Watchdog says TEPCO nuclear disaster drill ‘unacceptable’

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An emergency drill at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture
August 22, 2018
The government’s nuclear watchdog slammed Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s efforts as “unacceptable” in communicating with nuclear authorities during an emergency drill held at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant.
TEPCO, operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, was among three utilities to receive the lowest of the three-level scores in terms of ability to share information expediently and accurately, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said July 25.
It was the first time for the company to be given the lowest score on communication skills in a yearly drill.
“It is unacceptable that TEPCO received a low rating, given that it was responsible for the Fukushima disaster,” an NRA official said. “TEPCO appears to be too compartmentalized for its relevant sections to work together and share information.”
The NRA is set to instruct the company to hold additional drills at the plant, which is located in Niigata Prefecture, if it receives another low rating.
The utility was slow in relaying information to the watchdog, and its briefing on its handling of the mock accident was inadequate, according to the NRA’s report.
“We could not respond sufficiently because the envisioned accident was harsh,” said Kiyoto Ishikawa, the chief of the plant’s publicity department, at a news conference.
The drill in question was carried out in March under the scenario of coping with a serious accident.
It involved difficult procedures to cope with a failure in the communication system to send such critical information as the pressure level in the reactors’ containment vessels to the NRA. Operators also simulated a string of maneuvers of the venting system to lower pressure inside the No. 6 reactor that suffered core damage.
“We had to deal with a tough situation because it proceeded with less time allotted for us than in a real accident,” Ishikawa said. “We are determined to make more efforts and improve our standing.”
The NRA’s assessment comes at a time when TEPCO seeks to bring the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant back on line in the near future to save expensive fuel costs incurred by the operation of its thermal power plants.
With seven reactors, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant is the largest in Japan. It is the only nuclear complex for TEPCO to turn to as it proceeds with decommissioning of the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear plants.
The two reactors have cleared the screenings by the NRA under the stricter reactor regulations put in place following the 2011 Fukushima triple meltdown.
The other plants that were rated on par with the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in the evaluation of emergency drills were Hokuriku Electric Power Co.’s Shika plant in Ishikawa Prefecture and Chubu Electric Power Co.’s Hamaoka plant in Shizuoka Prefecture.
In the case of the Shika plant, Hokuriku Electric’s in-house information sharing system got bogged down, making it impossible for the NRA to remain in the communication loop.
In total, 10 operators of nuclear power plants carried out emergency drills.
The NRA considers it vital for the operator of a nuclear plant to share accurate information on the accident since the prime minister declares a “nuclear emergency” based on the NRA’s report.
In the Fukushima disaster, TEPCO had trouble passing on information on the unfolding nuclear crisis with the government swiftly and accurately, resulting in confusion.
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Regulator urges release of treated Fukushima radioactive water into sea

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The chief of Japan’s nuclear regulator said Thursday water at the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant that contains radioactive tritium even after being treated should be released into the sea after dilution.
“We will face a new challenge if a decision (about the release) is not made within this year,” Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa told a local mayor, referring to the more than 1 million tons of coolant water and groundwater that has accumulated at the facility crippled by the 2011 disaster triggered by a devastating quake and tsunami.
As local fishermen are worried about the negative impact from the water discharge, the Japanese government and Fukushima plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. have not made a final decision on the treated water, which is currently stored in tanks.
In his meeting with Yukiei Matsumoto, mayor of Naraha town near the Fukushima plant, Fuketa said, “It is scientifically clear that there will be no influence to marine products or to the environment” following the water release.
The nuclear regulator chief underlined the need for the government and Tepco to quickly make a decision, saying, “It will take two or three years to prepare for the water release into the sea.”
At the Fukushima plant, toxic water is building up partly because groundwater is seeping into the reactor buildings to mix with water made radioactive in the process of cooling the damaged reactors.
Such contaminated water is treated to remove radioactive materials but tritium, a radioactive substance considered relatively harmless to humans, remains in the filtered water as it is difficult to separate even after passing through a treatment process.
At other nuclear power plants, tritium-containing water is routinely dumped into the sea after it is diluted. The regulator has been calling for the release of the water after diluting it to a density lower than standards set by law.
With limited storage space for water tanks, observers warn tritium could start leaking from the Fukushima plant.
On March 11, 2011, tsunami inundated the six-reactor plant, located on ground 10 meters above sea level, and flooded the power supply facilities.
Reactor cooling systems were crippled and the Nos. 1 to 3 reactors suffered fuel meltdowns in the world’s worst nuclear catastrophe since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Japan’s nuclear watchdog chief holds final press conference before stepping down

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Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) Chairman Shunichi Tanaka held his final press conference in Tokyo’s Minato Ward on Sept. 20 before officially stepping down from his role.

Reflecting on his five-year term in office, Tanaka said, “I tried to maintain independence and transparency,” adding that, “I have absolutely no doubt that I’ve made judgments from a scientific and impartial standpoint, and taken actions based on (the NRA’s) philosophies. This is something that I am proud of.”

However, he also stated that, “The distrust of the public who experienced the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 is an issue that cannot be easily rectified.”

Tanaka became the first chairman of the NRA at the same time the organization was established in September 2012, having previously served as the deputy director general of the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute and acting chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission.

During his time as NRA chairman, he led efforts to draw up new regulatory standards based on the lessons learned from the Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster, and carried out nuclear power plant screening.

Originally hailing from Fukushima Prefecture, Tanaka says he is planning to live in the prefectural village of Iitate after stepping down as NRA head. “It would be great if I could contribute to the recovery of Fukushima (using my experience at the NRA),” Tanaka said.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170921/p2a/00m/0na/004000c

Nuclear regulator defers giving safety OK for idle Tepco reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant

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TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japan’s nuclear safety watchdog on Wednesday deferred giving safety clearance for two idle Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. reactors on the Sea of Japan coast, although its chairman said the utility was “qualified” as a nuclear plant operator.

Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said following Wednesday’s meeting that Tepco, operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, was qualified but needs to stipulate its resolve to ensure safe operation of nuclear plants in its safety rules.

“It’s insecure” if Tepco expresses its resolve to ensure safety only in words, Tanaka told a press conference.

Safety rules need to be approved by the regulator and if there is a grave violation the regulator can demand that the utility halt nuclear power operations.

The regulator will formally inform the utility’s president, Tomoaki Kobayakawa, about the matter on Sept. 20. A final decision on whether Tepco is fit to be an operator will be made following discussions with the economy, trade and industry minister.

If Tepco agrees to include its resolve to ensure safety in its safety rules, the regulator will compile a draft document for the Nos. 6 and 7 reactors at Tepco’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture that will serve as certification that the utility has satisfied new safety requirements implemented since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The regulator had been expected at Wednesday’s meeting to confirm that the units have cleared the new safety requirements, but it reversed course after facing criticism over a lack of debate on whether the operator is fit to run a nuclear power plant.

For a reactor to be restarted, it first needs to clear the stiffer safety requirements introduced in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, which was triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. Tepco filed for safety assessments of the two units in September 2013.

According to sources close to the matter, the regulator had planned to give safety clearance while Tanaka was still on the board. Tanaka’s term expires on Sept. 18, although he will continue to work until Sept. 22.

The regulator had reached a near consensus on the issue of Tepco’s qualification when its members previously met on Sept. 6.

During the summer, the regulator questioned the Tepco management, including Kobayakawa, about its nuclear safety awareness. In July, Tanaka criticized Tepco’s attitude, saying, “An operator, which cannot take concrete measures for decommissioning efforts at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, does not have the right to resume operation of nuclear reactors.”

Tanaka urged the utility to further explain in writing issues such as how to deal with contaminated water at the Fukushima plant.

While Tepco, in its subsequent written response, did not give details about what it would do regarding the contaminated water, it did pledge to see through the scrapping of the plant, gaining a certain level of understanding from the regulator.

Meanwhile, the prospect of gaining local consent needed for the restart of the two reactors remains uncertain, with Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama saying it will take “around three to four years” for the utility to win local consent for the envisioned restart.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170914/p2g/00m/0dm/006000c

 

 

Tepco’s makes error in Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant’s quake proof tests

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TEPCO admits error in screening report

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority is demanding an explanation from Tokyo Electric Power Company.
TEPCO has admitted to submitting inaccurate information from calculations 3 years ago on plans for restarting two of its nuclear reactors in Niigata Prefecture.
The regulator is in the final stages of screening the No.6 and 7 reactors at TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.
The reactors must meet new government requirements introduced after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
Regulators gathered on Tuesday for discussions with TEPCO about buildings at the plant to be used as headquarters in an emergency.
TEPCO officials admitted one of the buildings lacked the necessary quake-resistance in all 7 of the company’s tests.
They had earlier said that the building had failed 5 of the 7 tests. They said they would not use the building.
They blamed the discrepancy on a failure by the civil engineering department to convey test results to the equipment design department.
The regulators noted the lack of coordination between TEPCO departments on the impact of soil liquefaction on breakwaters.
They called the mistakes unacceptable, and they’re demanding that TEPCO provide details and countermeasures.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170215_18/

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Kashiwazaki Mayor Masahiro Sakurai, center, visiting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture during an emergency drill in December. He is briefed by plant chief Chikashi Shitara, right

 

Key Niigata nuclear plant building may not be quake-proof

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has revealed that a key building at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant may not be able to withstand even half of the assumed strongest seismic shaking, contrary to its earlier assurances.

TEPCO’s disclosure came Feb. 14 during a screening by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) for the restart of the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, which is the world’s largest.

The utility became aware of the possibility in 2014, but the information was not shared within the company. TEPCO reported to the NRA that the building can withstand temblors of 7, the highest category on the Japanese seismic intensity scale.

The building is designed to serve as an on-site emergency headquarters in the event of a severe accident, such as one caused by an earthquake.

An earthquake that occurred off the Chuetsu region of Niigata Prefecture in 2007 badly damaged the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

In response, TEPCO constructed the building in question in 2009. At that time, it said the structure could withstand the assumed biggest earthquake motions that are 1.5 times stronger than those described in the Building Standards Law.

In 2014, the utility checked the building’s anti-quake capabilities again. It found that it may not be able to withstand horizontal movements triggered by even half the anticipated strongest earthquake, and that it could collapse into the side of an adjacent building.

That information was not conveyed to the company’s division in charge of the NRA’s screening, and thus escaped notice from NRA inspections.

Takafumi Anegawa, managing executive officer of TEPCO, apologized, saying, “We did not conceal the possibility. The in-house liaison was insufficient.”

An NRA official said, “Information is not shared in the company. Lessons from the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are not utilized.”

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201702150042.html

Kashiwazaki Mayor Masahiro Sakurai, center, visiting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture during an emergency drill in December. He is briefed by plant chief Chikashi Shitara, right

NRA pushing dry cask storage, not pools, for spent nuclear fuel

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Japan’s nuclear watchdog will ease quake-related and other regulations on storing spent fuel to push the use of dry casks and reduce the dangers stemming from power failures at nuclear power plants.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority decided on Jan. 25 that utilities should place spent nuclear fuel in the special air cooling containers instead of the common practice of submerging the fuel rods in pools of water.

Fuel stored in pools is cooled by circulating water with pumps, but the system can shut down if earthquakes and other disasters cut off the power supply. The water could then evaporate, leaving the spent fuel and radioactive substances exposed to air.

Electric power companies have shown a positive attitude toward the dry storage system because it would enable them to keep more spent fuel when the pools are filled close to capacity.

However, municipalities that host nuclear power plants have expressed strong concerns that the system will let utilities keep spent nuclear fuel at plant sites for prolonged periods.

NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka stressed the need for safety.

It (dry cask storage) is much safer than storing fuel in pools,” he said.

The Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami cut off power to Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in March 2011. Three reactors melted down, and the cooling system would not work for more than 1,000 spent fuel assemblies in the pool in the No. 4 reactor building.

Fears arose that all water in the pool could evaporate. But emergency measures, including the pumping in of water, were taken to keep the fuel submerged.

Under the dry storage system, the fuel is sufficiently cooled in pools and placed in dedicated airtight cases. The special casks are then stored inside air-permeable facilities.

The NRA plans to promote use of casks that are currently used to transport spent nuclear fuel.

The containers have passed durability tests and can withstand falls from a height of 9 meters and high-temperature fires.

Dry storage containers are widely used in the United States and Europe.

But the use of dry casks has not spread in Japan because of the high hurdles that must be cleared. One requirement is that those containers must be stored in building that can withstand the strongest earthquake predicted in the area.

As a result, dry storage containers are used at only a few nuclear facilities in the country, such as Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant in Ibaraki Prefecture.

According to the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, a total of 15,000 tons of spent fuel is stored at 17 nuclear plants across Japan.

Seventy percent of their fuel pools and other storage facilities have been filled with spent fuel.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201702140004.html

NRA clears Genkai reactors

The R3 and R4 of the Genkai nuclear power plant, Pref. Saga, have met the new safety standards of the NRA. Restart announced at the end of summer.

As of today: Have met the safety standards, 10 reactors in 5 nuclear plant namely also Sendai R1, R2 – Takahama R1 to R4 – Mihama R3 – Ikata R3.

Two reactors have now been restarted: Sendai 1 and Ikata 3 (using MOX).

 

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The Nuclear Regulation Authority formally decided Wednesday on the screening document certifying that the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture satisfied the country’s safety standards for their restart.

The latest decision made at an NRA regular meeting brings to 10 the number of reactors, at five nuclear power plants, that have satisfied the regulator’s new safety standards, introduced after the nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011. The two Genkai reactors are scheduled to be back online sometime in or after summer this year.

The Kyushu power company applied for a safety screening on those reactors in July 2013. At that time, the company anticipated an earthquake with an acceleration of up to 540 gal at the Genkai plant followed by tsunami of up to 3 meters high. However, the NRA deemed the simulation as “too optimistic” and the figures were raised to an acceleration of 620 gal with 4-meter-high tsunami.

In November last year, the NRA approved a draft document as the two reactors complied with the new standards. The NRA then solicited public opinions and received 4,200 comments, including concerns over possible earthquakes, but concluded that there was no problem with compliance.

With the formal decision being made on the Genkai plant, the focus for the restart has moved to an approval of a construction plan that maps out the specifications of related equipment for safe operation as well as whether it can obtain the consent of local governments for the restart.

So far, nuclear reactors that have passed the NRA’s screenings under the new standards are the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors at Kyushu’s Sendai power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, the Nos. 1 to 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama plant and KEPCO’s No. 3 reactor at Mihama plant, both in Fukui Prefecture, and the No. 3 reactor at Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture. Currently, two reactors — Sendai plant’s No. 1 and Ikata’s No. 3 — are online.

http://www.the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003466628