Japan to mandate BWR reactors to install filtered vents after Fukushima disaster

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A commissioner of the Nuclear Regulation Authority of Japan told reporters this week that the nation’s boiling water reactors will not be allowed to restart until they have installed filtered ventilation systems to reduce the amount of radioactive materials released from containment systems during nuclear emergencies.

“Without this (filtering systems), reactors will not reach the level” to be allowed to operate, said NRA Commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa.

The ruling affects 26 reactors, over half of Japan’s nuclear force, some of which already have ventilation systems installed without filters.  Installing these systems will likely take more than three years and cost several billion yen.

In 2012, Tomoko Murakami, a Tokyo-based nuclear researcher at Institute of Energy Economics, told Bloomberg reporters his opinion of potentially requiring plants to install filtered vents, “We all know there is no such thing as perfect safety. The point is what criteria should be used to decide the restart of a reactor? I don’t think installing a filtered venting would be one of the criteria.”

Just last week, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced its recommendation to require those nuclear reactors to install filtered ventilation systems. NRC staff and industry experts estimated the cost of these upgrades to be between $15 million and $30 million.

In the United States, there are 31 BWR Mark I and Mark II units in operation, many Mark I units already have hardened vent systems installed and will only need to add the filtration systems, but 8 Mark II reactors will need to install both the hardened vents and filtration systems.

No U.S. reactors have filtered vents, Scott Burnell, a spokesman at the NRC told Reuters.

Other countries in Europe and around the world already require filtered containment systems, or are considering including them in their own response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.  A contract to recently install a filtered venting system at a plant in Romania was valued at about $48 million.

The nuclear industry in the United States has been pushing back against the costly upgrades.  The Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry’s main lobbying group in the United States, estimated the value of such an investment was $0.

NEI Filtered vents

Source: NEI Guidance Document

Source: Kyodo News

Source: Reuters

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