Japan still aims to start removing fuel debris from stricken reactors in 2021 — The Japan Times

To add a little context to the issue of removing molten fuel from Units 1, 2 and 3 of Fukushima Daiichi, keep in mind while reading this article that no one knows exactly where the melted fuel is, and, therefore, making any plans to remove the fuel is based on a leap of faith that someone will first figure out where the fuel is and then figure out how to safely remove it.

” Japan still aims to start removing nuclear fuel debris at the three damaged reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant in 2021, it was learned Thursday.

The schedule remained intact in a draft update to the government’s roadmap to the decommissioning of reactors 1, 2 and 3, all of which experienced fuel meltdowns during the nuclear disaster from March 2011. The draft was submitted to a meeting of a government task force on the matter.

But it looks inevitable that the government will review the schedule. The exact location of the molten nuclear fuel in the reactors is still unknown and radiation levels in and around the reactors are very high.

In autumn last year, the government and Tepco discussed a delay of about five years in the start of work to remove the fuel debris from reactor 1.

But the draft said Japan will choose the method to remove the debris by the end of September 2018 and start taking out the molten fuel by the end of 2021. It is still unclear which reactor Japan will choose for the first removal work.

Meanwhile, the government is reviewing the schedule for removing spent fuel at storage pools at the three reactors.

Removal work has been slated to begin for reactor 3 by the end of this September. But the work will likely be delayed because radiation levels remain high and operations to remove rubble from the damaged building have not progressed as planned. ”


Japan takes South Korea to WTO over Fukushima-related food import restrictions — The Japan Times

” GENEVA – The central government launched a trade complaint at the World Trade Organization on Thursday to challenge South Korea’s import bans and additional testing requirements for Japanese food after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

South Korea expressed regret at Japan’s action and said its ban on some Japanese seafood was necessary and reflected safety concerns.

Japan says several measures taken by South Korea violate the WTO’s sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) agreement and Seoul has failed to justify its trade restrictions as required, the WTO said in a statement.

Under WTO rules, South Korea has 60 days in which to deal with Japan’s concerns in bilateral talks. After that Japan could ask the WTO to adjudicate on the matter.

“In upcoming talks with Japan, we plan to explain fully that the import ban is necessary for people’s safety, and actively deal with Japan over the issue they raised based upon WTO’s dispute settlement procedures,” South Korea’s trade, agriculture, foreign affairs and other related ministries said in a joint statement.

Details of Japan’s complaint were not immediately available, but Japan has repeatedly raised the issue in committee meetings at the WTO, where it has also voiced concerns about Fukushima-related trade restrictions imposed by Taiwan and China.

Japan’s representative told the WTO’s SPS committee in March that radioactive levels in Japanese food had declined substantially since the nuclear crisis began at Tepco’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant. It noted that the United States, Australia, the European Union, Singapore and Vietnam had all lifted or eased their Fukushima-related restrictions.

“We’ve urged the South Korean government to lift the ban, but we expect it is unlikely to be dropped quickly,” Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said in a statement on Thursday.

South Korea extended its ban on Japanese fishery imports in September 2013 to cover imports from eight Japanese prefectures, including Fukushima.

Last October, the Japanese representative at the WTO committee said contamination levels in more than 99 percent of food items were below standard limits, and strict measures prevented the sale or export of any food exceeding those limits.

South Korea’s representative told the same meeting that its restrictions were in line with WTO rules, but Japan had not provided it with sufficient data for an objective and science-based risk assessment.

Japan’s representative also cited an assessment from the International Atomic Energy Agency in September 2014, which found its measures to deal with contamination were appropriate, according to minutes of the WTO committee.

The average annual value of South Korean imports of Japanese fish and seafood was $96 million in 2012-2014, less than half the average of $213 million in 2006 through 2010, according to data from the International Trade Center in Geneva. ”


Ex-Futaba mayor sues state, Tepco over Fukushima nuclear disaster — The Japan Times

” Katsutaka Idogawa, the former mayor of Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture, filed a lawsuit against the central government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Wednesday for exposing him to excessive radiation since the March 2011 nuclear disaster.

Seeking ¥148.5 million in damages, Idogawa, 69, claimed that sloppy management by the central government and Tepco caused him to receive radiation over the annual limit during the early phase of the disaster, when hydrogen explosions and the venting of steam from reactor containment vessels took place.

Futaba is one of the two municipalities that host Tepco’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the site of the disaster.

At a news conference, Idogawa expressed regrets for his inability to protect local residents from radiation. He also asked Futaba residents to join the lawsuit.

In his petition, Idogawa claimed to have received the excessive radiation between March 11, 2011, when the disaster started, and March 19 that year, when residents evacuated Futaba for Saitama Prefecture.

This was because as Futaba mayor he took part in work to collect information, secure places to which local residents could evacuate, and instruct and guide fleeing locals, according to the petition.

The suit, filed with the Tokyo District Court, is the first seeking compensation for health damage from events early in the nuclear crisis, according to Idogawa’s attorney. ”


NRA approves restart for third nuclear plant — The Japan Times

” Japan’s nuclear regulator signed off on the basic safety of a reactor at a third nuclear plant on Wednesday, as the country inches toward rebooting its atomic industry more than four years after the crisis began at Tepco’s Fukushima No.1 facility.

The decision will be a boost for operator Shikoku Electric Power Co., which relied on its sole Ikata nuclear power station in southwestern Japan for about 40 percent of its electricity output before the meltdowns at Fukushima led to the shutdown of all the country’s reactors.

But the reactor is not expected to go back online before winter, as Shikoku Electric has yet to obtain local approval and finish other necessary procedures.

For the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, resuming nuclear power, which provided about a third of the electricity supply before the triple meltdown in Fukushima, is key to lifting the economy out of two decades of anaemic growth.

Japan has switched to fossil fuels to compensate for the closure of reactors, pushing imports of liquefied natural gas to a record-high ¥7.78 trillion ($65 billion) in the financial year ended March 31.

The safety approval is still only one of three needed before the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) gives its final sign off. The consent of local authorities, which is seen as a formality, is also required, along with operational checks.

At a meeting on Wednesday, the NRA’s commissioners signed off on a provisional assessment that says the Ikata reactor meets new design standards introduced in the wake of Fukushima. The decision will be open to public comment for about a month before being formalized.

Located about 700 km (660 miles) west-southwest of Tokyo on Shikoku Island, the Ikata No. 3 reactor started operations in 1994 and has a capacity of 890 megawatts.

The future of the Ikata plant’s two other reactors, each with capacity of 566 megawatts, is unclear. One is almost 40 years old, which is the lifetime limit for reactors in Japan without a special extension that will be costly to achieve.

Shikoku Electric hasn’t applied for restarts of that reactor or the No. 2 unit, which began operations in 1982.

Two other nuclear plants operated by Kansai Electric Power and Kyushu Electric Power have passed the first stage of regulatory checks.

Operators also have to overcome legal hurdles. Anti-nuclear activists have stepped up petitioning the judiciary to block restarts, with a majority of the public opposed to atomic power.

Residents near the Ikata plant filed a lawsuit in December 2011 to mothball the station, but a decision has yet to be made.

In a related move, the Fukui District Court has rejected Kansai Electric Power Co.’s appeal of a ruling that prevents the utility from restarting two reactors at its Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture, according to Tadashi Matsuda, a representative for the plaintiffs who won the case. [read Fukui court rejects Kansai Electric appeal of reactor ruling]

The court dismissal was decided Monday but not announced to the media. A court official declined to comment when contacted Tuesday. Kansai Electric representatives couldn’t be reached for comment.

The Fukui District Court issued an injunction in April preventing the utility from moving ahead with plans to restart the reactors.

The court said at the time that new safety regulations introduced following the Fukushima disaster of 2011 are still too lax to ensure the safety of the two reactors at the Takahama station.

Kansai Electric, the utility most dependent on nuclear power in Japan, had called the ruling unacceptable.

The rejected appeal throws yet another roadblock in the utility’s path to resuming operations at its nuclear plants.

The meltdowns at Tepco’s wrecked Fukushima No. 1 plant forced the country’s entire fleet of reactors offline in the months that followed, amid deepening public distrust of atomic energy.

The central government says the economy needs nuclear power — a technology that once supplied more than a quarter of Japan’s electricity — to meet its energy demand. ”


Tepco to sell large portion of uranium reserves — Enformable Nuclear News

” Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the utility that owns and operated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, has not used any uranium to produce electricity since the March 11th, 2011 nuclear disaster. None of the reactors owned by TEPCO have been restarted and remain offline.

The utility has been struggling to stay ahead of the mounting financial problems as it has to decommission the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and pay compensation for damages without generating income from its other nuclear reactors. Without the 9 trillion yen of aid promised by the Japanese government, TEPCO would’ve collapsed shortly after the onset of the nuclear disaster.

TEPCO has been pushing to restart its only remaining operational plant, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, in 2016, but has faced many complications and local opposition to restarts.

According to a spokesman for TEPCO, in a last ditch effort, the utility is negotiating a sale of part of its uranium reserves with the suppliers.

TEPCO holds some 17,570 tons of uranium, which would provide enough fuel to operate the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant for 10 years. According to estimates released by the utility, by selling half of its reserves it could raise $102 million. ”


Survey: Large majority of Fukushima evacuees have family members with health problems — The Asahi Shimbun

” Nearly 70 percent of evacuees from areas around the damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant have family members complaining of physical or mental problems, a recent survey showed.

Released by the Fukushima prefectural government, the survey covering fiscal 2014 revealed that 66.3 percent of households that fled the disaster area–after the nuclear crisis triggered by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami–have at least one member suffering health problems. The figure was 67.5 percent in the previous survey covering fiscal 2013.

In February, the prefecture sent questionnaires to all 59,746 households that evacuated for the latest study–the second of its kind–and received responses from 18,767 households, or 33.6 percent.

Of the respondents, 13,703 households, or 73 percent, said they were forced to evacuate, while 5,054, or 27 percent, said they voluntarily evacuated.

The survey covered about 20 categories, such as the state of the lives of the evacuees, their health conditions and their intent to return to their homes.

Asked about what bothers them, 57.9 percent said they cannot sleep well. While 56.6 percent said they are unable to enjoy their daily lives as they did before the disaster, 49.3 percent said they tire more easily.

Households that are still in temporary housing or rented apartments for evacuees accounted for 62.1 percent, a 10-percentage-point decrease from the previous survey. Meanwhile, 19.7 percent–10 points higher than the first study–said they live in their own homes.

Although in the fiscal 2013 survey, 40.4 percent hoped they would be allowed to continue living in temporary housing longer than originally planned, 48.7 percent hope so in the latest findings.

In the latest study, 55.8 percent said they hope to continue living in temporary housing because the evacuation order has yet to be lifted for their hometowns. While 42.1 percent said they are currently unable to rebuild their homes on their own, 40.0 percent said they do not have sufficient funds to leave temporary housing.

In March, the central government released results of its survey of nine municipalities ordered to evacuate since the onset of the Fukushima crisis. The prefectural survey asked evacuees from areas other than the nine municipalities where they hoped to reside in the future. The latest findings show 37.3 percent of households that are evacuees living within Fukushima Prefecture said they hope eventually to return to their homes. Those who want to settle where they currently reside accounted for 16.5 percent, and 11.7 percent said they have yet to decide where to live in the future.

In contrast, 31.6 percent of households that evacuated outside the prefecture said they have not determined where to live in the future, whereas respondents who want to settle where they now live or return to their hometowns accounted for 24.2 percent and 19.8 percent, respectively. ”