Sunday, October 21, 2012

Japan's New Regulator is Embracing Nuclear Power and Pushing Off Disaster Preparedness to the Prefectures



INTERVIEW: Chief regulator says Japan is tightening nuclear safety rules October 18, 2012 Asahi Shimbun http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201210180105

[Excerpted] "The existing safety standards fall short of international levels," Tanaka said, adding they in particular lacked severe accident management and disaster prevention measures.

"We've aimed to make new ones comparable internationally and also come up with good ones taking into account Japan's geological characteristics."

"So far, we understand the Oi plant is not exposed to any imminent danger," Tanaka said. "But the more we move on, the more cases we will clarify which do not meet (the new standards). Then, we'll order utilities to make changes necessary to comply."

NRA-appointed experts will visit Oi next month, including one specialist who has warned of dangers with the site....

....The operator of the Fukushima plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) acknowledged for the first time last week that it had failed to anticipate and deal with the disaster, in which three reactors suffered meltdowns.

...The new safety standards are to be in place by next July and Tanaka has promised never to allow a repeat of Fukushima...

...Bringing eight reactors on line from the current two would save about 240 billion yen ($3 billion) in fuel costs by power utilities in the year to next March, according to an estimate by Institute of Energy Economics of Japan.


PREVIOUS ARTICLE

Safety first, but retain nuclear power, says new watchdog chief Sep 22, 2012 http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201209220039

[Excerpted] The head of Japan's new nuclear watchdog said Japan's two functioning reactors should remain active, despite the end of the summer peak demand for electricity.

Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, said he does not want the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors of the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture shut down again in the near future.

The two reactors were reactivated in July amid vocal public protests. The government said the restarts would help avert power shortages this summer, usually a time of heavy air conditioner use.

Speaking on Sept. 21 in an exclusive interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Tanaka also said he plans to introduce a new safety assessment regime for nuclear reactors to guard against other "unforeseeable" emergencies.

But Tanaka stressed that his basic stance on the continued use of nuclear energy remains positive....

....But he continued: "In legal terms, the responsibility for disaster preparedness lies not with the Nuclear Regulation Authority but with prefectural governments and the central government."

.... experts have warned that a geological fault line that cuts across the Oi plant site may be active. Kansai Electric Power Co., the plant operator, is conducting geological surveys.


MAJIA HERE: Japan's new nuclear regulator is handing off the responsibility for disaster preparedness to the prefectural governments!

Furthermore, Japan is simultaneously shifting responsibility for decision making away from elected officials, while legitimizing the continued reliance upon and development of nuclear power by allowing (forcing) Tepco to assume all responsibility for the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Tepco's admission of guilt allows Japan's new regulator(s) to say, 'look, all we have to do is abide by international safety standards and there will be no more disasters...'


Edano: Not up to government to decide reactor restarts September 29, 2012 http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201209290048

[Excerpted] Whether Japan's idled reactors should resume power generation is a decision others must take, not the central government, the industry minister has said.

Reactors will be fired up only on certain conditions: "If the Nuclear Regulation Authority has given a green light to safety and if local governments have shown their understanding," Yukio Edano said, addressing a Sept. 28 news conference.


Majia here: Japan's unit 1 nuclear reactor was in trouble BEFORE the tsunami hit.

Nuclear power plants cannot be engineered to withstand severe earthquakes and flooding without incurring prohibitive costs. See for example http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/19/nuclear-plant-flood-threat-leak_n_1983005.html

Spent fuel pools and other forms of nuclear waste are difficult and costly to maintain. A spent fuel pool fire is a severe and intense threat to human health. According to the NRC transcripts, Fukushima had 4 spent fuel pools in danger of fires and I personally believe that units 3's and 4's spent fuel pool burned more than once. I don't know the fate of the common spent fuel pool.


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