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Fukushima town re-elects mayor

Located in: Industry Talk

22 November 2011

Residents of the town closest to the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan have re-elected a mayor who wants to rebuild the community, rejecting a candidate who advocated permanent relocation. Mayoral and prefectural elections in the Fukushima prefecture were rescheduled from April in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the region in March. Two candidates stood for election as mayor in Okuma, which was at the beginning of the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant: Toshitsuna Watanabe, the existing mayor who is keen to rebuild the town, and Jin Kowata, who advocated the relocation of the entire population of 11,500. Watanabe was re-elected by 3451 votes to 2343 in a poll with a turnout of just over 68%. According to the town's website, nearly 8000 evacuees from Okuma are still in the Fukushima prefecture. All evacuees were eligible to vote in the election.

New president for WANO

Located in: Industry Talk

25 October 2011

Vladimir Asmolov has been elected as the new president of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO). The Rosenergoatom deputy director was voted in during WANO's biennial general meeting in Shenzhen, China. He succeeds China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Co chairman He Yu in the post, and will serve a nominal two-year term. During the course of the meeting, WANO members have approved a series of wide-ranging new commitments to nuclear safety and pledged support for the recommendations developed by the organisation's post-Fukushima commission. WANO is a non-profit member organisation established in 1989, bringing together every company in the world that operates nuclear power facilities. Its sole mission is to help its members to achieve the highest levels of operational safety and reliability.

Evacuation advisories lifted in Fukushima towns

Located in: Industry Talk

30 September 2011

The Japanese government has lifted an evacuation advisory for five municipalities located between 20 and 30 kilometres from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The advisory covers Hirono town, Naraha town, Kawauchi village, Tamura city and Minamisoma city, all within Fukushima prefecture. Although the government had earlier advised people in those areas to be prepared to stay indoors or leave their homes should the situation at the damaged nuclear reactors deteriorate, some 28,500 residents - about half the population - had chosen to leave anyway. The five municipalities have already submitted their respective plans for decontaminating the areas and restoring key infrastructure. The lifting of the advisory marks the first time that the government has revoked an evacuation-related designation since the accident began. With the damaged reactors becoming more stable and radiation levels having decreased, the government aims to allow more people from evacuated areas to return home permanently. At present nobody is allowed to live within 20 kilometres of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, while people living up to 30 kilometres away have been told to be prepared to evacuate. In addition, some other areas, such as Itate village, have been evacuated due to radiation dose rates over 20 millisieverts per year.

Fukushima units near cold shutdown

Located in: Industry Talk

29 September 2011

The temperatures at the bottom of the reactor pressure vessels (RPVs) of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi units 1, 2 and 3 have all been recorded as being below 100°C for the first time since the accident triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, according to Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco). At 5.00pm on 28 September, the temperature of the bottom of the RPV of unit 2 was 99.4°C. The temperature of unit 1 has been below 100°C - the boiling point of water - since late July, while that of unit 3 dropped below 100°C in early September. The temperatures of units 1 and 3 are currently around 78°C and 79°C, respectively. Cold shutdown at all three reactors - when the heat from radioactive decay has been removed effectively enough for coolant water to be below 100ºC - is the goal of the second phase of Tepco's roadmap for stabilisation. It aims to achieve this by the end of 2011. However, Tepco spokesman Junichi Matsumoto said "Although the temperature (of unit 2) has been showing a falling tendency overall, the temperature of the bottom of the pressure vessel has gone up and down, so it is still too early to (make a definitive conclusion).

Edano takes over at METI

Located in: Industry Talk

12 September 2011

Japanese prime minister Yoshihiko Noda has announced the appointment of Yukio Edano as minister for trade and industry. He replaces Yoshio Hachiro, who resigned after only eight days at the helm of the Ministry for Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) following insensitive comments and jokes made to reporters while visiting the area affected by the Fukushima nuclear accident. Edano was chief cabinet secretary under Japan's previous prime minister, Naoto Kan, and is well versed in nuclear issues having acted as the government's chief spokesman during the crisis at the nuclear plant.

Chubu borrows to pay for gas

Located in: Industry Talk

25 August 2011

Chubu Electric Power Corp has signed a loan agreement totalling ¥100 billion ($1.3 billion) with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) for the purchase of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to fuel its gas-fired power plants following the enforced shutdown of its Hamaoka nuclear power plant. In the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi accident, prime minister Naoto Kan asked Chubu in early May to shut down Hamaoka units 4 and 5, and not to restart unit 3 of the plant in Shizuoka prefecture until tsunami defences at the site have been strengthened. Hamaoka units 1 and 2 have already been permanently shut down. The company expects work to bolster the site's tsunami defences to be completed by December 2012. In June, Chubu secured an emergency loan of ¥100 billion from the Development Bank of Japan to support rising fuel costs following the shutdown of the plant.

UK new build regulatory plan

Located in: Industry Talk

18 August 2011

A four-year plan from the UK's Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has spelt out the resources it will put towards new nuclear build in coming years. The ONR expects to issue interim Design Acceptance Confirmation for the Areva EPR and Westinghouse AP1000 by the end of the year, if the outcomes of Mike Weightman's post-Fukushima report can be incorporated. Some items will be outstanding, but these should have a predictable timetable for resolution. It also counts among its deliverables the granting of approval for non-nuclear site work for Hinkley Point C, Wylfa B and Sizewell C, as long as applications are satisfactory. Subject to government approval, the ONR will start acceptance work on a new set of reactor designs in mid-to-late 2012. Supporting all this is a new-build workforce of about 88, growing to 107 in 2015. This year's budget for new build regulation was almost £20 million ($33 million) and future budgets will vary around the £15-16 million ($24-26 million) mark to 2015. The ONR has a total budget of about £62 million ($102 million), some 98% of which is recovered from industry.

Ex-Tepco worker becomes World Cup heroine

Located in: Industry Talk

15 July 2011

Workers at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan have been given a boost to their morale as one of their former female colleagues has helped the national soccer team to get through to the finals of the FIFA Women's World Cup. On 9 July, former Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) employee Karina Maruyama was brought on as a substitute and scored a last-minute goal that enabled the Japanese team to beat host-nation Germany. Maruyama told the Chunichi Shimbun newspaper that she cried when she later read a message on her blog from a former colleague working at the Fukushima Daiichi plant saying that the goal had "renewed our will to work and strive together." Maruyama, who currently plays for Japanese club JEF United Ladies, worked at the plant between 2005 and 2009 while playing for Mareese, a club sponsored by Tepco. Japan went on to beat Sweden in the semi-finals on 13 July and will now face the USA in the finals in Frankfurt on 17 July.

Mayoral blessing for Japanese restart

Located in: Industry Talk

04 July 2011

The mayor of Genkai in southwestern Japan, Hideo Kishimoto, has given his approval to the restart of Kyushu Electric Power Company's Genkai units 2 and 3. The units were off line for periodic inspections at the time of the 11 March earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, and their restart has been postponed. Units 1 and 4 at the plant were not in outage at the time of the earthquake and have continued to operate. Some 20 of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors were off line for planned maintenance as of 11 March and have not yet been allowed to restart. Japan's economy, trade and industry minister Banri Kaieda recently highlighted the need for Japanese prefectural governors to allow such plants to resume operations. A restart of the Genkai units will require the agreement of the governor of Saga Prefecture, Yasushi Furukawa. If permission is granted, the two Genkai units would be the first Japanese reactors to restart following the 11 March natural disasters.

Vattenfall looks at German losses

Located in: Industry Talk

22 June 2011

The Swedish state-owned power company, Vattenfall, has announced that it expects operating profit for the second half of this year to be impacted by SEK10 billion ($1.5 billion) due to nuclear shutdowns in Germany. That country's government decided to close all nuclear reactors built in or before 1984 in the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima accident. Among these were the Brunsbüttel and Krümmel plants, of which Vattenfall owns 66.7% and 50% respectively totalling some 1187 MWe of nuclear capacity. The company said there would be no effect on cash flow in 2011, but that it had to "impair its book value" and to "increase the provisions for dismantling the plants and the handling of nuclear fuel.

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