- An independent commission appointed by Japan’s parliament to study the causes of last year’s nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi harshly criticized the government, the plant operator and the country’s national culture. After conducting 900 hours of public hearings and interviews with more than 1,100 people and visiting several nuclear power plants, the commission’s report concluded the accident was a “manmade disaster,” the result of “collusion between the government, the regulators and Tokyo Electric Power Co.” It said the “root causes were the organizational and regulatory systems that supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions.” The panel criticized the regulator for insufficiently maintaining independence from the industry in developing and enforcing safety regulations, the government for inadequate emergency preparedness and management, and TEPCO for its poor governance and lack of safety culture. The report calls for fundamental changes across the industry, including the government and regulators, to increase openness, trustworthiness and focus on protecting public health and safety. Tony Pietrangelo, NEI’s senior vice president and chief nuclear officer, explains the differences in how U.S. and Japanese nuclear energy facilities are regulated and operated in a YouTube video.
- Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Ohi reactor 3 in Fukui prefecture reached its full 1,180 megawatts of power July 7. The reactor started up July 1 after a 15-month shutdown and was connected to the grid four days later. This was the first time that a Japanese nuclear reactor was restarted since the accident at Fukushima. The last of Japan’s 50 operational reactors shut down for maintenance and safety checks in May. Ohi reactor 4 is expected to start up next week and reach full power by July 25, after which the government says it will reduce power-saving quotas for areas in western Japan served by Kansai Electric.
- The U.S. nuclear energy industry continues making progress incorporating safety enhancements based on recommendations from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Japan task force. Last week the Nuclear Energy Institute submitted for NRC review and endorsement its draft guidance for complying with the agency’s March 2012 order requiring reliable used fuel pool instrumentation. NEI separately provided the NRC with the industry’s estimate of the level of effort required to respond to the agency’s information request for re-evaluating seismic and flooding hazards at U.S. nuclear energy facilities.
- A video report on Bloomberg Businessweek says that for Japan’s heavy industries to survive, the need to return to nuclear energy is “pressing.” The Wall Street Journal said the pro-nuclear governor of Kagoshima prefecture has won a third term by a landslide in a closely watched election seen as a referendum on nuclear energy. Kagoshima is host to the two-unit Sendai nuclear plant, which the governor supports reopening. Reuters reports on Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s planned timeline for restarting the seven reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear energy facility, assuming local community support.
- The Japanese parliamentary commission’s report on the Fukushima accident being “preventable” was widely reported in the media, including the Washington Post, which calls for nuclear energy to continue worldwide as long as operators maintain “exacting care and discipline” as well as openness with the public and independence between the industry and regulators. An article in Power Engineering says the Japanese government will not allow anyone who has worked for a nuclear utility or “related organization” for the past three years to become a member of the regulatory organization that will replace the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency later this year.
- CBC News notes that, a year after the Fukushima accident, electricity generated by nuclear energy facilities worldwide has recovered from an initial dip and is now at an all-time high, the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency says. According to the World Nuclear Association, the report additionally observes, about 73 gigawatts of new nuclear capacity will be available by 2020.
- NEI’s Safety First website profiles Lacy Kiser, vice president for human resources at Shaw’s Power Group. Kiser outlines the employment opportunities available in the nuclear energy industry.
- The NRC holds a public meeting this week to continue discussions on implementing the agency’s Japan task force recommendation on flooding hazard re-evaluations.