April 2012

Industry/Regulatory/Political

  • Japanese central government officials met last week with more than 550 people living near the Ohi nuclear energy facility to make the case that two of the four reactors are safe to restart. The mayor of Ohi said the town council would decide whether to approve the restart now that it has heard from the public. If the Ohi reactors are brought back online, they will be the first to resume operations since the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami. Meanwhile, Hokkaido Electric Power Co.’s Tomari 3, Japan’s last operating commercial nuclear reactor, will shut down for regular inspections this weekend. Last week, TEPCO officially removed the four damaged Fukushima Daiichi reactors from its roster, leaving Japan with 50 operable commercial units.
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Packbot enters Fukushima Daiichi unit 3's reactor building for the first time since the accident.

Packbot enters Fukushima Daiichi unit 3's reactor building for the first time since the accident. (Click to enlarge.)

When many of us think of robots, images of Wall-E, Optimus Prime, R2-D2 and other droids from our favorite science-fiction movies come to mind. However, robots have many critical real-life functions, including detecting bombs in war zones and assisting in recovery efforts at disaster areas. More recently, robots have been utilized to clean up the reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. These remotely-controlled vehicles have removed debris from the site and measured radioactivity in hazardous zones, all while transmitting video and information back to workers who monitor the data from a safe distance. The robots are master scouts, mapping radiation and taking samples to ensure that conditions are safe for their human colleagues.
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The following story originally appeared in NEI’s Nuclear Energy Overview.

A new report by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum warns that Japan could put its energy security at risk if it turns its back on nuclear energy.

A case study on Japan in the report “New Energy Architecture: Enabling an Effective Transition” notes that since the Fukushima accident there has been an “unprecedented level of debate and stakeholder engagement” in Japan about the country’s energy future.
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Scott Peterson, NEI's senior vice president of communications, speaks with a plant employee during a tour of the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant.

Scott Peterson, NEI's senior vice president of communications, speaks with a plant employee during a tour of the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant. (Click to enlarge.)

The following is a guest post from Scott Peterson, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s senior vice president of communications, who just recently returned to the United States following a trip to Japan.

FUKUSHIMA PREFECTURE–The safe shutdown of Japan’s Fukushima Daini plant could be instructive to the U.S. industry’s approach to adding flexible and diverse safety equipment at nuclear energy facilities.

“We have demonstrated through experience that the flexible approach works,” said Shinichi Kawamura, plant manager at the Daini site. “We used flexibility both in our systems and emergency operating procedures to safely stabilize the reactors after the tsunami.”
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Plant Update

  • Tokyo Electric Power Co. last week began preparing to build a covered structure alongside and above the reactor 4 building at Fukushima Daiichi. The structure will house a fuel-handling crane that will eventually remove more than 1,500 used fuel assemblies from the reactor’s used fuel storage pool for transfer to the site’s common pool. The steel-clad building, expected to be completed by the middle of next year, will have a tighter seal than the cover that was built for reactor 1 and will incorporate filters to prevent the spread of radioactive materials. TEPCO must remove accumulated debris from the reactor’s used fuel storage pool before the fuel itself can be moved. A schematic of the planned covered building is available on the TEPCO website here.
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Activity ID: 1002943 Activity Name: NEI Remarketing Safety Activity Group Name: Remarketing Safety First