Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wednesday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site:
Japan PM Expects Shutdown Reactors to Restart by Next Summer
September 21, 2011
Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues

  • Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who will speak at this week’s United Nations general assembly, said he expects Japan’s shutdown nuclear energy facilities to be running by next summer. Since the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, communities throughout Japan have refused to let plants restart after they shut down for routine maintenance. In Japan, local governments have the ability to block nuclear facility restarts. Only about 25 percent of Japan’s nuclear reactors are operating.
  • There will be “continuous and significant growth in the use of nuclear power” over the next 20 years, Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said at the organization’s general conference, which is taking place this week. He added that he expects the growth to proceed “at a slower rate than in our previous projections.” The range of growth, he said, is 90 to 350 new reactors by 2030.
  • Radioactive cesium at levels well below the Japanese government’s safety limit has been detected in 4 percent of rice samples from Japan’s Tohoku and Kanto regions. So far, tests on rice in seven prefectures are complete, but not in Fukushima or Miyagi. Cesium has been detected in rice in 64 locations in Fukushima Prefecture, but the highest level was only about 25 percent of the limit.
  • Japan’s government may lift its evacuation advisories for areas 12.5 to 18.5 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility by the end of September. Residents of five municipalities that lie mostly within that zone will be required to prepare for quick evacuation in case of an emergency.
Plant Status
  • In its monthly status report on its roadmap for recovery at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it will increase monitoring of radioactive materials released from the site. January remains its goal to reach what TEPCO calls a “cold shutdown condition” for the three damaged reactors, the company reports.
  • The Japanese government and TEPCO said the utility will soon begin to install filters to reduce the amount of radioactive substances in the air at reactors 1-3 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility. The new equipment will remove contaminated gases from the reactors. TEPCO also said it expects to complete construction of a giant shield around reactor building 1 by mid-October. The vinyl shield is designed to keep radioactive material from entering the environment.
  • A large amount of groundwater may be entering the nuclear facilities at Fukushima Daiichi. TEPCO reported that 200 to 500 tons of what it believes to be rainwater that had seeped into the soil may be entering reactor buildings through cracks in basement walls, mixing with contaminated water that already is there. For the last several weeks, TEPCO has been decontaminating water that has accumulated at the site and is recycling it to cool the reactors.

Media Highlights

  • Typhoon Roke grazed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility and damaged only a security camera, CBS News reported.
Upcoming Events
  • NEI and industry representatives are meeting with NRC staff today to discuss actions related to the NRC’s Japan task force recommendations. The meeting will be webcast.
  • Lessons learned from the Fukushima accident will be discussed in a Sept. 22 meeting on nuclear safety and security that will convene as part of the United Nations’ general assembly.
  • The NRC commissioners will be briefed in a public meeting Oct. 11 on prioritization of long-term recommendations from its Japan task force. The briefing will be webcast.

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