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TEPCO Building Structure to Protect Fukushima Daiichi Reactor 4 Used Fuel Storage Pool

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.
  • TEPCO says it has found no water leaks or serious damage to Fukushima Daiichi reactor 2’s containment vessel or to the suppression chamber. A robot equipped with five cameras and a dosimeter was sent last Wednesday into the area around the toroidal suppression chamber. TEPCO needs to find and repair any leaks in the reactor’s containment before it can implement its long-term plan to remove damaged fuel from the reactor, an operation that requires flooding the vessel. The company has posted videos and photographs captured by the robot.

Industry/Regulatory/Political

  • The Japanese government has named a lawyer, Kazuhiko Shimokobe, as TEPCO’s new chairman. Currently chair of the state-backed nuclear compensation fund, he has also headed a panel investigating the utility’s management and finances. Shimokobe said he would push for reform of the utility’s management and wants to replace half the company’s board with outsiders, though he will choose a successor for TEPCO’s president from within the company. The company is to receive a capital infusion of about $12.2 billion in government funds to maintain operations.
  • Goshi Hosono, Japan’s multi-portfolio minister for nuclear policy, told last week’s annual meeting of the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum that the country is evaluating a range of nuclear fuel cycle options, including direct disposal of used nuclear fuel and various scenarios involving reprocessing, recycling and advanced breeder reactors. Hosono said the government is separately considering its overall basic energy policy and the contribution of nuclear power to Japan’s energy mix.
  • The governors of Shiga and Kyoto prefectures in western Japan are asking the central government to take several steps before restarting the Ohi nuclear reactors in neighboring Fukui prefectures. A seven-point proposal asks the central government to seek advice from independent nuclear experts and to have a third-party panel estimate the region’s power demand. The governors also want to ensure that local authorities are involved in the policy on reactor restarts. An NHK survey last week indicated that more than half of Fukui prefecture residents support restarting the Ohi reactors. However, support in nearby regions is not as high.
  • Several industry task forces on the U.S. regulatory response to Fukushima have made progress in the past few weeks. The flooding task force is working with the NRC on finalizing a schedule for flooding hazard re-evaluations and guidance for flooding walkdowns. The seismic and FLEX strategy task forces are finalizing their respective guidance documents. The emergency preparedness task force will respond to the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on severe accident management guidelines the NRC published last week.

Media Highlights

  • In remarks at last week’s JAIF annual conference in Tokyo, NRC Commissioner William Magwood outlined the importance of establishing clear lines of authority and decision-making in any nation’s nuclear regulatory framework.
  • An article in the Japanese edition of the Wall Street Journal reports that the deputy policy chief of the Democratic Party of Japan has said that precipitously abandoning nuclear energy would be economic “mass suicide.”
  • An editorial in the Washington Post casts doubt on whether Germany and Japan will be able to meet their greenhouse gas emissions goals and meet electricity demand if they replace their nuclear generation with renewables.

New Products

  • A new guest post on NEI’s Safety First website by Scott Peterson, NEI’s senior vice president of communications, describes TEPCO’s use of flexible equipment to achieve and maintain the safe shutdown of the Fukushima Daini nuclear energy facility in the aftermath of last year’s earthquake and tsunami. Peterson visited the plant last week.

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