Monthly Archives: May 2015

Secret files reveal BBC colluded with Whitehall to ban its own nuclear war film

The Herald | Judith Duffy | Sunday 31 May 2015

A SCOTS academic has uncovered previously secret government files which show how the BBC collaborated with Whitehall officials in the 1960s to block a controversial film about a nuclear attack on Britain.

BBC drama documentary The War Game, directed by Peter Watkins, which shows shocking scenes of radiation sickness, firestorms and widespread panic following a nuclear attack on Britain, was infamously pulled from broadcast at the 11th hour in 1965.

The corporation insisted it was its own decision to implement the ban as the footage was “too horrifying for the medium of broadcasting”.

However the move has been mired in controversy ever since, as it was known the drama had been viewed by Whitehall officials in the weeks beforehand.

Now fifty years on, John Cook, professor of media at Glasgow Caledonian University, has uncovered previously secret Cabinet Office files which show how civil servants influenced the banning of the film. His findings will be discussed as part of a BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The War Game Files’, which will be broadcast on Saturday 6th June at 8pm.

In an interview with the Sunday Herald Cook said: “This has been a 50 year mystery – I wouldn’t say I have solved it, but it is probably the closest we have got to figuring out what happened.

“The BBC put out a press release in November 1965 saying they had decided not to show the film to the public as it was too horrific for the medium of broadcasting – and stressed it was a decision the BBC had taken alone.

“But there has been much suspicion over the years that the British Government was involved in the censorship in one form or another.”

Sir Norman Brook, who was chair of the BBC Board of Governors at the time – and whose previous job as secretary of the Cabinet Office included drawing up civil defence planning in case of a nuclear war – had written to Cabinet Secretary Sir Burke Trend to alert him to the film ahead of its planned broadcast.

Cook said one key memo he uncovered revealed Brook and Trend subsequently had a meeting with then director of the BBC Sir Hugh Carleton Greene.

He said: “In the memo Sir Hugh Carleton Greene said if it was decided by the government the film should not be shown, then the BBC would put out a press release saying they had taken the decision independently. It is pretty clear.”

The Whitehall officials who were invited to view the film on September 24 1965 before it was due to be broadcast included Trend, the head of the Home Office Sir Charles Cunningham, and senior representatives from the British Armed Forces, the Ministry of Defence and the Post Office, which at that time was responsible for granting the BBC its licence to broadcast.

Cook said an internal memo was then put together by the officials for ministers and civil servants about the reaction to the film, which was labelled top secret and sent to Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

But he added: “Wilson is astute enough to realise that he cannot be seen to be explicitly censoring a film because the BBC publicly is an independent body.

“So he writes to his cabinet secretary advising that the government doesn’t want to be involved in this – but adds you may wish to communicate your views along with the other civil servants privately to Brook, the BBC chair.

“And that is essentially what happens – ministers don’t want publicly to get involved, but they give civil servants the nod that they should communicate their views that the film was unbalanced.”

The War Game was not screened by the BBC until twenty years later, in July 1985. The film’s director Watkins left Britain to work abroad in protest following the ban.

Cook added: “Essentially the BBC’s charter of independence was violated in 1965 … The key thing is the censorship was entirely consensual.”

Among those interviewed for the BBC Radio 4 programme is Sir Christopher Bland, who was BBC chairman of governors between 1996 to 2001.

He said he was “astonished” that the BBC would have agreed to show a film to politicians before transmission.

A BBC spokesman said: “Fifty years on it’s difficult for us to comment on the background to the broadcast of this programme.”

Talks Begin to Conclude Nuclear Deal With Iran

The New York Times | Michael R. Gordon | May 30, 2015

DIPLO-master675

Secretary of State John Kerry and Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, on Saturday.
Credit Pool photo by Susan Walsh

 

GENEVA — With only a month to go before a deadline for a nuclear accord with Iran, Secretary of State John Kerry began a major push Saturday to conclude the agreement.

Mr. Kerry and Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, met here Saturday for six hours of talks, the first high-level negotiating round since the two sides settled on the outline of an agreement on April 2 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

A senior American official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the closed meeting, said afterward that the discussions had been “intense at times, but very focused and very comprehensive.” The Obama administration still believes it is possible to complete an accord by the June 30 deadline, and it is determined to try hard to get it done, officials said.

But some experts outside the government have begun to question the wisdom of negotiating against a deadline, especially because some major issues remain unresolved. Rushing an accord, they say, might work to Iran’s advantage by building pressure on the United States and its negotiating partners to make concessions in talks with Iranian officials who have a penchant for hammering out compromises at the last minute.

“It is a tall order for them to finish by the end of June, especially to get the technical annexes done in sufficient detail to avoid implementation problems,” said Robert J. Einhorn, who served on the American delegation to the Iran talks until 2013. “The negotiators should take whatever time they need, even if it means working past June 30.”

Gary Samore, who was the senior National Security Council official on weapons of mass destruction during President Obama’s first term, said American officials should be prepared to negotiate through the summer.

“Tactically, it is better to extend the talks to demonstrate that we aren’t desperate for a deal at any cost,” said Mr. Samore, a member of the group United Against Nuclear Iran.

Mr. Kerry, however, has long spoken of the importance of deadlines, arguing that they are the only way to get officials on both sides to make the tough decisions needed to seal an accord.

“We’ve often seen during these talks that deadlines are action-forcing mechanisms,” said a State Department official who is traveling with Mr. Kerry and spoke on the condition of anonymity under the agency’s protocol for briefing reporters.

The remaining obstacles to an accord include the need to agree on effective verification measures and a schedule for lifting economic sanctions on Iran. The negotiators also need to clarify how quickly Iran could expand its network of centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium, and install more sophisticated models in the final years of the accord.

The resolution of such questions will help determine how advanced Iran’s nuclear program may be when the accord expires.

The Obama administration has said that the deal under negotiation would extend to a year, from the current two or three months, the amount of time it would take Iran to produce enough nuclear material for a bomb. But the provisions to achieve that longer “breakout time” would be eased after the first decade of the agreement.

He argued that the agreement would still be worth it, and other officials say the final breakout time might not be so short, depending on the terms of the agreement. The latitude Iran will have to develop and install new enrichment technology in the last years of the accord will depend on arrangements that have yet to be enumerated.

Other questions concern how to verify that Iran is following the deal and how to address suspicions that it has already conducted secret nuclear weapons research. After the Lausanne talks, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared that neither inspections of military sites nor interviews with nuclear scientists would be allowed.

That prompted concerns that Iran might be backtracking from understandings sketched out in the talks. Those worries were only partly eased when Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, said in a lengthy interview that his country had agreed to “managed access” in which inspectors could take samples “from the vicinity of military sites.” On Saturday, however, Mr. Araqchi said that allowing Iran’s scientists to be interviewed was “generally off the table.”

Experts say that wide-ranging inspections are needed to guard against cheating. They also say that the International Atomic Energy Agency needs to interview Iranian scientists to resolve questions about Iran’s suspected work on nuclear weapons designs and tests of weapons components — what the agency calls the “possible military dimensions” of the Iranian program. Iran says its program is only for civilian purposes.

The State Department official said the two sides had made headway on this in Lausanne by agreeing to develop a “list of people and places for access,” but acknowledged that important details had yet to be settled.

“We didn’t agree on the list, but we agreed to undertake a process to develop that list,” the official said.

The nuclear talks involve Iran, the United States and five other world powers: Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.

Mr. Kerry’s meeting with Mr. Zarif on Saturday included Helga Schmid, the political director for the European Union. Among the other participants in the talks was Wendy R. Sherman, the chief American negotiator on Iran nuclear issues.

Mr. Araqchi joined Mr. Zarif among the Iranian negotiators. Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, was too ill to attend but participated by phone from Tehran.

It is unclear when Mr. Kerry will meet again with the Iranians, but negotiators at Ms. Sherman’s level plan to convene on Thursday, the Iranians announced.

Asked at the start of the session on Saturday if the negotiators expected to meet their deadline, Mr. Zarif said, “We will try.”

France’s ambassador to the United States, Gérard Araud, said last week that it could be hard to meet the deadline because Iran would engage in diplomatic brinkmanship to try to squeeze some final concessions.

“Likely that Iran will wait for the last days for compromising,” he wrote on Twitter.

Iran Review Interview with Jim Lobe

Lobe Log | Kourosh Ziabari | May 29th, 2015

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Iran and the group of six world powers have about one month to make history and reach a comprehensive agreement to end the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. Officials in Tehran have already indicated that they would be open to the possibility of extending the talks for some time beyond the June 30 deadline, so that there’s opportunity for negotiating if there are still points of disagreement that need to be worked out. However, the hawks and peace-haters don’t sit back idly and try their best to throw a spanner in the works of the diplomats striving for making peace and concluding one of the lengthiest diplomatic marathons in the contemporary history.

On Thursday, May 7, the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to endorse the Iran review bill that would require President Obama to submit any final deal with Tehran to the Congress for final confirmation. According to the Corker-Cardin legislation, the Congress will have 30 days to approve the agreement or vote in disapproval.

On the other corner, the Israeli government and the influential Israeli lobby in Washington are putting pressure on President Obama to compel him to leave the nuclear negotiations with Iran and pursue a military option instead.

A noted American journalist tells Iran Review that any Iran-U.S. rapprochement following the possible conclusion of the nuclear deal will weaken Israel’s influence in the Middle East and Washington, and that’s why they’re pulling out all the stops to make sure that there would be no arrangement and deal by the June 30 deadline.

“Israel and its more right-wing supporters here naturally want to weaken those states that are hostile to Israel and strengthen those states that are more friendly to it,” he said. “They fear that, given Iran’s large and relatively well-educated population, as well as its support for Hezbollah, in particular, the lifting of the sanctions regime that has been imposed against it will significantly increase its power and influence in the region to Israel’s detriment.”

Jim Lobe believes that a nuclear agreement would mean a fundamental change in the anti-Iran discourse propped up continuously in the last 4 decades.

“The fact is that Israel and the GCC have benefited tremendously over the past 35 years by U.S. efforts to oppose and isolate Iran, and the nuclear deal signals a fundamental change in their position,” he stated.

Jim Lobe runs the political blog “Lobelog” where several major diplomats, authors and analysts write on the most pressing foreign policy issues facing the United States, particularly in the Middle East. He is the Washington Bureau Chief of the international news agency Inter Press Service and is widely cited for his critical analysis of the Iran-U.S. relations.

Iran Review talked to Jim Lobe about the latest developments surrounding the nuclear talks and the repercussions of a possible agreement between Iran and the EU3+3, including the United States.

Q: The recent letter by the 150 Democratic members of the House of Representatives expressing support for diplomacy with Iran and the finalization of the nuclear agreement can be seen as an encouragement for the Obama administration to stand steadfastly and seal the deal in the face of domestic pressure. How is the balance of power in the United States, between the government and the two chambers of the Congress? Do they have the capability to take a consistent and coherent decision regarding the comprehensive agreement with Iran? President Obama’s endorsement of the bill that would oblige him to submit any deal with Iran to the Congress for approval will surely lengthen and complicate the process of finalizing the nuclear agreement with Iran, and this might sound disturbing to the Iranians. Will the Congress ruin the deal with its interventions?

A: It’s not so much a question of the balance of power between the administration and the two houses of Congress; it has much more to do with partisan politics. The Republicans, which have moved even farther to the right since the end of the George W. Bush administration, are, with a few exceptions, opposed to any agreement with Iran, and then have a majority in both houses. As a result, they can pass bills that formally disapprove of any deal that may be reached between the U.S. and Iran as part of the P5+1 process – as provided in the recently approved Corker-Cardin legislation, or make it impossible for the administration to comply with various aspects of such a deal, such as denying funding that would be needed by the administration to actually implement the deal or denying Obama authority to waive certain sanctions. If such legislation is approved by both houses, then the question becomes whether any veto cast by Obama against such legislation can be sustained in either house of Congress. Under the U.S. Constitution, a presidential veto can only be overcome if two third of each house votes to override it. Thus, if 34 or more Democrats in the Senate or 145 or more Democrats in the House of Representatives vote to sustain the veto, such legislation cannot become law. That is why the 150 (now 151) Democratic members –although several of those who signed the letter are non-voting members of Congress – who signed the letter is significant. If they vote to sustain a presidential veto, then no legislation designed to sabotage a P5+1 deal can become law, and Obama can proceed based on existing legislation and his executive authority under the Constitution.

Under the Corker-Cardin bill, which passed both houses and was signed by Obama into law last week, Obama will be unable to waive certain sanctions for at least 30 days while Congress decides if it wishes to pass a resolution disapproving or approving the prospective deal or to simply do nothing. The administration, however, is confident this will not lengthen or complicate the process of finalizing an agreement because Iran will require some time – well over one month, to actually begin to implement its provision.

Of course, it remains possible that Congress could still sabotage a deal by approving other legislation that will be supported by a sufficient number of Democrats in both houses of Congress to override any presidential veto. At this point, however, such a scenario is unlikely unless there is some unforeseen event or provocation by Iran or a third party that would make it politically impossible for Obama to either veto any deal-breaking legislation or for such a veto to be sustained by Congress. For example, if it was believed that Iran was responsible or played some significant role in a major terrorist attack against a U.S. target or that of a close U.S. ally, then any deal would likely be derailed.

Q: While you talk about a possible move by Iran that can derail the talks, I’d like to mention that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed a number of times that Iran has complied with its commitments under the terms of the Geneva interim accord (Joint Plan of Action) – the first step on the path of a comprehensive Iran-U.S. nuclear agreement, signed on November 24, 2013. So, it’s already clear to the United States that Iran will abide by what it officially agrees to. Then, why is it haggling over such details as the timing of the sanctions removal, even though the Lausanne framework deal made it clear that all the unilateral, multilateral and UNSC-endorsed nuclear-related sanctions will be terminated following the implementation of the comprehensive deal?

A: First, past compliance with one agreement does not by itself ensure future compliance with a second agreement, so, just as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has continued to express great skepticism about Washington’s good faith and compliance with any future agreement, so it is natural for the U.S. government to maintain a skeptical attitude about Iran’s future compliance as it would with any government with which it has had a mainly adversarial relationship for so many decades. Both sides have noted the existence of great distrust between them despite the apparent success of the implementation of the JPOA. Second, I believe the precise timing of the lifting of the various nuclear-related sanctions remains a subject of negotiation, although the administration appears confident that this will not prove to be a problem that jeopardizes the successful conclusion of a deal.

Q: There’s something regarding the sanctions that I’ll need to bring up. It was maintained some 3 years ago, just prior to the election of President Rouhani, that the sanctions were slapped on Iran to bring it to the negotiation table and force it into making compromises. Now, Iran is at the negotiation table, but as its officials say, not simply because of the sanctions. However, it sounds like the sanctions have turned into an end, not the means, and a bargaining chip. What has been largely overlooked is that the Iranian government is willingly cooperating with the P5+1 and is ready to come up with meaningful confidence-building and transparency measures. So, what we hear every day is that new sanctions are being imposed under different pretexts, and their removal is being conditioned on further concessions by Iran. Do you consider this loop to be fair and equitable?

A: I’m not sure what precisely you are referring to in this question. If it is a matter of additional sanctions being imposed now and then against specific companies and individuals because of their alleged violation of existing law, then that can be explained both as a legal issue and a political one. Legally, the U.S. is still applying sanctions according to U.S. laws. Politically, the continuing application of sanctions for alleged violations demonstrates to anti-Iran hard-liners in both parties that the administration remains committed to enforcing sanctions against Iran. That makes it easier for many Democrats, in particular, to remain loyal to the administration on the much bigger pending issues regarding eventual approval of or acquiescence in a comprehensive deal.

If you are referring to “new” sanctions being imposed against Iran, no new sanctions legislation has passed Congress since the Geneva agreement. New sanctions legislation has been introduced by Iran hawks – particularly those close to the Israel lobby – over the past 18 months but has not been approved due to the administration’s threat to veto any such legislation and a sufficient number of Democratic lawmakers who have opposed it. In fact, the administration has repeatedly made precisely the point included in your question: that the sanctions should be treated as a means to reach a deal and not an end in themselves. Sanctions have indeed been used as a bargaining chip to provide an incentive to Iran to make compromises, just as Iran has used its growing nuclear infrastructure as a bargaining chip to provide the U.S. and its P5+1 partners to make compromises regarding their acceptance of a sophisticated nuclear program.

Q: In one of your recent articles, you expounded the reasons why the anti-Iran group UANI, which I believe is founded upon the objective of defaming Iran and crippling its economy, not simply over the nuclear case, but also on human rights violation charges, is now distancing itself from the expert analysis of some its leaders, including Gary Samore, especially following the Lausanne framework deal of April 2, which was welcomed worldwide. If UANI, AIPAC, JINSA and others want to see Iran would not obtain nuclear weapons, then their expectation is being already fulfilled through the Geneva interim accord, and the anticipated comprehensive deal to be sealed by June 30. What more are they looking for?

A: With respect to the organizations that you cite in your question, I believe they are very much part of what we sometimes call the Israel lobby, that is very responsive to the concerns of Israel’s political leadership. As everyone knows, Netanyahu has expressed very strong, often apocalyptic concerns, about Iran’s nuclear program and its purported future intentions against Israel. These organizations have consistently echoed and amplified those concerns, although, as you point out, there are internal differences of opinion within them. Samore, for example, has been far less hawkish than the organization for which he serves as president. JINSA has an Iran task force co-chaired by a former senior Obama official, Dennis Ross, and a former Bush administration official, Eric Edelman, and, within that task force, there is some disagreement over whether the United States should acquiesce in a limited uranium enrichment program in Iran or should support Netanyahu’s more extreme demands. When you ask what more they are looking for, I think the answer is ultimately what they fear is not so much that Iran will develop a nuclear weapon that will be used to attack Israel, but rather that any rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran will weaken Israel’s influence both in the region and in Washington DC. Israel and its more right-wing supporters here naturally want to weaken those states that are hostile to Israel and strengthen those states that are more friendly to it. They fear that, given Iran’s large and relatively well-educated population, as well as its support for Hezbollah, in particular, the lifting of the sanctions regime that has been imposed against it will significantly increase its power and influence in the region to Israel’s detriment.

Q: So, you believe Israel will suffer if a comprehensive deal between Iran and the six world powers is concluded. True? There are people who believe that the peaceful settlement of the nuclear controversy will gradually turn the public attention to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the settlement constructions. Do you agree with this premise?

A: As explained [in the previous questions], I believe Israel’s leadership fears that the end of the sanctions regime will significantly increase Iran’s power and influence in the region to Israel’s detriment. And, so long as the Islamic Republic remains hostile to Israel and supports Hezbollah and other groups hostile to Israel, Israel wants to keep it as isolated and weak as possible. Of course, your suggestion that an end to the nuclear controversy will also tend to permit a greater public focus on Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories is correct, but I don’t think that is the primary motivation for Israel’s strong opposition to a nuclear deal that could lead to a U.S.-Iranian rapprochement. It is a factor; but I don’t believe it is necessarily the most important one.

Q: The Arab states in the region also share Israel’s concerns, I think. What do you think about the growing apprehension of the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf regarding the possibility of a nuclear agreement between the United States and Iran? Are they afraid that the deal will lead to the rise of Iran’s economic power and political clout in the region? Was it the reason Obama tried to appease the GCC leaders in the Camp David summit and assure them relations with Iran will not be normalized soon?

A: The apprehensions of the Arab monarchies are similar to those of Israel. They believe that an end to the sanctions regime against Iran will necessarily increase its influence in the region, a development they fear for many reasons, not the least of which are historical – Persians vs. Arabs, sectarian – Shiite vs. Sunni, and the fact that these states are small, in some cases very fragile [such as] Bahrain, almost completely lacking in democratic governance, politically sclerotic, and almost entirely reliant on Western powers for security. At the same time, they are important players in the international economic and financial system; several of them host important U.S. bases that the Pentagon considers essential to retain its conventional military dominance in the region; and they have generally proved helpful in serving a variety of U.S. interests. Thus, Obama does not wish to be seen as abandoning them in favor of Iran. He has a very narrow tightrope to walk: he must reassure the GCC and Israel and its supporters here, while seeking a rapprochement with Iran in order to achieve of what he has referred to as an“equilibrium” in U.S. relations between Iran and the GCC and Israel.

Q: Finally, how do you see the political future of the Middle East in the light of the recent advancements of the ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the continued military involvement of Saudi Arabia in Yemen, the ongoing nuclear talks between Iran and the six world powers and the worrying tensions between Russia and the West?

A: I think Obama will try to achieve an “equilibrium,” as mentioned above, that will permit some greater cooperation with Iran in containing and defeating ISIS, especially in Iraq, while offering limited support to anti-Assad forces – but not ISIS or al-Nusra in Syria. He would like to bring Iran into the Geneva talks in hopes that some kind of political settlement can be reached on Syria between Riyadh, Doha, and Ankara, on the one hand, and Tehran and Moscow on the other that will eventually remove Assad, weaken ISIS, and wind down the civil war. Washington has already been pushing hard on Riyadh to reduce its air campaign in Yemen and make a serious effort to reach a political settlement there. Ultimately, I think the administration wants to create a new regional security structure that includes Iran and achieves the kind of “equilibrium” I referred to. Whether he can achieve any or all of this, however, is highly doubtful, particularly given the hawkish policies and personalities of the new regime in Saudi Arabia which appears to have significantly hardened KSA’s anti-Iranian stance in ways that appear to be aggravating tensions in the region. I think the anxieties created by a prospective nuclear deal – and the adjustments in the region that it will necessitate – are contributing significantly to these tensions. The fact is that Israel and the GCC have benefited tremendously over the past 35 years by U.S. efforts to oppose and isolate Iran, and the nuclear deal signals a fundamental change in their position. Adjusting to it will prove very difficult and is likely to result in continuing, if not even more instability and conflict in the region, at least in the short term.

Kourosh Ziabari is an Iranian journalist and writer.

Spent-nuclear fuel issues plague restarts

The Japan Times | Jiji | May 26, 2015

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A man and children walk past a model of a nuclear reactor at Chubu Electric Power Co.’s Hamaoka nuclear power station in Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, in August 2009. The amount of spent fuel at the Hamaoka plant could exceed the capacity of storage pools there some two years after the plant is restarted. | BLOOMBERG

Spent fuel at the Hamaoka nuclear power station in Shizuoka Prefecture could exceed the capacity of storage pools some two years after the plant is restarted — much sooner than the previously assumed eight years, according to sources.

The faster pace is because the storage pools for reactors 1 and 2 at the Chubu Electric Power Co. plant will be removed from the complex’s total storage capacity following the decommissioning of the two units.

Previously, Chubu Electric planned to continue using the two reactors’ storage pools. The operations of the two reactors ended in 2009.

Last month, four power suppliers, including Kansai Electric Power Co., decommissioned a combined five aging reactors, significantly reducing storage pool capacity.

As of the end of March, the Hamaoka plant’s storage capacity fell by 440 tons in the past six months to 1,300 tons, reflecting the exclusion of the reactor 1 and 2 pools, according to Chubu Electric’s semiannual report to the Federation of Electric Power Companies. Meanwhile, the amount of spent fuel stored at the plant stood at 1,130 tons.

If the remaining three reactors at the plant are brought back online, the amount of spent fuel would exceed the storage capacity in 2.3 years, compared with the eight years estimated before the company’s decision not to use the reactor 1 and 2 pools.

Of all 15 domestic nuclear plants that operators are seeking to restart, storage space capacity appears to be lowest at the Hamaoka plant.

Only four of the plants have more than 10 years before they run short of capacity, including Hokkaido Electric Power Co.’s Tomari plant, which has the longest time, at 16.5 years. The three others are Tohoku Electric Power Co.’s Higashidori plant, with 15.1 years, Hokuriku Electric Power Co.’s Shika plant, with 14.4 years, and Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai plant, with 10.7 years.

All nuclear reactors in Japan are now offline.

Some nuclear plant operators are working to increase their spent-fuel storage capacities while pinning hopes on fuel recycling at Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd.’s facilities in the village of Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture.

Chubu Electric has applied to build a dry-cooling storage facility at the Hamaoka plant to boost its total capacity to store spent fuel. It hopes to put the facility into operation in fiscal 2018 if the plan is approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

A Chubu Electric official said storage capacity prospects remain unclear at the plant because it is uncertain if any reactors will be allowed to restart.

Tepco says all radioactive water in Fukushima No. 1 tanks filtered

The Japan Times | Kyodo | May 27, 2015

The operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant said Wednesday it had finished filtering 620,000 tons of extremely toxic water stored in tanks on the premises of the complex to lower its radiation level.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. says the risk of radiation leakages from the water tanks is now much lower. However, around 400 tons of radioactive water is still being generated everyday as groundwater is seeping into the plant and mixing with tainted water more than four years after the nuclear crisis began.

According to Tepco, some 440,000 tons of the water has been treated through a water processing system that is said to be capable of removing 62 different types of radioactive material, with the exception of tritium. The remaining 180,000 tons has been processed through another facility capable of removing strontium, but still contains other types of radioactive substances and needs further treatment.

The highly radioactive water has been generated during the process of cooling the plant’s reactors, which suffered meltdowns after the facility was struck by a magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Fukushima plant in September 2013, Tepco President Naomi Hirose pledged that the company would filter all the water kept in tanks by March 31, 2015 to reduce the amount of radioactive material it contained.

But the process has been delayed due to a series of problems with key water treatment facilities.

Only Pre-Service Inspections Remain Before First Nuclear Plant Restarts in Japan

Power Magazine | Aaron Larson | 05/27/2015

The Japanese Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) approved Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s operational safety programs for Sendai Nuclear Power Station Units 1 and 2 on May 27.

The approval is the last of three needed by the company to verify that the plant complies with new regulatory requirements implemented as a result of the Fukushima disaster. The process consisted of gaining permission for changes in the reactor installation license, construction work planning approval, and approval of operational safety programs.  The next step necessary is for pre-service inspections to be completed (Figure 1).




1. Steps to restart.
Sendai Nuclear Power Station Units 1 and 2 have been granted all approvals in the three-step review process. Courtesy: Nuclear Regulatory Authority, Japan

It has been a long process getting to this point. Kyushu filed its application on July 8, 2013. On Sept. 10, 2014, the NRA granted the company permission to make changes to the reactor installation of Sendai Units 1 and 2. Following approvals from the mayor and local assembly of Satsumasendai City, the units received Kagoshima Prefecture Governor Yuichiro Ito’s approval to restart on Nov. 7, 2014.

Legal petitions to halt the restart posed another hurdle, but unlike the court ruling that blocked the restart of Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama nuclear plant, the Japanese court rejected the petition against Sendai on Apr. 22, 2015. Now it appears one of the units could recommence operation as early as July with the second unit restarting a couple of months later.

Some examples of measures taken to prevent common cause failures at Japanese sites following Fukushima include:

  • Requiring two independent sources of offsite power,
  • Installation of a third permanently installed emergency diesel generator (EDG)—in addition to the two previously required EDGs—plus two additional mobile units and fuel storage capacity for seven days of operation, and
  • Increased DC power capacity to accommodate 24 hours of use, plus a second permanent system and a mobile system each with 24 hours of additional capacity.

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)

Japan nuclear regulator clears first reactors after safety checks

Channel News Asia | Reuters | 27 May 2015

TOKYO: Japan cleared the way on Wednesday for a resumption of nuclear power, four years after the world’s worst atomic disaster in two-and-a-half decades led to the shutdown of all the country’s reactors and fuelled public opposition to the industry.

Regulators said Kyushu Electric Power Co’s two-reactor Sendai nuclear plant had cleared safety hurdles introduced after a huge earthquake and tsunami triggered meltdowns and explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in 2011.

The Sendai plant, in southwestern Japan, still needs to go through operational checks before a restart but these are expected to be completed without major hitches.

The plume of radiation caused by the Fukushima disaster forced about 160,000 people from their homes, many of them never to return, in the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

The resulting closure of Japan’s reactors caused tens of billions of dollars in losses at utilities as they resorted to importing fossil fuels for power generation and paid for upgrades to meet tightened safety rules.

Some utilities decided to scrap older plants, leaving Japan with 43 operable reactors against 54 before the disaster. More may be scrapped, according to a Reuters analysis last year.

The resumption of nuclear power is likely to be unpopular with the public after the catastrophe highlighted cosy links between utilities and the previous regulator.

The fumbled response to the meltdowns at Fukushima added to the perception that nuclear power was too dangerous for such an earthquake-prone country as Japan.

Most public opinion polls have put opposition to restarts at about two-to-one despite an average 20 percent rise in household electricity bills to cover the cost of imported fuel.

Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) commissioners said in a televised meeting on Wednesday that the Sendai reactors had cleared final safety assessments. The restart has also received the approval of local authorities.

Last month a local court rejected a legal bid to block the start-up by residents concerned about the plant’s vulnerability to nearby volcanoes. The residents have appealed against the decision.

Kyushu Electric hopes to restart the Sendai No. 1 reactor in late July, followed by the No. 2 reactor in late September.

The company, which reported a fourth year of losses for the 12 months through March, is desperate to restart the reactors to cut costs. Its shares were down 0.9 percent by 0514 GMT, in line with those of other utilities.

(Reporting by Kentaro Hamada and Osamu Tsukimori; Writing by Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Tom Hogue and Alan Raybould)