- Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it found no significant damage or deformation to two unused fuel assemblies it had removed last week from the used fuel storage pool of Fukushima Daiichi reactor 4. The utility said it also will examine fuel pellets from inside the assembly rods. The relatively large amount of fuel in the reactor 4 storage pool (1,331 used nuclear fuel and 202 unused nuclear fuel assemblies) has made their removal one of TEPCO’s top priorities for decommissioning the site. The company plans to begin removing the fuel assemblies starting December 2013.
- The Japanese government has proposed a national forest in Tochigi prefecture, north of Tokyo, as a site to dispose of more than 40,000 tons of ash and mud from nine prefectures that have low levels of radioactive contamination from the Fukushima Daiichi accident. The facility would encase drums of the radioactive material in a 30-foot deep concrete-lined vault with a clay backfill. Japan’s Environment Ministry said it expects radiation levels outside the facility to be below one millirem per year, one-hundredth the annual permissible level for the general public.
- The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued three interim staff guidance (ISG) documents outlining acceptable approaches to implementing orders for safety enhancements at U.S. nuclear energy facilities in response to the Fukushima Daiichi accident. The guidance endorses the industry’s FLEX approach to responding to the loss of AC power at nuclear energy facilities, partially endorses the industry approach to enhancing used nuclear fuel storage pool water level instrumentation and provides details on reliable hardened vents for Mark I and Mark II boiling water reactors. The ISGs are available on NRC’s ADAMS document system under accession numbers ML12229A174, ML12221A339 and ML12229A475.
- The Convention on Nuclear Safety’s extraordinary post-Fukushima meeting ended in Vienna last week with 64 contracting parties approving several measures to strengthen nuclear safety worldwide. Special attention was paid to reassessing how to maintain reactor containment integrity in severe events. The attendees also agreed to establish a working group to recommend by the 2014 meeting how to improve the effectiveness of the convention. U.S. NRC Commissioner William Magwood said the United States was “very happy” with the outcomes of the meeting.
- NEI’s SafetyFirst website highlights a Nuclear Energy Overview article that describes how Entergy’s nuclear energy facilities in the Gulf Coast weathered Hurricane Isaac last week.
- Reuters reports that the Japanese government is expected sometime next week to set its new energy policy, including mid- to long-term targets for the use of nuclear energy. The New York Times points out that at least four of Japan’s electric utilities would become insolvent if the country moves to shut down all its nuclear energy facilities. “People talk easily about shutting down Japan’s nuclear power plants, but the economic and financial consequences are severe,” the article quotes Reiji Takeishi, professor of environmental economics at Tokyo International University as saying. The Japan Times reports that rolling blackouts have been averted this summer, even with only two of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors operating, mainly because of the stringent power-saving measures taken by public agencies and private companies.
- The Mainichi Shimbun says that the governor of Shizuoka prefecture is supporting a referendum on restarting the Hamaoka nuclear energy facility. The same paper reports that the operators of four nuclear plants—Ikata, Shika, Shimane and Tomari—have told the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency that they can withstand severe earthquakes triggered by “multiple active faults moving closely together.” According to the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum’s latest tally, NISA is reviewing the preliminary “stress test” results of 27 facilities that have been submitted by the utilities.
- The National Academy of Sciences will hold its second meeting on lessons learned from Fukushima on Sept. 6-7 in Washington, D.C. The meeting will be webcast.
- The NRC will hold a public meeting on Sept. 11 to present a staff paper on the economic consequences of land contamination from severe reactor accidents. The meeting will be webcast.