Australian news, and some related international items

IAEA Begins Analysis of Fukushima Water

IAEA Begins Analysis of Fukushima Water to Verify Japan’s Claim

September 17, 2022

The International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) has begun conducting an independent analysis and data corroboration related to the discharge of treated water from the Fukushima nuclear power station in Japan in a bid to validate data reported by the country.

In a Friday statement, the IAEA said the activities are one component of a three-pronged safety review being conducted by its task force, comprising eleven international experts, as well as its own staff.

The agency said the other two components are a technical assessment of public safety and protection and a review of regulatory activities and processes, both of which are ongoing and expected to culminate with a comprehensive report next year, prior to the discharge of the treated water.

Japan insists the treated water is sufficiently diluted and will be released over 30 to 40 years, posing no risks to safety or the environment.

But critics are concerned as there is no precedent of having discharged such a large amount of contaminated water into the ocean over a long period of time.

IAEA conducting analysis, corroboration of Japan’s data on Fukushima wastewater

September 17, 2022

To check whether the data reported by Japan is accurate, the International Atomic Energy Agency began independent analysis and corroboration work on the discharge of treated wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
Along with a technical assessment of public safety and a review of regulatory activities, the process is expected to lead to a comprehensive report in 2023, prior to the discharge.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company is responsible for determining if the water can be released into the sea after its removal of 62 radio-nuclides.
The IAEA’s corroboration work will continue even after the discharge as part of Director General Rafael Grossi’s commitment to remain involved before, during, and after the release.

September 19, 2022 Posted by | Fukushima, Fukushima 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Total submersion of Fukushima nuclear reactor building mulled

A document released by the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. carries schematic diagrams of the total submersion method and other proposals.

September 15, 2022

IWAKI, Fukushima Prefecture–A government-authorized corporation said it is considering submerging the No. 3 reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to retrieve melted nuclear fuel debris from the reactor.

The Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. (NDF) said Sept. 3 that the entire reactor building would be enveloped in a steel structure before being engulfed in water, according to the proposal.

“No radioactive materials would be swirling up underwater, so there would be almost zero impact on the outside,” NDF President Hajimu Yamana said.

High radiation levels in the reactor building deny safe human access.

The total submersion method, which has no precedent, would help reduce workers’ exposure to radiation as water provides an effective shield against it.

NDF officials said they will study other methods as well before proceeding to narrow down feasible options.

The NDF proposal for submerging the entire reactor building was presented at a government meeting held in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture.

Yamana said the NDF will study the feasibility of the work being proposed and consider the alternative option of retrieving fuel debris from the top or the side of the containment vessel without filling the vessel with water.

“I cannot say anything for sure yet (about the feasibility of the total submersion method),” Yamana told The Asahi Shimbun following the meeting. “We are still in the very, very early stages of concept study. There are still a lot of things to study as the attempt would be the first of its kind in the world.”

A separate option of filling with water the containment vessel housed in the reactor building was previously considered for the fuel debris retrieval process, but the proposal was shelved after it was found it would be difficult to fill the holes in the containment vessel.

An estimated total of 880 tons of fuel debris is left inside the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. Finding a way to retrieve the debris represents the biggest hurdle to decommissioning the hobbled plant.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. initially had plans to begin retrieving fuel debris from the No. 2 reactor on a trial basis before the end of last year.

The utility, however, has put off the prospective start date to the second half of fiscal 2023 due partly to delays in equipment development.

September 19, 2022 Posted by | Fukushima, Fukushima 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO’s response again…Waste storage facilities are about to run out of space, and contaminated water treatment at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is feared to be delayed

TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March, from the “Oozuru” helicopter at the head office.

September 13, 2022

◆Sweet prediction led to crisis
 This forecast is unreliable. If we make a slight mistake, we will go bankrupt,” said Nobuhiko Ban, a member of the regulatory commission. At a meeting of the regulatory commission, Nobuhiko Ban, a member of the commission, harshly criticized TEPCO’s lenient forecast.
 The committee discussed the “HIC,” a container for muddy waste generated by the Advanced Landfill Process (ALPS), which removes radioactive materials other than tritium. In response to TEPCO’s forecast of the amount of waste to be generated, the Regulatory Commission asked for the construction of a new storage facility in anticipation of a case in which the amount of waste generated does not proceed as expected.

 The HIC is a high-performance cylindrical polyethylene container with a diameter of 1.5 meters, a height of 1.8 meters, and a thickness of approximately 1 centimeter. It is used to store muddy waste generated as a byproduct of the purification process using the Advanced Landfill Process (ALPS), which removes radioactive materials other than tritium. The waste is stored in a concrete box in an outdoor storage area on the south side of the site. The storage capacity is for 4,192 units, and as of August 4 of this year, 4,027 units had been placed there. When the yard is full, ALPS will not be able to operate.

TEPCO’s failure to prepare for such a contingency is a major reason for this predicament.
 The HIC contains highly radioactive sludge, which poses an extremely high risk in the event of a leak. Therefore, TEPCO considered equipment to dehydrate the sludge and turn it into a solid substance. The dehydrated solids will be stored in metal boxes in a separate warehouse, and the HIC will be disposed of by incineration or other means. If everything goes according to plan, the amount of HIC will continue to decrease after FY2022, when the facility will be in operation, and the capacity of the storage facility should not be a problem.
 TEPCO has so far continued to deny that it would be able to handle the additional storage space, saying that it would be possible to do so once the facility started operation in FY2010.
 However, at a regulatory committee meeting last June, it was pointed out that measures to prevent exposure to radiation at the facility were inadequate, and subsequent discussions led to a review of the design. The plan was delayed more than two years from the original schedule.
◆Life Exceeded and Damage May Occur
 What was also unforeseen was the service life of the HIC. TEPCO initially thought that the HIC would exceed its service life after 25 years, but the Regulatory Commission pointed out that this assumption was too optimistic. It was discovered that as many as 79 HICs may exceed their service life and be damaged by the end of FY2010, taking into account the effects of the high density of sludge that had accumulated at the bottom of the HICs.
 In February of this year, TEPCO began transferring the sludge in the HICs that had exceeded their service life to new HICs. As a result, the number of HICs is expected to increase by another 45 in FY2010, in addition to the amount generated by the treatment work. The extra amount, equivalent to about three months’ worth of sludge, is the result of underestimating the service life of the HICs.

◆Repeated backpedaling
 Even after these contingencies occurred, TEPCO did not immediately move to secure storage capacity. Only now is it finally considering changes to the ALPS operation method and the construction of a new storage facility, in an attempt to avert a critical situation.
 At the beginning of the accident, TEPCO underestimated that the generation of contaminated water could be stopped immediately and hastily built bolted tanks with low durability. Contaminated water continued to flow, causing frequent accidents involving leaks from the tanks. The same old “last-minute” response to the situation is about to be repeated again.

September 19, 2022 Posted by | Fukushima, Fukushima 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Contaminated water treatment at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant may stall next spring Sloppy waste management, tight storage space

September 11, 2022
TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (Okuma-cho and Futaba-cho, Fukushima Prefecture) may be unable to operate its waste treatment facilities next April when its storage facilities fill up with waste generated during the purification process of contaminated water. While TEPCO is preparing to discharge the treated water into the ocean, it has been sloppy in its waste management. The contaminated water treatment could be delayed. (Kenta Onozawa)
 The storage space may become tight because of the muddy waste generated by the ALPS (Advanced Land Disposal System), which removes radioactive materials other than tritium. The waste is stored in containers called “HICs” at a yard on the south side of the site. The plan is to dilute the water after treatment with a large amount of seawater and discharge it into the ocean.
 As of August, the HIC yard was 96% full. TEPCO estimates that it will be full by the end of April next year if operations continue at the current level.
 If the storage space runs out, ALPS will no longer be able to operate, and water that has been reduced in radioactive cesium and strontium by the decontamination facility prior to ALPS treatment will continue to accumulate. This insufficiently purified water is stored in a separate group of tanks from the treated water, which is subject to discharge into the ocean. The risk of leakage is much higher than that of treated water.
 TEPCO plans to renovate the HIC yard to create additional storage space for about one year, aiming to start operation at about the same time the yard fills up. However, the renovation work was originally supposed to be completed in March of this year. The process has been delayed due to a review of the seismic design and other factors, and it is uncertain whether the project will continue to proceed as TEPCO had envisioned.
 TEPCO initially planned to start operation of a facility capable of disposing of the HIC by the end of this fiscal year. It did not construct a new yard, anticipating that the number of HICs would decrease after the facility went into operation. However, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) pointed out design flaws, delaying the scheduled operation by more than two years. Lack of contingency plans led to fears of a crunch.
 A spokesperson for TEPCO explained to an interview, “We have some prospect of measures to control the occurrence of HICs, and we do not think we will run out of storage capacity, but we will consider adding a storage facility in case of a tight situation.

HIC HIC is an abbreviation for high-performance container. It is a cylindrical polyethylene container 1.5 meters in diameter, 1.8 meters high, and approximately 1 centimeter thick. It is used to store muddy waste generated during the purification process in the Advanced Lockheed Martin (ALPS). The waste is stored in a concrete box in an outdoor storage area on the south side of the site. The storage capacity is for 4,192 units, and as of August 4 of this year, 4,027 units had been placed there.

September 12, 2022 Posted by | Fukushima, Fukushima 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

The Ghosts Of Fukushima & Japan’s Nuclear Turnaround

TOKYO, JAPAN – JULY 14: Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks during a press conference at the prime minister’s office on July 14, 2022 in Tokyo, Japan. Kishida announces the countermeasures of recently surging COVID-19 cases, resumption of nuclear power plants to deal with energy crisis and state funeral of assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Sep 7, 2022,

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s announcement that Japan was going to revive nuclear power and invest in it as a solution to Japan’s energy woes, came as a 180 degree policy reversal after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident. Kishida and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are investing a lot of political capital and their long-term industrial policy commitment in nuclear energy.

With Japan facing summer blackouts, and Russian gas supply in question after Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine politicizing natural gas exports, the Japanese government announced it was approving 33 nuclear projects for operation. 10 nuclear plants have already been restarted, with 7 more planned for Spring 2023 revival. These plants are spread in the Fukui, Miyagi, Shimane, Niigata, and Ibaraki prefectures and some are still pending local and safety approval. In addition, the Kishida administration is looking into increasing the lifespan of nuclear plants from 40 to 60 years. Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings which accounts for 24.8% of Japan’s existing nuclear capacity is aiming to restart 2 of the 7 reactors for 2023 in Kashiwazaki-Kariwa.

The Japanese private sector, energy markets, and economy are ecstatic at the news. Japan’s three nuclear power plant general contractors: Toshiba, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and Hitachi have been developing nuclear technology including next-generation projects, small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs), and nuclear reactor parts. Fusion energy is also on the horizon but not ready for commercial exploitation.

Other companies running and producing parts for nuclear plants include IHI Corporation, Kansai Electric Power, and Chubu Electric Power. Following the announcement of nuclear plant revivals, the share values of nuclear companies in Japan shot up and energy prices and futures stabilized. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHVYF) has been working with state-owned Japan Nuclear Fuel on the Rokkasho plant had its shares increase by 6.9%. IHI Corporation’s shares rose by 5.4%, and Hitachi’s climbed 1.9%. For the utilities sector, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings’ (TEPCO) share values increased by 10%, Kansai Electric’s 2.9% and Chubu Electric Power’s by 1.3%.

If any country has the “right” to fear nuclear power, it would be Japan. The 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster only solidified a long-running anti-nuclear Zeitgeist in Japanese society stemming back to the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the pacifism engrained in Japan’s constitution via Article 9 which outlaws war as a means to settle international disputes. So, why, and how, has Japan embarked upon such a drastic policy U-turn when many others, such as Germany, are wavering?

One would think that amid soaring energy prices and blackouts, the news of nuclear energy revival would result in a surge of popularity for the LDP, but instead it is facing mixed responses. Only a few weeks ago the LDP felt compelled to announce they had no plans to build new reactors even as the powerful Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) was drafting technology for nuclear plants . Even though the Japanese public is increasingly aware of its energy predicament, public support for building new nuclear reactors and replacing aging units only has a 34% approval rate and a 58% opposition rate. The Kishida administration may see the effects of ignoring public opposition to nuclear in the upcoming local elections. It clearly needs a powerful public information campaign to explain why Japan needs nuclear power.

Nevertheless, Kishida and the LDP are determined to bring the public to its side before the next general elections and show the benefits of their nuclear vision. They should recognize Japan’s structural weaknesses caused by the island’s dependency on imports for industrial inputs, geographic position requiring imports of fossil fuel from thousands of miles away, dependence on the historic foe Russia, the difficulty of employing renewables in Japan. Kishida-san would need to explain that all this is making nuclear a good choice for Japan.

Protesters stage a rally against the restart of a nuclear reactor, near Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s office in Tokyo, Friday, July 6, 2012. A nuclear reactor in western Japan begun generating electricity, Thursday July 5, in the first restart since last year’s tsunami led to a nationwide nuclear power plant shutdown. The banner reads: “Against the restart of a reactor.”

Why can Japan make this embrace, against immediate public concerns, when so many other countries cannot? The most important component is long-term strategic thinking wherein political elites are willing to bear short-term political costs for future gains rather than weaponizing energy politics for partisan food fights as it is the case in Germany and elsewhere. Also vital is the public trust the Japanese Agency for Natural Resources and Energy enjoys, being under the auspices of Japan’s hallowed Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. Japanese bureaucrats are capable of generating energy policy cognizant of national security demands and private sector capabilities. Flexible zoning laws which allow for dense urban-integrated energy infrastructure is also vital as this preempts NIMBYism and land-use problems found with many other energy projects. Lastly, the non-partisan nature of energy policy in Japan, where no political party clings to a specific energy initiative, is something to emulate in Berlin and elsewhere.

If densely populated, earthquake-prone Japan can step into a nuclear future, there is no excuse for the rest of the world. U.S., Germany, and others should learn from Japan on how to exorcise our own, far less rational, nuclear demons.–japans-nuclear-turnaround/?sh=3bf1a8d15b41

September 12, 2022 Posted by | Fukushima, Fukushima 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO, which has made public the site of the undersea tunnel construction project, says that the project is proceeding smoothly without local consent for the discharge of treated water into the ocean

Workers monitor a shield machine digging an undersea tunnel at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Futaba-machi, Fukushima Prefecture.

September 6, 2022
On September 6, TEPCO opened to the media the construction site of an undersea tunnel that will be used to purify and treat contaminated water at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (Okuma and Futaba towns, Fukushima Prefecture) for discharge into the ocean. Excavation of the tunnel began on August 4 and has progressed to about 80 meters out of its total length of about 1 kilometer. The plan is to finish all the work by next spring, but it is not clear whether the tunnel will actually be able to discharge the water.

The low motor noise reverberated as we entered the narrow tunnel. The entrance to the tunnel was about 3 meters in diameter. Beyond that was a gentle descent. The interior was surrounded by white reinforced concrete walls and crowded with piping and equipment. Beyond the tunnel, a shield machine was digging into the bedrock, but we could not see it.
 No sound of digging could be heard, and it was quieter than one might imagine. The machine was digging at a rate of two centimeters per minute. When I touched the piping that carried the rock and mud that had been cut out of the machine to the outside, I felt as if hard objects were rolling around inside.
 A person in charge at the site said, “So far, work is going well.” A total of about 100 people work a day on a 24-hour shift, and digging will begin around the end of October at two to three times the current pace.
The fishermen’s union has promised that they will not dispose of the waste in any way (discharge into the ocean) without the understanding of the concerned parties. The fishermen’s union has maintained its opposition to ocean discharge and may not be able to discharge the waste even after the tunnel construction is completed. Kenichi Takahara, risk communicator for the Fukushima Daiichi Decommissioning Promotion Company, predicted, “I think the release will only happen when both the construction of safe facilities and efforts to gain understanding can be accomplished.
 According to TEPCO’s plan, the treated water, which mainly contains radioactive tritium, will be diluted with a large amount of seawater to less than 1/40th of the national emission standard and released from the seafloor at a depth of about 12 meters through a tunnel. (The water will be discharged from the seafloor at a depth of about 12 meters through a tunnel.)
TEPCO announced the start of construction of an undersea tunnel to discharge “treated water” from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Citizens’ exclamations

September 12, 2022 Posted by | Fukushima, Fukushima 2022 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Treated water is almost full, a long way from completion of discharge at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

Storage tanks for treated water on the grounds of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

Eleven and a half years have passed since the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. TEPCO plans to start discharging the treated water into the sea as early as spring 2023 after purifying the radioactive contaminated water. However, local fishermen and people overseas are deeply distrustful, and the road to completion of the discharge is far from complete.

 This summer, there was a major development regarding the treated water. On July 22, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved TEPCO’s plan to discharge treated water into the ocean.

 According to the plan, the company will first reduce the concentration of 63 radioactive materials below the national standard, except for tritium, which is technically difficult to remove. The tritium concentration will be further diluted with seawater and adjusted so that it is less than 1/40th of the standard value (1,500 becquerels per liter). The tritium will be discharged to the seafloor about 1 km offshore.

 On August 2, Fukushima Prefecture and the towns of Okuma and Futaba, which are the local governments in the area, informed TEPCO that they had given their prior consent to start construction of the discharge facility, and TEPCO began full-scale construction of the facility. A shield machine was used to excavate an undersea tunnel, and pipes were laid to transport the treated water.

 However, the construction schedule is already running behind schedule. The installation of the caisson (concrete box) for the water discharge outlet on the seafloor was scheduled for the end of August, but has been postponed until September or later due to weather and other factors. TEPCO has indicated that the discharge may be delayed until next summer.
Zero” Contaminated Water Target Revoked

 Contaminated water containing high concentrations of radioactive materials is the source of the treated water. This water is generated when reactor cooling water and groundwater come into contact with the melted-down nuclear fuel (fuel debris) in Units 1 through 3.

 The treated water is the result of removing radioactive substances other than tritium using a multinuclide removal system called ALPS (ALPS).

 TEPCO has been rapidly adding tanks to store the treated water, but as of March of this year, 95% of the tank capacity (1.29 million tons) had been reached. In order to secure the space needed for decommissioning work, it is difficult to add more tanks. At this rate, the tanks are expected to be full by the summer or fall of 2011.

 What is urgently needed is to prevent the generation of contaminated water.

 The buildings of Units 1-3 are badly damaged. Groundwater and rainwater flowing from the mountain side of the site have entered the buildings, causing contaminated water to increase.

 TEPCO has been reducing the inflow of water into the buildings by pumping up groundwater from wells around the buildings and by building a “frozen soil barrier” to enclose the buildings. 130 tons of contaminated water was generated per day in FY2009, a quarter of the amount generated in FY2003.

 However, TEPCO itself still does not know where the water is coming from. TEPCO’s initial goal of “zero generation of contaminated water” is now beyond reach, and the company has replaced it with the target of “reducing the amount of contaminated water to 100 tons per day by the year 2013.
In fact, most of the treated water is “still under treatment.

 Once the facilities are completed, will the water in the tanks be discharged into the ocean?

 Of the 1.29 million tons of water in the tanks as of March of this year, only 10,000 tons, or less than 1%, has not been treated at Alps. TEPCO has described the other water as “treated” water.

September 12, 2022 Posted by | Fukushima, Fukushima 2022 | , | 1 Comment

Work proceeds on building tunnel to discharge treated water at Fukushima N-plant

A construction worker on Tuesday handles a machine that is being used to build a tunnel at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to discharge ‘treated’ water into the ocean.

September 7, 2022

FUKUSHIMA — Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. held a press viewing of the construction site of an underwater tunnel leading to the ocean for discharging treated water from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

The treated water is to be piped to an offshore discharge site through the tunnel, which is about 1-kilometer long.

On the seaward side of reactor Nos. 5 and 6, there is a shaft about 18 meters deep that leads to a tunnel with a diameter of 3.1 meters that extends toward the sea.

The walls of the tunnel are covered with reinforced concrete to prevent leakage.

A shield machine with many pipes and cables has been used to dig about 80 meters since Aug. 4.

A worker was monitoring the excavation amid the loud sound of the motor.

“Once the tunnel is excavated to 150 meters, the pace of excavation will be several times faster from that point forward,” said a TEPCO official. “We’ll proceed with safety as our top priority.”

The excavation is proceeding smoothly, but rough seas have prevented the installation of the discharge port at the end of the tunnel, which was scheduled to be done in August.

The ocean is expected to be even rougher in the winter. The failure to install the outlet before then could delay the construction work and possibly push back the start of water discharge, which is scheduled in the spring, to around summer.


September 12, 2022 Posted by | Fukushima, Fukushima 2022 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Operator shows digging of tunnel to release treated water from Fukushima Daiichi

Sept. 6, 2022

The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has shown to media work to dig an underwater tunnel for releasing treated water from the facility into the ocean.

Tokyo Electric Power Company began building the tunnel in early August to release the water about one kilometer offshore, after diluting it.

The operator gained approval for the work from the Nuclear Regulation Authority and local authorities. The project is in line with the Japanese government’s policy.

On Tuesday, media were allowed to view the construction site, where workers used a huge excavator called a shield machine under the seabed.

The tunnel starts about 16 meters underground near a quay wall of the plant’s No.5 and 6 reactor buildings.

TEPCO officials say the tunnel is being dug at a pace of five to six meters a day, and is so far 80 meters long.

The firm aims to complete the work next spring, but has suggested it may take until next summer, depending on weather.

Local fishery workers have expressed concern about possible reputational damage from the release. Fukushima Prefecture and other local authorities say the plan has yet to gain public understanding.

Reactors at the plant suffered meltdowns in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Water used to cool molten fuel at the facility mixes with rain and groundwater. Accumulated water is treated to remove most radioactive materials and stored in tanks on the plant’s premises.

The filtered water still contains tritium. The government plans to dilute the water to bring the concentration of tritium well below the percentage permitted by national regulations.

The amount of tritium in the diluted water is also ‘expected’ to be below World Health Organization guidance levels for drinking water quality.

September 12, 2022 Posted by | Fukushima, Fukushima 2022 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Professor of Ryukoku University, angry at the Prime Minister’s reference to “new nuclear power plants.

Professor Kenichi Oshima of Ryukoku University (Courtesy of Professor Kenichi Oshima)

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has mentioned the construction of “new nuclear power plants” for the next generation, which has been kept under wraps by successive administrations since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident in 2011. This is a move in anticipation of soaring resource prices due to the crisis in Ukraine and other factors, as well as the “carbon neutrality” goal of virtually eliminating greenhouse gas emissions, which the government has declared it aims to achieve in 50 years. We asked Kenichi Oshima, professor of environmental economics at Ryukoku University, who has critically examined the nation’s nuclear power policy, especially from the perspective of costs.

Sudden Change of Policy

 –The government’s recent reference to the consideration of new nuclear power plants marks a turning point in its nuclear policy.

◆ Even former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who built a long and stable government based on the lessons learned from the Fukushima nuclear accident that resulted in a huge “negative legacy” over issues such as compensation and decommissioning, did not mention new nuclear power plants while in office. Prime Minister Kishida’s latest statement represents a significant change in policy.
 –The Liberal Democratic Party and New Kōmeitō did not mention the new nuclear power plant in the Upper House election to be held in July. The statement was made suddenly at the Green Transformation (GX) Executive Council, a government meeting aimed at realizing a decarbonized society.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who attended the GX Executive Conference online, presented his policy for considering new nuclear power plant construction. On the left is Yasutoshi Nishimura, Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry.

◆ The GX campaign pledges did not include the issue, and the Basic Energy Plan, the medium- to long-term national energy policy that was just revised last fall after nearly a year of discussions at a panel of experts, also avoids mention of new nuclear power plant construction. Nevertheless, it is too violent to suddenly overturn the existing policy at another government meeting. It does not seem as if sufficient consideration has been given to the issue. I think it is very shortsighted to consider building new power plants “because there is a shortage of electricity” due to the crisis in Ukraine and other factors.

Contribution to decarbonization “limited”

 –How long will it take for new nuclear power plants to come on line?

◆ Nuclear power plants take 10 to 20 years to build, 40 to 60 years to operate, and another 30 years or so to decommission. If we decide to build new nuclear power plants now, our actions will be tied up for the next 100 to 150 years. If we make a decision to build new nuclear power plants based on current resource prices, which fluctuate in the short term, we risk narrowing other options, such as renewable energy. Nuclear power plants have the advantage of producing no carbon dioxide (CO2) when generating electricity, but it will take a long time before they are operational, and their contribution to 50-year carbon neutrality and decarbonization will be limited.

 -Involved in accelerating the use of nuclear power plants, the GX Executive Council’s government document also includes a consideration of “business environment improvement.

◆ The theory is that “it will be difficult for electric power companies to recover the huge initial investment in new nuclear power plants on their own, so it will be necessary to ‘improve the business environment. In essence, this means a government subsidy program for electric power companies. This is the same system that pro-nuclear LDP lawmakers had been calling for before the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in 2011. It is a rehash of the same request.

 In effect, only the major nuclear power companies will be subject to the environmental improvement program. New power companies will not receive support, further widening the gap in the power industry. This could distort the electricity market, which has been fully liberalized since the Fukushima nuclear accident. It has already been half a century since Japan introduced nuclear power. If it still cannot “stand on its own,” it is proof that nuclear power is inferior as a major power source.

New and additional nuclear power plants must be discussed carefully

 –The industry has been calling for the construction of new nuclear power plants. The crisis in Ukraine has caused the price of natural gas and other fossil fuels to skyrocket, and the supply and demand of electricity is tight.

Unit 1 of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. More than 10 years after the accident, there is still no roadmap to decommissioning the plant.

◆ In order for Japan to continue to grow, it is necessary to shift to an industrial and economic structure centered on renewable energy. While Europe, hit hard by the Ukraine crisis, is increasing its investment in nuclear power plants, the main investment for decarbonization and de-dependence on Russia must be in renewable energy. The more the Japanese government works to prolong the life of the nuclear industry, the more it will hurt the Japanese economy in the long run.

 Even if there is a possibility of a tight power supply and demand situation in Japan, it will only be serious during peak demand periods. Nuclear power plants are “baseload power sources” that generate electricity all the time, so they cannot contribute to flexible responses such as increasing power generation only during peak periods. While promoting the operation of nuclear power plants will accelerate the consolidation of thermal power generation, which is currently the base-load power source, it will not lead to an increase in the supply of electricity in times of emergency.

 Nuclear power plants still face the risk of accidents such as the one that occurred in Fukushima and the problem of how to dispose of radioactive waste. The Kishida administration should carefully discuss the construction of new nuclear power plants, rather than looking only at what is convenient. Interviewer: Daisuke Oka

September 12, 2022 Posted by | Fukushima, Fukushima 2022 | , , | Leave a comment