Condolences and prayers to the families and friends of those in Japan who lost loved ones in the Algerian terrorist carnage. May those lost rest in peace. May those responsible for this outrage be punished.

  • Several more of Japan’s proposed new nuclear regulations have been revealed, in addition to those posted in the two previous Fukushima updates. (1) Currently installed emergency cooling systems that inject water into the reactor vessel must also have a flow pathway into the primary containment surrounding the reactor. The new pathway is intended to cool molten material which might melt through the reactor vessel’s bottom head and accumulate on the concrete floor of the containment structure. This specific proposal is based on Tepco’s continuing insistence that at least some of the melted fuel for units #1&3 left the reactor vessels and sits on their containment’s floor. (2) Capabilities for emergency electrical supplies should be sufficient to last for at least one week without outside assistance. This is based on the seven day period between 3/11/11 and the Fukushima Daiichi station being re-electrified from the region’s restored transmission system using a make-shift one kilometer cable. This requirement might be extended because of NRA concerns of a worse earthquake than 3/11/11 which might make the electrical isolation of a nuclear facility last for more than a week. (3) All nukes built before 1975 must remove their electrical wiring and replace it with material that is totally fire retardant. Pre-1975 plants used wiring with three coatings: insulation around the wire itself, a standard cable covering, and an outer fire retardant coating. The inner two coatings are not fire-retardant. The nukes will have to replace existent wiring with fully-fire-retardant material. Since there are several thousand kilometers of pre-1975 wiring in each plant, the replacement process would be costly and time-consuming. Nuclear critics in Japan say this would extend the delays for restart to the point that all of the affected units would be over forty years old, so the utilities should just scrap them and be done with it. The fire-resistance issue could impact as many as 13 Japanese nukes. (4) Upgraded earthquake and tsunami requirements. The NRA wants the time-factor of seismic movement extended from 120,000 to 400,000 years. With respect to tsunamis, all future nuclear plant buildings should be protected against the worst calculable tsunami wave height, and the rooms housing emergency power sources must be waterproofed. At the end of January, the draft NRA proposals will be opened to Japan’s utility companies and the public for discussion. It promises to be a heated debate. (Yomiuri Shimbun; ASSystem News Letter; Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The Secretariat of the NRA has committed to training a panel of experts to follow the progression of a nuclear accident and provide informed advice on how to deal with various situations. The panel will subsequently train nuclear plant inspectors in emergency situations and their mitigation. If another nuke accident happens, at least two NRA commissioners would head a team of about 10 experts who might anticipate how the accident could evolve, and project worst-case scenarios based on the dynamics specific to the plant site and its technology. Yotaro Hatamura, professor at University of Tokyo, said that neither the government nor TEPCO had experts trained in predicting how accidents could unfold with F. Daiichi. Each plant site’s operating record and maintenance history will be gathered, and copies of each plant’s blueprints will be kept on file by the NRA in case an accident happens. One of the problems with the government’s Fukushima Daiichi support effort was a lack of up-to-date data on the nuclear station and blueprints in Tokyo. The Secretariat is a formal Cabinet Office responsible for Crisis Management. (Japan Times; Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • The NRA says that when the two Nukes at Oi station end their 13 months of operation, they will not be allowed to restart until they meet all the new regulations to be unveiled in July. The 13 month operating period for both units ends in August. The NRA announcement confirms that Oi units #3&4 will be subject to the same restart criteria as all currently-idled nukes. (NHK World)
  • While not technically a Fukushima-related topic, it should be noted that the trial production of glassified, reprocessed high-level nuclear waste has begun at Rokkasho, Japan. The separation of the nuclear waste atoms from the good fuel, and the waste product’s handling, is critical to the recycling of spent fuel. 95% of a spent fuel bundle can be reclaimed and re-used. The Japanese news media has posted numerous negative articles concerning the Rokkasho reprocessing facility since 3/11/11, giving the distinct impression that Rokkasho hasn’t worked and it never will. However, this piece of “good news” seems to have been intentionally ignored – but, not here! The following has been posted by the World Nuclear Association…