Minggu, 15 April 2012

More problems at Fukushima as all of Japan's nuclear plants are set to go offline. Operations at all of Japan's 54 nuclear power plants will be suspended "for a moment" starting on May 6, trade minister Yukio Edano said in a speech in the city of Tokushima Sunday.

All atomic power to halt 'momentarily'

Operations at all of Japan's 54 nuclear power plants will be suspended "for a moment" starting on May 6, trade minister Yukio Edano said in a speech in the city of Tokushima Sunday.

His comment suggests the government will be unable to restart reactors 3 and 4 at the Oi plant in Fukui Prefecture by May 5, when the Tomari nuclear power plant will go offline for a regular inspection.
All 54 reactors except for No. 3 at the Tomari plant have been taken offline for scheduled checkups. They have stayed offline because operators have been unable to overcome safety concerns sparked by the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant last year.
The government had been trying to restart the Oi reactors before the shutdown of the last reactor at Tomari, apparently fearing that the political hurdles to restart them will be higher if all 54 are stopped at once.
Antinuclear activists have argued Japan can get by without atomic power, while the state and its utilities have warned of power shortages this summer if all the units are stopped.
Edano visited Fukui Saturday to assure Gov. Issei Nishikawa that the Oi reactors are safe to restart and there is no possibility of a meltdown. But Nishikawa did not immediately consent to the request, apparently prompting Edano to conclude that the chance of firing up the Oi reactors before May 5 is remote.

Criticism mounts over plan to restart nuclear reactors

Japan’s plan to restart two offline nuclear reactors came under fire Sunday from media and environmental groups amid doubts over the safety of atomic power after the Fukushima accident.
“It is hard to understand why the government is in such a haste to restart the reactors,” the major daily Mainichi Shimbun said in an editorial, adding that more thorough checks were needed to ensure safety.
The government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced on Friday that it was safe and necessary to restart the reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant in western Japan, which could help prevent power shortages in the summer months.
Only one of Japan’s 54 reactors—in northernmost Hokkaido—is in operation at present, but it is scheduled to be shut down for maintenance work in May.
Restarting the two Oi reactors will mean the country is not entirely without nuclear power, which can be generated more cheaply than at fuel-burning power plants.
“Independent studies show that there will be no power shortages,” said Wakao Hanaoka, the Japan campaign manager for the environment watchdog Greenpeace.
The activist said Noda and the Oi plant’s operator Kansai Electric Power Co are “recklessly rushing to bring the reactors back online now, saying they meet its lax safety requirements.”
A massive earthquake and tsunami in March last year caused reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. None of reactors shut for regular checks before the disaster have resumed operation amid safety concerns.
“The nuclear industry and the government were totally unprepared for the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi and now they are trying to pretend they can call Oi safe without improving safety or emergency measures,” Hanaoka said.
The government set criteria nine days ago for restarting nuclear reactors included measures to prevent a nuclear accident even if reactors are hit by natural disasters as severe as those that ravaged the Fukushima plant.
The government still needs to gain approval from regional authorities around the Oi plant for the reactors to be restarted amid persistent public distrust over the safety of nuclear power.
Yukio Edano, the minister of industry, on Saturday called on the governor of Fukui, where the Oi plant is located. The governor, Issei Nishikawa, did not give an immediate response to his request for approval of the plan.
“It is uncertain if the plan will ever gain an understanding of communities which have raised objections to the resumption of the reactors,” the Asahi Shimbun reported Sunday.
The influential daily criticised the Noda administration Sunday for being “inconsistent” over its nuclear power policy.
Before Noda took office last September, he promised to follow his predecessor Naoto Kan in ridding Japan of nuclear power, Asahi said.
But he backtracked last January when he said in a policy speech that the resources-poor country would reduce its dependence on nuclear power “as much as possible on a medium- and long-term basis”.
Striking a more positive tone, the conservative daily Sankei Shimbun called on Noda to visit Fukui himself and “speak clearly in his own words about his government’s energy policy and why it is necessary to restart reactors.”


The administration of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda wants to throw the switch on idled nuclear reactors in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, a change from his predecessor of reducing the nation's dependence on nuclear energy.
That departure is best symbolized in the actions of Yukio Edano, the economy, trade and industry minister who oversees the nuclear energy industry.
Having served as chief Cabinet secretary under Prime Minister Naoto Kan when he stated that Japan should move away from a reliance on nuclear energy, Edano was at one time considered to share this stance.
However, on April 14, Edano visited Fukui Prefecture to ask for the understanding and cooperation of local government officials in resuming operations at the Oi nuclear power plant, operated by Kansai Electric Power Co. Two nuclear reactors at the plant are shut down for safety checks. If allowed to go back on line, they would be the first in Japan to be restarted since last year's Great East Japan Earthquake.
During his meeting with Fukui Governor Issei Nishikawa, Edano said, "When we think about the current situation faced by Japanese society and the economy, there will be a need to utilize nuclear energy, which has provided electricity as a main power source until now, as an important power source in the future."
Edano told Nishikawa that the central government had made its judgment that the safety and need for resumption of operations at the Oi plant had been confirmed.
Edano likely emphasized the necessity of continuing to depend on nuclear energy because he wanted Nishikawa's support for resumption of operations.
In explaining why the Oi plant had to go back on line, Edano said, "If we enter the summer with no nuclear reactor in operation, there is the possibility of a 20 percent or so shortage of electricity."
Nishikawa responded that he viewed favorably the central government's efforts to put together new provisional safety standards in response to requests made by the Fukui prefectural government. He added that a final decision would be made on allowing resumption of operations after hearing the views of the Fukui prefectural assembly and the Oi municipal assembly.
Nishikawa also called on the central government to make further efforts to gain wider understanding for the need for nuclear power plants.
"I do not think there has been sufficient understanding by the regions consuming electricity about the contributions being made by the communities where nuclear power plants are located," Nishikawa said. "Under such circumstances, it will be difficult to obtain the support of Fukui residents toward resumption of operations at the Oi plant."
Edano also met with Oi Mayor Shinobu Tokioka on April 14.
Tokioka told Edano that gaining the support of officials of neighboring local governments would also be important.
"I hope you will explain in an understandable way the significance (of having nuclear plants) and the need for resumption of operations," Tokioka said. "It will be essential that the support of local governments in the Kansai region is obtained."
Edano told reporters after his meetings with Fukui officials that he would also seek the support of the governors of Kyoto and Shiga prefectures who have been cautious about a resumption of operations at the Oi plant.
"We have received requests from Shiga and Kyoto," Edano said. "Because the central government has decided on its stance, I will explain that position once again."
The Noda administration plans to make a final decision to restart operations at the Oi plant once it has gained the consent of local governments. However, not only is it unclear if Kyoto and Shiga prefectures will go along, but Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto has continued to take a strong stance against the restart of operations.

    #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Reactor 2: Another Thermocouple on Pressure Vessel Dies

    Another thermocouple goes kaput on the Reactor 2 Pressure Vessel.

    From Jiji Tsushin (4/15/2012):

    Reactor 2 Pressure Vessel thermocouple deemed abnormal after jumping 6 degrees Celsius instantly, says TEPCO


    TEPCO announced on April 15 that one of the thermocouples installed at the bottom of the Reactor 2 Pressure Vessel at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant jumped 6.1 degrees Celsius in an instant on April 14 night. TEPCO investigated, as the rise in temperature was abnormal. The resistance was found to be too high, and on early April 15 TEPCO decided to exclude the thermocouple from the list of instruments that are regularly monitored because there was a doubt on the reliability of the thermocouple.


    According to TEPCO, the thermocouple in question is installed on the outer wall of the Reactor Pressure Vessel, about 2.9 meters from the bottom of the RPV. At 9PM on April 14, the temperature suddenly jumped from 53.8 degrees Celsius to 59.9 degrees Celsius. The other thermocouple at the same height but at a different position stayed at about 45 degrees Celsius, showing no marked difference.
    So, at this location, there will be only one thermocouple monitoring the temperature. Originally there were three, at the measurement location called "vessel wall above bottom head", but the first one, 69H1, died back in February after shooting up above 250 degrees Celsius. Now the second one has died, which must be 69H2, looking atTEPCO's temperature data on Reactor 2:

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