Japan Headlines – Nuclear safety inadequate – TEPCO blames Tsunami

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1. Diet panel approves civil nuclear pacts

A committee of Japan‘s Lower House has approved civil nuclear cooperation treaties with 4 countries.  The foreign affairs committee gave majority support on Friday for the treaties with Jordan, Russia, Vietnam and South Korea.  

The treaties would allow Japan to export nuclear power generation facilities and transfer related technology to the nations.Japan and the 4 countries signed the accords before the March 11th disaster and Fukushima nuclear accident.  Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told the committee that Japan has a duty to share the lessons learned from the accident.

Source: NHK

2. Japan panel of experts reports existing Nuclear Safety system inadequate

A panel of experts has proposed creating a third-party watchdog to monitor the performance of Japan’s new nuclear safety agency to be launched next April.  The panel said in its report on Friday that the existing system is inadequate as it involves 2 different bodies, (Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and the Nuclear Safety Commission of the Cabinet Office) both checking nuclear safety.

It said the system has come to function in name only, and failed to prevent the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

The panel proposed uniting the 2 bodies under the new nuclear safety agency. It also proposed creating a third-party commission to monitor and advise on the agency’s regulatory performance.

The new nuclear regulator is due to operate as an outside body of the Environment Ministry and not the industry ministry, which is in a position to promote nuclear power.

Source: NHK News

3. TEPCO announced Friday it had determined the direct cause of the nuclear crisis at Fukushima nuclear power plant was the massive tsunami, despite evidence of earthquake damage.

On Friday, the Tokyo Electric Power Company has released an interim report on its in-house probe into the nuclear disaster at the firm’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant.  Many experts point out how the report fails to clarify how or why a huge amount of radioactive materials leaked outside the facility.

Much remains unknown about how workers tried to cool the plant’s Number 1 reactor — where a meltdown occurred — or why the Number 2 reactor ended up releasing a large amount of radioactive materials.

  1. The report also details how meltdowns occurred at some of the plant’s reactors after the accident.
  2. The report says the firm had worked with the government and obtained its endorsement in taking measures to guard the plant from severe accidents before March 11th.
  3. The report also defends as reasonable the utility’s effort to contain the damage from the accident.
  4. The report says that the plant lost all of its safety mechanisms because the tsunami was much larger than expected, that workers could not keep up with developments, and that core meltdowns occurred.
  5. The report calls for thorough steps to protect the cooling and power systems of power plants from tsunamis and for installation of an emergency power source in a safe place.
  6. The report calls on the utility to ensure that it has ways to cool reactors in case of further accidents.


The report does not contain an in-depth examination of the utility’s failure to immediately submit to the government the firm’s 2008 estimate that a tsunami higher than 10 meters could hit the plant. The utility has said it did not submit the estimate immediately because it was based on a groundless hypothesis. The firm eventually submitted the estimate only 4 days before the March 11th disaster.

Source: NHK News

4. Toshiba ships N-equipment to U.S.

Toshiba Corp. announced Thursday that the company had shipped its first major turbine equipment for a nuclear energy project in the United States, where construction of nuclear reactors is expected to resume for the first time in 34 years.

This is the first time Toshiba is exporting large equipment to the United States for nuclear power generation.  Other Japanese companies are likely to benefit as the United States, a nuclear power giant, restarts construction of nuclear power facilities.

In July, a joint venture of Hitachi Ltd. and General Electric Co. won preferred negotiating rights to build a nuclear power plant in Lithuania. It also signed a contract worth nearly 150 million dollars with Exelon Nuclear in August to provide the U.S. firm with maintenance and management services for its 12 reactors.


Construction of four reactors is expected to start in the United States by the end of this year. This includes the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors of the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in Georgia and the Nos. 2 and 3 reactors of the Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station in South Carolina.



Source: Yomiuri Online

5. New revelations highlight discord in Japan nuclear program

Top officials from Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) secretly met in 2002 to discuss withdrawing from a project to reprocess nuclear fuel at the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant in Aomori Prefecture, it has been learned.  The Agency for Natural Resources and Energy and the Cabinet Office’s Japan Atomic Energy Commission, for example, concealed diplomatic documents that arrived from Russia in October in 2002, proposing to accept Japan’s spent nuclear fuel, on the grounds that this could hinder domestic factory operations.

The very fact that officials met to discuss this issue is a sign that Japan’s bid to reprocess all of its nuclear waste domestically was saddled with problems from the outset. At the same time, the continued support that the project has received in spite of the doubts that government and industry officials held about its safety and economic feasibility shows a diseased side of Japan’s nuclear power policy.



It was calculated in January 2004 that operation of the reprocessing plant could cost approximately 19 trillion yen.

While the reprocessing project has continued, and the 19 trillion yen has been tacked on to industrial and home power bills. When considering that the money businesses are spending on electricity ends up being added to the prices of the products they produce, the financial burden on each person in Japan works out at about 150,000 yen.

Still, METI and TEPCO withheld from producing any guidelines for withdrawing as pulling out would lead to questions of responsibility for wasted money.



Source: Mainichi

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