Nuclear Energy Institute Report on Japan’s Nuclear Reactors, June 11, 2012

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–June 11, 2012.

Japanese Government Expected to Authorize Ohi Plant Restart


  • The Japanese government is expected to authorize the resumption of operations of two reactors at the Ohi nuclear power plant in Fukui prefecture as early as Saturday. Last Sunday the prefecture’s nuclear safety committee approved a report guaranteeing the reactors would survive severe earthquakes and tsunamis. The governor of Fukui is expected to approve restarting the reactors after visiting the facility this week, after which Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and several cabinet ministers will officially give the final go-ahead. The Ohi facilities will be the first to resume operations since all 50 of Japan’s reactors went off line in May.
  • Japan’s parliament has accepted a plan proposed by opposition parties to replace the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency with a highly independent “nuclear regulatory commission.” Under the plan, a five-member commission with guaranteed independence in personnel appointments and budgetary matters will oversee a new “nuclear regulatory agency,” which will act as the commission’s secretariat. To maintain the independence of the commission, the parties agreed to a “no return rule” under which officials named to the commission from certain ministries could not return to those ministries on completion of their terms. They also agreed to give the prime minister authority to issue key instructions to plant operators during a nuclear crisis. The legislation is expected to be approved in the current parliamentary session that ends July.
  • Work on implementing the top-priority recommendations of the NRC’s Fukushima task force continues. Last week the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission endorsed the industry’s draft guidance on seismic and flooding inspections. Industry guidance on used fuel instrumentation and reliable hardened vents is with the NRC for comment and approval. The NRC is seeking comment on interim staff guidance for the three orders it issued in March, including on the industry’s FLEX strategy, hardened vents for Mark I and II boiling water reactors, and used fuel pool instrumentation. The deadline for public comments is July 7. The industry last week sent the NRC its comments on implementing the agency’s lower-priority recommendations from the Fukushima task force and will send comments this week on vent filtering strategies.

Plant Update

  • For the first time since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Tokyo Electric Power Co. sent workers to inspect the suppression chambers in the basements of Fukushima Daiichi reactors 2 and 3. The crew attempted, without success, to locate the source of radioactive water leaking from the reactor containments. The company had previously inspected the suppression chambers using probes and robots. TEPCO’s long-term plans to remove damaged fuel from the reactors call for the containment vessels to be filled with water, which requires that any leaks be repaired.

Media Highlights

  • Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Friday that the restart of Japan’s two nuclear reactors at the Ohi facility is necessary “for the survival of society.” The news conference was widely reported, including by Reuters, the Wall Street Journal and Yomiuri Shimbun.

Upcoming Meetings

  • The NRC holds public meetings this week to discuss implementation strategies based on the agency’s Fukushima task force recommendations, including on flooding and seismic hazard re-evaluations and on the agency’s draft interim staff guidance for beyond-design-basis external events.