- Tokyo Electric Power Co. has published measurements showing that the used fuel storage pool at Fukushima Daiichi reactor 4 is level and can withstand a large earthquake. The company last week released details of building tilt and strength measurements and reported that neither the reactor building nor the pool is tilted and that the pool remains safe to store used fuel. Since the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, TEPCO has reinforced the support structure under reactor 4’s pool, which contains a full load of used fuel from a reactor maintenance outage at the time of the earthquake.
- The Japanese cabinet this week will decide on approving the restart of two reactors at the Ohi nuclear energy facility in western Japan. Local officials—including the governor of Fukui prefecture and the mayors of Ohi and Osaka—last week signaled they would give their consent to reopen the facility, after the government warned of power shortages in the summer peak demand season. It is expected that the reactors will take two to three weeks to restart once the go-ahead is given. They will be the first to resume operations since the last of Japan’s 50 reactors were idled for routine inspections last month. The government has promised to enhance its monitoring of the facility by stationing senior industry ministry officials at the plant and setting up a teleconference system between the facility and the prime minister’s office.
- Parliamentary debate began last week on competing bills to reorganize Japan’s nuclear regulatory and oversight agencies. Under discussion between the main parties is whether the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency should become part of the environment ministry as the ruling Democratic Party of Japan proposes or become a completely independent agency as the opposition parties want. Also at issue is which office should take charge in the event of a nuclear accident. Another government bill would limit the operating license of nuclear reactors to 40 years with an “exceptional” license renewal of 20 years. Japan currently does not have a set limit on reactor operating lifetimes after the original 30-year license.
- The U.S. nuclear energy industry continues to develop guidance for plants to implement orders based on the top-priority recommendations of NRC’s post-Fukushima task force. Industry draft guidance is being sent to the NRC for comment and approval on issues including seismic and flooding walkdowns, used fuel instrumentation and reliable hardened vents for some boiling water reactors. The NRC is also preparing interim staff guidance on the industry’s FLEX strategy. The period for public comments on the staff guidance ends July 7. The industry and the NRC are also discussing strategy on implementing the lower-priority task force recommendations.
- Bloomberg reported on TEPCO’s estimate of the quantity of radioactive material released from Fukushima Daiichi after the March 11, 2011, accident. TEPCO’s estimate, though between 50 percent and 80 percent higher than figures released earlier by Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, is less than 20 percent of the amount released from Chernobyl.
- Several articles, including from the Wall Street Journal and Reuters, note the increasing consensus among Japanese regional and national officials to restart Kansai Electric’s Ohi reactors.
- Kyodo News describes the parliamentary discussions that began last week on reorganizing Japan’s nuclear regulator, noting that further delays could jeopardize restarting the country’s idled nuclear reactors.
- NEI’s Safety First website posts video of a panel discussion on the industry and NRC response to the Fukushima accident. Tony Pietrangelo, NEI’s senior vice president and chief nuclear officer, moderated the discussion at NEI’s 2012 Nuclear Energy Assembly in Charlotte.
- The NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards will meet June 6-8 to discuss several topics including implementation of items from the agency’s Fukushima near-term task force recommendations.