Gov’t says 70% of land suitable for nuclear waste disposal

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The Japanese government unveiled Friday a map indicating potential deep-underground disposal sites for high-level radioactive nuclear waste, identifying some 70% of the country’s land as suitable.

Based on the map, the government is expected to ask multiple municipalities to accept researchers looking into whether those areas can host sites to dispose of waste left by nuclear power generation. But the process promises to be both difficult and complicated amid public concerns over nuclear safety following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The nationwide map showed that up to 900 municipalities, or half of the country total, encompass coastal areas deemed “favorable.” Areas near active faults, volcanoes and potential drilling sites such as around oil fields are considered unsuitable.

For permanent disposal, high-level radioactive waste, produced as a result of the process of extracting uranium and plutonium from spent fuel, must be stored more than 300 meters underground so that it cannot impact human lives or the environment.

The government will store the waste in vitrified canisters for up to some 100,000 years until the waste’s radioactivity decreases.

As of March, some 18,000 tons of spent fuel existed in Japan with the figure set to increase as more nuclear plants resume operation. When spent fuel that has already been reprocessed is included, Japan will have to deal with about 25,000 such canisters.

The map, illustrated in four different colors based on levels of the suitability of geological conditions, was posted on the website of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Energy minister Hiroshige Seko said Friday that the unveiling of the colored map is an “extremely important step toward the realization of the final disposal but also the first step of a long road.”

Taking the map as an opportunity, “we hope to have communications (with municipalities) nationwide and earn the understanding of the public,” he said.

“It scientifically and objectively shows nationwide conditions, but it is not something with which we will seek municipalities’ decisions on whether to accept a disposal site,” Seko said.

Areas near active faults, volcanoes and oil fields which are potential drilling sites are deemed unsuitable because of “presumed unfavorable characteristics” and colored in orange and silver.

Areas other than those are classified as possessing “relatively high potential” and colored in light green.

Among the potential areas, zones within 20 kilometers of a coastline, around 30 percent of total land, are deemed especially favorable in terms of waste transportation and colored in green.

The map has also colored as suitable a part of Fukushima Prefecture, where reconstruction efforts are underway from the 2011 massive earthquake and tsunami that led to the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster.

But Seko said the government has no plans at this stage to burden the prefecture additionally with the issue of disposal of high-level radioactive waste.

The minister also indicated that Aomori Prefecture in northeastern Japan, home to a facility to reprocess nuclear fuel, is exempt as the prefectural government and state have agreed not to construct a nuclear waste disposal facility there.

Japan, like many other countries with nuclear plants, is struggling to find a permanent geological disposal repository, while Finland and Sweden are the only countries worldwide to have decided on final disposal sites.

A process to find local governments willing to host a final repository site started in 2002 in Japan, but little progress was made due mainly to opposition from local residents.

In 2015, the government decided to choose candidate sites suitable on scientific grounds for building a permanent storage facility, rather than waiting for municipalities to offer to host such a site.

The government aims to construct a site that can house more than 40,000 canisters, with estimated costs amounting to 3.7 trillion yen ($33 billion).

https://japantoday.com/category/national/update1-gov%27t-says-70-of-land-suitable-for-nuclear-waste-disposal#.WXxbhcFJL1A.twitter

METI Releases Map of Suitable Nuclear Waste Disposal Sites

To be clear ! No place is ‘suitable’ for storing nuke waste, never was, never will be…

Even more in Japan where you can hardly find land without an active fault beneath it, 2000 plus earthquakes per year. Not counting the volcanoes.

 

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Japan Releases Map of Areas Suitable for Nuclear Waste Disposal

Japan released a map identifying areas of the country suitable for nuclear waste disposal as part of a broader plan to figure out what to do with roughly 18,000 tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste.

The map highlights areas that aren’t near fault lines, volcanoes or ground where temperatures are high — thus making them highly likely to be adequate for storing the so-called high-level radioactive waste consisting primarily of used fuel from nuclear facilities.

The map will be used to begin determining the ideal location to store the waste 300 meters (984 feet) underground, according to Hirokazu Kobayashi, director of radioactive waste management at Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. More than 1,500 of Japan’s 1,800 municipalities have areas suitable for storing nuclear waste, he added.

The map’s release “is the first step on the long road toward disposing of the nation’s highly radioactive nuclear waste,” METI minister Hiroshige Seko told reporters in Tokyo on Friday.

Before storage, the fuel would be reprocessed at facilities designed to separate usable uranium from high-level waste. Construction of the nation’s first large-scale reprocessing plant at the Rokkasho complex in northern Japan is expected to finish in the first half of the next fiscal year.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-28/japan-releases-map-of-areas-suitable-for-nuclear-waste-disposal

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METI maps out suitable nuclear waste disposal sites

The government on Friday unveiled a nationwide map of potential disposal sites for high-level nuclear waste that identifies coastal areas as “favorable” and those near active faults as unsuitable.

Based on the map, the government is expected to ask the municipalities involved to let researchers study whether sites on their land can host atomic waste disposal sites.

But the process promises to be both difficult and complicated as public concern lingers over the safety of nuclear power since the triple core meltdown in Fukushima Prefecture in March 2011.

The map, illustrated in four colors indicating the suitability of geological conditions, was posted on the website of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Energy minister Hiroshige Seko said earlier Friday that the unveiling of the map is an “important step toward bringing about final disposal sites, but also the first step on a long road.”

We hope to communicate (with municipalities) nationwide and win over the public,” he said.

The map is not something with which we will seek municipalities’ decisions on whether to accept a disposal site,” Seko said.

To permanently dispose of high-level nuclear waste, it must be stored at a repository more than 300 meters underground so it cannot harm human life or the environment.

The map identifies about 70 percent of Japan as suitable for hosting nuclear dumps. Up to 900 municipalities, or half of the nation’s total, encompass coastal areas deemed favorable for permanent waste storage.

Areas near active faults, volcanoes and oil fields, which are potential drilling sites, are deemed unsuitable because of “presumed unfavorable characteristics,” and hence colored in orange and silver on the map.

The other areas are classified as possessing “relatively high potential” and colored in light green.

Among the potential areas, zones that are within 20 km (12 miles) of the coastline are deemed especially favorable in terms of waste transportation and colored in green. The ministry formulated the classification standards in April.

Parts of giant Fukushima Prefecture, where decontamination and recovery efforts remain underway from the mega-quake, tsunami and triple core meltdown of March 2011, are also suitable, according to the map. But Seko said the government has no plans at this stage to impose an additional burden on the prefecture.

Seko also signaled that Aomori Prefecture, which hosts a nuclear fuel reprocessing facility, is exempt from the hunt because the prefectural government and the state have agreed not to build a nuclear waste disposal facility there.

Japan, like many other countries with nuclear power plants, is struggling to find a permanent geological site suitable for hosting a disposal repository. Finland and Sweden are the only countries worldwide to have picked final disposal sites.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/07/28/national/meti-posts-map-potential-nuclear-waste-disposal-sites/?utm_source=Daily+News+Updates&utm_campaign=477c1bb388-Sunday_email_updates29_07_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c5a6080d40-477c1bb388-332835557#.WXtmQ63MynZ

Japan map showing potential nuclear waste disposal sites to be released

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Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko on July 18 announced the forthcoming release of a map showing the most appropriate areas in Japan to bury high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants.
 
Speaking to reporters following a Cabinet meeting on July 18, Seko said the “scientific property map” would be released as early as this month.
 
“Providing the map is the first step in the long path toward achieving final disposal,” Seko said. He added that an informal decision had been made to hold explanatory meetings across Japan after the release of the map.
 
The map will divide Japan into four colors designating the suitability of various areas for permanently storing highly radioactive waste.
 
Areas that are within 15 kilometers of a volcano, that are near an active fault, or that are bountiful in mineral resources, will be “presumed to have undesirable properties” and be excluded from the list of possible sites.
 

TEPCO may struggle to find partners due to Fukushima decommissioning costs

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Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko, right front, speaks at a meeting of the ministry’s expert panel on reform of TEPCO and issues related to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on Nov. 15, 2016.

Naomi Hirose, president of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (TEPCO), presented a proposal to reform the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant to the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry’s expert panel on Nov. 15.
Under the proposal submitted by Hirose on the reform of TEPCO and issues related to the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, TEPCO is to collaborate with other power companies in the areas of nuclear power generation and energy transmission and distribution in an effort to boost its earning power. But if other major utilities were to work with TEPCO on a nuclear power project, questions would be raised about how to split risks such as decommissioning costs for the crippled Fukushima plant among companies concerned. Such being the case, TEPCO will likely have difficulty finding partners.

Hirose attended the closed-door expert committee meeting as an observer. Committee chairman Kunio Ito (specially-appointed professor at Hitotsubashi University) and a senior industry ministry official revealed the details of Hirose’s reform proposal at a news conference after the panel meeting.

According to details revealed at the news conference, Hirose proposed to step up TEPCO’s cooperation with other power companies on its nuclear power business including the areas of safety measures, joint technological development and overseas business operations. The industry ministry had already proposed at an expert panel meeting that TEPCO spin off its nuclear business into a subsidiary and collaborate with other utilities, among other moves. TEPCO is expected to incorporate these plans into the “New Comprehensive Special Business Plan” that is set to be revised early next year in line with discussions at expert panel meetings.

Under the current New Comprehensive Special Business Plan, TEPCO assumes reactivation of its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant as a source of earnings to be used to rebuild itself. But there are no prospects of the power plant being reactivated as the governor of Niigata Prefecture, which hosts the nuclear facility, is taking a cautious stance toward reactivation. The industry ministry wants to secure understanding of a plan to reactivate the nuclear power plant by improving the creditworthiness of TEPCO’s nuclear business through collaboration with other utilities. But because there is a possibility of other power companies being forced to shoulder the costs of decommissioning the crippled Fukushima plant, it remains unclear whether TEPCO will be able to cooperate with those utilities as envisioned.

A member of the expert panel was quoted as saying at the meeting, “A proper alliance cannot be formed unless ways of shutting off the risks (for possible alliance partners) are considered. Hirose also proposed that TEPCO work with other firms in the area of power generation and transmission, as well as jointly procure materials with other firms.

As for the costs of decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, which are expected to exceed the initial estimate by several trillion yen, and expenses for paying compensation to nuclear disaster victims, the expert panel confirmed plans for TEPCO to minimize financial burdens on the public through management efforts. An expert panel member was quoted as saying at the Nov. 15 meeting, “If TEPCO’s liability is defined as limited, the general public will see the move as relief measures for TEPCO. We should carefully consider public opinion.”

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161116/p2a/00m/0na/008000c

Ministry Devises Crafty Finance Scheme Favoring Nuclear Power

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The industry ministry, the supposed champion of electricity market deregulation, is making a move that runs counter to the principles of reform by giving preferential treatment to nuclear power.

A proposal by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry would force new electricity suppliers that have entered the market in response to its liberalization to shoulder part of the costs of decommissioning the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The plan was submitted to an expert council discussing the issue.

The ministry, which regulates the power industry, has already presented a plan to make such new utilities bear part of the costs of decommissioning aging reactors at other nuclear power plants.

The power market reform, which was expanded this spring to cover retail electricity sales as well, is designed to abolish the regional monopolies of established utilities, thereby encouraging new entries into the market.

It is also aimed at lowering electricity rates by separating the operations of power plants and transmission grids to promote fair competition.

The ministry cannot claim it is working for fair competition if it is now creating rules that force new electricity providers that have nothing to do with any nuclear power plant or the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster to pay part of the decommissioning bills.

In its attempt to get new utilities involved in the financing plan, the ministry is targeting the fees they pay to use the power transmission lines operated by established utilities.

The total cost of decommissioning the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant is estimated at several trillion yen.

The ministry has stressed its intention to protect the public from the huge financial burden. It has promised to make Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the Fukushima plant, pay for the work by saving necessary funds through streamlining its operations.

But the ministry has proposed a new system to use the money saved from more efficient power grid operations primarily to cover decommissioning costs.

The current rule requires major utilities to lower the charges they impose on smaller power suppliers using their transmission lines when higher efficiency lifts their profits. But the proposed system would exempt the big power companies from the rule when they spend the money saved on decommissioning reactors.

The ministry seems to be trying to convince the public that this approach would not increase the financial burden on consumers because it doesn’t involve price hikes.

But this idea raises some questions that cannot be overlooked.

The costs of decommissioning reactors are by nature expenses related to power generation. But the ministry’s proposal would transfer part of the expenses to the operations of transmission lines.

As a result, new power suppliers using TEPCO’s transmission cables would have to pay higher fees.

Subscribers to such new utilities would also have to shoulder part of the burden. In particular, the envisioned system would be totally unacceptable for consumers who have switched to new power providers to avoid using electricity generated by nuclear plants.

The ministry appears to be targeting an “easy source” of revenue. The charges on using transmission lines are not highly visible to general consumers.

The ministry’s plan to use power transmission charges as a source of funds to decommission reactors is a crafty scheme to give preferential treatment to nuclear power. Its aim is to ensure nuclear plants will not lose their cost competitiveness against other electricity sources like thermal power generation.

For many years, both the government and established utilities have been emphasizing that atomic energy is a low-cost source of electricity.

They are grossly irresponsible and insincere if they are trying to impose part of the inevitable cost burden of decommissioning reactors on competitors.

The ministry should rethink the idea from the viewpoint of the basic principles of market deregulation.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201611080049.html

Industry ministry unveils plan to split nuclear power division from TEPCO

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The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry is planning to spin off Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) Holdings Inc.’s nuclear power generation division and aim for an alliance between the new subsidiary and another power company.

The ministry unveiled the plan at an Oct. 25 meeting of an expert panel on reform of TEPCO and issues related to the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The possibility has emerged that realignment of the major utilities’ nuclear power divisions will be led by the government as the planned reactivation of idled nuclear reactors has stalled.

As part of TEPCO reforms this past April, the company’s thermal power, power retail and power transmission and distribution divisions were transformed into subsidiaries and placed under the umbrella of the newly established TEPCO Holdings.

However, TEPCO Holdings has retained its nuclear power division because the company needs to decommission the crippled Fukushima nuclear complex and pay compensation to victims of the nuclear disaster, which broke out in March 2011.

Under the ministry’s plan, a subsidiary would be set up to take over TEPCO’s nuclear power business, excluding the Fukushima No. 1 plant, with an eye to forming an alliance between the new firm and another major utility.

The costs of decommissioning the crippled power station’s reactors are likely to far surpass the initial estimate. The ministry released a revised projection at the Oct. 25 expert panel meeting stating that the annual decommissioning bill will likely balloon from the current 80 billion yen into the hundreds of billions, due to work to remove melted nuclear fuel from the reactors and other factors.

The panel discussed TEPCO reforms to raise funds to cover the massive expense of dealing with the accident, such as compensation payments and decontamination of areas tainted with radioactive substances emanating from the nuclear disaster, plus decommissioning.

The committee is aiming to increase TEPCO’s profitability by promoting the realignment of the firm’s nuclear power division and other cost-cutting efforts.

TEPCO set up a joint venture, JERA Co., with Chubu Electric Power Co. in April 2015 to gradually integrate their thermal power station fuel procurement and overseas power generation divisions. TEPCO has also formed a business tie-up with SoftBank Group Corp. to bundle electricity and communications device contracts.

The industry ministry furthermore proposed that TEPCO’s power transmission and distribution subsidiary, which is highly profitable thanks to a large number of customers in the Tokyo metropolitan area, strengthen its alliances with other utilities.

The expert committee is poised to work out the details of a plan to spin off TEPCO’s nuclear power division and how the subsidiary should join hands with other companies. The panel will draw up a draft of its proposals possibly by the end of this year, and incorporate the recommendations in TEPCO’s corporate rehabilitation plan to be released next year.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161026/p2a/00m/0na/004000c