KEPCO studying moving spent nuclear fuel from Fukui to Aomori

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Kansai Electric Power Co. is considering transferring spent nuclear fuel stored in its three nuclear plants in Fukui Prefecture to an intermediate storage facility in Aomori Prefecture, sources said on Jan. 6.
KEPCO had promised to move the fuel outside the prefecture when the Fukui prefectural government allowed the utility to restart two reactors at its Oi nuclear power plant.
KEPCO President Shigeki Iwane has said that a facility will be secured by the end of 2018 to accept the fuel.
According to the sources, KEPCO is also considering other locations. However, the intermediate storage facility, located in Mutsu in northern Aomori Prefecture, is a promising candidate because it has already been constructed.
However, since consent from local governments is required, KEPCO could face difficulties in transferring the fuel to the facility.
At present, KEPCO is storing spent nuclear fuel, which is produced in its Takahama, Oi and Mihama nuclear power plants in Fukui Prefecture, in pools in their compounds. However, about 70 percent of the capacity of those pools have been filled.
If the restarts of the reactors in the plants proceed as expected, the remaining 30 percent will also be filled in about seven years. Therefore, KEPCO is trying to secure an intermediate storage facility to temporarily store the fuel by putting it in metal containers.
The intermediate storage facility in Mutsu was jointly constructed by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. and Japan Atomic Power Co. at a cost of about 100 billion yen ($884.6 million) to store spent nuclear fuel produced by their nuclear plants.
However, acceptance of the fuel from those plants has yet to start because the facility is currently undergoing screenings to see if it is in compliance with new safety standards introduced after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The intermediate storage facility has a capacity of accepting a total of 5,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel.
KEPCO is considering securing storage space there by purchasing part of the shares of a company that will operate the facility.
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2 residents file request for temporary injunction against Oi nuke plant restart

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OSAKA — Two people from Fukui and Kyoto prefectures filed a request with the Osaka District Court on Dec. 25 for a temporary injunction against the restart of reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant.
Operator Kansai Electric Power Co. is aiming to turn the No. 3 and 4 reactors at the plant in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, back on in spring 2018.
The restart is already being challenged in four other court cases filed by residents; three in district courts and one that has reached a high court branch. All four are lawsuits, not requests for provisional injunctions. Therefore, even if the plaintiffs win their cases, the Oi plant restart cannot be stopped until the verdict has been finalized through the appeals process.
With the reactors’ projected restart just months away, the pair from Kyoto and Fukui prefectures decided to file for the temporary injunction, which would take effect immediately if granted.
Kansai Electric declined to comment on the filing, saying a copy had not yet arrived at their offices.

Fukui Governor OK to Restart Kansai Electric’s Oi Nuclear Plant Reactors N°3 & N°4

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The No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi nuclear plant in Oi, Fukui Prefecture
Fukui gives OK to restart of Kansai Electric’s Oi nuclear plant
FUKUI–Kansai Electric Power Co. has cleared all hurdles toward restarting two reactors at its Oi nuclear power plant early next year after gaining the consent of the prefectural governor here Nov. 27.
The utility plans to resume operations of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors in January and March, respectively.
“I have agreed to the restart after taking into account the position of the Oi town government and Fukui prefectural assembly, as well as the response by the central government and the operator of the plant concerning our request to have an interim storage site for spent nuclear fuel to be built outside the prefecture,” Governor Issei Nishikawa told reporters here the same day.
Nishikawa signed off on Kansai Electric’s request following similar moves by the town government of Oi, which hosts the Oi nuclear plant, the town assembly and the prefectural assembly.
In response to the governor’s request concerning the storage site, Shigeki Iwane, president of Kansai Electric, has already pledged to offer a proposed alternative site next year.
Industry minister Hiroshige Seko, too, vowed that the central government will be involved in drawing up the plan.
Nishikawa pushed for the construction of the interim storage facility outside the prefecture as a condition to agreeing to the restart of the Oi plant.
Five reactors are now operating in Japan after clearing new nuclear regulations established in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Two of the reactors are at Kansai Electric’s Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture.
The Fukui District Court, citing safety concerns, ordered a halt to the operations of Oi’s No. 3 and No. 4 reactors in May 2014.
But Kansai Electric appealed the decision and has since been gearing up to restart the units.
Fukui Gov. OKs restart of 2nd plant in prefecture
FUKUI, Japan (Kyodo) — Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa on Monday gave the go-ahead for Kansai Electric Power Co. to restart two reactors at its Oi nuclear power plant in the central Japan prefecture.
With Fukui also hosting Kansai Electric’s Takahama plant where two reactors have already resumed operation, the planned restart of the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at the Oi complex would make the prefecture the first since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster to have two active nuclear power plants.
The governor conveyed the decision to Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko over the phone Monday.
The Osaka-based utility plans to bring the No. 3 reactor back online in mid-January and restart the No. 4 unit in mid-March.
The two reactors located on the Sea of Japan coast resumed operation in July 2012 under tentative nuclear safety standards set by the then-Democratic Party of Japan government while all other reactors in the country remained idle for checks following the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi complex.
The two reactors at the Oi complex went offline in September 2013 for regular checkups and cleared the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety review based on the country’s post-Fukushima screening standards in May.
The Fukui governor’s approval of the restart came after Kansai Electric President Shigeki Iwane said Thursday the utility would decide by the end of 2018 where to set up a storage facility for spent nuclear fuel.
The governor had been requesting the utility’s construction plan for the facility.
Speaking at a press conference, Nishikawa said he has come to the decision after “comprehensively considering opinions of our town and prefectural assemblies as well as responses of the government and the plant operator to an idea of setting up an interim storage facility outside our prefecture.”
The central government is yet to pick a final disposal site for nuclear waste, including spent fuel.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohihide Suga said in a separate press conference it is “extremely meaningful” that the plan to restart the two reactors in Oi has now received approval from the hosting prefecture’s governor.
Suga, however, declined to clarify the government’s stance on the opposition voiced by Taizo Mikazuki, governor of neighboring Shiga Prefecture.
About 20 antinuclear activists gathered in front of the Fukui prefectural government office Monday to show their opposition to the decision.
Jiku Miyazaki, a 73-year-old temple master in Oi, expressed concerns about whether residents can safely evacuate if a nuclear accident occurs.
“Under the current conditions, we won’t be able to evacuate,” Miyazaki said, citing troubles residents encounter when typhoons strike the region.
“We want them to take measures in view of the possibility of the two nuclear plants having accidents at the same time.”
Some residents hope for the economic benefits that an influx of plant workers could promise local businesses.
A man in his 50s said, “Our life here is depending on (the plant). As long as the governor judges it is safe, we need it to be restarted or we will be in trouble.”

2 more nuclear reactors in Japan clear regulator’s safety review

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The No. 3 (right) and 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi Nuclear Power Plant are seen in November 2016.
 
TOKYO (Kyodo) — The Nuclear Regulation Authority formally confirmed Wednesday that two reactors on the Sea of Japan have met the country’s post-Fukushima safety standards, paving the way for their restart possibly this fall.
 
The authority gave its final approval to a screening report submitted by Kansai Electric Power Co. on the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at Oi plant in Fukui Prefecture, bringing the number of reactors that have met the standards introduced after the 2011 nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant to 12 at six power stations.
 
For the restart, Kansai Electric still has to pass on-site pre-operational checks by the authority and obtain approval from the Fukui prefectural government.
 
The utility said in a statement it will “make utmost effort for the early restart of nuclear plants whose safety has been confirmed by gaining the understanding of local residents.”
 
Although the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been promoting the restart of nuclear reactors, most of them remain offline amid safety concerns among local residents following the Fukushima disaster triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami.
 
The nuclear safety watchdog gave the green light to the restart of the reactors despite a pending lawsuit filed by local residents seeking to block the resumption of operations. Kansai Electric has appealed a Fukui District Court ruling in 2014 which banned it from running the two reactors due to safety concerns.
 
Seismologist Kunihiko Shimazaki, a former commissioner of the NRA, has warned that the authority may have underestimated quake hazards at the Oi plant.
 
Kansai Electric applied for the screening of the two reactors at the Oi plant in July 2013. With Wednesday’s approval, all of its seven nuclear reactors at three power stations for which the utility has sought screening have cleared the safety standards.
 
Of the seven, the No. 4 reactor at Takahama plant in Fukui restarted operation on May 17, while the No. 3 reactor of the same plant is expected to get back online in early June.
 

Fukushima scenarios used in evacuation drills at two Japanese nuclear plants

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TAKAHAMA, FUKUI PREF. – Some 11,000 residents of Fukui and Kyoto prefectures participated in two major disaster drills on Saturday and Sunday centered on hypothetical nuclear accidents at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama and Oi nuclear power stations.

The exercises were jointly organized by the central government and the prefectural governments of Fukui, Shiga and Kyoto.

Saturday’s drill at Takahama involved about 9,000 residents. It was intended to examine the workability of evacuation plans approved by the national government last December.

The scenario was a strong earthquake off Wakasa Bay, near the plant. The tremor measured a lower 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 0 to 7.

The facility’s No. 3 reactor was assumed to have lost all power, leading to the release of radioactive substances — as happened at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in 2011.

Evacuation plans require residents within 5 km of plants to evacuate immediately upon an accident occurring. Those living up to 30 km away are meant to stay indoors until radiation alarms detect fallout in the air.

Some experts have cast doubt on whether it is a good idea to order people to stay indoors when reactors are spewing radiation.

For example, when quakes pummeled Kyushu this spring, about 160,000 houses and buildings collapsed. If that were to occur in Fukui, many residents would find it difficult to shelter indoors.

In the Kumamoto earthquake, there were cases where people returned to their homes after the initial quake, only to be hit when houses collapsed in the second quake, said Hirotada Hirose, a professor emeritus at Tokyo Woman’s Christian University, a specialist in disaster risk management.

If a severe nuclear disaster occurs, evacuating in phases isn’t likely to go well,” he said. “The evacuation plan should assume many scenarios.”

These could include cases where an earthquake cuts traffic, jamming the roads with panicking residents who ignore advice and are trying to flee in large numbers.

Nonetheless, Saturday’s exercise finished without any major hiccups.

By doing the drills with local governments and residents over and over again, disaster-prevention skills will improve,” said Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa.

As part of the exercise, at the town hall of Mihama, Fukui Prefecture, Kansai Electric workers screened evacuees for radiation exposure. They also checked the buses for contamination.

One of the would-be evacuees was Masatoshi Nose, 46, a city government employee from Obama, Fukui Prefecture.

As this is a drill, I was able to come here smoothly,” Nose said. “But in a real disaster situation, it may take an entire day.”

Also, poor visibility scrubbed plans to use a Ground Self-Defense Force helicopter to extract 20 residents from near Takahama.About 180,000 people live within 30 km of the plant whose No. 3 and No. 4 reactors were restarted in January and February, only to be halted again after the Otsu District Court in Shiga in March issued a provisional injunction following a petition by residents.

Meanwhile, on Sunday about 2,000 local residents participated in an evacuation drill under a scenario where Kansai Electric’s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture experiences a catastrophic accident.

The drill was organized by the Fukui Prefectural Government.

The residents took shelter in their homes or evacuated to elsewhere in the prefecture as part of an effort to test response times to an accident.

The evacuation drill was only carried out within Fukui Prefecture itself as no evacuation plan covering a wider area has been drawn up for the plant, located in the town of Oi.

Residents within 5 km of the plant fled to the city of Tsuruga, and Oi residents within 30 km of the plant moved to the city of Ono, about 100 km away.

For the evacuees from Oi, a facility was set up for the distribution of iodine tablets to mitigate radiation exposure and to check for contamination.

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http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/08/28/national/fukushima-scenarios-used-evacuation-drills-two-japanese-nuclear-plants/#.V8MWOTXKO-c

NRA sees no need to review maximum quake estimate at Oi nuke plant

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The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) on July 27 concluded that there is no need to review the maximum possible earthquake estimate — known as the standard ground motion — for Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui

The NRA reached the conclusion at a regular meeting after former acting NRA chairman Kunihiko Shimazaki pointed out that Kansai Electric had “underestimated” the calculated standard ground motion for its Oi plant. The NRA said that the result of Kansai Electric’s calculation was reasonable. The NRA then dismissed Shimazaki’s argument by saying that calculation methods other than the current one used for the Oi plant “have not reached a degree of scientific and technological maturity.”

Shimazaki had earlier suggested that the so-called “Irikura-Miyake method” used by Kansai Electric was the cause of the underestimated standard ground motion. The NRA’s secretariat checked the validity of other methods such as the “Takemura method,” but it concluded that ways of taking into account the “uncertainties” involved in predicting standard ground motions have not been established. Five NRA commissioners approved the secretariat’s verification results.

A string of issues over the calculations of standard ground motions raised questions about the NRA’s expertise.

After recalculating the estimated standard ground motion for the Oi plant using the “Irikura-Miyake method” — the same method used by Kansai Electric — the NRA secretariat found that the recalculated estimate was 356 gals, “gal” being a unit of acceleration. Its recalculation based on the “Takemura” method showed 644 gals. These two figures fell below Kansai Electric’s estimate of 856 gals. Therefore, the NRA secretariat determined that Kansai Electric’s figure was not “underestimated.” The NRA approved the secretariat’s findings on July 13.

On July 19, the NRA secretariat effectively withdrew its findings, saying that “They were unreasonable calculations.” Thus, it came to light that the NRA had confirmed the secretariat’s findings without verifying the validity of the calculations. It also came to light that the NRA had not grasped the detailed process of Kansai Electric’s calculation as the secretariat’s calculation result conflicted with that of Kansai Electric. The NRA approved Kansai Electric’s calculation of the standard ground motion in the autumn of 2014, but questions were subsequently raised about the way in which the screening was conducted.

Among the five NRA commissioners is a geologist, but there is no expert on ground motion. At a news conference on July 27, NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka acknowledged that his group was lacking expertise, saying, “That’s what we need to reflect on.” But when he met Shimazaki on July 19, Tanaka bluntly said, “There is no room for listening to outside experts nor am I in a position to do so.” As the biggest lesson learned from the Fukushima nuclear crisis ought to be that the most up-to-date expertise should be reflected in safety measures, the NRA is urged to listen to arguments and suggestions from outside experts.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160728/p2a/00m/0na/006000c

Doubts about nuclear plant’s quake resistance

Doubts about nuclear plant’s quake resistance shake trust in NRA

Trust in Japan’s nuclear watchdog, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), has been jolted. At hand is an issue raised by Kunihiko Shimazaki, former acting chairman of the NRA. Shimazaki pointed out that Kansai Electric Power Co. underestimated the maximum shaking that could occur during an earthquake at its Oi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture.

Shimazaki is an authority on seismology, having formerly served as president of the Seismological Society of Japan. While serving in the NRA, he handled screening of power companies’ earthquake predictions for nuclear power plants including the Oi nuclear plant.

After he stepped down two years ago, he re-examined data and found the method of calculating standard ground motion (the maximum shaking that would occur during an earthquake) was inappropriate in some cases, depending on the type of fault. This could lead power companies to underestimate figures, he apparently found in his research.

If Shimazaki’s argument is correct, the Oi Nuclear Power Plant could come under pressure to provide even greater reinforcement against quakes.

The NRA had for the most part accepted Kansai Electric’s data, but following the claim by Shimazaki, a new calculation on ground motion was performed using a method differing from that adopted by the power company. As the figure was below that presented by Kansai Electric, it determined that the utility had not underestimated the shaking, and during a regular meeting on July 13, it decided against revising Kansai Electric’s figure.

Shimazaki, however, objected, saying that the recalculated figure should have greatly surpassed the original figure for standard ground motion. The reason is that during screening, the outcome of calculations is normally multiplied by 1.5 to provide an added element of safety, but this wasn’t done.

The new calculation was performed by the secretariat of the NRA. A member of the secretariat who talked with Shimazaki admitted that the renewed calculation was repeatedly stretched, and had “no accuracy.” The member added, “It’s not known how much leeway should be given.” It couldn’t be helped if the secretariat were accused of adopting its approach to avoid criticism that the estimate for envisaged damage was too low. The fact that the NRA accepted without questions its secretariat’s explanation that Kansai Electric’s estimate was sufficient raises doubts about its competence.

There are no experts on seismology among the NRA’s five commissioners. NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka has expressed the opinion that the calculated figure for standard ground motion at the Oi Nuclear Power Plant doesn’t have to be reviewed. We worry whether quake resistance has been calculated properly.

Shimazaki has suggested to the NRA that it listen to a wide range of opinions from experts in seismology and incorporate the good ones into its screening. Even if experts differ in their evaluations of Shimazaki’s research results, his suggestion to the NRA itself is appropriate.

Tanaka, however, commented, “We don’t have the leeway to do that and it’s not our job to do it either.” We can only be skeptical about such a stance.

The NRA is supposed to be the final fortress in ensuring nuclear safety. We hope that it will try to make improvements to methods of calculating quake resistance of its own accord.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160725/p2a/00m/0na/006000c

NRA sees no need to review maximum quake estimate at Oi nuke plant

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) on July 27 concluded that there is no need to review the maximum possible earthquake estimate — known as the standard ground motion — for Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture.

The NRA reached the conclusion at a regular meeting after former acting NRA chairman Kunihiko Shimazaki pointed out that Kansai Electric had “underestimated” the calculated standard ground motion for its Oi plant. The NRA said that the result of Kansai Electric’s calculation was reasonable. The NRA then dismissed Shimazaki’s argument by saying that calculation methods other than the current one used for the Oi plant “have not reached a degree of scientific and technological maturity.”

Shimazaki had earlier suggested that the so-called “Irikura-Miyake method” used by Kansai Electric was the cause of the underestimated standard ground motion. The NRA’s secretariat checked the validity of other methods such as the “Takemura method,” but it concluded that ways of taking into account the “uncertainties” involved in predicting standard ground motions have not been established. Five NRA commissioners approved the secretariat’s verification results.

A string of issues over the calculations of standard ground motions raised questions about the NRA’s expertise.

After recalculating the estimated standard ground motion for the Oi plant using the “Irikura-Miyake method” — the same method used by Kansai Electric — the NRA secretariat found that the recalculated estimate was 356 gals, “gal” being a unit of acceleration. Its recalculation based on the “Takemura” method showed 644 gals. These two figures fell below Kansai Electric’s estimate of 856 gals. Therefore, the NRA secretariat determined that Kansai Electric’s figure was not “underestimated.” The NRA approved the secretariat’s findings on July 13.

On July 19, the NRA secretariat effectively withdrew its findings, saying that “They were unreasonable calculations.” Thus, it came to light that the NRA had confirmed the secretariat’s findings without verifying the validity of the calculations. It also came to light that the NRA had not grasped the detailed process of Kansai Electric’s calculation as the secretariat’s calculation result conflicted with that of Kansai Electric. The NRA approved Kansai Electric’s calculation of the standard ground motion in the autumn of 2014, but questions were subsequently raised about the way in which the screening was conducted.

Among the five NRA commissioners is a geologist, but there is no expert on ground motion. At a news conference on July 27, NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka acknowledged that his group was lacking expertise, saying, “That’s what we need to reflect on.” But when he met Shimazaki on July 19, Tanaka bluntly said, “There is no room for listening to outside experts nor am I in a position to do so.” As the biggest lesson learned from the Fukushima nuclear crisis ought to be that the most up-to-date expertise should be reflected in safety measures, the NRA is urged to listen to arguments and suggestions from outside experts.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160728/p2a/00m/0na/006000c