- Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission said last week that Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Ohi reactors 3 and 4 are safe to restart. The commissioners and a team of outside experts agreed with the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency that KEPCO’s stress test results for the reactors are satisfactory. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and three cabinet ministers will use the NSC recommendation to decide on restarting the facilities. Under agreements made by utilities, local governments also have approval rights to restart the reactors. NISA is evaluating the results of stress tests for 16 other reactors.
- The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission last week issued orders to operators of nuclear energy facilities requiring enhanced protection of portable emergency equipment, hardened containment vents for some reactor designs, and additional instrumentation for monitoring the water level in used reactor fuel storage pools. The NRC has also issued requests for information pertaining to re-evaluations of seismic and flooding hazards, communications, and staffing during events affecting multiple reactors at a site. Modifications at U.S. reactors must be completed within two refueling cycles after Feb. 28, 2013, or by Dec. 31, 2016, whichever is earlier.
- Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said last week the government will license the operation of the two reactors under construction in Japan on a case-by-case basis. Chugoku Electric Power Co.’s Shimane reactor 3 was 94 percent complete when construction was suspended March 11, 2011. The company has since built a 48-foot seawall that is being extended to protect the existing Shimane 1 and 2 reactors. Electric Power Development Co.’s Ohma reactor is 38 percent complete.
- Tokyo Electric Power Co. last week used an underwater camera to survey the interior of Fukushima Daiichi reactor 4’s pressure vessel for the first time since the March 2011 accident. Sunken and floating debris were observed, similar to that which has been seen in the reactor’s used fuel pool. The company plans this week to augment the camera’s findings with an underwater robotic probe. One of TEPCO’s top priorities is to remove used fuel from reactor 4’s storage pool to a shared used fuel storage pool elsewhere on the site.
- TEPCO also last week inspected the suppression chambers of Fukushima Daiichi reactors 2 and 3. Six inspectors were able to enter the chamber of reactor 2 and photograph the torus, but they could not do so at reactor 3 because of a jammed access door. The company’s long-term plans to remove damaged fuel from the reactor cores depend on being able to find and plug leaks in the containment vessels and suppression chambers.
- TEPCO plans to add another stage of water decontamination equipment to the system currently in place, using Energy Solutions’ Advanced Liquid Processing System. Toshiba and Energy Solutions are to design and install the extra system to further reduce radionuclides present in recirculating cooling water to very low concentrations. Fortum of Finland is to supply granular ion-exchange media to Energy Solutions for the new system. TEPCO might eventually decontaminate some of the 250,000 cubic meters of accumulated water sufficiently to begin releasing it to the ocean.
- Tokyo Electric Power Co. has launched a new website, “Fukushima Daiichi – A One Year Review.” The website contains a compilation of accounts of the accident, a summary of accident response measures taken to date, and plans for the decontamination and decommissioning of the site.
- Several online articles, including in Ars Technica, the Atlantic Council’s New Atlanticist blog, and OilPrice.com, note that the world’s most rapidly developing nations like China and India, along with Russia, will continue to advance plans for nuclear energy growth. A new report by the World Energy Council and an upcoming one by the IAEA project unabated nuclear energy growth in these regions.
- James Conca, director of the Environmental Monitoring and Research Labs in Carlsbad, N.M., explains his conviction that the irrational fear of radiation is more dangerous to Japan than the radiation itself.
- Recently posted items on NEI’s Safety First website include a Q&A session with David Gambrell, director of Southern Nuclear’s severe accident management team, on the actions his company has taken to enhance safety post-Fukushima. There is also an advertorial by J. Wayne Leonard, Entergy Corp.’s chairman and CEO, on the measures taken on severe accident safety at New York’s Indian Point nuclear energy facility.
- The International Atomic Energy Agency will convene an international experts’ meeting on reactor and spent fuel safety in light of the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Vienna, March 19-22.