1. Japan’s Nuclear Energy Outlook
1.1 Policy and Governance
After the temporary shutdown of unit 4 of Ohi NPP on 15 September 2013, Japan has been experiencing “zero nuclear” status again. It is second time for Japan to experience “zero nuclear” status after the Fukushima accident, but short-term prospect of nuclear power is totally different from previous one. In “Japan Revitalization Strategy”, approved by the Cabinet on 14 June 2013, current government announced clearly that it will proceed with the restarting of the nuclear power plants which the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) determines to be in compliance with the new regulatory standards. In line with the announcement, 14 reactors of 5 utilities have already been applied for the safety review and the NRA started the reviews. It is expected that some of them will be restarted within a certain period of time.
With regard to long term prospect, current government also announced in the “Japan Revitalization Strategy” that it will develop a new basic energy plan including medium- and long-term energy strategies by the end of 2013. A council established under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry started discussing the new basic energy plan, and it is expected that the role of nuclear energy in Japan’s energy mix will be defined in the plan.
In parallel with reconstruction of energy policy, restructuring of the governance has been continuing in both the government and nuclear industry. On the part of the government, the role and functions of the Atomic Energy Commission are under review and might be reorganized. Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), the national research center for nuclear science and technology, will also be reorganized to concentrate on some key areas, such as safety research, safe operation of Monju (prototype FBR), and restoration of environment of Fukushima. On the part of industry, International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning (IRID) was established under the encouragement of Japanese govrenment to promote R&D, human resource development and international cooperation on decommissioning. It is expected that IRID as well as Japan Nuclear Safety Institution (JANSI), established in November 2012, will play vital roles within the nuclear industry to improve self-governance and accelerate the efforts in the crucial areas, such as decommissioning and safety.
1.2 Current status in Fukushima
Although there is a steady progress toward stabilization of the Fukushima-Daiichi site, such as initiation of removal of spent fuels from the pool of Unit 4 whose risks had been highly concerned, one of the highest priority issues, which Tokyo Electric Power Conpany (TEPCO) and the government of Japan are facing, is the management of contaminated water around the Fukushima-Daiichi site.
TEPCO has been struggling with this issue ever since the Fukushima-Daiichi accident occurred, and TEPCO argues that the influence of contaminated water remains inside the plant port area and there is no negative impact to outer sea based on their monitoring data. However, the amount of contaminated water keeps increasing despite that TEPCO makes a lot of effort to control the ground water infiltrated from the west side of the site. TEPCO rigs up hundreds of aboveground tanks for the storage of contaminated water as a temporary arrangement, although there have been some leakage incidents from these tanks.
The government of Japan announced “Basic Policy for the Contaminated Water Issue at the TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station” on 3 September 2013, including three principles for the countermeasures against contaminated water issue; “removing the source of the contamination” (e.g. removal and decontamination of highly contaminated water in a trench of the site), “isolating ground water from the contamination source” (e.g. construction of ground water bypass, etc.), and “preventing leakage of the contaminated water” (e.g. construction of impermeable wall around the nuclear reactor buildings area, etc.). The government of Japan is intensifying its involvement in this issue, including establishment of “Inter-Ministerial Council for Contaminated Water and Decommissioning Issues” under the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters and its suggestion to IRID to collect the technical expertise and wisdom from home and abroad.
Over 140,000 people have been evacuating for more than two and a half years; over 90,000 are within the Fukushima prefecture, and about 50,000 are in different parts of Japan. Although nobody died from acute radiation exposure, the surveys by Fukushima prefecture and local municipalities revealed over 1500 cases of “disaster-related deaths” (deaths due to physical and nervous breakdown by long-term evacuation, insufficient medical care, suicide, etc.). To minimize further health problems, Fukushima prefecture and related organizations have strengthened the implementation system of “Fukushima Health Management Survey” in cooperation with academia and international organizations, which includes thyroid ultrasound examination, comprehensive health check, mental health and lifestyle survey and pregnancy and birth survey of the local residents, National and local governments have made significant efforts to reconstruct and revitalize Fukushima, and their central focus is on the remediation work in the surrounding area, toward the ultimate goal “to return home”. The government of Japan rearranged classification of the contaminated area for several times to accommodate remediation works, and currently, contaminated area consists of “Areas to which evacuation orders are ready to be lifted” (annual intergral dose; 20mSv or less), “Areas in which residents are not permitted to live” (annual intergral dose; 20mSv or more), “Areas where it is expected that residents will face difficulties in returning for a long time” (annual intergral dose; 50mSv or more). Although a great deal of effort have been taken by the government, related organizations and the people, remediation works are not proceeding smoothly in some areas and one of the biggest problems is the difficulty of local consensus building toward siting temporary disposal facilities of contaminated soils.
As for the compensation issues, TEPCO have been settling reparation payments in compliance with the guidelines published by the Dispute Reconcilation Committee for Nuclear Damage Compensation under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. However, some criticizes the rigidity of accreditation process and there still be increasing in litigation.
2. YGN Japan Activity
2.1 Nuclear Energy Forum of Young generation 2013 (NEFY2013)
YGN-Japan organized the 2nd Nuclear Energy Forum of Young generation NEFY2013. The forum was held at Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo from 7-8 June 2013. A total of 110 participants who gathered from utilities, manufacturers, general contractors, trading companies, research institutions, universities, and governmental bodies attended the forum. NEFY2013 focused on “action plans” that should be performed by the young generation over the next 10 years. The main program of the forum was group discussions on the following topics:
– Treatment of spent fuel (interim storage, recycling, final disposal)
– Revitalization of Fukushima（remediation, decommissioning）
– Nuclear safety（new safety standard, re-operation of NPPs）
– R&D（next-generation reactors, nuclear sciences and applications）
– International cooperation
– Human resources development
In addition to group discussions by the participants, we also organized special sessions with two invited speakers, Dr. Akihiro Tagawa, former president of YGN-Japan, and Dr. Haruki Madarame, ex-chairman of the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC). Dr. Tagawa provided “first hand” information about current status of Fukushima, based on his experience as administrator of decontamination demonstration program. Dr. Madarame shared his experience as the chairman of NSC at the time of Fukushima accident and expressed his expectations to young nuclear professionals, especially in the area of nuclear safety.
2.2 Monju & Fugen Facility Tour
We organized “Monju & Fugen facility tour” on April 29 and 30. Monju (Demonstration Fast Breeder Reactor) and Fugen (Advanced Thermal Reactor under decommissioning) have been playing important roles in Japan’s nuclear development program for many years. In our tour, we looked on upper core pit and turbine building of Monju, and bottom of reactor vessel and control room of Fugen. After the facility tour, we discussed and reconfirmed the importance of both plants, in terms of R&D for nuclear fuel cycle and for decommission of LWR in the future.