Restarting Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant would be a huge mistake

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The Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant in Tokai village, Ibaraki Prefecture, which is operated by Japan Atomic Power Co.
July 5, 2018
The Nuclear Regulation Authority has concluded that the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant in Ibaraki Prefecture, operated by Japan Atomic Power Co., meets improved safety standards for a restart.
The watchdog body’s decision effectively paves the way for bringing the idled facility back online.
But a slew of questions and concerns cast serious doubt on the wisdom of restarting this aging nuclear plant located at the northern tip of the Tokyo metropolitan area, given that it is approaching the end of its 40-year operational lifespan.
There is a compelling case against bringing the plant back on stream unless these concerns are properly addressed.
The first major question is how the project can be squared with the rules for reducing the risk of accidents at aging nuclear facilities.
The 40-year lifespan for nuclear reactors is an important rule to reduce the risk of accidents involving aging reactors that was introduced in the aftermath of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011.
Although a reactor’s operational life can be extended by up to 20 years if approved by the NRA, the government, at the time of the revision to the law, said it would be granted only in exceptional cases.
Despite this caveat, Kansai Electric Power Co.’s applications for extensions for its three aging reactors all got the green light.
The NRA has yet to approve the requested extension of the Tokai No. 2 plant’s operational life. But it is obvious that the nuclear watchdog’s approval will cause further erosion of the rule. It will also undermine the regulatory regime to limit the lifespan of nuclear facilities per se.
Local communities have also raised objections to restarting the Tokai No. 2 plant. Some 960,000 people live within 30 kilometers of the plant, more than in any other 30-km emergency planning zone.
The local governments within the zone are struggling to develop legally required emergency evacuation plans to prepare for major accidents.
This spring, an agreement was reached between Japan Atomic Power and five municipalities around the plant, including Mito, that commits the operator to seek approval from local authorities within the 30-km zone before restarting the plant.
Winning support from the local communities for the plant reactivation plan is undoubtedly a colossal challenge, given strong anxiety about the facility’s safety among local residents. The gloomy situation was brought home by the Mito municipal assembly’s adoption of a written opinion opposing the plan.
But Japan Atomic Power is determined to carry through the plan as its survival depends on the plant continuing operation.
The company was set up simply to produce and sell electricity by using atomic energy. Its nuclear reactors are all currently offline, which has placed the entity in serious financial difficulty.
Since the company is unable to raise on its own funds to implement the necessary safety measures at the Tokai No. 2 plant, which are estimated to exceed 170 billion yen ($1.54 billion), Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and Tohoku Electric Power Co., which are both shareholders and customers of the company, will provide financial support.
But TEPCO has been put under effective state control to deal with the costly consequences of the Fukushima disaster.
It is highly doubtful that the utility, which is kept alive with massive tax-financed support, is qualified to take over the financial risk of the business of another company in trouble.
TEPCO claims the Tokai No. 2 plant is promising as a source of low-cost and stable power supply, although it has not offered convincing grounds for the claim.
Some members of the NRA have voiced skepticism about this view.
TEPCO and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which supervises the power industry, have a responsibility to offer specific and detailed explanations about related issues to win broad public support for the plan to reactivate the Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant.
A hard look at the grim situation surrounding the plant leaves little doubt that restarting it does not make sense.
Japan Atomic Power and the major electric utilities that own it should undertake a fundamental review of the management of the nuclear power company without delaying efforts to tackle the problems besetting the operator of the Tokai No. 2 plant.
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Oi nuclear Plant ‘Safe’ to Operate

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A plaintiff and a lawyer hold signs on July 4 criticizing a ruling by the Nagoya High Court’s Kanazawa branch that nullified an injunction intended to halt operations at the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture.

Court overturns injunction, says Oi nuclear plant safe to operate

KANAZAWA–A high court branch here overturned a lower court order to halt operations of two reactors at a nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture, saying it poses no tangible danger to residents there.
“The danger is within negligible levels in light of social norms,” Presiding Judge Masayuki Naito of the Nagoya High Court’s Kanazawa branch said on July 4, nullifying an injunction against Kansai Electric Power Co., operator of the Oi nuclear plant.
Plaintiffs sought the injunction to block the restarts of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the plant in Oi. They argued that dangers from the plant violated their right to protect their lives and sustain their livelihood.
The Fukui District Court sided with the plaintiffs in 2014, saying the plant was not thoroughly prepared to withstand a powerful earthquake.
The district court focused more on whether a tangible danger existed that could result in a serious accident similar to the one that hit Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in March 2011, not on the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s decision to clear the Oi reactors for operations.
However, the high court said its decision was based on whether the NRA’s new safety regulations were appropriate, and whether the watchdog’s assessment that the two Oi reactors passed the safety regulations was reasonable.
The stricter regulations took effect in July 2013 based on lessons learned from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
“They were established by incorporating the latest scientific and technological expertise,” the high court said of the new standards.
The court supported both the NRA’s regulations and its decision to clear the No. 3 and 4 reactors as meeting the requirements.
Kunihiko Shimazaki, a seismologist and a former NRA member, raised doubts about the safety of the plant as a witness in the court proceedings.
He said the NRA’s current formula for calculating the scope of sway in an earthquake may have underestimated the expected maximum shaking from a powerful earthquake that could strike the plant.
The high court rejected Shimazaki’s argument.
“The extent of the maximum shaking was not underestimated because (the calculations) used an active geological fault zone larger than it should be in reality to provide an extra safety cushion,” the judge said.
The court also supported the NRA’s decision that the Oi reactors meet the new regulations concerning measures against tsunami and volcanic eruptions.
As for evaluating the soundness of nuclear power generation, the court said that is not its role.
“It will be possible to abolish and ban the operation of nuclear power plants in light of the grave consequences of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, but judging on the issue goes beyond the jurisdiction of the judiciary,” the court said. “(The nuclear issue) should be widely debated by the public and left to a political judgment.”

Fukushima to open shop in NYC to boost sake exports

My good advice to our American friends would be to stick to their old Bourbon, for their own sake….
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Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori, front row, fourth from right, is surrounded by representatives from brewers that won the Gold Prize at the 2018 Annual Japan Sake Awards at the prefectural government office in Fukushima.
July 5, 2018
FUKUSHIMA–Prefectural officials are hoping a new specialty shop in the Big Apple will help locally brewed sake make it in the United States.
With interest in the Japanese rice wine growing in the United States amid the Japanese food boom, the officials aim to promote the high quality of Fukushima-produced sake and expand sales channels.
They also hope the shop will help repair reputational damage caused by the nuclear disaster in March 2011.
The project was announced by Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori on May 31 while he was visiting New York to promote locally brewed sake as head of the prefecture.
It will be the first time the prefectural government has opened a shop for local specialties outside Japan.
Prefectural officials plan to help small-scale brewers export their brands using the shop as a base.
“We want them to become interested in exporting and use the specialty shop to start making efforts to sell their products on a trial basis and do market research,” an official said.
According to the officials, a New York City-based liquor sales company will be commissioned to open the shop by the end of the year.
The officials plan to attract wide-ranging visitors, such as liquor distributors, restaurant industry officials and local residents, as well as host events in which sake brewers based in Fukushima Prefecture will participate.
The shop will be open for a limited time only, but the officials are considering a time period long enough to raise the profile and promote the brand of rice wine from the prefecture.
At the 2018 Annual Japan Sake Awards, 19 sake brands from Fukushima Prefecture were given the Gold Prize, making the prefecture home to the largest number of the top winning sake brands for six straight years.
However, only some of the brewers relatively larger in scale are working on a full-scale basis to export their products.
“Due to fierce competition with other prefectures in overseas markets, we must hone our craft and make inroads or we will lose,” said an official at an association for brewers and distillers in Fukushima Prefecture.

Old Nuclear Plant Tokai Ok to restart

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The Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tokai No. 2 Nuclear Power Station, front, and the Tokai Power Station, right back, which is currently being decommissioned, are seen from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter

Nuclear watchdog OKs restart of aging nuclear plant hit by tsunami

July 4, 2018
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japan’s nuclear watchdog on Wednesday gave the green light to the restart of an aging nuclear power plant northeast of Tokyo, idled since it was hit by the tsunami that caused meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
The Tokai No. 2 plant is the first nuclear plant affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster to have cleared screening by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, part of the steps required before it can actually resume operations.
The plant, located in the village of Tokai in Ibaraki Prefecture, suffered an emergency automatic shutdown of its reactor and was cut off from its external power source following the quake.
After being hit by a 5.4-meter tsunami, one of its three emergency power generators was incapacitated. But the other two remained intact and allowed the reactor to cool down three and a half days after the disaster.
Despite the approval by the NRA, the Tokai plant still needs to clear two more screenings by regulators by November, when it will turn 40 years old, otherwise it could face the prospect of decommissioning.
Tougher safety rules introduced in the post-Fukushima years prohibit in principle the operation of nuclear reactors beyond 40 years. But extending a unit’s life for an additional 20 years is possible if operators make safety upgrades and pass regulators’ screening.
Actual plant operation is unlikely before March 2021 when construction to bolster safety measures is scheduled to be completed. The restart plan also needs to be approved by local municipalities.
The Tokai No. 2 plant, operated by Japan Atomic Power Co., uses a boiling water reactor, the same type as those used at the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi plant, which saw core meltdowns and spewed a massive amount of radioactive materials into the atmosphere in the 2011 disaster.
It is the eighth plant approved of a restart under the stricter safety rules introduced after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis and the second with a boiling water reactor following the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.
The plant’s evacuation plan — which covers 960,000 residents, the largest number of potential evacuees for a nuclear plant in Japan due to its location in a metropolitan area — has yet to be compiled.
The operator filed for a safety screening to restart the plant in May 2014. It predicts a potential tsunami as high as 17.1 meter and expects some 180 billion yen ($1.63 billion) is needed to construct coastal levees and beef up power sources among other safety measures.
Japan Atomic Power solely engages in the nuclear energy business but none of its reactors has been online since the 2011 quake. Given its financial problems, the NRA has asked it to show how it will finance the safety measures and Tokyo Electric Power and Tohoku Electric Power Co. have offered to financially support the company.
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Ibaraki citizens demonstrate against the restart of the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant outside the Nuclear Regulation Authority headquarters in Tokyo’s Minato Ward on Wednesday.

Nuclear watchdog OKs restart of aging tsunami-hit Tokai nuclear plant

Jul 4, 2018
Ibaraki unit needs to clear two more screenings by November, when it will turn 40
The Nuclear Regulation Authority on Wednesday gave the green light to the restart of an aging nuclear power plant northeast of Tokyo, idled since it was hit by the tsunami that caused meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
The Tokai No. 2 plant is the first nuclear plant affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster to have cleared screening by the nuclear watchdog. Other steps are still required before it can resume operations.
Due to the quake, the plant in the Ibaraki Prefecture village of Tokai suffered an emergency automatic shutdown of its reactor and was cut off from its external power source.
After then being hit by a 5.4-meter tsunami, one of its three emergency power generators was incapacitated. But the other two remained intact and allowed the reactor to cool down 3½ days after the disaster.
Despite the approval by the NRA, the plant still needs to clear two more screenings by regulators by November, when it will turn 40 years old. If it fails, it could face the prospect of decommissioning.
Following the decision, Ibaraki Gov. Kazuhiko Oigawa told reporters he intends to “closely monitor the remaining screenings” and called on the NRA “to conduct strict examinations.”
Tougher safety rules introduced after the Fukushima disaster in principle prohibit the operation of nuclear reactors beyond 40 years. But extending a unit’s life for an additional 20 years is possible if operators make safety upgrades and it passes screenings.
Actual operation is unlikely before March 2021, when construction to bolster safety measures is scheduled to be completed. The restart plan also needs to be approved by local municipalities.
On Wednesday morning, a group of about 10 citizens protested the restart outside the NRA’s offices in Tokyo’s Minato Ward.
Mika Tsubata, a 47-year-old resident of Tokai who observed the NRA meeting, blasted the decision. “The Tokai No. 2 plant is old and was damaged in the 2011 disaster,” she said. “It’s evident to everyone that (the restart) is highly risky — I don’t think the NRA made the appropriate decision.”
But Eiji Sato, the 69-year-old chair of the village’s chamber of commerce, said the plant’s resumption is key to Tokai’s future. “The village has thrived on nuclear power generation,” he said.
The Tokai No. 2 plant, operated by Japan Atomic Power Co., uses a boiling-water reactor, the same type as those used at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, which suffered core meltdowns and spewed a massive amount of radioactive material into the atmosphere in 2011.
It is the eighth plant to get approval for a restart under the stricter safety rules and the second with a boiling-water reactor, following the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.
The plant’s evacuation plan — which covers 960,000 residents, the largest number of potential evacuees for a nuclear plant in Japan due to its location near a metropolitan area — has yet to be compiled.
“Because of the large number of residents around the plant, compiling effective anti-disaster measures and an evacuation plan in a wide area is a huge challenge,” Oigawa said.
The operator filed for a safety screening to restart the plant in May 2014. It predicts a potential tsunami as high as 17.1 meters and expects ¥180 billion ($1.63 billion) will be needed to construct coastal levees and beef up power sources, among other safety measures.
Although Japan Atomic Power’s sole business is nuclear energy, none of its reactors has been online since the 2011 quake. Given its financial problems, the NRA has asked the utility to show how it will finance the safety measures. Tepco and Tohoku Electric Power Co., which had been receiving electricity from the plant when it was in operation, have offered to financially support the company.
The NRA decided at the meeting to seek industry minister Hiroshige Seko’s views on whether Tepco’s financial contribution could affect the costs of scrapping the Fukushima No. 1 plant and enhancing safety at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

Tourists in Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Zone to Stay Away!

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English signs along National Road No. 114 on the border between Namie and Kawamata in Fukushima Prefecture

English signs tell tourists to stay away from Fukushima plant

July 4, 2018
NAMIE, Fukushima Prefecture–English signs now appear along roads in Fukushima Prefecture to prevent curious, thrill-seeking or simply ignorant foreign tourists from entering areas of high radiation.
The central government’s local nuclear emergency response headquarters set up 26 signs at 12 locations along the 70-kilometer National Road No. 114 and elsewhere starting in mid-April. The signs carry straightforward messages in English, such as “No Entry!”
In September, a 27-kilometer section of the road opened in Namie’s “difficult-to-return zone” near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant for the first time since the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in March 2011.
The road is mainly used by construction vehicles involved in rebuilding projects and dump trucks transporting contaminated soil to intermediate storage facilities.
Motorists can use the reopened section, but they are urged to refrain from stopping or venturing outside their vehicles. Pedestrians and motorcyclists are still forbidden from the area because of the high radiation levels.
But an increasing number of people from abroad are visiting the area, some to snap photos, according to Fukushima prefectural police.
Many have gotten out of their vehicles or entered the “no-go” zone by motorbike or foot.
Prefectural police asked the central government for help to deal with the trespassers.
“When police questioned foreigners who were taking photos in the difficult-to-return zone, they said they did not know that entering the area was prohibited,” a police official said.
Officials also wanted to avoid any confusion from the signs with technical terms, such as “difficult-to-return zones,” which are the areas most heavily polluted by radiation that remain essentially off-limits even to residents.
An official of the Cabinet Office’s nuclear disaster victim life assistance team, which developed English messages, said they decided to use simpler expressions, such as “high-dose radiation area,” for the signs.
The signs have already produced a positive effect.
“A foreign motorcyclist came here the other day, so I told the person to return by pointing to the English signboard,” said a security guard who monitors the Namie-Kawamata border zone at the Tsushima Gate.

Tourists told to stop taking selfies in Fukushima nuclear disaster zone

Tour guide Shiga and a tourist check radiation levels at Joroku Park, near TEPCO’s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Namie town
4 July 2018
Authorities in Fukushima are installing warning signs in English telling thrill-seeking tourists not to stop their cars or pose for selfies in areas that still have dangerously high levels of radiation.
Seven years after the disaster at the prefecture’s nuclear plant, the government’s nuclear emergency response office has placed 26 signs along a 45-mile stretch of National Road 114 and a number of smaller roads in areas designated as “difficult-to-return” for local residents, the Asahi newspaper reported.
One road through the town of Namie was only reopened in September and is primarily used by construction vehicles and lorries removing contaminated waste and debris to landfill sites.
Motorists are able to access the roads, but authorities have installed signs after tourists were spotted getting out of their cars to take photos. Pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists are still banned from entering the restricted zone.
The signs read “No Entry!” for motorcycles, mopeds, light vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians, while others warn of “High-dose radiation area” and advise “Please pass through as quickly as possible”.
Fukushima police said they were forced to appeal to the government for help because of the rising number of incidents involving tourists who were unaware that getting out of a vehicle transiting the zone is still prohibited.
The areas that still have levels of radiation that would be harmful to human health lie to the north-west of the Fukushima nuclear plant and were under the plume of radioactivity released when a series of tsunami destroyed the cooling systems of four reactors in March 2011.
Local residents are permitted to return to their homes for brief, closely supervised visits, but the government admits that despite efforts to decontaminate the region, it will be many years before they are able to return on a permanent basis.
Long considered one of Japan’s most unspoilt and beautiful prefectures, Fukushima is today trying to rebuild a reputation among foreign and domestic tourists. A number of other travel firms are now offering tours to some of the towns most severely damaged as a result of the magnitude-9.1 earthquake, the tsunami it triggered and the nuclear disaster.

Radiation still too high in reactor#2 building

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July 2, 2018
A robotic probe has found that radiation levels remain too high for humans to work inside one of the reactor buildings at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
 
Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the plant, plans to relocate 615 units of nuclear fuel from the spent fuel pool, which is located on the top floor of the No. 2 reactor building and is separate from the reactor itself.
 
TEPCO says the relocation will help reduce risks, including possible damage caused by earthquakes.
 
The No. 2 reactor underwent a meltdown, but did not experience a hydrogen explosion in the 2011 nuclear accident. The building is likely to still have a high concentration of radioactive materials.
 
Last month, TEPCO drilled a hole in the wall of the building in order to use a camera-equipped robot to create a detailed map of the radiation on the top floor.
 
On Monday, workers started the survey and measured radiation levels at 19 points, mainly near the opening. Up to 59 millisieverts were detected per hour.
 
That’s above workers’ allowable annual exposure of 50 millisieverts and more than half of their 5-year exposure limit. TEPCO has concluded it cannot let humans work inside the building.
 
TEPCO will use the results to determine specific ways to remove the fuel from the pool. It plans to start the work in fiscal 2023.

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TEPCO aims to build more Fukushima-type nuclear reactors, vows to ‘excel in safety’ this time

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Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant
1 Jul, 2018
TEPCO is conducting an independent geological survey to confirm the absence of active faults in Aomori Prefecture, where it wants to resume the construction of a Fukushima-type nuclear plant, frozen following the 2011 disaster.
“It’s necessary to form a consortium for building a nuclear plant that is excellent in safety, technology and economy,” TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa said in Tokyo, announcing the decision to conduct a survey of the Aomori Prefecture nuclear site.
The Higashidori Nuclear Power Plant hosts two adjoining sites administered by Tohoku Electric Power Company and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). While Tohoku Unit 1 began commercial operations in December 2005, TEPCO never got a chance to finish their unit, the construction of which began only in January 2011. All activity at the site has ceased since the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown.
TEPCO’s survey, scheduled for completion by 2020, will check the fault structure under the site using a two-kilometer-long tunnel, Kobayakawa said on Friday. Previous studies of terrain beneath the area by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) found the likely presence of multiple active, seismogenic faults. However, both TEPCO and the Tohoku Electric Power Company decided to conduct further ‘independent’ investigations to review the validity of the NRA findings.
The energy company wants to build two reactors at the site and is exploring ways to meet the stricter government regulations introduced following the Fukushima disaster. Higashidori units, however, would still use the same type of boiling-water, light-water reactors that suffered meltdown at the Fukushima plant, Japan Times noted.
“As we restart the (Higashidori) project, I want to make sure that a new plant would excel in safety,” Kobayakawa told a press conference. “The geological survey is a very significant step to move forward on the joint development of Higashidori,” he noted, adding that TEPCO has asked major utility companies in the country to contribute to the construction and operation of the Higashidori plant.
Three of the Fukushima plant’s six reactors were hit by meltdowns in 2011, after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck the facility, resulting in the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

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