Restarting Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant would be a huge mistake

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The Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant in Tokai village, Ibaraki Prefecture, which is operated by Japan Atomic Power Co.
July 5, 2018
The Nuclear Regulation Authority has concluded that the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant in Ibaraki Prefecture, operated by Japan Atomic Power Co., meets improved safety standards for a restart.
The watchdog body’s decision effectively paves the way for bringing the idled facility back online.
But a slew of questions and concerns cast serious doubt on the wisdom of restarting this aging nuclear plant located at the northern tip of the Tokyo metropolitan area, given that it is approaching the end of its 40-year operational lifespan.
There is a compelling case against bringing the plant back on stream unless these concerns are properly addressed.
The first major question is how the project can be squared with the rules for reducing the risk of accidents at aging nuclear facilities.
The 40-year lifespan for nuclear reactors is an important rule to reduce the risk of accidents involving aging reactors that was introduced in the aftermath of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011.
Although a reactor’s operational life can be extended by up to 20 years if approved by the NRA, the government, at the time of the revision to the law, said it would be granted only in exceptional cases.
Despite this caveat, Kansai Electric Power Co.’s applications for extensions for its three aging reactors all got the green light.
The NRA has yet to approve the requested extension of the Tokai No. 2 plant’s operational life. But it is obvious that the nuclear watchdog’s approval will cause further erosion of the rule. It will also undermine the regulatory regime to limit the lifespan of nuclear facilities per se.
Local communities have also raised objections to restarting the Tokai No. 2 plant. Some 960,000 people live within 30 kilometers of the plant, more than in any other 30-km emergency planning zone.
The local governments within the zone are struggling to develop legally required emergency evacuation plans to prepare for major accidents.
This spring, an agreement was reached between Japan Atomic Power and five municipalities around the plant, including Mito, that commits the operator to seek approval from local authorities within the 30-km zone before restarting the plant.
Winning support from the local communities for the plant reactivation plan is undoubtedly a colossal challenge, given strong anxiety about the facility’s safety among local residents. The gloomy situation was brought home by the Mito municipal assembly’s adoption of a written opinion opposing the plan.
But Japan Atomic Power is determined to carry through the plan as its survival depends on the plant continuing operation.
The company was set up simply to produce and sell electricity by using atomic energy. Its nuclear reactors are all currently offline, which has placed the entity in serious financial difficulty.
Since the company is unable to raise on its own funds to implement the necessary safety measures at the Tokai No. 2 plant, which are estimated to exceed 170 billion yen ($1.54 billion), Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and Tohoku Electric Power Co., which are both shareholders and customers of the company, will provide financial support.
But TEPCO has been put under effective state control to deal with the costly consequences of the Fukushima disaster.
It is highly doubtful that the utility, which is kept alive with massive tax-financed support, is qualified to take over the financial risk of the business of another company in trouble.
TEPCO claims the Tokai No. 2 plant is promising as a source of low-cost and stable power supply, although it has not offered convincing grounds for the claim.
Some members of the NRA have voiced skepticism about this view.
TEPCO and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which supervises the power industry, have a responsibility to offer specific and detailed explanations about related issues to win broad public support for the plan to reactivate the Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant.
A hard look at the grim situation surrounding the plant leaves little doubt that restarting it does not make sense.
Japan Atomic Power and the major electric utilities that own it should undertake a fundamental review of the management of the nuclear power company without delaying efforts to tackle the problems besetting the operator of the Tokai No. 2 plant.
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Old Nuclear Plant Tokai Ok to restart

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The Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tokai No. 2 Nuclear Power Station, front, and the Tokai Power Station, right back, which is currently being decommissioned, are seen from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter

Nuclear watchdog OKs restart of aging nuclear plant hit by tsunami

July 4, 2018
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japan’s nuclear watchdog on Wednesday gave the green light to the restart of an aging nuclear power plant northeast of Tokyo, idled since it was hit by the tsunami that caused meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
The Tokai No. 2 plant is the first nuclear plant affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster to have cleared screening by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, part of the steps required before it can actually resume operations.
The plant, located in the village of Tokai in Ibaraki Prefecture, suffered an emergency automatic shutdown of its reactor and was cut off from its external power source following the quake.
After being hit by a 5.4-meter tsunami, one of its three emergency power generators was incapacitated. But the other two remained intact and allowed the reactor to cool down three and a half days after the disaster.
Despite the approval by the NRA, the Tokai plant still needs to clear two more screenings by regulators by November, when it will turn 40 years old, otherwise it could face the prospect of decommissioning.
Tougher safety rules introduced in the post-Fukushima years prohibit in principle the operation of nuclear reactors beyond 40 years. But extending a unit’s life for an additional 20 years is possible if operators make safety upgrades and pass regulators’ screening.
Actual plant operation is unlikely before March 2021 when construction to bolster safety measures is scheduled to be completed. The restart plan also needs to be approved by local municipalities.
The Tokai No. 2 plant, operated by Japan Atomic Power Co., uses a boiling water reactor, the same type as those used at the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi plant, which saw core meltdowns and spewed a massive amount of radioactive materials into the atmosphere in the 2011 disaster.
It is the eighth plant approved of a restart under the stricter safety rules introduced after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis and the second with a boiling water reactor following the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.
The plant’s evacuation plan — which covers 960,000 residents, the largest number of potential evacuees for a nuclear plant in Japan due to its location in a metropolitan area — has yet to be compiled.
The operator filed for a safety screening to restart the plant in May 2014. It predicts a potential tsunami as high as 17.1 meter and expects some 180 billion yen ($1.63 billion) is needed to construct coastal levees and beef up power sources among other safety measures.
Japan Atomic Power solely engages in the nuclear energy business but none of its reactors has been online since the 2011 quake. Given its financial problems, the NRA has asked it to show how it will finance the safety measures and Tokyo Electric Power and Tohoku Electric Power Co. have offered to financially support the company.
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Ibaraki citizens demonstrate against the restart of the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant outside the Nuclear Regulation Authority headquarters in Tokyo’s Minato Ward on Wednesday.

Nuclear watchdog OKs restart of aging tsunami-hit Tokai nuclear plant

Jul 4, 2018
Ibaraki unit needs to clear two more screenings by November, when it will turn 40
The Nuclear Regulation Authority on Wednesday gave the green light to the restart of an aging nuclear power plant northeast of Tokyo, idled since it was hit by the tsunami that caused meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
The Tokai No. 2 plant is the first nuclear plant affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster to have cleared screening by the nuclear watchdog. Other steps are still required before it can resume operations.
Due to the quake, the plant in the Ibaraki Prefecture village of Tokai suffered an emergency automatic shutdown of its reactor and was cut off from its external power source.
After then being hit by a 5.4-meter tsunami, one of its three emergency power generators was incapacitated. But the other two remained intact and allowed the reactor to cool down 3½ days after the disaster.
Despite the approval by the NRA, the plant still needs to clear two more screenings by regulators by November, when it will turn 40 years old. If it fails, it could face the prospect of decommissioning.
Following the decision, Ibaraki Gov. Kazuhiko Oigawa told reporters he intends to “closely monitor the remaining screenings” and called on the NRA “to conduct strict examinations.”
Tougher safety rules introduced after the Fukushima disaster in principle prohibit the operation of nuclear reactors beyond 40 years. But extending a unit’s life for an additional 20 years is possible if operators make safety upgrades and it passes screenings.
Actual operation is unlikely before March 2021, when construction to bolster safety measures is scheduled to be completed. The restart plan also needs to be approved by local municipalities.
On Wednesday morning, a group of about 10 citizens protested the restart outside the NRA’s offices in Tokyo’s Minato Ward.
Mika Tsubata, a 47-year-old resident of Tokai who observed the NRA meeting, blasted the decision. “The Tokai No. 2 plant is old and was damaged in the 2011 disaster,” she said. “It’s evident to everyone that (the restart) is highly risky — I don’t think the NRA made the appropriate decision.”
But Eiji Sato, the 69-year-old chair of the village’s chamber of commerce, said the plant’s resumption is key to Tokai’s future. “The village has thrived on nuclear power generation,” he said.
The Tokai No. 2 plant, operated by Japan Atomic Power Co., uses a boiling-water reactor, the same type as those used at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, which suffered core meltdowns and spewed a massive amount of radioactive material into the atmosphere in 2011.
It is the eighth plant to get approval for a restart under the stricter safety rules and the second with a boiling-water reactor, following the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.
The plant’s evacuation plan — which covers 960,000 residents, the largest number of potential evacuees for a nuclear plant in Japan due to its location near a metropolitan area — has yet to be compiled.
“Because of the large number of residents around the plant, compiling effective anti-disaster measures and an evacuation plan in a wide area is a huge challenge,” Oigawa said.
The operator filed for a safety screening to restart the plant in May 2014. It predicts a potential tsunami as high as 17.1 meters and expects ¥180 billion ($1.63 billion) will be needed to construct coastal levees and beef up power sources, among other safety measures.
Although Japan Atomic Power’s sole business is nuclear energy, none of its reactors has been online since the 2011 quake. Given its financial problems, the NRA has asked the utility to show how it will finance the safety measures. Tepco and Tohoku Electric Power Co., which had been receiving electricity from the plant when it was in operation, have offered to financially support the company.
The NRA decided at the meeting to seek industry minister Hiroshige Seko’s views on whether Tepco’s financial contribution could affect the costs of scrapping the Fukushima No. 1 plant and enhancing safety at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

Ibaraki nuclear plant used erroneous fuel rod data for over 40 years, utility says

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The Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant in Ibaraki Prefecture is seen in March 2017.
For more than 40 years, Japan Atomic Power Co. used erroneous data regarding the location of nuclear fuel rods within the reactor at its Tokai No. 2 power plant in Ibaraki Prefecture, the company has said.
The information — which is used to plan for severe accidents — is necessary for regulatory safety screenings before the reactor’s restart can be approved.
Japan Atomic Power said Monday it will examine whether the data mishap has affected safety screenings.
The company said the data in question pertains to the distance between the top of the fuel rods and the bottom of the reactor. The distance was initially set to be 9,152 millimeters, but it was changed to 9,203 millimeters due to a change to fuel rod specifications during the design and construction process.
But the original figures were used since 1974. The problem was discovered on Jan. 11 by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, a government watchdog.
The plant, which started operations in November 1978, reached the standard operating life of 40 years this year.
Japan Atomic Power has filed for a 20-year extension. The plant must clear safety screening by November to be approved by the NRA for an extension.

NRA blasts Tokai nuclear facility ahead of dismantling plan

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The Tokai spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Tokai, a village in Ibaraki Prefecture

TOKAI, Ibaraki Prefecture–Drums of nuclear waste are stacked in disarray within a storage pool containing unidentified floating objects. Wires in the pool are feared entangled, and containers are believed corroded, possibly leaking radioactive substances. And highly toxic liquid waste remains untreated in a potentially explosive state.

After years of apparent mismanagement, the Tokai spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant is a jumbled mess, as the operator, Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), prepares for the Herculean task of shutting down the facility.

The circumstances at the plant in this village northeast of Tokyo has raised concerns about the JAEA’s ability to dismantle it.

A situation far from appropriate has been allowed to continue at the plant,” said an official of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, the nation’s nuclear watchdog. “Not only the JAEA, but also the former Science and Technology Agency and the former Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, have all looked the other way despite their knowledge of the situation.”

According to a JAEA report submitted to the NRA on Nov. 30, it will take 70 years to complete the dismantling process, with costs estimated at 217 billion yen ($1.92 billion) for the first decade alone.

A recent visit to the plant by Asahi Shimbun reporters revealed drums containing radioactive waste stacked in a disorderly manner in a storage pool.

JAEA officials showed pictures of the pool and explained that it contains about 800 drums piled about 7 meters high. The drums hold demolished clads from spent nuclear fuel assemblies.

The officials said that when an underwater camera was placed near the drums, it stirred up brown objects.

We have no idea if they are water scale or rust,” one of JAEA officials said.

Workers put the drums in the storage pool between 1977 and 1994 by hanging them with cables above the pool and then cutting the cables to allow them to drop in, according to the officials.

The officials said they believed the cables also fell into the pool and became entangled.

Some experts at the NRA suspect the drums are now corroded and leaking radioactive materials.

Radiation at the pool surface measured 3 millisieverts per hour, three times the safety limit for annual exposure for a person, apart from background radiation.

The pool is not equipped with purification units.

Furthermore, JAEA officials said they do not know what’s in other containers at the facility.

Workers will eventually sort them out by opening their lids, they added.

One of the most challenging tasks facing the JAEA in the dismantling work is dealing with the 400 cubic meters of high-level radioactive liquid waste at the plant.

The liquid waste, which was generated during reprocessing, emits radiation registering 1,500 sieverts per hour, which would kill a person exposed for 20 seconds.

Left intact, this waste could produce heat and hydrogen, possibly leading to hydrogen explosions.

The JAEA has put the liquid waste in six stainless tanks and kept them cool with water. A ventilation system has been used to prevent hydrogen from accumulating inside the storage facility and sparking an explosion.

Ibaraki Prefecture is located immediately south of Fukushima Prefecture.

The Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan in 2011 severed all power sources to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, leading to hydrogen explosions and the triple meltdown there.

The natural disaster also cut off electricity to the Tokai plant for more than 40 hours. But the plant rode out the contingency with emergency power generators.

The NRA is aware of risks involved in keeping the liquid waste in the current state at the Tokai plant.

In 2013, the NRA allowed the plant to resume operations to solidify the liquid waste with glass as a special case before the watchdog checked whether the plant met tougher nuclear safety regulations set after the Fukushima disaster.

Work on the solidification process resumed this year, but it has been suspended because of a series of glitches. Only one-fourth of the scheduled volume of the liquid waste has been solidified.

The reprocessing plant began full operations in 1981. It had reprocessed 1,140 tons of spent nuclear fuel before the decision was made in 2014 to close down the facility.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201612050078.html

 

5.0-magnitude quake hits eastern Japan; Tokyo checks nuclear power station

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An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.0 struck eastern Japan on Sunday(Jul 17)

TOKYO: An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.0 struck eastern Japan on Sunday(Jul 17), Japan’s Meteorological Agency and the US Geological Survey (USGS) said, rattling buildings in Tokyo.

The USGS put the epicentre of the quake 44km northwest of Tokyo at a depth of about 44km. There were no were immediate reports of damage.

Broadcaster NHK reported that the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power station, which has been shut since 2011, was checked for damage after the quake but none was found.

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/tokyo-halts-nuclear-power/2963558.html