Category Archives: Japan

Japan’s new law on funding plutonium reprocessing

IPFM Blog | Tatsujiro Suzuki and Masa Takubo | May 26, 2016

On 11 May 2016, Japan’s parliament passed a “Law Regarding Implementation of Reprocessing, etc. of Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Generation” (our translation). The new law is to go into effect within six months. Its stated primary objective is to assure continued funding for reprocessing and MOX fuel fabrication even if nuclear utilities go bankrupt after Japan’s market for electric power is fully liberalized.

The new law amends the 2005 “Law regarding Deposit and Management of the Reserve Funds for Reprocessing, etc. of Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Generation” and has three basic features:

  1. It establishes the Spent Fuel Reprocessing Organization, a government-approved entity responsible for collecting funds required for reprocessing and MOX fuel fabrication (Article 10.14; although the law provides for the possibility of multiple “Organizations,” there will most probably be only one). This Organization will contract out actual reprocessing and MOX fuel fabrication operations to Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL), which has built the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant and is completing the adjacent MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility.
  2. It requires Japan’s nuclear utilities to pay “contributions” to the Spent Fuel Reprocessing Organization every fiscal year to cover the expected cost for reprocessing of all spent fuel they generated in the previous fiscal year and for turning the resulting separated plutonium into MOX fuel (Article 3.7). The contributions will be based on the amount of the electricity generated.
  3. It requires that the Spent Fuel Reprocessing Organization’s reprocessing plan be approved by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) (Article 45), who is also responsible for approving the establishment of the Organization (Article 17).

The new law also has other several features that buttress Japan’s commitment to plutonium separation:

  1. It provides for the funding of reprocessing of all spent fuel and producing MOX fuel from all plutonium, while the previous law covered only the funding for the Rokkasho reprocessing plant. The funds that the utilities have voluntarily been setting aside for reprocessing spent fuel not to be dealt with by the Rokkasho plant will now be transferred to the Organization. This means that the new system will provide for a commercial reprocessing plant beyond Rokkasho, despite the fact that there currently appears to be no prospect for building another commercial plant.
  2. The new law gives the government stronger authority over the reprocessing business. The purpose of the law is “steady implementation of reprocessing,” making it possible for the government to force utilities to reprocess all their spent fuel.
  3. Finally, the law forces Japan’s utilities to continue separating plutonium regardless of future plutonium consumption plans. There is nothing in the law to enforce Japan’s “no plutonium surplus policy.”

Concerned about the inflexibility of the law and lack of consideration of Japan’s plutonium balance, Japan’s parliament added a required review of the law in three years instead of the five years originally proposed by the government and adopted a supplementary resolution that includes the following conditions:

  1. When the situation changes, the government must review and take necessary measures, taking into account the views expressed during the parliamentary debate.
  2. Direct disposal and spent fuel storage options must be developed to secure flexibility in spent fuel management. However the law which prohibits direct disposal of spent fuel remains in force.
  3. Given Japan’s stated commitment “not to possess plutonium without purpose for use,” the Minister of METI shall not approve any reprocessing plan violating this principle.
  4. Before approving a reprocessing plan, the Minister of METI must obtain the advice of Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC). JAEC is supposed to review the annual “plutonium usage plan” submitted by the utilities to check the balance of plutonium supply and demand before reprocessing takes place. However, the utilities have not submitted a new plan since 2010.
  5. A scheme must be established to assess the implications and impacts of Japan’s reprocessing program from a broad perspective, including taking into consideration its implications for international security.
  6. The government must take stronger responsibility for enhancing spent fuel storage capacity and tackling the challenges concerning final disposal of high level waste.
  7. Reprocessing should proceed with sincere dialogue with local communities to obtain understanding and cooperation. This condition is considered necessary as any change in the current reprocessing program may trigger opposition from Aomori prefecture, which hosts the Rokkasho reprocessing plant.

These conditions, however, are not legally binding and it is not clear if they will be effective in establishing a balance between plutonium separation and use in Japan.

Fukushima Report: 10,000 Excess Cancers Expected in Japan as a Result of 2011 Reactor Meltdowns, Ongoing Radiation Exposure

Report Gauges Cancer Prospects for Children, Rescue/Recovery Worker, and General Population; Japanese Government Criticized for “Disturbing” Failure to Examine Wider Radiation-Related Diseases

PSR | March 9, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. & BERLIN – March 9, 2016 – Residents of the Fukushima area and the rest of Japan will experience more than 10,000 excess cancers as a result of radiation exposure from the triple-reactor meltdown that took place on March 11, 2011, according to a new report from Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).

Titled “5 Years Living With Fukushima” and available online atwww.psr.org/FukushimaReport2016, the PSR/IPPNW report laments that the full impact of Fukushima may never be known, due to Japan’s failure to immediately and fully track radiation exposures, as well as a “disturbing” lack of testing of the general population for radiation-related diseases and other impacts (miscarriages, fetal malformations, leukemia, lymphomas, solid tumors or non-cancerous diseases). The massive initial radioactive emissions were not recorded at the time of the triple-reactor meltdown and some radioactive isotopes (including strontium-90) have not been measured at all.

The PSR/IPPNW report uses the best available science and data to gauge the excess cancer rates among children, rescue and clean-up workers, and the general population of Japan. In addition to the 200,000 Fukushima residents relocated nearby into makeshift camps, the exposed include millions of others in Japan as a result of fallout-contaminated food, soil and water. Fukushima is often incorrectly seen as a “past” event; the reality is that radioactive emissions from the wrecked reactors continue to this day both into the atmosphere and in the form of 300 tons of leakage each day into the Pacific Ocean.

Key findings of the PSR/IPPNW report include the following:

  • Children. “116 children in Fukushima Prefecture have al­ready been diagnosed with aggressive and fast-growing, or already metastasizing, thyroid cancer – in a population this size about one to five case per year would normally be expected. For 16 of these children a screening effect can be excluded as their cancers developed within the last two years.”
  • Workers. “More than 25,000 cleanup and rescue workers received the highest radiation dose and risked their health, while preventing a deterioration of the situation at the power plant site. If data supplied by the operator TEPCO is to be believed, around 100 workers are expected to contract cancer due to excess radia­tion, and 50 percent of these will be fatal. The real dose levels, how­ever, are most likely several times higher, as the operator has had no qualms in manipulating the data to avoid claims for damages – from hiring unregistered temporary employees to tampering with radiation dosimeters and even crude forgery.”
  • The rest of Japan. “The population in the rest of Japan is exposed to increased radiation doses from minor amounts of radioactive fallout, as well as contaminated food and water. Calculations of increased cancer cases overall in Japan range from 9,600 to 66,000 depending on the dose estimates.”

Catherine Thomasson, MD, report co-editor, and executive director, Physicians for Social Responsibility, said: “The health legacy of Fukushima will haunt Japan for years to come and it cannot be wished out of existence by cheerleaders for nuclear power. Unfortunately, the pro-nuclear Japanese government and the country’s influential nuclear lobby are doing everything in their power to play down and conceal the effects of the disaster. The high numbers of thyroid cancers already verified with 50 additional waiting for surgery in the children of Fukushima prefecture is astounding. The aim seems to be to ensure the Fukushima file is closed as soon as possible and the Japanese public returns to a positive view of nuclear power. This rush to re-embrace nuclear power is dangerous to the extent that it sweeps major and very real medical concerns under the rug.”

Dr. Alex Rosen, pediatrician and vice-chair, International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War, said: “One is of course reminded of the tobacco lobby disputing the notion that the horrific effects of its products have no adverse health impacts. This self-serving falsehood echoed for decades was made possible simply because the long-term health effects of smoking were not immediately observable. The 10,000 to 66,000 people who will develop cancer solely as a result of the “manmade disaster” are neither ‘negligible’ nor ‘insufficient,’ as Japanese authorities, the nation’s nuclear lobby, and various industry-dominated international bodies, would have you believe.”

Tim Mousseau, PhD, professor of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina, said: “It is unfortunate that, in some regards, we have better and more complete data about the impacts of Fukushima radiation on trees, plants and animals than we do on humans. We are seeing higher mortality rates, reduction in successful reproduction and significant deformities. A great deal of this research has been done to date and it has troubling implications. The research findings should be heeded to direct human studies, particularly regarding the question of genetic and transgenerational effects of radiation.”

Robert Alvarez, senior scholar specializing in nuclear disarmament, environmental, and energy policies, Institute for Public Studies, and former senior policy advisor, US Department of Energy, said:“Radioactive fallout from the reactors has created de faco ‘sacrifice zones’ where human habitation will no longer be possible well into the future. In November 2011, the Japanese Science Ministry reported that long-lived radioactive cesium had contaminated 11,580 square miles (30,000 sq km) of the land surface of Japan. Some 4,500 square miles – an area almost the size of Connecticut – was found to have radiation levels that exceeded Japan’s allowable exposure rate of 1 mSV(millisievert) per year. Fourteen of the nation’s 54 reactors are permanently shut down as they are on fault lines and only four have been restarted.”

The PSR/IPPNW report also cautions that Fukushima was far from a one-time radiation incident: “The wrecked reactors have been leaking radioactive discharge since March 2011, de­spite assurances by the nuclear industry and institutions of the nuclear lobby such as the International Atomic Energy Organi­zation that a singular incident occurred in spring 2011, which is now under control. This statement ignores the continu­ous emission of long-lived radionuclides such as cesium-137 or strontium-90 into the atmosphere, the groundwater and the ocean. It also ignores frequent recontamination of affected ar­eas due to storms, flooding, forest fires, pollination, precipitation and even clean-up operations, which cause radioactive isotopes to be whirled into the air and spread by the wind. Thus, sev­eral incidents of new contamination with cesium-137 and stron­tium-90 have been discovered during the past years, even at considerable distance beyond the evacuation zone.”

The report also notes: “Finally, there are frequent leaks at the power plant itself – par­ticularly from the cracked underground vaults of the reactor buildings and from containers holding radioactive contaminated water, which were hastily welded together and already exhibit numerous defects. According to TEPCO, 300 tons of radioactive wastewater still flow unchecked into the ocean every day – more than 500,000 tons since the beginning of the nuclear disaster. The amount and composition of radioactive isotopes fluctuate widely so that it is not possible to ascertain the actual effect this radioactive discharge will have on marine life. What is clear, however, is that increasing amounts of strontium-90 are being flushed into the sea. Strontium-90 is a radioactive isotope that is incorporated into living organisms in a similar way to calcium – in bones and teeth. As it travels up the marine food chain, it undergoes significant bioaccumulation and, because of its long biological and physical half-lives, will continue to contaminate the environment for the next hundreds of years.”

ABOUT THE GROUPS

Physicians for Social Responsibility has been working for more than 50 years to create a healthy, just and peaceful world for both the present and future generations. PSR advocates on key issues of concern by addressing the dangers that threaten communities. www.psr.org.

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War is a non-partisan federation of national medical groups in 64 countries, representing tens of thousands of doctors, medical students, other health workers, and concerned citizens who share the common goal of creating a more peaceful and secure world freed from the threat of nuclear annihilation. www.ippnw.org

MEDIA CONTACT: Max Karlin, +1 (703) 276-3255 (in US) ormkarlin@hastingsgroup.com.

Hitachi sees over 1tn yen in business for Japan companies

Nikkei | January 25, 2016

TOKYO — A nuclear power project in the U.K. will generate more than 1 trillion yen ($8.42 billion) in orders for Japanese businesses, it was learned Sunday, giving a shot in the arm to exports by an industry suffering from a lack of orders at home since the Fukushima accident of 2011.

More than 3 trillion yen is budgeted for the project if joint venture Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy constructs four advanced boiling water reactors — and an even higher sum if six reactors get the nod. Hitachi has invited 40 or so Japanese companies to a meeting at the British Embassy here to explain details.

Hitachi has not revealed the invitees. But Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal and JFE Holdings unit JFE Steel, both strong in pipes used to transfer heat from the reactors, appear likely to attend. So does Japan Steel Works, with a wealth of experience in forged steel products used in reactors.

Also expected are water supply pump manufacturer Ebara as well as Kurita Water Industries and Kubota. Shimizu and Kajima, which have experience building housing structures for nuclear plants in Japan, will also likely go.

While Hitachi-GE will handle the reactor core, Japanese companies are expected to undertake key technologies for operating the nuclear plant, giving Japan about 40% of the project total.

(Nikkei)

Third reactor restart spurs fears over shaky Kansai evacuation plans

The Japan Times | Eric Johnston | January 29, 2016

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A protester near the Takahama nuclear plant on Friday holds a placard denouncing the restart. | KYODO

Kansai Electric Power Co. on Friday restarted its Takahama No. 3 reactor, the nation’s third unit to go back online under new safety regulations but the first to run on mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, which contains plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel.

The restart has revived concerns, especially in neighboring Kansai, about the feasibility of plans to evacuate residents within 30 km of the plant in the event of an accident. It is also unclear where the spent fuel from the reactors will eventually be stored.

The restart was largely welcomed by local businesses and the town of Takahama, which rely on the subsidies and service industry trade that nuclear power brings.

“The restart of the Takahama No. 3 reactor came after it met stringent safety standards, and we hope the central government will continue to persuade people of the importance of nuclear power and that Kepco will make safety their top priority. We also hope that, after being offline for so long, the restart will help restore the local economy,” said Takahama town head Yutaka Nose in a statement following the 5 p.m. restart.

In the neighboring port city of Maizuru in Kyoto Prefecture, Mayor Ryozo Tatami said Kepco needs to make sure that restarting the reactor won’t lead to an accident. He also called on Tokyo to strengthen its disaster planning for such an event. The Takahama plant’s No. 4 reactor is expected to be restarted next month.

The Takahama plant lies on the Sea of Japan coast in southern Fukui Prefecture, with only a few access roads in and out of the area. About 180,000 people live in 12 towns and cities within 30 km of the site, in Fukui, Kyoto and Shiga.

While plans exist on paper to evacuate some Fukui residents to Hyogo, Kyoto, and Tokushima prefectures, many municipalities there don’t have detailed plans for receiving evacuees. This could possibly mean the only relief might come from Maizuru, which hosts the Japan Coast Guard and a Maritime Self-Defense Force base within 30 km of Takahama.

“We’ll cooperate in the evacuation of people by sea in the event of an accident, and we want to secure the safety of fishing boats. We’ll also respond to requests from the local governments for training exercises,” said Kousaku Higaki, Commander of the 8th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters, which is based at Maizuru, on Thursday.

But the plans assume people will have the physical ability to flee. “There is no evacuation plan in place for the tens of thousands of people with special needs — inpatients and outpatients at hospitals and various facilities, those in day care, and those with handicaps living at home. When others can flee, there are no vehicles to transport these people nor medical care prepared at the evacuation site,” said Aileen Mioko Smith, executive director of the antinuclear group Green Action.

“Restart of the Takahama plant is a human rights injustice toward children and those with handicaps,” she said.

Kansai officials critical of the restart include Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada, who said Thursday he did not feel adequate local consent had been obtained due to concerns about evacuation issues. That same day, Shiga Gov. Taizo Mikazuki said there was a lack of sufficient disaster planning.

On Friday, Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura added his voice to the opposition, saying the rules for disposing spent nuclear fuel — the lack of mid-term and final storage facilities — remained unclear. The city of Osaka owns about 9 percent of Kepco’s stocks.

Fukui hopes the two restarts will translate into more central government subsidies for hosting the plant. The prefecture received ¥30.6 billion in nuclear related subsidies in fiscal 2014. The latest available figures for Takahama show it received over ¥35 billion between 1974 and 2013.

Kepco says that by restarting Takahama No. 3 and 4 reactors it will mean an extra ¥144 billion in annual revenue, which will allow it to reduce utility rates, a critical move given the upcoming deregulation in April that will open up the household electricity market to more competition for suppliers. Nearly 130 firms are preparing to enter the market, and some have announced prices that undercut Kepco’s current rates.

But anti-nuclear activists say it is not just a matter of price, and that many people may choose to go with suppliers of electricity from renewable energy or other nonnuclear sources.

“The household electricity market will open up to more competition, especially from firms selling non-nuclear generated electricity. Customers will move away from Kepco if it tries to sell power from its nuclear plants, and the company won’t be able to survive,” said Kiyoko Kubo of Wakasa Net, an antinuclear group based near Takahama.

The restarts also mean Kepco must once again confront the question of what to do with spent fuel, an issue that is rapidly becoming one of local and national concern.

The spent-fuel storage pools for the Takahama No. 3 and 4 reactors are expected to be full in about eight years. Kepco plans to remove the fuel and nuclear waste to a mid-term storage facility for a half century before transporting them somewhere else for final storage.

In a recent meeting with Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa, Kepco President Makoto Yagi said Kepco wants to begin operating a mid-term storage facility outside the prefecture by around 2030. The utility aims to choose a site for the facility by 2020.

That presents a problem. Kepco promised Nishikawa that spent fuel from the Takahama reactors will not be stored within the prefecture but in one of the utility’s other service areas. This means Shiga, Kyoto, Nara, Hyogo, Osaka, Wakayama, Mie or Gifu.But there are certain conditions a potential storage site has to meet. For transportation reasons, Kepco wants it located in a prefecture with port facilities. That eliminates Nara, Shiga, and Gifu prefectures. Second, Yagi says that local consent to build and store the waste is crucial.

That is potentially an even bigger problem. Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada has strongly opposed building a facility in his prefecture. Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui appears opposed as well, saying he does not want Kepco in charge of the facility. Mie and Hyogo prefectures have said they are not considering hosting a facility at present.

Only Wakayama appears to be a possibility at the moment. In 2009, the port city of Gobo hinted it might be interested in hosting a mid-term facility. Kepco did a survey and agreed it was possible to build there, but nothing has happened since then.

TEPCO delays robotic surveys at Fukushima nuclear reactors

The Asahi Shimbun | Hiromi Kumai | January 29, 2016

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The Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has postponed inspections by robots to finally confirm the location and state of melted fuel at two damaged reactors of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The camera-equipped robots were scheduled to enter the containment vessels of the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors within fiscal 2015, which ends in March. But TEPCO said Jan. 28 that a series of unexpected circumstances, such as poor visibility caused by murky radioactive water, have ruined that plan.

The robot for the No. 1 containment vessel will be redesigned, and the remote-controlled survey will be conducted in fiscal 2016, the utility said, without offering a more specific timetable.

Nuclear fuel assemblies in the No. 1 to No. 3 reactors are believed to have melted and fallen to the bottom of the containment vessels following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Radiation levels inside the containment vessels remain extremely high, making them too dangerous to be approached by workers.

The remote-controlled robotic probe was seen as crucial in determining conditions inside the containment vessels for the eventual decommissioning of the nuclear plant.

TEPCO conducted a preliminary survey using an industrial endoscope in the containment vessel of the No. 1 reactor. It found accumulated waste turned the water murky and blocked the view.

For the No. 2 reactor, TEPCO had planned to locate the melted nuclear fuel using a robot last summer. But decontamination and cleanup work near the entrance to the containment vessel proved difficult. That prevented TEPCO from carrying out robotic survey as planned.

By HIROMI KUMAI/ Staff Writer

Group to monitor trial of former TEPCO executives to clarify truth about Fukushima disaster

The Asahi Shimbun | Masakazu Honda | January 27, 2016

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From left, Ruiko Muto, Kazuyoshi Sato and Takashi Soeda hold a news conference in Fukushima on Jan. 19 to announce a planned group that will monitor the trial of three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Masakazu Honda)

Lawyers, journalists and scientists will form a group to help expose the truth and spread details about the Fukushima nuclear disaster during the criminal trial of three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co.

“We will encourage the court to hold a fair trial while transmitting information regarding the trial across the nation,” said an official of the planned organization, whose name is translated as “support group for the criminal procedure on the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.”

Tsunehisa Katsumata, former chairman of TEPCO, the operator of the crippled plant, and two former vice presidents, Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro, face mandatory charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury.

Although the trial is still months away, 33 people are now setting up the group, including Ruiko Muto, who heads an organization pursuing the criminal responsibility of TEPCO and government officials for the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Tetsuji Imanaka, an assistant professor of nuclear engineering at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, and Norma Field, a professor emeritus of East Asian Studies at the University of Chicago, have also joined.

Three reactors melted down at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck on March 11, 2011. A number of hospital patients died in the chaotic evacuation.

About 14,000 residents of Fukushima Prefecture filed a criminal complaint against TEPCO executives, government officials and scientists in 2012, saying they were aware of the dangers to the Fukushima nuclear plant from a tsunami, but they failed in their responsibility to take proper countermeasures.

Tokyo prosecutors twice decided not to indict the three former TEPCO executives. However, the Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution, a panel of citizens, decided to forcibly indict the three in July last year.

“It has been almost five years since the disaster, but many details, including their foreseeability of the tsunami, remain unclear,” said science writer Takashi Soeda, one of the group’s co-founders. “As TEPCO has not unveiled a sufficient amount of information even in inquiries conducted by the Diet and the government or in civil lawsuits, the truth must be uncovered through the legal force of a criminal trial.”

Five lawyers appointed by the Tokyo District Court will act as prosecutors in the trial.

Legal experts expect the lawyers will indict the former TEPCO executives and release a statement naming the victims around March 11, the fifth anniversary of the triple disaster that still haunts the Tohoku region.

By MASAKAZU HONDA/ Staff Writer

Struggling Toshiba may spin off ailing Japan nuclear power business

The Japan Times | Kyodo | January 27, 2016

Scandal-hit Toshiba Corp. will consider splitting off its flagging nuclear power business in Japan and rebuilding it as a separate company as part of a sweeping restructure following an accounting scandal, sources said.

The 2011 Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster has made it difficult to build reactors in Japan amid safety concerns.

Toshiba’s subsidiary, Westinghouse Electric Co., which is in charge of its overseas nuclear power business, will seek to secure orders in emerging markets, the sources said Tuesday.

The move could trigger a realignment of the country’s nuclear power industry at a time when the government is aware of the need to bolster the competitiveness of domestic players, observers said.

Toshiba mainly conducts repair and decommissioning work for boiling water reactors — the same type as those at the Fukushima plant.

Westinghouse, on the other hand, is known for pressurized water reactors that are used more globally, the sources said.

Toshiba said in November that Westinghouse had written down its assets by $1.3 billion in fiscal 2012 and 2013, revealing the difficulties facing the subsidiary in achieving profitability at the level anticipated by Toshiba.

Hit by the accounting scandal, Toshiba is proceeding with restructuring its unprofitable businesses.

Such steps could include integrating its white goods business with that of struggling Sharp Corp., and merging its personal computer business with Fujitsu Ltd. and Vaio Corp., other sources said.