Today’s first Fukushima update focusses on Tepco’s Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee (NRMC) report recommending changes the company should make to insure nuclear safety. The committee is comprised of five respected international experts from several nuclear and related fields. The Chairman is Dale Klein, former chairman of America’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The other members are Barbara Judge (former chair of Britain’s Atomic Energy Authority), Masafumi Sakurai (public prosecutor and member of the Diet’s Fukushima investigative committee), and Kenichi Ohmae (former nuclear engineer with Hitachi, Ltd). Tepco is represented on the panel by their Chairman Kazuhiko Shimokobe. The NRMC is as independent as it gets in Japan. A Japanese nuclear company using independent experts to set corporate policy is virtually unheard-of. Tepco says they will re-structure their nuclear energy division from top to bottom, if necessary, to establish sufficient confidence with the public to allow the restart of their currently-idled nukes. The company posted the NRMC’s initial recommendations on Friday.

Concurrent with the report’s release, Chairman Klein made a public statement. He believes that Tepco had become overly confident in its nuclear program and did not question their level of safety before 3/11/11. He commended Tepco for taking the initiative to create the NRMC, acknowledging that Tepco cannot continue without substantial reform. Klein said, “It’s very important for Tepco to recognize the need to reform and the committee is very anxious to facilitate the reforms necessary for Tepco to become a world-class company. The committee’s goal is to ensure that Tepco develops practices and procedures so an accident like (the Fukushima meltdowns) will never happen again.” He also disclosed he has personally inspected Fukushima Daiichi, with a central focus on the oft-criticized unit #4 Spent Fuel Pool (SFP). He says the building is safe and not in danger of future earthquake damage. Klein added that the uncertainty about the pool’s integrity was caused by early misinformation claiming the pool to be dry. Klein explained that once incorrect information becomes widespread it is difficult to establish confidence in the dissemination of correct evidence when the initial information is proven wrong.

A member of Tepco’s executive staff confirmed their intention to implement all NRMC recommendations posted in the committee’s report. “You can take this as our company’s view,” said Takafumi Anegawa, general manager of TEPCO’s Nuclear Asset Management Department, “We don’t have any preconditions for our reforms.” Anegawa added the committee that the final report to be posted by the end of this year will show that if the recommendations had been made well before 3/11/11 “that would have saved us from the accident, if we were able to turn back the clock.” He added that Tepco admitted the NRMC report conflicts with their in-house investigation of last year. Back then, Tepco absolved itself of responsibility for the Fukushima accident by saying the massive tsunami of 3/11/11 was “unforeseeable”. Tepco now confesses it was aware of the beyond-expectations potential for a massive tsunami at least a decade before 3/11/11, but did little to prevent such an event from causing an accident. They feared the public would take safety upgrades as a sign that their plants were not built to be safe and lawsuits relative to such criticisms would have been costly. Tepco’s Anegawa acknowledges, “If we had taken measures based on previous tsunami evaluations and adopted sufficient countermeasures against severe accidents, (the nuclear disaster) could have been handled.” (Yomiuri Shimbun; NHK World; Mainichi Shimbun; Kyodo News; Japan Times)

Here are some other Fukushima updates…

  • This writer’s argument that there have probably been no Fukushima Daiichi Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV) “melt-throughs”, posted Friday, has been corroborated by one of the most respected and successful nuclear writers on the web…Rod Adams. Please click the following link to Rod’s Atomic Insights for his posting…
  • Japan’s new nuclear regulator, the NRA, will establish an advisory team of experts to draft a revised nuclear regulatory law for Japan. The revision is planned to take effect next July. It will be blended into Japan’s existing Law for the Regulation of Nuclear Source material, Nuclear Fuel material and Reactors. The revision will take the Fukushima accident into full account. The Law’s revisions will include the following; (a) responses to design-basis events, (b) responses to external events that might initiate beyond-design-basis events, including natural calamities and terrorism, (c) basic policies on severe accident measures, and (d) upgraded safety evaluations. (JAIF)
  • Nuclear Regulatory Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka says Tokyo should not have allowed Oi units #3&4 to restart before the NRA had been formed. The new regulations will account for severe natural calamities, upgraded emergency response procedures and protection against terrorist attacks. None of these concerns were addressed by his agency’s predecessor, NISA. Tanaka also acknowledged that idled plants should not be restarted until all public protective measures have been instituted using the new 30-kilometer criteria established by Tokyo. When asked if he would use his authority to shut down both Oi units, Tanaka said, “Right now we don’t have the legal basis to make any judgment over reactors. We don’t have the legal power to stop the Oi reactors.” However, he said that if the geologic anomalies under the Oi complex are found to be seismic, the two operating units would have to be shuttered. (Japan Times)
  • Hokuriku Electric Company has completed its new tsunami protection seawall at Shika Nuclear Station. The Shika station sits ~15 meters above the adjoining sea. The new wall sits above the 15-meter embankment and stands a full 4 meters high. It is 700 meters long, fully covering the ocean-side of the Shika power complex property. The wall is embedded in the ground by 93 foundation pillars, each 3 meters in diameter and 14 meters long. The structure can withstand all rare-but-not-impossible earthquakes and tsunamis. The wall also includes 42 drainage gates to expel any water that might surge over and/or around the structure during a worst-case tsunami. (JAIF)