Japan restarts another reactor

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TOKYO: A Japanese utility Wednesday switched on a nuclear reactor, the latest to come back in service despite deep public opposition in the aftermath of the Fukushima crisis.

Japan shut down all of its dozens of reactors after a powerful earthquake in March 2011 spawned a huge tsunami that led to meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant, causing the world’s worst such accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

But only a handful of reactors have come back online due to public opposition and as legal cases work their way through the courts.

On Wednesday, Kansai Electric Power (KEPCO) restarted the No 4 reactor at the Takahama nuclear plant after a court in March cleared the move.

The latest restart at the plant in Fukui prefecture, some 350 kilometers (215 miles) west of Tokyo, came after court battles that lasted more than a year during which a district court near Fukui ordered KEPCO to suspend operations.

The Fukui government, where the nuclear industry is a major employer, approved the reactor’s restart but concerned residents in neighboring Shiga prefecture asked their local court to stop the move.

The region’s appeals court in Osaka finally ruled in March that KEPCO could restart two of the four reactors at Takahama.

Shigeki Iwane, KEPCO president, announced the restart in a statement.

“We will… carefully continue our work with discipline and regard safety as the priority,” he said.

Shiga governor Taizo Mikazuki voiced frustration and urged the national government to reduce its reliance on nuclear power, saying his prefecture would be greatly impacted in the event of an accident.

He said the environment was not right for a restart.

“Local residents hold profound anxiety about nuclear plants,” he said in a written statement.

“The government should change the current energy policy that relies on nuclear plants at the earliest possible time,” he said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has steadily promoted nuclear energy, calling it essential to powering the world’s third-largest economy.

https://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/World/2017/May-17/406167-japan-restarts-another-reactor.ashx

Mayors near Hamaoka nuclear plant say wider consensus needed for reactor restarts

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The Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant, idled for five years and now guarded by a 22-meter-tall tsunami wall, is seen on May 12, 2016. Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, is seen in the background.

Seven heads of 11 Shizuoka Prefecture municipalities located within a 30-kilometer radius of Chubu Electric Power Co.’s Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant said in a recent Mainichi Shimbun survey that they believe restarting the currently idled nuclear reactors requires agreement from not only the host prefecture and host city but also other municipalities around the plant.

As May 14 marks the sixth year after the Hamaoka nuclear plant suspended operations upon a request from the then government of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the Mainichi Shimbun surveyed the Shizuoka Prefecture governor and mayors of 11 prefectural municipalities in the “Urgent Protective Action Planning Zone” (UPZ) around the plant. UPZs cover areas within a radius of 30 kilometers of a nuclear plant.

While no legal framework has been set up regarding the scope of municipal consensus necessary to restart operations at a nuclear station, requests have been growing for a broader agreement among municipalities — not just the host prefecture and host municipality — in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu, who is running for re-election in the gubernatorial race scheduled for June, has argued for the need to hold a referendum over the restart of the Hamaoka plant and has expressed a positive view of involving the 11 mayors in decisions regarding the matter. Consequently, the issue could become a key point in the upcoming gubernatorial election.

The Mainichi asked Gov. Kawakatsu and 11 municipal mayors in a multiple-choice form about the scope of local consensus over the Hamaoka plant restart. Five mayors said agreement from all 11 municipalities in the UPZ was necessary, one favored gaining consensus from four municipalities located within a 10-kilometer radius of the plant and another mayor wanted agreement from all municipalities in Shizuoka Prefecture. The mayor of Omaezaki, the host city of the Hamaoka plant, said restarting the idled nuclear plant only required the city’s agreement.

Shigeki Nishihara, the mayor of Makinohara, neighboring Omaezaki, said consensus from municipalities in the UPZ was necessary. He commented that local governments (in that area) “have a responsibility to secure their residents’ safety.” Meanwhile, Yasuo Ota, the mayor of the town of Mori, who picked “agreement from all municipalities in Shizuoka Prefecture” to restart the Hamaoka plant, told the Mainichi, “It is necessary to hear broad opinions when it comes to gaining consensus over nuclear power as a national energy policy.”

While the remaining four mayors checked “other” in the survey, most of them expressed their view of involving the national government in deciding the scope of local consensus.

Gov. Kawakatsu stressed that it is not an appropriate time to make a decision over the scope of local consensus and repeated that a referendum over the issue of the Hamaoka plant is necessary from the standpoint of popular sovereignty.

No local government heads surveyed were actually in favor of restarting the Hamaoka nuclear plant, even under right conditions such as with approved safety measures. Three city mayors said they were against restarting the plant. Seven local government chiefs chose “other” in the question, while the remaining two said they “cannot judge at the moment.”

The Nuclear Regulation Authority’s screening process of the Hamaoka nuclear plant has been prolonged as the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors being screened are the same “boiling-water type” reactors as the ones at the devastated Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Furthermore, the estimated maximum ground motion at the Hamaoka nuclear station is likely to be raised because it is located directly above the hypocenter of a potential Nankai Trough megaquake.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170513/p2a/00m/0na/013000c

Mothers who fled Fukushima fallout raise voices against Genkai plant restart in Saga

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Mothers who fled to the Itoshima, Fukuoka Prefecture, to escape radiation spewed by the March 2011 core meltdowns in Fukushima Prefecture say they are concerned about the safety of the Genkai nuclear plant in neighboring Saga Prefecture.

SAGA – A group of mothers who evacuated from the Kanto region to Fukuoka Prefecture after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis is ramping up protests against efforts to restart the Genkai nuclear plant in neighboring Saga.

After meeting with Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko on Saturday, Saga Gov. Yoshinori Yamaguchi is expected to approve the restart of two reactors in the town of Genkai as early as Monday.

Earlier this month, four of the moms gathered for a meeting in Itoshima in Fukuoka and discussed plans to send the city a document and an inquiry conveying their opposition.

As they racked their brains to deliver effective expressions, the meeting lasted for around six hours until their children returned home from school.

Three of the moms moved to Itoshima after becoming worried their children would be adversely affected by exposure to the fallout spewed by the triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in Fukushima Prefecture in March 2011. The plant is run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.

I wanted to go far away for the sake of my unborn child,” said 39-year-old Fumiyo Endo, the leader of the group.

But the place she relocated to was within 30 km of the Genkai plant run by Kyushu Electric Power Co.

In March, she attended a meeting of residents to get explanations about the restart but was concerned whether safety would be ensured by sheltering indoors as instructed should an accident occur.

She also felt angry after hearing a utility official say that restarting the plant is necessary “for a stable supply of power.” She said it sounded as if the utility did not care about human lives.

But she did not decide to leave Itoshima because she wanted to keep living there, to stay close to the sea and mountains.

Another member of the group said it was important to keep resisting.

It is significant to protest against nuclear plants near the plant sites,” said photographer Nonoko Kameyama, 40.

Kameyama, a mother of three, has published a photo book of mothers hoping to bring about a society without nuclear power plants.

A day after attending the residents’ meeting, Endo and other members called the Saga Prefectural Government to urge it to reject the restart.

When asked by a prefectural official during the call what the name of their group was, they came up with an impromptu title: “Mothers Who Want to Save Children’s Lives.” Dozens of people have recently joined in response to its Facebook post.

The group has submitted petitions to Saga Gov. Yamaguchi and Itoshima Mayor Yuji Tsukigata.

Resuming operations only makes residents feel unsettled and we cannot see a bright future,” said Endo. “We want our leaders to understand such feelings.”

Yamaguchi is expected to approve the Genkai restart as early as Monday, after meeting with METI chief Seko on Saturday.

The central government has shown a strong determination to work on nuclear energy policy in a responsible manner,” Yamaguchi said Saturday, adding he wants to convey his decision “as early as possible.”

The government is pushing for reactor restarts despite the triple core meltdown at Fukushima No. 1, saying nuclear energy is Japan’s key energy source.

In January, reactor Nos. 3 and 4 at the Genkai plant passed the tougher safety requirements introduced in the wake of the Fukushima crisis. On Feb. 24, a majority of the Genkai Municipal Assembly voted in favor of restarting the plant.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/04/23/national/moms-fled-fukushima-fallout-raise-pressure-genkai-plant-restart-saga/

Tepco’s latest plan for Kawashiwazaki-Kariwa plant envisions restart in 2019

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Tokyo Electric is now aiming to restart the Kawashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture in April 2019, sources say.

The company plans to include the goal in its financial outlook under a reconstruction program, the sources said Friday.

Restarting the giant plant is considered important to Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s ability to recover from the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in March 2011.

But the prospects for rebooting the plant are dim because it is opposed by Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama.

The reconstruction plan is also expected to include Tepco’s commitment to pursuing integration with other companies in some areas.

Tepco is expected to draw up the new plan and file for government approval as early as this month.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/04/15/national/tepco-aims-restart-kawashiwazaki-kariwa-nuclear-plant-2019/#.WPHA7ogrKUk

Osaka higher court backs restart of halted Takahama reactors

The Takahama reactors site is under 3 miles from Kyoto-fu, 36 miles (58K) from the cultural heritage sites in the ancient capital of Kyoto and closer to the region’s supply of fresh water, Lake Biwa.

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Takahama reactors may soon restart after court overturns injunction

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Plaintiffs hold banners in front of the Osaka High Court on Tuesday expressing disappointment after the court ruled in favor Kansai Electric over the restart of two Takahama reactors.

 

OSAKA – The Osaka High Court overturned Tuesday an injunction issued against the restart of Kansai Electric Power Co.’s No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at its Takahama facility in Fukui Prefecture, paving the way for them to be switched back on.

The landmark injunction issued by the Otsu District Court in Shiga Prefecture in March last year cited safety concerns for preventing the reactors from restarting even though they were judged to have met new safety regulations set after the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear crisis.

While the injunction had been a temporary victory for the plaintiffs in Shiga, some had predicted the Osaka High Court would adhere to a more narrow technical view of nuclear safety.

In his ruling, Judge Ikuo Yamashita said the plaintiffs had the responsibility to prove allegations of any specific dangers that would result in restarting the plant, which the judge ruled they had not.

Part of the plaintiffs’ claim relied on the alleged inadequacy of current evacuation plans in the event of an accident. Therefore, starting up the Takahama reactors, located about 60 km from the city of Kyoto, posed a significant risk, they argued.

Yamashita ruled that measures were being taken in Fukui and that official attitudes and efforts had been proactive, so he could not accept the plaintiffs’ claims.

Kepco showed proof that they drew up emergency response measures based on the largest scale earthquake and tsunami,” the judge ruled. “The judge’s decision is extremely regrettable,”It’s clear with the decision that no progress has been made in terms of learning the lessons of March 11, 2011,” Kenichi Ido, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said after the verdict was announced. “The attitude of the courts hasn’t changed at all since the Fukushima accident. In particular, the evacuation plans aren’t really being taken into consideration by the courts.”

Yoshinori Tsuji, one of the chief plaintiffs, said: “In America and South Korea, the courts are defying the presidents of both countries. But in Japan, the courts — which were ignoring the wishes of the people to stop nuclear power before March 11, 2011 — fail to reflect on what happened then. The courts follow the wishes of the nuclear power lobby and the government.”

Kansai electric officials welcomed the decision, saying at a Tuesday afternoon press conference in Osaka the utility would move towards preparing to restart, although they did not say when the reactors were expected to go back online.

With safety as the top priority, the period for restarts is not yet set,” Kepco president Shigeki Iwane said. He added that once the restarts took place, the firm would move to reduce electricity prices.

In Kansai region, reaction to the court’s verdict was mixed. Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa, a strong supporter of nuclear power, was relieved with the decision, saying it was a return to a reasonable and correct decision by the court system.

But in neighboring Shiga prefecture, Gov. Taizo Mikazuki said that, given more immediate concerns Japan’s nuclear power industry faces, including spent fuel storage and decommissioning of old reactors, it was the wrong environment to approve reactor restarts. Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada emphasized that the utmost had to be done to ensure safety.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/28/national/takahama-reactors-may-soon-restart-court-overturns-injunction/

 

Higher court backs restart of halted Takahama reactors

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The No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Takahama Nuclear Power Plant, from left to right, are pictured in this photo taken from a Mainichi helicopter in Takahama, Fukui Prefecture, on June 15, 2016.

OSAKA (Kyodo) — A Japanese high court on Tuesday revoked a lower court order to halt two nuclear reactors at the Takahama plant in central Japan, accepting an appeal by Kansai Electric Power Co. against the first injunction ever issued in the country to shut operating reactors.

But it is unlikely that the operation of other nuclear reactors in Japan will be resumed soon due to pending legal matters, analysts say.

The decision, made by the Osaka High Court, legally allows Kansai Electric to resume operating the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at the nuclear power plant on the Sea of Japan coast in Fukui Prefecture. The two reactors have been idled for around a year.

The higher court said that quake-resistance standards were not overestimated under tougher regulations set following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and that necessary measures have been taken to prevent significant damage of the reactor core.

The latest decision bodes well for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, which has been promoting the restart of nuclear reactors in a bid to bolster the economy by cutting the cost of fossil fuels and exporting nuclear technology abroad.

Yoshihide Suga, the government’s top spokesman, said at a press conference in Tokyo, “We want Kansai Electric to put top priority on safety and make every effort to obtain understanding from the local government and others involved.”

Kansai Electric President Shigeki Iwane said at a news conference in Osaka that his company has yet to decide when to restart the operation of Takahama’s Nos. 3 and 4 reactors, pledging to “make safety our top priority.”

Iwane also expressed eagerness to push down electric charges as soon as possible after the resumption of the two reactors.

A group of residents in neighboring Shiga Prefecture who won the landmark injunction from the Otsu District Court in March last year are expected to consider countermeasures, including filing a special appeal with the Supreme Court.

Amid widespread concern about the safety of nuclear power following the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns, the residents in Shiga filed a request with the district court in January 2015, seeking an order halting the two reactors at the plant.

On March 9, 2016, the district court ordered operation of the two nuclear reactors to be halted, casting doubts about the utility’s safety measures and Japan’s post-Fukushima nuclear regulations set by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

Last July, Kansai Electric filed an appeal against a district court decision rejecting its request to suspend the injunction order.

In Tuesday’s decision, the Osaka High Court determined that the post-Fukushima safety measures were “not unreasonable” because they were devised on the basis of the “latest scientific and technical knowledge” that reflects lessons learned from the nuclear disaster.

The utility has criticized the injunction, claiming it was not an objective judgment based on scientific knowledge. It also says the injunction is costing the utility 200 million to 300 million yen ($1.8 million to $2.7 million) more per day to generate power from other fuel.

Kansai Electric removed nuclear fuel from the Takahama reactors between August and September last year given the prolonged court battle.

As of Tuesday, only three of Japan’s 42 commercial reactors nationwide are now operating — the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors at Kyushu Electric’s Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan, and the No. 3 reactor at Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture, western Japan, according to the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy.

On Thursday, the Hiroshima District Court is set to rule on an appeal filed to halt the operation of the No.3 reactor at the Ikata power plant, the first ruling since it resumed operations in August last year.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170328/p2g/00m/0dm/063000c

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The Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at the Takahama nuclear power plant

Japan court rules in favor of restart of Kansai Elec’s Takahama reactors

A Japanese high court on Tuesday overturned a lower court’s order to shut two reactors operated by Kansai Electric Power, a company spokesman said, potentially ending a drawn-out legal battle and helping the utility to cut fuel costs.

The decision, while positive for Kansai Electric, is not likely to speed the broader process of getting reactors back online nationally after the Fukushima nuclear disaster of six years ago, said a former advisor to the government and others.

“The future of nuclear power is still uncertain. The decision does not mean that the courts will give a ‘yes’ to other legal cases. Political uncertainty remains strong, too,” said Tatsujiro Suzuki, a former vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, a government body.

The Osaka High Court overturned the first court-ordered shutdown of an operating nuclear plant in Japan. The lower court had decided last year in favor of residents living near the Takahama atomic station west of Tokyo after they had petitioned for the reactors at the plant to be shut.

Kansai Electric, Japan’s most nuclear-reliant utility before the disaster, estimates it will save 7 billion yen ($63 million) per month in fuel once it restarts both reactors.

The restart schedule for the reactors, however, is still uncertain because the utility has been conducting safety checks requested by local authorities after a large crane toppled onto another reactor building at the site due to strong winds in January, a Kansai Electric spokesman said earlier.

There are four reactors at the Takahama plant, with the earlier court order covering the two newest ones.

The company released a profit forecast after the verdict on Tuesday saying it estimates net income of 133 billion yen ($1.2 billion) in the year through March 31, 2017.

The Kansai case was one of many going through the courts after the Japanese public turned away from nuclear power following the Fukushima meltdowns of 2011, the world’s worst nuclear calamity since Chernobyl in 1986.

Just three out of Japan’s 42 operable reactors are running and the pace of restarts has been protracted despite strong support from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, which is keen to restore a power source that provided about a third of electricity supply before the Fukushima disaster.

Residents have lodged injunctions against nuclear plants across Japan and lower courts have been increasingly siding with them on safety concerns.

Contentious verdicts are usually overturned by higher courts, where judges tend to be more attuned to government policy, judicial experts say.

“We are going to win some and we are going to lose some, but the political and social situation is such that unstable prospects for restarts are here to stay,” Aileen Mioko Smith, an advisor to the plaintiffs and a co-plaintiff in other lawsuits, told Reuters by phone from Osaka.

There are more than 30 cases going through Japan’s courts in which communities are seeking to stop reactors from operating, she said.

Kansai Electric shares had ended trading before the court decision was released. They closed 0.3 percent higher on Tuesday at 1,283 yen, while the broader market rose more than 1 percent.

http://www.reuters.com/article/uk-japan-nuclear-court-idUSKBN16Z0IP

Niigata governor candidates must debate nuclear safety in earnest

Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant is the largest nuclear plant in the world, owned by Tepco, Tepco will do anything to get it restarted.

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Official campaigning for the upcoming Niigata gubernatorial election started on Sept. 29, setting the stage for debate on the safety of a nuclear power plant in the prefecture.

The issue of the safety of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant has gained even more traction as Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida, who has been cautious about approving Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s plan to restart the idled plant, has announced he will not seek re-election.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety inspections of the offline reactors, which the electric utility is seeking to bring back online, are in their final stages.

The election inevitably revolves around whether the new governor should allow TEPCO to proceed with the plan if the NRA gives the green light.

Four independent rookie candidates are running for the poll. But the race is effectively shaping up as a one-on-one battle between Tamio Mori, the former mayor of the city of Nagaoka in the prefecture supported by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, Komeito, and Ryuichi Yoneyama, a doctor backed by the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party and the People’s Life Party & Taro Yamamoto and Friends.

Some 460,000 people live within 30 kilometers of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant. The candidates should announce their proposals to protect the safety of these residents during campaigning for the Oct. 16 election.

Plans to ensure the safe and smooth evacuations of residents living around nuclear power plants when a serious accident occurs are described as the last safety net for nuclear power plants.

The governors of prefectures where nuclear plants are located, as the chiefs of the local governments, have to take on a huge responsibility for the safety of local residents.

Izumida has insisted that he wouldn’t start discussions on any plan to restart a reactor in his prefecture unless the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, also operated by TEPCO, is fully reviewed and explained.

He has undertaken his own investigation of the catastrophic accident by setting up an expert committee within the prefectural government.

Izumida has also criticized the fact that the new nuclear safety standards introduced after the 2011 accident don’t require plans for evacuating local residents. He has been calling on the central government to improve the standards.

In 2002, it was revealed that TEPCO had covered up damage at its nuclear power plants including the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant. The magnitude-6.8 Niigata Chuetsu-oki offshore earthquake, which rocked Niigata Prefecture in July 2007, triggered a fire and resulted in small leaks of radiation at the plant.

Many people in the prefecture along the Sea of Japan remain deeply concerned about the safety of the nuclear plant and distrustful of TEPCO.

Izumida has responded to the concerns by raising issues about nuclear safety.

In the gubernatorial race, Yoneyama has cast himself as the candidate to carry on Izumida’s legacy.

I will take over the (nuclear power) policy of Izumida and won’t start discussions on any reactor restart unless the Fukushima disaster is fully reviewed and explained,” he has said.

Mori, who has been critical of Izumida’s political approach, has taken a different stance toward the issue.

I will put the top priority on the safety of people in the prefecture and rigorously examine the conclusion the NRA reaches (in its safety inspection),” he has said.

The difference in position on the issue between the two candidates is likely to be a key factor for Niigata voters at the polls.

The governors of prefectures hosting nuclear power plants have the “right to consent” to a plan to restart a reactor. But this is only a conventional right based on safety agreements with the electric utilities involved and has no legal basis.

When new Kagoshima Governor Satoshi Mitazono, who took office in July, asked Kyushu Electric Power Co. to suspend the operation of its Sendai nuclear power plant in the prefecture, he was criticized for undermining the central government’s energy policy.

But the criticism is off the mark. When a nuclear accident occurs, the local communities around the plant suffer the most.

To allay anxiety among residents in areas around nuclear plants, the local governments concerned, through negotiations with the operators of the plants, have established systems and rights that allow them to become involved in safety efforts.

The Fukushima disaster has only increased anxiety among residents around nuclear power plants.

The chief of the local government in an area home to a nuclear plant has every right to refuse to entrust the safety of local residents entirely to the utility and the central government.

Niigata Prefecture is not an area where TEPCO supplies power, but it has been bearing the risks involved in the operation of a massive nuclear power plant that generates electricity for the Tokyo metropolitan area.

The gubernatorial election will be a choice that directly affects the central government’s energy policy.

We are eager to see the candidates engaged in meaningful debate on the safety of the nuclear plant based on a national perspective.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201610030020.html

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