministry, with expertise in disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, but he exhibits a surprisingly low level of awareness. At the annual meeting of the Japanese branch of the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management on November 22, 2014, Vice-Chairman Abe blithely remarked, “It is said that the increasing amounts of plutonium are a problem, but even if money in a bank increases, the risk of theft stays the same. This is a makeshift solution, but the amount of plutonium in storage is tallied at the end of the year, so it would be okay to begin reprocessing in January and use the plutonium before the end of the year so that the amount is reduced by year end.”

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