Nuclear Energy Institute Report on Japan’s Nuclear Reactors, January 23, 2012

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–January 23, 2012. 

IAEA Reviewing ‘Stress Test’ Results for 2 Japanese Reactors


  • International Atomic Energy Agency experts are in Japan this week to verify the Japanese government’s recent approval of the safety of Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Ohi 3 and 4, based on the results of European Union-style “stress tests.” James Lyons, director of IAEA’s nuclear installation safety division, said the final decision on restarting reactors shut down for safety inspections will rest with Japanese authorities. Passing the stress tests is a prerequisite for shutdown reactors to resume operation.
  • Japan’s environment minister, Goshi Hosono, said the government will develop a radiation decontamination timetable by the end of March. Hosono also said more work will be done to gain local consent to establish a temporary storage facility for contaminated soil.
  • Japan’s science ministry has budgeted $57 billion in research funds for the coming fiscal year to help decommission the Fukushima Daiichi reactors. An industry consortium (Hitachi General Electric Nuclear Energy, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Toshiba) will determine how to locate fuel debris inside Fukushima Daiichi reactors 1 through 3 and how to fill the pressure vessels with water. Funds also are earmarked for the Japan Atomic Energy Agency to investigate corrosion of the reactors after seawater was used for emergency cooling last March.
  • The chairman of Japan’s Federation of Electric Power Companies said any new law defining the operating lifespan of nuclear reactors must be “rational and scientific.” The government is proposing to impose a 40-year limit on plant licenses, with a single 20-year extension, which it says would “correspond to international standards.” Current Japanese law gives reactors an initial 30-year lifetime with additional 10-year extensions.

Plant Status

  • Tokyo Electric Power Co. has released video clips taken inside the containment vessel of Fukushima Daiichi reactor 2. TEPCO last week recorded 30 minutes of video using a fiber-optic endoscope, the first look at the reactor internals since the March 11 accident. The utility said the instrument enabled it to gauge the water at the bottom of the vessel to be about 12 feet deep and to confirm temperature readings.

New Products

  • A new issue of NEI’s Perspectives on Public Opinion says that large majorities of both the general public and plant neighbors continue to support nuclear energy. The report, based on surveys conducted for NEI by Bisconti Research Inc. in June and September, includes user-friendly graphics depicting the latest trends and is available on NEI’s website.
  • Southern Nuclear Operating Co. expert Ken Lowery explains how correction action programs are used in the nuclear energy industry to identify, analyze and resolve problems before they escalate into more serious issues affecting plant safety.

Media Highlights

  • NEI Nuclear Notes reports on a live chat with the public held by PBS correspondent Miles O’Brien and program producer Jon Palfreman after last week’s “Frontline” documentary “Nuclear Aftershocks,” which looked at the aftermath of the Fukushima accident on the global nuclear industry. See NEI’s blog for responses to issues raised in the documentary about the evacuation of local communities, plant aging and a seismic fault near the Indian Point facility. Also, see NEI’s Twitter timeline related to the program. According to an informal PBS poll of the audience during the chat, the U.S. public remains positive about building new nuclear plants.
  • Responding to requests from local authorities, the Japanese government is asking the International Atomic Energy Agency to set up a permanent presence in Fukushima Prefecture, according to AFP. The IAEA is “carefully considering” the request, said James Lyons, head of the international team in Japan this week.