Japanese groups challenge potential nuclear restarts, and other news from Japan


The Japanese Nuclear Regulatory Authority has issued its draft approval for restart of the Sendai reactors.

Green World | Michael Mariotte | July 17, 2014

Yesterday, the new Japanese Nuclear Regulatory Authority gave its preliminary approval for restart of Kyushu Electric’s two Sendai reactors. In response, seven Japanese clean energy groups issued the statement below, challenging that approval on several grounds. The draft approval does not necessarily guarantee a speedy restart; there are several more step in the process. As Aileen Mioko-Smith of GreenAction put it, “The fight is on!”

Joint Statement Protesting Nuclear Regulatory Authorityʼs Draft Approval of Sendai Nuclear Power Plantʼs Conformation to New Nuclear Regulatory Standards
16 July 2014

Issued by: The Nuclear Regulation Authority Citizen Watchdog Group and 7 other organizations

Today, the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) issued a draft report on Kyushu Electricʼs Sendai
Nuclear Power Plant application for restart, stating the NRAʼs review found the plant conforming to the New Regulatory Standards. We strongly protest this report. 

The NRA review to inspect conformation to the New Regulatory Standards does not learn from the lessons of Tokyo Electricʼs Fukushima Daiichi accident, and, for the following reasons it is
clearly evident that the situation is far from being able to issue such conformation to New
Regulatory Standards.

1. In spite of acknowledging the warnings issued by experts that assessments on the effects of volcanoes cannot predict volcanic eruptions, the NRA review is ignoring this fact, thus violating its own Volcanic Effects Assessment Guide.

* Although Kyushu Electricʼs claim which states that the possibility is extremely small that
a gigantic volcanic eruption (caldera eruption) would occur during the operation of the nuclear
power plant is not substantiated with sufficient evidence, the NRA, with not a single volcano
expert on its committee, without asking the opinion of experts, and with virtually no discussion,
allowed this claim to pass.

*With volcano experts stating that a huge volcanic eruption (caldera eruption) is difficult
to predict, the government admitted the difficulty of being able to predict the extent and timing
of such eruptions. Being able to predict the extend of the volcanic eruption and when pyroclastic flow will occur is absolutely necessary because nuclear fuel must be removed from the power plant site beforehand and because this removal takes years to complete. In spite of this, the NRA has only put monitoring in place for now, and has tossed aside this issue as an issue to be handled in the mid-term future.

2. The NRA is requiring absolutely no measures to be undertaken to prevent contaminated water from being released into the ocean and other areas in the event of a serious accident.

The New Regulatory Standards require that, even though the containment has been breached during a serious nuclear accident, countermeasures must be undertaken to limit the dispersal of radiation. Although it is stated that the New Regulatory Standards are based on lessons learnt from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, the review process completely ignored the serious situation of contaminated water emissions currently occurring at the Fukushima Daiichi plant and did not require measures be undertaken to prevent radioactive emissions from the Sendai Plant in the event of an accident.

Moreover, at the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant, 300 tons of groundwater are being pumped out daily, and when the pump equipment no longer functions in the event of a serious accident, groundwater would enter the nuclear power plant facility and mix with the contaminated coolant water that has leaked from the bottom of the containment, thus creating the danger that large quantities of contaminated water would be generated. No countermeasures have been put in place to prevent such an occurrence.

3. Measures to prevent breaching of the containment and hydrogen explosions in the event of a serious accident are inadequate—cross-checking to verify the reliability of the analysis code has not been undertaken.

Kyushu Electric has a shocking plan in the event of a serious accident involving loss of coolant
and loss of power. The company plans to abandon cooling of the reactor vessel and instead will
switch to pooling water at the bottom of the containment vessel and having the molten fuel which has breached the reactor vessel fall into the pooled water. The company claims that this would not lead to breach of the containment vessel nor hydrogen explosions, but its claims are only based on computerized analyses.

The accuracy of the computer code used by Kyushu Electric has been put into question. Nevertheless, the Nuclear Regulation Authority / Nuclear Regulatory Agency did not undertake a cross-check with another computer code, a procedure which is normally undertaken.

4. Seismic motion has been underestimated.

The NRA did not have the method utilized for estimating the effects of a tsunami, the Takemura
Method, used for estimating the earthquake motion at the Sendai Plant. The Takemura Method takes into account the special characteristic of Japanese earthquakes. If the Takemura Method had been utilized, it would have approximately doubled the earthquake motion estimation for the Sendai Plant.

Although the inadequacy of the New Regulatory Standards regarding estimation of volcanic effects became evident during the review process, as Chair of the NRA Shunichi Tanaka points out, the New Regulatory Standards do not guarantee safety.

With regards to the nuclear accident emergency preparedness plans which NRA Chair Tanaka calls “the second wheel” of a two-wheel vehicle (the other wheel being the New Regulatory Standards) the situation is as follows:

* Kagoshima Prefecture has stated it will abandon plans to evacuate people living beyond the
10-kilometer radius who require special support. It has instead forced responsibility for
undertaking plans for these people upon the welfare facilities and hospitals. As a result, no plans are in place for these people. These people are being abandoned, sacrificed.

* As for the emergency preparedness plans for the general public, there is not enough capacity
at the evacuation points to take in the people who have evacuated, thus no environment exists for remaining there. Also, there is a possibility that these evacuation points will be downwind.
Moreover, the plans do not take into account the possibility of an earthquake, tsunami, or some
other event occurring simultaneously to the nuclear accident. Plans for distributing potassium
iodine are not in place. The screening points (the locations to undertake measurements and
decontamination of radioactive materials) has not been established and no resolution for this is in sight. The possibility that evacuation may be required beyond a 30- kilometer radius has not been taken into consideration, etc.

Numerous issues remain problematic. An effective nuclear accident emergency preparedness plan is not in place. The greater the efforts put into making such plans concrete, the more apparent it becomes that there are great difficulties with evacuation.

The Sendai Nuclear Power Plant restart process should not be allowed to continue under these
circumstances. The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) should retract its review report. Restart of the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant must not proceed.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority Citizen Watchdog Group
Anti-Nuclear Kagoshima Network (ANK Net)
People’s Action Against The Genkai Nuclear Power Plant
Green Action
Osaka Citizens Against the Mihama, Oi and Takahama Nuclear Power Plants (Mihama-no-Kai)
国際環境NGO FoE Japan
International Environmental NGO FoE Japan
Citizens Against Fukushima Aging Nuclear Power Plants (Fukuro-no-Kai)

Contact: The Nuclear Regulation Authority Citizen Watchdog Group
Tel: +81-90-8116-7155 (Sakagami)
Contact: (in English): Green Action
Suite 103, 22-75 Tanaka Sekiden-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8203 Japan
Tel: +81-75-701-7223 Fax: +81-75-702-1952 Cell: +81-90-3620-9251 (Smith)

The statement is available in pdf format here.

Greenpeace Japan also weighed in on the issue here, stating, “As we approach the one year birthday of no nuclear-powered electricity in Japan (the last of the country’s remaining 48 reactors were shutdown in September 2013) it is clear that Japan can function as a society without risking catastrophic nuclear accidents, while rapidly growing its renewable energy sector and embracing efficiency. The NRA decision may make headlines around the world but Japan is a long long way from restarting its large nuclear program—and the people of Japan are determined to make its future energy path a very different one from its past.”

The Japan Times’ account of the NRA’s action is here.

In other news from Japan:

*Removal of radioactive rubble from the ruins of Fukushima is being blamed for contamination of rice paddies more than 20 kilometers from the site.

*There are growing doubts that the ice wall being built around Fukushima to block the flow of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean will work.

The world’s uranium industry is counting on restart of Japanese reactors for its recovery–uranium prices have dropped 60% since the meltdowns at Fukushima. Here are two somewhat different perspectives on the industry and its prospects:

*Post-Fukushima uranium recovery slower than anticipated.

*Uranium seen rebounding as Japan readies nuclear restarts.

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