JAPC denies granting local prior consent for Tokai reactor restart

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The Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, which is operated by the Japan Atomic Power Co.
January 8, 2019
Although telling six municipalities they have the right to prior consent before restarting the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant, operator Japan Atomic Power Co. (JAPC) is apparently reneging on that promise.
JAPC reached a draft agreement with the local governments to obtain their consent before restarting the Tokai No. 2 plant reactor in Ibaraki Prefecture, according to documents from Naka in the prefecture.
The documents, obtained by The Asahi Shimbun through an information disclosure request, detail the six years of negotiations between JAPC and the six local governments and a new safety agreement reached in March 2018.
The six are Tokai village, which hosts the plant, and the five surrounding cities of Hitachi, Hitachinaka, Naka, Hitachiota and Mito.
However, when asked by The Asahi Shimbun if the agreement contained a clause that JAPC would obtain prior consent from the six municipal governments on the restart, the company replied “No.” The six municipalities said the right to prior consent had been agreed upon.
JAPC has apparently changed its stance.
The new safety agreement, concluded on March 29, 2018, stipulates that when JAPC seeks to restart the Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant or extend its operation, it will effectively obtain prior approval from Tokai village and five surrounding municipalities.
The apparent break from tradition to give surrounding local municipalities the right of prior consent drew widespread attention as the “Ibaraki method.”
The concept of working out an agreement started in February 2012 when the heads of the six municipalities met to discuss nuclear power and local vitalization.
Tatsuya Murakami, then Tokai village chief, talked about the wide-ranging effects from the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
He said that the issue of whether to allow a restart of the Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant couldn’t be decided by Tokai village alone and that it was necessary for surrounding municipalities to have the same right.
However, JAPC rejected the proposal, saying that it needed to maintain a consistent approach with another nuclear plant it operates.
The negotiations continued, and in March 2017 the circumstances changed. In a meeting held that month, JAPC President Mamoru Muramatsu proposed a new safety agreement to the six municipalities.
As for their prior consent, he said, “We’ve determined that we can’t restart the nuclear plant until we obtain consent from the municipalities.”
The municipalities asked Muramatsu if that effectively meant they had the right to “prior consent.”
The JAPC president replied, “That’s correct.”
On Nov. 22, 2017, JAPC presented a new safety agreement, which included “effective prior consent,” in a meeting of the heads of the municipalities.
The municipalities again asked whether they had the right to prior consent. A JAPC official replied, “Yes.”
On Nov. 24, 2017, JAPC applied to the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) for a 20-year extension of the operation of the nuclear plant. The deadline for the application was Nov. 28, 2017.
On Nov. 7, 2018, immediately after the NRA approved the 20-year extension, however, JAPC Vice President Nobutaka Wachi said, “The word ‘veto power’ can’t be found anywhere in the new agreement.”
The remark caused a backlash from the six municipalities, and Wachi apologized for his remark. However, relations between JAPC and the municipalities have deteriorated.
In the fall of 2018, The Asahi Shimbun conducted a survey of JAPC and the six municipalities. It asked them, “Is there anything in writing that states that JAPC must obtain prior consent from the six municipal governments in the new agreement?”
In response, JAPC said, “No.” A JAPC official explained, “The new agreement is a plan to effectively obtain prior consent from the six municipalities (by continuing to talk thoroughly with them until they grant their consent).”
The Asahi Shimbun told JAPC that official documents have a description that can be interpreted as granting the municipalities the right to prior consent.
The JAPC official said, “We will refrain from making a comment about the content of discussions from closed meetings.”
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Ikata NPP’s reactor to restart as Hiroshima court judges volcanic erution frequency to be extremely low

Ruling puts onus on anti-nuclear plaintiffs citing volcanic risks

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Lawyer Hiroyuki Kawai, center, explains the Hiroshima High Court’s decision on Sept. 25 to lift a temporary injunction barring operations of the Ikata nuclear plant.
September 26, 2018
HIROSHIMA–The Hiroshima High Court has significantly raised the bar for plaintiffs seeking suspensions of nuclear plant operations on grounds of a possible volcanic eruption.
In a ruling handed down on Sept. 25, the court overturned a temporary injunction order that had halted operations at the Ikata nuclear plant, saying the plaintiffs must present highly credible evidence of the risk of a catastrophic volcanic eruption.
The plaintiffs argued that Shikoku Electric Power Co. must suspend operations of its Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture because of the dangers posed by Mount Aso in central Kyushu, Japan’s southern main island.
They said a pyroclastic flow from the volcano would reach the plant about 130 kilometers away in the event of an eruption on a scale similar to one that occurred about 90,000 years ago.
But the high court dismissed their argument by referring to “socially accepted ideas.”
“The frequency of such an eruption is extremely low,” Presiding Judge Masayuki Miki said. “The government has not taken any measures to deal with it, and a large majority of the public don’t see the risks of a major eruption as a problem, either.”
He added, “Unless the court is given reasonable grounds for the possibility of a major eruption, it is a socially accepted idea that the safety of a facility will not be undermined even if measures are not in place to prepare for such a scenario.”
The ruling was based on an assessment issued in March by the Secretariat of the Nuclear Regulation Authority that risks to nuclear facilities from a catastrophic volcanic eruption are within a socially acceptable range.
Kenta Tsunasaki, one of the plaintiffs, said he was appalled by the ruling.
“We are again witnessing the exact same attitude toward a massive eruption of a volcano,” he said, referring to the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that caused the 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. “The judiciary must have forgotten about the Fukushima disaster.”
Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant operator, has argued that the scale of the tsunami that struck the nuclear complex could not be foreseen.
Many volcanologists agree that catastrophic eruptions rarely occur.
But Yoshiyuki Tatsumi, professor of volcanology at Kobe University, questioned the court’s dismissal of the possibility of a huge eruption.
“The low occurrence does not assure safety,” he said. “A catastrophic eruption is one of the worst disasters in terms of the degree of danger, which is calculated by multiplying the expected number of victims and the rate of occurrence.”
Tatsumi also said it is difficult to predict when Mount Aso will have a major eruption because its eruption cycle is irregular.
(This article was compiled from reports by Sotaro Hata, Toshio Kawada and Shigeko Segawa.)
 

Reactor can restart in Japan after little risk seen from volcano

Shikoku Electric plans to resume operations at the Ikata plant in October
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The No. 3 unit at the Ikata power plant in Ehime Prefecture
September 25, 2018
OSAKA — A Japanese court ruled Tuesday that a nuclear reactor operated by Shikoku Electric Power could restart, clearing the way for it to join the small handful of nuclear facilities that have resumed operating following a catastrophic earthquake in 2011. 
The Hiroshima High Court overturned Tuesday its own provisional injunction from December, accepting the utility’s claim that a volcano in the vicinity poses little risk.
Following the decision, Shikoku Electric said it will restart the No. 3 unit at its Ikata power plant in Ehime Prefecture on Oct. 27.
High courts have often overruled suspensions handed down by district courts. Examples include the Nos. 3 and 4 units at Kansai Electric Power’s Oi and Takahama plants in Fukui Prefecture. With the Hiroshima high court’s decision, all reactors that had temporary suspension orders on them are able to restart.
The chief issue in the Ikata case was whether a nearby caldera of Mt. Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture is at risk of erupting.
“No proof has been shown of the possibility that a large-scale, catastrophic eruption will occur, and the likelihood that [lava flows] will reach the reactor is sufficiently low,” the court said in its ruling Tuesday.
But the restart could be stopped again by an Oita District Court decision due Friday on another provisional injunction to halt the Ikata unit.
The 890-megawatt No. 3 reactor is one of five across three plants nationwide to restart under standards introduced after the 2011 tsunami. It resumed operations in August 2016, but was halted in October 2017 for routine inspections. The shutdown has cost Shikoku Electric about 30 billion yen ($266 million), the company said.

Hiroshima High Court signs off on restart of reactor at Shikoku Electric’s Ikata nuclear power plant

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Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata nuclear power plant is seen in Ehime Prefecture.
 
Sept. 25, 2018
HIROSHIMA – The Hiroshima High Court on Tuesday accepted an appeal by Shikoku Electric Power Co. allowing it to restart a halted reactor at its Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime Prefecture, saying worries over a volcanic eruption damaging the plant are groundless.
The decision is an about-face from its earlier provisional injunction that demanded the utility halt the No. 3 unit at the plant until the end of this month, citing safety risks associated with potential volcanic activity in a nearby prefecture.
The temporary suspension order, issued last December following a request from a local opposition group, marked the first case in which a high court had prohibited operations at a nuclear plant since the 2011 triple meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant led to a nationwide halt of such plants.
Presiding Judge Masayuki Miki said in the ruling, “There is no reason to believe in the possibility of a destructive volcanic eruption during the plant’s operating period and there is only a small chance of volcanic ash and rocks reaching the plant,” which is about 130 kilometers away.
Following the court’s decision, Shikoku Electric said it will reboot the No. 3 reactor on Oct. 27. The unit has been idle for maintenance since October last year.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority, the country’s nuclear watchdog, said, “Drawing on the lessons learned from the nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, we will continue to impose strict regulations based on scientific and technical knowledge.”
Separately, residents in nearby Oita, Kagawa and Yamaguchi prefectures have also been seeking to stop the reactor in pending court cases. The Oita District Court is scheduled to hand down a decision on Friday.
In addition, a request to extend the period of the injunction beyond Sunday has been filed with the Hiroshima District Court.
In the injunction, the high court had said the power company underestimated the risks of heated rocks and volcanic ash reaching the plant if a big eruption occurs at Mount Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture.
That decision constituted a major victory for the nation’s anti-nuclear movement and dealt a blow to the central government and utility firms, which are hoping to bring more reactors back online.
Shikoku Electric claimed in the appeal that it believes there is a “low possibility” of the volcano having a large-scale eruption while the reactor is in operation.
Plaintiffs, however, argued that the resumption of operations at the plant is “unreasonable” because of a “high risk of an accident.”

Trouble-hit nuclear reactor in southwestern Japan resumes operations

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In this Nov. 6, 2016 file photo, from left, the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Genkai Nuclear Power Plant are seen from a Mainichi helicopter in Saga Prefecture
 
 
June 16, 2018
FUKUOKA (Kyodo) — A nuclear reactor at a trouble-hit complex in southwestern Japan restarted operations Saturday for the first time in more than six and a half years amid lingering safety concerns.
The No. 4 unit at the Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture is the fourth reactor of operator Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s to go back online and the ninth nationwide under stricter safety rules implemented after the Fukushima crisis in 2011. The utility aims to generate and supply electricity from Wednesday and start commercial operations in mid-July.
The restart sparked local protests, with around 100 people gathering in front of the plant.
Hajime Aoki, an 80-year-old farmer living about 6 kilometers away from the plant, said, “Everyone knows that nuclear plants are dangerous. If I think about the Fukushima nuclear accident, I certainly cannot agree to this.”
Recognizing the opposition of the local residents, Saga Gov. Yoshinori Yamaguchi promised to deal with the issue seriously, while Michiaki Uriu, president of Kyushu Electric, separately said the plant’s operation will proceed by taking into account “safety as a top priority.”
At the same time, there were some residents who said that while they were worried about plant safety, they also saw the economic benefits to having such plants in the area.
The restart comes after the Genkai complex has been mired in troubles. In May, pumps installed to control the circulation of cooling water at the No. 4 unit suffered malfunctions, following a steam leak from a pipe at the No. 3 reactor just a week after it was reactivated in March.
Kyushu Electric estimates cost savings of 11 billion yen ($100 million) per month due to the restarts of the No. 3-4 units at Genkai, as this will reduce its reliance on thermal power generation.
The No. 4 unit, which began undergoing a regular checkup in December 2011, won approval for restart by the Nuclear Regulation Authority in January 2017 under the tougher rules implemented after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi complex, triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.
Some local residents opposed to the Genkai plant’s operation question the validity of safety standards and cite the risk of volcanic eruptions in the region. The Saga District Court rejected in March a request for an injunction to suspend the plant’s restart.

No. 4 reactor at Oi nuclear plant restarted after nearly five years offline

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Oi nuclear power plant’s No. 4 reactor (far left) in Fukui Prefecture is seen on Wednesday before being restarted by Kansai Electric Power Co.
May 10, 2018
OI, FUKUI PREF. – Kansai Electric Power Co.’s No. 4 reactor at its Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture inched closer toward running at full capacity Thursday, four years and eight months after operations were suspended.
The reactor has reached criticality, its nuclear fission chain reaction having reached a self-sustaining state, and is set to begin power generation and transmission Friday. It is projected to reach full capacity early next week.
The reactor, which was halted in September 2013 for regular checkups, is the eighth to have been reactivated under the country’s new safety standards for nuclear plants. The new standards were introduced in the wake of the March 2011 triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s tsunami-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
Kansai Electric plans to put the No. 4 reactor into commercial mode in early June and cut its electricity prices this summer.
Commercial operations of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Oi plant are projected to help reduce the firm’s fuel costs by about ¥120 billion a year. The No. 3 unit was brought back online in March this year and entered commercial mode in April.
The utility lowered its electricity rates for households by 3.15 percent on average in August 2017, after it resumed commercial operations of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at its Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture.
As each of the two Oi reactors has a capacity of 1.18 million kilowatts — larger than the 870,000 kilowatt capacity of each of the Takahama reactors — the forthcoming rate cut may be more significant than the previous one and could bring the company’s electricity prices down to levels from before the Fukushima nuclear accident, industry observers said.
Kansai Electric owns 11 reactors — four each at the Oi and Takahama plants, and three at the Mihama plant, also in Fukui Prefecture.
Besides the four currently in operation, the Mihama No. 1 and No. 2 units and the Oi No. 1 and No. 2 units are set to be decommissioned. The Mihama No. 3 unit and the Takahama No. 1 and No. 2 units are undergoing work to allow them to continue to operate after reaching 40 years of service.
With the Oi and Takahama plants located as little as 13.5 kilometers from each other, the plant operator has been urged to draw up measures that should be taken in case accidents occur at the same time at the two facilities.
This summer the government plans to carry out a comprehensive anti-disaster drill assuming simultaneous accidents.

Ohi No.4 reactor restarted

Japan’s 8th reactor is back online. Kansai Electric Power Company on Wednesday restarted a reactor at the Ohi plant in Fukui Prefecture, central Japan.
 
At the plant, workers pulled out the control rods that suppress atomic fission of the No.4 reactor.
 
The facility is expected to reach criticality early Thursday, begin power generation and transmission on Friday and go into commercial operation in early June.
 
The reactor had complied with new government regulations put in place following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.
 
Two months earlier, the utility reactivated the No.3 reactor at the plant. Two more reactors are running at its Takahama plant about 13 kilometers west of Ohi.
 
Although they all passed the government’s new regulations, attention is now focused on the threat of multiple accidents at these plants in the event of an earthquake and tsunami.
 
This summer, the government plans to hold its first drill based on a scenario that accidents have occurred simultaneously at the Ohi and Takahama plants.
 
In 2014, the Fukui District Court ruled against putting the No.3 and No.4 reactors at Ohi back online. It said estimated tremors of possible quakes at the plant are too optimistic. The ruling was appealed to a higher court, which has yet to decide the issue.
 

Reactor at Saga’s Genkai nuclear plant back online after seven-year hiatus

To have a nuclear plant running in an earthquake prone area is equivalent already to a death wish. To have that nuclear plant running on MOX is equivalent to a double death wish.
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A protester holds up a sign saying ‘Let’s create a society without nuclear power plants!’ in front of the Genkai plant in Genkai, Saga Prefecture, on Friday as its No. 3 reactor was put back online.
 
SAGA – A nuclear reactor at the Genkai power plant in Saga Prefecture resumed operation Friday for the first time in over seven years, despite lingering concerns from residents about evacuation plans from nearby islets in the event of a serious accident.
 
Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s No. 3 unit at the plant was halted for a regular inspection in December 2010, three months before a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered a crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
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The reactor cleared a safety screening by the Nuclear Regulation Authority in January 2017 under stricter, post-Fukushima crisis regulations and was later approved for reactivation by the Genkai Municipal Government and Saga Prefectural Government. It became the seventh reactor in the nation to restart under the tougher regulations.
 
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which views nuclear power as an “important base-load power source,” is promoting the restart of reactors considered safe by the regulator.
 
Local residents, particularly those living on 17 islands within 30 kilometers of the Genkai plant, are concerned about how to evacuate in the event of an accident, as there are no bridges connecting the islets with the main island of Kyushu.
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Industry minister Hiroshige Seko welcomed the resumption saying, “(The restart) holds significance from the point of promoting so-called pluthermal power generation and recycling nuclear fuel.”
 
The Genkai plant’s No. 3 reactor generates power using mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel, which is created from plutonium and uranium extracted from spent fuel.
 
Early Friday, a group of about 100 citizens gathered in front of the Genkai plant, protesting against the resumption and calling for the shutdown of all nuclear plants in Japan.
 
Chuji Nakayama, a 70-year-old man who lives on Iki Island in Nagasaki Prefecture, within a roughly 30-km radius of the plant, expressed anger, saying, “How can islanders escape if an accident occurs?”
 
Kenichi Arakawa, the deputy chief of an anti-nuclear group who lives in Munakata, Fukuoka Prefecture, said, “An accident could deprive nearby residents of everything in their lives. We should not operate a nuclear plant that threatens our lives.”
 
In contrast, a 70-year-old man from the town of Genkai said, “The town will finally become vibrant again because the nuclear plant helped set up roads and create jobs while bringing in more people.”
 
Kyushu Electric plans to start commercial operation of the No. 3 unit in late April. It is the third reactor reactivated by the utility, following the Nos. 1 and 2 units at the Sendai complex in Kagoshima Prefecture, which came back online in 2015.
 
The operator also plans to restart the No. 4 unit at the Genkai plant in May, after that unit passed an NRA safety assessment in January 2017.
 
Nuclear reactor in southwestern Japan back online after 7-yr hiatus