- AREVA has announced a contract to provide all 23 of Japan’s pressurized water reactors with passive autocatalytic recombiners, which will help prevent hydrogen from building up in emergency situations. The company said it will install more than 100 of the devices, which work constantly to oxidize traces of hydrogen into steam catalytically. The devices are not dependent on external power or operator intervention. AREVA says it has installed the recombiners in more than 140 plants worldwide. No Japanese facilities currently have the equipment. At the Fukushima Daiichi facility last year, hydrogen buildup from the oxidation of zirconium cladding in steam led to explosions that caused extensive damage.
- The director general of Fukushima prefecture’s environment department told commissioners at Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority last week that the government should improve its emergency evacuation and public communication procedures. The official said the central government’s evacuation orders during the Fukushima accident provided little useful information for residents or the local government. The official added that the NRA’s proposed 19-mile urgent protective action planning zone around nuclear energy facilities would require the intervention of the national government because the zones would encompass more than one prefecture.
- Japan Atomic Power Co. believes the NRA will approve safety measures for its planned Tsuruga 3 and 4 project, a company spokesman said last week. JAPC filed construction applications for the two 1,500-megawatt advanced pressurized water reactors (APWRs) in March 2004. Although the government said it would not approve new nuclear reactors, some utilities are hoping that previously approved projects can proceed. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which developed the APWR design, said last year it would establish a department to help implement new safety requirements. JAPC has spent about $1.75 billion to develop the Tsuruga site, including reclaiming land, building a breakwater and putting in access roads and tunnels.
- Tokyo Electric Power Co. has released a series of photos and video footage of the used fuel storage pool of Fukushima Daiichi reactor 3. The company says the fuel appears to be undamaged, despite the heavy debris that fell into the pool following the hydrogen explosion last March. Photos show parts of a 35-ton fuel handling machine lying on top of the fuel racks in the pool. TEPCO is planning to remove debris from the reactor’s used fuel pool to allow withdrawal of the stored used fuel to begin 2014.
- The chairman of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority said last week that his agency would have the authority to restart idled nuclear reactors once reactor operators meet new safety regulations to be in place by next July, according to an article by Reuters.
- An editorial in the Daily Yomiuri Online congratulates the Shizuoka prefecture assembly for rejecting a request to hold a referendum on restarting Chubu Electric Co.’s Hamaoka nuclear energy facility, saying decisions on vital matters of national energy security should not be left up to a local referendum. The policy chief of Japan’s opposition Liberal Democratic Party said in an interview that he believed it would be “impossible” for the country to go completely nuclear-free, though he said his party would be willing to develop new energy sources and energy-saving measures.
- Kyodo News said the central government is working with the International Atomic Energy Agency to open a decommissioning and decontamination research facility in Fukushima prefecture.