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Safety questions (Hamaoka plant)

May 14, 2015

7 municipalities near Hamaoka plant may not demand advance consent for restart



The governments of seven municipalities within 10 to 30 kilometers of the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant in Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, are in the final stages of talks to decide whether to incorporate "advance consent" for restarting the nuclear station into their safety agreement with Chubu Electric Power Co., it has been learned.

Instead of insisting on requiring advance consent, to which Chubu Electric has expressed strong resistance, the seven municipal governments have decided to demand the utility work out concrete safety measures. Therefore, talks between the municipal governments and the utility are likely to take a big step forward.

The seven municipalities are: the five cities of Fukuroi, Iwata, Shimada, Fujieda and Yaizu and the two towns of Yoshida and Mori.

Together with the Shizuoka Prefectural Government, four municipalities located within 10 kilometers of the Hamaoka nuclear power station, including the Omaezaki Municipal Government, had signed a safety agreement with Chubu Electric before the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake disasters. The agreement was accompanied by commentary saying, "When a nuclear reactor facility is set up or a change is made (to the nuclear plant), advance consent shall effectively be provided." But the Shizuoka Prefectural Government and the four municipal governments share the view with Chubu Electric that the section "does not mean advance consent for restarting (the nuclear power plant.)"

Meanwhile, the seven municipal governments do not have a safety agreement with Chubu Electric even though they are located within an Urgent Protective Action Planning Zone (UPZ) -- a zone within a 30-kilometer radius of the nuclear plant. After a series of talks aimed at signing a safety agreement, they came up with a proposal in September 2014 in which they said they would "conform to the agreement signed by the four municipal governments." At that time, views expressed by some heads of the seven local governments included: "Discussions should be held from scratch without being bound by the agreement signed by the four municipal governments;" and "More steps should be taken than the agreement signed by the four municipal governments to incorporate advance consent for restart."

According to sources close to the Shizuoka Prefectural Government and the seven municipal governments, when asked during closed-door talks in March by Chubu Electric what was meant by "(conforming) to the agreement signed by the four municipal governments," the seven municipal governments said in reply that it meant "not going beyond the agreement by the four municipal governments." A source told the Mainichi Shimbun, "The resumption of operations involves the state's energy policy and should be separated from disaster prevention (which is handled mainly by local governments). We want to build a disaster prevention system that's integrated with that of the four cities within the 10-kilometer-radius zone."

However, even though the agreement may not include a provision for advance consent, some chiefs of the seven municipal governments are still opposed to restarting the nuclear power station. Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu also said, "The power plant will not be operated without consent from the 11 cities and towns. Thus, the hurdle for Chubu Electric to restart the nuclear plant remains high.

Chubu Electric posted a consolidated current-account surplus in the business year ending in March 2015, its first profit in four years. But the company says that it needs to restart the Hamaoka nuclear power station in order to ensure stable management because it has continued to run up fuel costs as a result of boosting operations at its thermal power plants following the Hamaoka plant shutdown. But according to the Nuclear Regulation Authority, the safety screening of the plant's No. 4 reactor has stalled.

The reactors at the Hamaoka plant are boiling water reactors (BWR) -- the same type as those at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

The safety standards for BWRs implemented for the first time after the 2011 disaster require the installation of vents with filters that reduce the amount of radioactive substances released in the event of an accident. There has been no case of such equipment being installed in Japan, and that is one of the reasons for the prolonged safety screening process.

Furthermore, because the Hamaoka nuclear complex is situated in the assumed epicentral area of Tokai earthquakes, it is necessary to assess whether key facilities such as nuclear reactor pressure vessels can withstand temblors. Chubu Electric has also been proceeding with its plans to build wave-preventive walls (22 meters high) and doors designed to prevent the inflow of sea water as part of its measures against tsunami, and the NRA is to evaluate those facilities carefully.

Anti-volcanic measures could also come under scrutiny. After examining the effects of 12 volcanoes, including Mount Fuji, which is within a 160-kilometer radius zone, and Mount Hakone, where a volcanic eruption alert was recently raised, Chubu Electric concluded that they "do not affect facilities that are important to ensure safety." But some officials within the NRA are calling for stricter anti-volcano measures.

May 14 marks the fourth anniversary of the suspension of all operations at the Hamaoka plant.

May 14, 2015(Mainichi Japan)


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