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Japan

Until the Fukushima accident, Japan had 55 operating nuclear reactors as well as enrichment and reprocessing plants which had suffered a series of deadly accidents at its nuclear facilities resulting in the deaths of workers and releases of radioactivity into the environment and surrounding communities. Since the Fukushima disaster, there is growing opposition against re-opening those reactors closed for maintenance.

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Tuesday
Jan132015

Japan to permanently close five more of its remaining 48 “operable” nukes

In the still growing wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, the Japanese nuclear industry has preliminarily announced they will permanently close five more atomic power plants. Now nearly four years after the multi-unit accident, Japan has maintained “zero nuclear” power generation. This most recent decommissioning announcement reduces the number of the country’s operable ---but still not operating---reactors down to 43.  All six units at Fukushima Daiichi have been permanently closed including Units 1 through 4 destroyed in the accident as well as the undamaged Unit 5 and Unit 6 (a GE Mark II). The Abe government is struggling to restart some number of the nation’s atomic reactors amidst broad anti-nuclear public and political opposition.

Two of the newly announced closures are Shimane Unit 1 and Tsuruga Unit 1, both GE Mark I boiling water reactors identical to  Fukushima Daiichi Units 1-5. The other three units, Genkai Unit 1 and Mihama 1 and 2 units, are aging pressurized water reactors. Company officials with Kyushu Electric, Kansai Electric, Chugoku Electric and Japan Atomic Power Company decided to decommission the units rather than comply with now required expensive safety upgrades. The formal decisions are expected to be made  in March 2015.

With the recent closure of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant here in the U.S., Beyond Nuclear continues to campaign for the prompt and permanent closure of the world’s remaining thirty operable GE Mark I and sixteen Mark II reactors.  Twenty-two GE Mark I and eight Mark II units are still operating in the United States.  The remainder of the Mark I units are in Taiwan (2), India (2), Switzerland (1), Spain (1) and Japan (2). An additional two Mark II units are operating in Mexico and six “operable” but shutdown units in Japan.

Tuesday
Jan132015

"Assembly members' family ties to contracts given at Sendai nuclear plant raise eyebrows"

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, two prefectural assembly members (Katsuzo Hokazono and Kaneoki Obata of the pro-nuclear power Liberal Democratic Party) who voted in favor of restart of the Sendai nuclear power plant in southern Japan have close personal, professional, and family ties to the atomic reactors in question. The two have served as paid consultants to the nuclear utility, and are themselves, or have close family members who are, in charge of construction firms that have received multi-million contracts from the nuclear utility. The Sendai nuclear power plant is the first to receive Nuclear Regulation Authority of Japan, as well as prefectural, and local municipal authority approval to restart after post-Fukushima required safety upgrades.

The article reports:

'Hokazono has been a strong proponent of resuming operations at the Sendai plant, saying on one occasion during a Kagoshima prefectural assembly session, "We must push forward with resumption of operations for the sake of national interests."

...The two said their family relationships and the work contracts did not factor into their deliberations and decisions on safety issues concerning the Sendai plant.'

Monday
Jan122015

"Fukushima evacuees pledge to rebuild communities on Coming-of-Age Day"

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, 20-year-olds effectively exiled from their own communities due to radioactive contamination evacuation in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe nonetheless celebrated their traditional "Coming-of-Age-Day" milestone, albeit tens of miles from home. Despite what they've been through in the past nearly four years, with no end in sight, they nonetheless pledged to devote their young lives to rebuilding their ravaged communities.

Wednesday
Jan072015

"Niigata governor scolds TEPCO president, rejects reactor restarts"

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, Niigata Prefecture Governor Hirohiko Izumida remains "adamantly opposed" to Tokyo Electric Power Company's (TEPCO) request to him for permission to restart two of seven reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant.

Kashiwazaki-Kariwa is the single biggest nuclear power plant in the world. It is so big, it sprawls across two host towns, as captured in its name. Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, also owned, operated, and melted down by TEPCO, also sprawls across two towns -- Okuma and Futaba, now radioactive ghost towns.

Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant has been largely to entirely shut down ever since July 2007, when an earthquake caused extensive damage to plant facilities and radioactive waste storage, including a serious transformer fire, as well as radioactivity releases to the ocean.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe has kept Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant shut down since. TEPCO needs Gov. Izumida's permission to restart any reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, but is not getting it.

The article quotes the Governor's strong words:

“There has not been a sufficient investigation into the causes of the (Fukushima) accident nor in-house disciplinary actions, so we cannot stand at the starting line of discussions on safety,” the governor said.

Sunday
Jan042015

"Utilities balk at safer storage of spent nuclear fuel to avoid 'wasted investment'"

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, very few Japanese nuclear power plants have on-site dry cask storage for irradiated nuclear fuel. A relatively large amount of INF has already been transported to a storage pool at the targeted Rokkasho reprocessing facility in northern Japan, although its operational opening is nearly two decades behind schedule.

Or, as at Fukushima Daiichi, high-level radioactive (HLRW) waste was moved from individual reactor units into a common pool.

That's why, when the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe began on 3/11/11, there was a relatively small amount of HLRW in the Units 1 to 4 storage pools. But even what was there, risked a large-scale radioactivity release that would have dwarfed what has occurred so far, in four years, due to the three melt downs and damaged or destroyed containment structures.

In fact, fear that the Unit 4 pool was devoid of cooling water led to Japanese Self Defense Forces conducting desperate helicopter drops of water from above, in attempt to refill the pool. The fear also played a large part in the U.S. decision to urge American citizens to evacuate 50 miles away from Fukushima Daiichi.

Because pools lack containment, a sudden drain down, or slower motion boil down, of the cooling water supply, and a subsequent INF fire in the pool, could be cataclysmic. Robert Alvarez of IPS estimated that the Unit 4 pool alone at Fukushima Daiichi contained an order of magnitude more hazardous radioactive cesium than was released by the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe.

There are voices, such as Professor Katsuta quoted in this article, advocating on-site dry cask storage in Japan, to address storage pool risks, and as an alternative to dirty, dangerous, and expensive reprocessing. Beyond Nuclear has worked with Dr. Katsuta in both Tokyo and Washington, D.C.

In the U.S., hundreds of environmental groups, representing all 50 states, have called for Hardened On-Site Storage, to address both pool and dry cask storage risks.

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