Sendai nuclear plant in southern Japan is first to begin operation since 2011 Fukushima meltdowns, despite anti-nuclear protests
Police officers guard the gate of the Sendai nuclear power plant as protesters rally against the restarting of the reactor. Photograph: Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images
A power plant operator in southern Japan has restarted a reactor, the first to begin operating under new safety requirements following the Fukushima disaster.
Kyushu Electric Power Co. said on Tuesday it had restarted the No. 1 reactor at its Sendai nuclear plant as planned.
The restart marks Japan’s return to nuclear energy four-and-half-years after the 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan following an earthquake and tsunami.
The national broadcaster NHK showed plant workers in the control room as they turned the reactor back on. Tomomitsu Sakata, a spokesman for Kyushu Electric Power, said the reactor was put back online as planned without any problems.
The disaster displaced more than 100,000 people due to radioactive contamination in the area and spurred a national debate over this resource-scarce country’s reliance on nuclear power.
Former prime minister Naoto Kan speaks to protesters gathered at the main gate of the Sendai nuclear power plant. Photograph: The Asahi Shimbun/via Getty Images
A majority of Japanese people oppose the return to nuclear energy. Dozens of protesters, including ex-prime minister Naoto Kan, who was in office at the time of the disaster and has become an outspoken critic of nuclear power, were gathered outside the plant as police stood guard.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority affirmed the safety of the Sendai reactor and another one at the plant last September under stricter safety rules imposed after the 2011 accident.
The Sendai No. 1 reactor is scheduled to start generating power on Friday and to reach full capacity next month. The second Sendai reactor is due to restart in October.
Koichi Miyazawa, Japan’s industry minister, said on Tuesday that the government would “put safety first” in resuming use of nuclear power.
All of Japan’s 43 workable reactors have been shut for the last two years pending safety checks. To offset the shortfall in power output, the country ramped up imports of oil and gas and fired up more thermal power plants, slowing progress toward reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases.
Prime minister Shinzo Abe has sought to have the reactors restarted as soon as possible to help reduce costly reliance on imported oil and gas and alleviate the financial burden on utilities of maintaining the idled plants.
“There are very strong vested interests to reopen nuclear reactors. Accepting them as permanently closed would have financial implications that would be hard to manage,” said Tomas Kaberger, chairman of the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation.
Utilities are seeking approvals to restart 23 reactors, including the other Sendai reactor.
The government has set a goal to have nuclear power meet more than 20% of Japan’s energy needs by 2030, despite the lingering troubles at the Fukushima plant, which is plagued by massive flows of contaminated water leaking from its reactors.
Removal of the melted fuel at the plant – the most challenging part of the 30-to-40-year process of shutting it down permanently – will begin only in 2022.
Source: The Guardian
Japan’s first energy plan since Fukushima crisis say nuclear power important energy source
Japan unveiled its first draft energy policy since the Fukushima meltdown three years ago, saying nuclear power remains an important source of electricity for the country.The draft presented Tuesday to the Cabinet for approval expected in March, said Japan’s nuclear energy dependency will be reduced as much as possible, but that reactors meeting new safety standards set after the 2011 nuclear crisis should be restarted.
Japan has 48 commercial reactors, but all have been offline for safety inspections since the crisis.
The draft of the Basic Energy Plan said that a mix of nuclear, renewables and fossil fuel will be the most reliable and stable source of electricity to meet Japan’s energy needs. It did not specify the exact mix, citing uncertain factors such as the number of reactor restarts and the pace of renewable energy development.
Japan slashes climate reduction target amid nuclear shutdown
Japan is to significantly slash its greenhouse gas reduction target in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
It will now aim to achieve a 2020 target of 3.8% below 2005 levels.
This replaces a previous commitment to reduce emissions by 25% from 1990 levels.
The moves come with all of Japan’s nuclear power plants currently offline – forcing the country to increase its burning of fossil fuels.
The move was announced in Tokyo by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. The new target represents a 3% rise over 1990s emissions levels, a comprehensive turnaround from the 25% reduction target.
But Mr Suga said the previous target – set under a government led by the now-opposition Democratic Party – had been “totally unfounded”.
“Our government has been saying… that the 25% reduction target was totally unfounded and wasn’t feasible,” he said.
Speaking at UN climate change talks in Warsaw, Japan’s chief negotiator said the move was based on new circumstances.
“The new target is based on zero nuclear power in the future. We have to lower our ambition level,” said Hiroshi Minami.
Acknowledging the move would attract criticism, he said the target could be adjusted if the nuclear situation changed.
Prior to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Japan generated more than a quarter of its power from nuclear energy.
But since the disaster, its 50 reactors have been mostly idled for safety checks or scheduled maintenance, amid a public backlash against nuclear energy.
Japan’s last operating nuclear reactor, at Ohi, was turned off in September and analysts say the country will be without nuclear power until December at the earliest.
So far, power companies have applied to restart about a dozen of the reactors but this will take time because of safety checks and legal hurdles.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to see the reactors back on line, as they are a vital part of his plan to turn the economy around.
Since the Fukushima disaster, Japan has been forced to import huge amounts of coal, liquid natural gas and other fuels.
Source: BBC News
Preliminary Test Now Required For Fukushima Nuclear Cleanup
Not so fast with the Fukushima decommissioning, TEPCO. A Japanese government-affiliated agency (the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization) has advised the Tokyo Electric Power Company that its proposed method of clearing Reactor Unit 4′s exposed cooling pool needs a test run before anyone commits to a full-scale plan. Japan Times reports that conducting and evaluating the test may add another two weeks to the cleanup schedule.
TEPCO had devised a plan to start removing fuel rods from the stricken reactor containment as early as Friday. Mirroring international fears about the situation and concerns that U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz expressed during his visit last Friday, the energy bureau has limited the utility’s program to one initial safety test, sources close to the matter told the Japan Times on Monday. Sea water corrosion, three explosions, fallen debris, likelihood of fuel rod breakage and uranium pellets escaping, and the possibility of rods colliding all increase the danger of further nuclear compromise at the unit.
Fukushima nuclear operator Tepco ‘should split up’
The operator of Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant should be broken up, a committee is set to propose according to unnamed sources.
The ruling party panel wants part of the Tokyo Electric Power Company in charge of cleaning to be separated.
Fukushima has been beset by problems – including toxic water leaks – since it was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011.
The clean up is expected to take 40 years and cost at least $100bn (£62bn).
Nearly 100,000 people are still unable to return to their homes because of high levels of radiation.
Previous Fukushima problems
- 9 Oct Six workers at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant have been doused in radioactive water, Tepco says
- 7 Oct A plant worker accidentally switches off power to pumps used for cooling damaged reactors
- 3 Oct Tepco says there is a radioactive water leak after workers overfill a storage tank
- 21 Aug Japan’s nuclear agency upgrades Fukushima alert level
- 20 Aug Tepco says 300 tonnes of radioactive water has leaked from a storage tank into the ground
- July Tepco for the first time admits radioactive water is going into the sea
- June Tepco says radioactive water leaking from a storage tank to the ground
- April Tepco suspects a fresh radioactive water leak at Fukushima
- March Tepco suspects a rodent may have been behind a power cut that shut down cooling systems
- Dec 2011 Contaminated water leaks from a treatment system, caused by a crack in the foundation
Cooling systems for reactors at Fukushima were knocked out during the disaster, causing meltdowns at three of them.
Water is being pumped in to cool the reactors. However, this creates large amounts of contaminated water that must be stored securely.
Some of the water has leaked from the tanks, pipes and damaged structures, leading to concerns contaminated water is mixing with groundwater that is flowing into the sea.
Workers have been batting to contain the toxic water leaks and there are reports that they are suffering from low morale and exhaustion.
The panel from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is tasked with the recovery of areas devastated by the earthquake and tsunami.
The panel says Japan’s Fukushima disaster needs to be dealt with by a small, specialist company focused entirely on the clean-up operation, local media report.
It is expected to hand their proposals to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe next week, Reuters news agency says, citing a source familiar with the matter.
It will recommend “creating a clear and realistic organisation” for operations at Fukushima, the source added.
The proposals come after months of intense criticism of Tepco, which owns the plant and is currently responsible for the clean-up.
The idea is that the part of Tepco responsible for the clean-up would be split off, while the rest of the corporation would be allowed to return to its core business of generating electricity, says the BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Tokyo.
Source: BBC News