More ALPS equipment approved for use at Fukushima plant — The Asahi Shimbun

” Additional decontamination machines will be installed at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to treat the hundreds of tons of radioactive groundwater collected at the facility daily, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said Aug. 27.

The multi-nuclide removal equipment, called ALPS (advanced liquid processing system), began operating in late March 2013 and has handled 127,000 tons of contaminated water to date. But continuing glitches are still limiting the system to trial runs.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the plant, intends to begin trial runs for the second set of ALPS from mid-September. When combined, the two systems will be able to manage twice the amount of contaminated water than before, or about 1,500 tons.

Approximately 400 tons of groundwater flows into the reactor buildings of the power plant every day, mixing with the highly contaminated water that cooled the nuclear fuel following the triple meltdown in 2011.

The ALPS was introduced to reduce the amount of radioactive materials in the contaminated groundwater. Because the system cannot completely eradicate radioactivity, the total amount of water that requires management remains the same, with or without the equipment.

However, the process minimizes risks of contamination if leaks or other accidents occur.

Along with the additional equipment, TEPCO plans to introduce an improved version of the system funded by the government in October.

As of Aug. 26, 367,000 tons of highly contaminated water sat in tanks placed inside plant grounds awaiting treatment. ”


Japanese public seen as biggest obstacle to nuke restart — Bloomberg

” Japan is facing the toughest test yet in its effort to restore nuclear energy more than three years after the Fukushima disaster: scrutiny from a skeptical population.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority vouched last month for the safety of two reactors in Sendai, the first to pass inspections. Still, with Japan going through its first summer in 48 years without atomic power, JPMorgan Chase & Co. is among those predicting more delays to restarts as government approval becomes increasingly dependent on public opinion.

Japan’s energy bill has ballooned as reliance on fossil fuels such as liquefied natural gas fills the power gap, contributing to record trade deficits. The focus is now on city and prefecture governments and whether they will approve the restart of the Sendai units. More than half of the population remains opposed to resuming nuclear generation after the March 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi reactors.

“Restarting the Sendai plant is dangerous,” said Osamu Mikami, 73, an anti-nuclear activist who is among protesters that have camped for almost three years on the grounds of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in Tokyo. “I don’t want such a reckless act to be carried out,” he said in an interview on Aug. 15, vowing to continue demonstrations until Japan gives up plans to begin atomic operations again.


Kyushu Electric Power Co. is among 10 companies that have applied for safety inspections on 20 reactors, according to the NRA. The Fukuoka-based utility is following procedures that will allow its Sendai units to run safely during normal operations, as well as during accidents caused by earthquakes or other outside causes, a July 16 draft report from the regulator shows.

About 17,000 comments have been made on the report during a monthlong period for public response that ended Aug. 15, Masaya Okuyama, a Tokyo-based NRA spokesman, said Aug. 22 by phone. The final version will be compiled taking into account these views, he said.

“It seems unlikely that more than these two units will be operating by the end of this year,” Jonathan Hinze, a senior vice president at Ux Consulting Co. in Roswell, Georgia, which provides research on the nuclear industry, said by e-mail on July 22. “We’ll see how quickly the remaining political and regulatory decisions are made.”

All of Japan’s 48 operable reactors are shut for safety checks or maintenance, with the last plant idled in September.

Chernobyl Disaster

The earthquake and tsunami in 2011 caused the meltdown of three reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima plant, forcing the evacuation of about 160,000 people because of the threat of radiation contamination. It also prompted other nations to reassess nuclear as an energy source.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel ordered the shutdown of some of the country’s oldest reactors as a safety measure in March 2011 in response to the crisis in Japan and then determined safety checks were needed for all the reactors.

EON SE, RWE AG and EnBW Energie Baden-Wuerttemberg AG halted units as a result. Vattenfall AB’s two reactors were not operating at the time because of technical faults and never returned to the grid. The country will phase out all atomic plants, which have been the backbone of German energy policy, by 2022.

Nuclear power in Japan, once Asia’s largest producer, remains unpopular more than three years after the worst civilian atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. Fifty-nine percent of respondents to a poll in July published by the Asahi newspaper opposed the restart of the Sendai units.

Local Government

The central government needs to guarantee the safety of the Sendai plant and get “the understanding of local people” before a restart of the facility, Shunro Iwata, an official at the nuclear safety control division of the local Kagoshima prefecture, said yesterday by phone.

The Kagoshima government plans to consider the opinion of Satsumasendai city officials and the prefecture’s assembly before making a decision on whether to approve a restart, he said. Nobody was available to comment at the nuclear safety control office of the Satsumasendai city government.

“The term, guaranteeing safety, is absurd — no one can promise such a thing,” said Tomoko Murakami, a Tokyo-based nuclear analyst at the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan, who predicts difficulty in securing local government approvals.

“If a person says, ‘OK, I will approve the restart,’ and something goes wrong, he will be made responsible for it,” Murakami said yesterday by phone. “A person in a position to make a final decision may be so scared now.”

Nuclear Outlook

Delays are prompting a reassessment of Japan’s nuclear outlook. JPMorgan cut its forecast in a July 28 report to 31 reactors to restart by 2019, down from 42. Two-thirds of Japan’s pre-accident fleet may never resume due to damage, seismic conditions that don’t meet NRA guidelines and local opposition, financial adviser Raymond James Ltd. said in a June 19 report.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is trying to drive the country out of two decades of stagnation through aggressive economic policies known as Abenomics and any delays will be a setback to his government. The reactor shutdowns caused the nation’s household electricity charges to increase by about 20 percent, according to the trade ministry.

Further Inspections

The approval of the Kyushu Electric units may speed up the assessment process for other utilities seeking restarts. The inspection of other plants using the same pressurized water technology as those at Sendai will go “more smoothly,” NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka told reporters on July 16 at a press conference in Tokyo.

Half of the nation’s reactors use pressurized water technology, according to the Federation of Electric Power Cos.

The NRA’s review process for other reactors “may be accelerated by using that for the Sendai plant as a model,” Yuji Nishiyama, a Tokyo-based analyst at JPMorgan Securities Japan Co., said by phone Aug. 25. Still, none will resume this year due to delays in submitting documents such as construction work plans, he said. Last month he had forecast one restart.

The Sendai units may receive NRA approval to restart in November, Reiji Ogino, a Tokyo-based analyst at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities Co., said in an Aug. 25 interview.

Ogino, who last month predicted that the plant might resume in October, now foresees a January start because getting support from local governments will take at least a month.

Reactors Return

Kyushu Electric shares, which have lost 20 percent this year, fell as much as 1.3 percent to 1,070 yen today in Tokyo.

“Nuclear is incredibly important to the Japanese economy,” Rob Chang, the head of metals and mining at Cantor Fitzgerald in Toronto who predicts the Sendai units may restart in November at the earliest, said by e-mail yesterday. “We expect 32 reactors to return online in Japan by end of 2018.”

The extent to which nuclear plants can restart and operate has “huge impacts” on the Japanese economy, the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan, said in a report last month.

The nation’s bill for fossil fuels surged by 60 percent from 2010 to about 27 trillion yen ($260 billion) last year, increasing the country’s trade deficit to a record, the trade and industry ministry said in June.

“People shouldn’t take a short-range perspective in which fuel costs would fall,” Mikami said at the camp in Tokyo, which has become a base for weekly rallies in the Nagatacho and Kasumigaseki districts. “We will remove these tents only if the government declares it won’t restart reactors.” ”


Fukushima nuclear crisis estimated to cost ¥11 trillion: study — The Japan Times

” The Fukushima nuclear accident will cost an estimated ¥11.08 trillion, almost double the government projection made at the end of 2011, according to a recent study by Japanese college professors.

The figure includes ¥4.91 trillion to compensate affected residents, ¥2.48 trillion for radiation cleanup work, ¥2.17 trillion to scrap the Fukushima No. 1 plant and ¥1.06 trillion to temporarily store radioactive soil and other waste generated by decontamination work, according to the study.

Kenichi Oshima, environmental economics professor at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, and Masafumi Yokemoto, professor of environmental policy at Osaka City University, calculated the costs based on materials and data released by the government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.

In December 2011, the government said it would cost at least ¥5.8 trillion, but Oshima and Yokemoto included some expenses that the government then said were difficult to estimate, according to the researchers.

“The costs for the accident are designed to be borne by the people through taxes and utility bills,” Oshima said.

The actual cost could be much higher, as the estimated figure does not include costs for the final disposal of radioactive material from cleanup work, while the compensation and plant decommissioning expenses are expected to increase down the road.

A separate estimate puts the cost of decontamination work as high as ¥5 trillion, double the professors’ figure.

Tepco is currently paying compensation to those affected by the Fukushima meltdowns using money provided by the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. The state-backed fund has raised the limit of its payout from ¥5 trillion to ¥9 trillion.

Tepco is expected to reimburse that money in the future — meaning that electricity consumers will eventually have to bear the cost.

Critics have pointed to the ambiguous responsibilities of the state and the utility, which did not go bankrupt despite the worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl accident thanks to taxpayers’ money and increased electricity rates.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing to revive the nuclear industry, with Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai plant in Kyushu possibly allowed to restart in the near future.

“Nuclear plant operators would become less able to make a right business judgment under the situation where the state covers the costs of accidents, as they cannot recognize risks of nuclear power generation,” said Oshima. ”


Three firms picked to help tackle toxic water at Fukushima No. 1 — The Japan Times

” The government picked three overseas companies Tuesday to participate in a subsidized project to determine the best available technology for separating radioactive tritium from the toxic water building up at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. is currently test-running a system it says is capable of removing 62 types of radioactive substances from the contaminated water, but not tritium.

Thus tritium-laced water is expected to accumulate at the plant in the absence of any method to remove the isotope.

The three firms chosen from 29 applicants are U.S. firm Kurion Inc., which offers technologies to treat nuclear and hazardous waste; GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Canada Inc., a joint venture of Hitachi Ltd. and U.S. firm General Electric Co.; and Federal State Unitary Enterprise RosRAO, a Russian radioactive waste management firm.

The government will provide up to ¥1 billion for each examination of the technologies and running costs, and consider whether any of them can be applied to treat the water at Fukushima No. 1, the industry ministry said.

The three companies are to conclude their experiments by the end of March 2016, a ministry official said.

The official cautioned there is no guarantee that any of the technologies will be put to practical use. ”


Fukushima nuclear plant operator found liable for woman’s suicide — The Rakyat Post

” A Japanese court has ruled that Fukushima nuclear operator Tokyo Electric was responsible for a woman’s suicide after the March 2011 disaster and must pay compensation, in a landmark ruling that could set a precedent for other claims against the utility.

The civil suit by Mikio Watanabe claimed that Tokyo Electric Power Co Inc (Tepco) was to blame for the July 2011 death of his wife, Hamako, 58, who doused herself in kerosene and set herself on fire after falling into depression.

The district court in Fukushima ruled in favour of Watanabe, a court official told reporters. Kyodo news reported that Tepco was ordered to pay RM1.49 million (US$472,000) in compensation. Watanabe had sought about RM2.77 million in damages.

The court decision is the latest blow for the utility, which was bailed out with taxpayer funds in 2012 and expects to spend more than US$48 billion in compensation alone for the nuclear disaster.

The triple nuclear meltdowns forced more than 150,000 people from their homes, about a third of whom remain in temporary housing.

“We would like to deeply apologise again for the disruption and concern that the Fukushima Daiichi accident caused to many people, first and foremost the people of Fukushima,” Tepco said in a statement following the verdict.

“We understand that there has been a verdict handed down in this case. We will study the verdict and respond in a sincere way,” it added.

“We pray that Hamako Watanabe has found peace.”

Tepco has settled a number of suicide-related claims through a government dispute resolution system, but has declined to say how many or give details on how much it has paid.

Watanabe, who had declined to settle out of court, said after the verdict: “I am satisfied with the decision.” He said he believed his wife was satisfied, too.

Toru Takeda, 73, a retired high school teacher from a nearby town, travelled from his temporary home in Yamagata in north Japan to hear the verdict. Takeda has filed a lawsuit against Tepco over his inability to return to his home.

“Our verdict will come next month from the same court, so, of course, we welcome this outcome,” he said.

Tepco’s shares and debt, which have been battered in the wake of the Fukushima crisis and prolonged cleanup, have held largely steady in recent weeks and showed little reaction to the verdict. Tepco shares were down 0.5% at 383 yen in afternoon trade in Tokyo. ”


Updated 8/27/14: Fukushima mistakes revealed: NHK World; Kan slams Tepco over request to “withdraw” from crippled plant — GlobalPost

Updated Aug. 27, 2014: Watch NHK World video, “Fukushima mistakes revealed”

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Posted Aug. 26, 2014:

Another piece of the March 2011 puzzle:

” An official of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s nuclear power division wept at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo as the utility felt it had exhausted all options to prevent the worst from happening at the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011.

“I’m sorry. We’ve tried many things, but we are in a situation beyond our control,” Susumu Kawamata, the 54-year-old head of the Nuclear Quality and Safety Management Department, told industry minister Banri Kaieda before breaking down.

A government nuclear safety panel member who witnessed the scene thought it marked the end of one of the most prestigious companies in Japan.

Shortly after 4 a.m. on March 15, Prime Minister Naoto Kan, 64, was sitting face to face with TEPCO President Masataka Shimizu, 66, telling him that the utility does not have the option of withdrawing its people from the plant, which had already experienced explosions at the Nos. 1 and 3 reactor buildings and was facing fears of a reactor containment rupture.

It was about eight and a half hours before their meeting that TEPCO’s top-level officials started considering the evacuation of its employees from the plant.

At around 7:30 p.m. on March 14, TEPCO’s Managing Director Akio Komori, who was at an emergency response center set up about 5 kilometers from the plant, started off the discussion at a teleconference session with the officials at the Tokyo head office.

“If we don’t make a decision at some point, things could get crazy. Please start setting the criteria for evacuation,” Komori, 58, said.

Executive Vice President Sakae Muto, 60, ordered his subordinates at the head office to craft an evacuation plan, while Fukushima Daiichi plant chief Masao Yoshida started arrangements to secure buses. Procedures to send employees to TEPCO’s Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant were also being decided.

Shimizu phoned Kaieda, the 62-year-old economy, trade and industry minister in charge of dealing with the accident, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, 46, many times to seek approval of staff withdrawal, which he called an “evacuation.”

But Shimizu did not say clearly that TEPCO would keep the minimum necessary number of people inside the plant to monitor the situation and to continue water injections into the troubled reactors.

Kaieda said he thought TEPCO was seeking a “complete withdrawal” from the plant and had turned down the request from Shimizu.

At around 3 a.m. on March 15 when the condition of the No. 2 reactor deteriorated, Kaieda decided to ask Kan to make a judgment on the issue. He woke up the prime minister who was taking a nap on a sofa and briefed him about the situation.

“If people withdraw, the eastern part of Japan will be destroyed,” Kan said, rejecting the idea and having Shimizu come over to his office.

As Shimizu stepped inside the reception room on the fifth floor of the office, Kan immediately said, “I heard that you are thinking about a withdrawal, but that’s impossible.”

Shimizu’s response was stunning to Haruki Madarame, the 62-year-old head of the government’s nuclear safety panel who was also attending the talks. Shimizu said in a thin voice, “We do not have in mind such a thing as withdrawal.”

Madarame said later, “I thought, what happened to all those talks” about getting workers out?

Officials in the prime minister’s office had misunderstood TEPCO’s intentions, while the utility’s president was at fault for making unclear remarks.

The exchanges led Kan to launch an unprecedented accident response task force in which the government and TEPCO would jointly deal with the nuclear crisis inside the utility’s head office in Tokyo.

The prime minister told Shimizu he would set up the task force and that he would go to TEPCO’s head office right away. Shimizu said he needed about two hours for preparations, but Kan told Shimizu to get it done in an hour.

Kan was still furious when he arrived at TEPCO headquarters, unable to disguise his distrust of the company.

“TEPCO will go 100 percent bust if it withdraws. You won’t be able to escape even if you try!” Kan yelled at TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 70, Shimizu and other executives. There were about 200 TEPCO employees in the same room.

“It doesn’t matter if senior officials in their 60s go to the site and die. I will also go. President, chairman, make up your minds!” Kan said.

Kan’s speech continued for more than 10 minutes, which was relayed to employees inside the emergency response office at the Fukushima Daiichi plant through a real-time information-sharing teleconference system.

Kan later said he was totally unaware that he had been “yelling at everyone.” “I might have used strong words to tell them to somehow hang on until the last minute, but I didn’t mean to scold them.”

Kan was among the many politicians who came to know for the first time that TEPCO had a teleconference system hooked up to the crisis-hit plant.

“I was really surprised. There was this huge screen connected to the Daiichi plant. I wondered why information was coming so slowly to the prime minister’s office despite the existence of this system,” said Kan, who had been irritated to learn of the explosion at the No. 1 reactor building on March 12 from the TV news before TEPCO reported it to the government.

The joint task force was meant to improve communication between the government and TEPCO. But Kan would soon realize that it was too late to stop the crisis that started March 11 from growing more serious.

At the Fukushima Daiichi plant, hundreds of people inside the emergency response office were glued to the teleconference monitor showing the angry prime minister.

“Even though we were doing our best here, we felt we were being shot in the back with a machine gun,” Takeyuki Inagaki, 47-year-old leader of one of the equipment restoration teams, recalled.

After Kan finished talking, he moved to another room where there was also a monitor to communicate with the plant.

Yoshida, 56, was about to answer a call from the Tokyo office when a dull sound reached the emergency response office at about 6:14 a.m. The impact was smaller than that of the two previous explosions, but it was not an earthquake.

People’s blood ran cold as they heard from reactor operators that the pressure inside the No. 2 reactor’s suppression chamber, which is connected to the reactor’s containment vessel, had dropped to zero.

If the chamber was not airtight, a massive amount of highly radioactive steam could be released outside. Then there would be no safe place inside the plant, or in surrounding areas.

“The suppression chamber might have got a huge hole. A hell of a lot of radioactive substances could come out,” Inagaki told Yoshida.

Yoshida instantly decided it was time for evacuation. ”