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Japan’s Regulator to Review Reactor Restart Requests, Formulate New Severe Accident Regulations

Industry/Regulatory/Political

  • The five commissioners heading Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) unanimously agreed last week to formulate new severe accident regulations for nuclear energy facilities, in line with the country’s atomic energy law that parliament amended in June. Accident scenarios to be covered will include terrorist actions as well as earthquakes and tsunamis. The NRA said draft regulations will be available for public comment March 2013 and are to be finalized by July. Two sets of final regulations are to be drawn up, to include plant system design considerations and severe accident management procedures.
  • The NRA announced that its reviews of reactor restart requests will include technical safety assessments and briefings of local government authorities. However, the agency’s commissioners said it would leave it to plant operators to persuade local governments to accept the plant restarts. The safety assessments will be based on guidelines to be developed using international and national standards —such as those of the IAEA, Finland, France and the United States—and issued by July 2013.
  • The NRA commission last week also unanimously approved an 18-point directive for Tokyo Electric Power Co. to implement the decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi reactors 1 through 4 and to maintain the cold shutdown of reactors 5 and 6. The list includes requirements for monitoring plant parameters and preventing further hydrogen explosions and countermeasures to maintain fuel cooling in the event of emergency situations such as earthquakes, tsunamis and tornadoes.
  • Japan’s Electric Power Development Co., or J-Power, announced last week it had completed installing the upper steel lining of the containment vessel for the 1,383-megawatt advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR) it is building at the Ohma site in Aomori prefecture. J-Power resumed the Ohma construction project Oct. 1, having suspended it after last year’s Fukushima accident. Meanwhile, Chugoku Electric Power Co. has refiled its application with local prefectural authorities to continue site preparation work for two proposed ABWRs at Kaminoseki in Yamaguchi prefecture. While Japan’s new nuclear policy bans new nuclear plant construction, the government has allowed the construction of two nuclear energy facilities (Ohma and Shimane) to resume. The Japan Business Federation and the opposition Liberal Democratic Party have voiced their opposition to the government’s nuclear phaseout plan.

Plant Update

  • Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s endoscopic investigation last week inside the containment vessel of Fukushima Daiichi reactor 1 showed that the water level is high enough to keep the fuel cool. Presentations and video footage of the probe are available at the TEPCO website here and here.
  • Dale Klein, former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, last week was elected chairman of TEPCO’s nuclear reform monitoring committee. The heads of the committee’s four working groups also were elected. Klein is to lead the international cooperation working group. Other groups will investigate risk assessment, ethics and emergency management. A document, “Fundamental Policy for the Reform of TEPCO Nuclear Power Organization,” was developed for the nuclear reform special task force’s first meeting on Oct. 12 and is available on the company’s website here.
  • A 503-page English translation of the final report of TEPCO’s internal investigation into the causes and effects of the Fukushima accident has been completed and is available on the company’s website here. The original report in Japanese was made available earlier this year.

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Activity ID: 1002943 Activity Name: NEI Remarketing Safety Activity Group Name: Remarketing Safety First