(Commentary – New Tokyo Regime Should Rethink Radiation Limits – click here)

  • The Nuclear Regulatory Authority says no Japanese Boiling Water Reactors can be restarted until they install filters on their “vent” exhausts. The “vent” is a system that relieves excessive pressure from the containment structure surrounding the reactor during a nuclear accident, exhausting radioactive steam and reactor-produced gasses into the atmosphere through tall stacks. Of the 50 operable Japanese nukes, 26 are BWRs and 24 are PWRs. Only the BWRs are affected by the ruling. The existing venting systems do not have filtering technology to strip radioactive contaminants from the exhaust stream. “Without this (filtering systems), reactors will not reach the level” to be allowed to operate, said Toyoshi Fuketa, a commissioner of the NRA. (Kyodo News Service) Fuketa also says the probability of Japan’s 26 boiling water reactors restarting this year is effectively zero because installing depressurization filters could take years. He admitted that the vent filtering issue is much less important for Japan’s 24 pressurized water reactors because of their massive domed containment’s being much more forgiving than the light-bulb shaped containments around the BWRs. Fuketa believes that some companies will apply to restart “a few reactors”, all PWRs, as soon as the new regulations are in place this coming summer. Two possible NRA changes that could impact both BWRs and PWRs are (a) setting up a “second control room” apart from the main reactor buildings for emergency remote control and (b) dis-allowing operation for nukes more than 40 years old that have had past performance issues which indicate they have been worn out. Nukes that cannot meet the new standards will be decommissioned, said Fuketa, “We will show no leniency in that respect.” (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The continuing lack of NRA consensus over the Oi nuke’s geologic anomaly continues to make headlines. Until a consensus can be reached, Japan’s only two operating nuclear plants will continue to function. There are two panel members who agree on the non-seismic landslide answer, and two who don’t. One panelist, Ritsumeikan University professor Atsumasa Okada, says the issue will not be resolved until the panel brings in an expert on fault fracture zones because none of them are proficient in that subject. During their meeting this week, panel head Kunihiko Shimazaki pressured the members to come to a conclusion because there are many other nukes with suspect anomalies that need to be addressed. After the four hour meeting, Shimazaki said, “I want (the panel) to further consider the issue because I don’t think safety matters have become completely clear.” The group will meet in February to consider what Kansai Electric’s expansion of the investigation’s trench might show, and if any new data might break the deadlock. (Japan Daily Press; Mainichi Shimbun)
  • An American congressional committee has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to re-think their numerous regulations specific to the Fukushima accident. Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have written an open letter to the NRC asking the agency to move carefully. The letter highlights the significant number of differences between Japan’s regulatory system and ours, and these differences resulted in having safety features on America’s nukes which do not exist on Japan’s. Changes for the sake of change-itself, would be wrong. “It is the nature of any regulatory body to issue regulations, and the NRC is no exception,” the letter states. “However, more regulation is not always safer – sometimes it’s just ‘more’.” (Penn Energy newsletter)
  • The Environment Ministry says more than half of the reports of shoddy Fukushima decontamination practices are unfounded. Officials said on Thursday that only five of the nineteen suspected cases were in factually valid. Fourteen cases could not be confirmed to have inappropriate practices. Because of the five confirmed instances, the ministry decided to increase the number of people monitoring the decontamination efforts four-fold. There will now be 200 inspectors instead of ~50. The ministry also emphasized that the importance of citizens continuing to submit their suspicions. Any future confirmations of shoddy decontamination practices will result in the suspension of the involved contracts. (NHK World)