Nuclear power in Japan: Wikis

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Japan has steadily increased its nuclear generation to about 30% today with the majority of the rest coming from conventional fossil plants. A dip around 2003 was due to data falsification scandals and correspondingly a poor operating record.
The Onagawa Nuclear Plant, a 3-unit BWR site typical of Japan's nuclear plants.

In 2008, after the opening of 8 brand new nuclear plants in Japan (2 on the Island of Hokkaidō, 3 on Honshū, and 1 each on Kyūshū, Shikoku, and Tanagashima, the last of which hosts the Japanese Aerospace Agency headquarters and uses roughly 2% of all Japan's energy despite only about 21,714 inhabitants) Japan became the third largest nuclear power user in the world with 53 nuclear reactors. These provide 34.5% of Japan's electricity. Since 1973 nuclear energy has been a national strategic priority because Japan is heavily dependent on imported fuel, with fuel imports accounting for 61% of energy production.

Contents

History

In 1954, Japan budgeted 230 million yen for nuclear energy, marking the beginning of the program. The Atomic Energy Basic Law limited activities to only peaceful purposes.

The first nuclear reactor in Japan was built by the UK's GEC. In the 1970s the first Light Water Nuclear Plants were built in cooperation with American companies. These plants were bought from US Vendors such as General Electric or Westinghouse with contractual work done by Japanese companies, who would later get a license themselves to build similar plant designs. Developments in nuclear power since that time has seen contributions from Japanese companies and research institutes on the same level as the other big users of nuclear power.

Japan's nuclear industry was not hit as hard by the effects of the Three Mile Island accident (TMI) or the Chernobyl disaster as some other countries. Construction of new plants continued to be strong through the 1980s, 1990s, and up to the present day. However, starting in the mid-1990s there were several nuclear related accidents and cover-ups in Japan that eroded public perception of the industry, resulting in protests and resistance to new plants. These accidents included the Tokaimura nuclear accident, the Mihama steam explosion, cover-ups after an accidents at the Monju reactor, among others, more recently the Chūetsu offshore earthquake aftermath. While exact details may be in dispute, it is clear that the safety culture in Japan's nuclear industry has come under greater scrutiny.[1] Canceled plant orders include:

Note that the Suzu NPP plant proposal is said to be "frozen", meaning that it may continue sometime in the future if economic factors turn more in its favor, though there has been no sign of this happening.

These cancellations reflect to some degree the safety concerns that surfaced after the Monju cover-up (1995) and the Tokaimura accident (1999) and could be compared to the situation in the United States where there was a large number of plant order cancellations after TMI and the Chernobyl disaster. However, it is important to note that most cancellations in Japan are a result of 10, 15, or more years of postponed work and poor support. Through the same time period there were also some new plants connected to the grid, and as of 2007, construction is in progress on several other plants. Japan has thus yet to see a complete break in the construction of new nuclear plants, which has happened in the United States and France.

The Japanese government has maintained strong support for nuclear power. After the Tokaimura accident, many reorganizations of the government funded research organizations occurred and stricter controls were enforced, but the size and scope of research in nuclear power topics has continued to expand. While the number of reactors is expected to increase, the focus of new developments will shift to the advanced fuel cycle and next generation plants. Japan plans to be a major player in the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership and has joined the ITER project. Furthermore, a United States-Japan Joint Nuclear Energy Action Plan has also been created, which is indicative of the commitment the Japanese government has to new nuclear technologies.

The nuclear industry in Japan has been highly affected by its United States counterpart. Through the late 1990s to present day, the industry has become confident that the U.S. will see construction of new nuclear plants. Hoping to take advantage of that, along with other opening markets, joint venture agreements between the major nuclear fuel vendors occurred in 1999, 2006, and 2007, following from the legacy of co-operation that began when Japan imported Western technology to jump start its nuclear fleet.

In March 2008, Tokyo Electric Power Company announced that the start of operation of four new nuclear power reactors would be postponed by one year due to the incorporation of new earthquake resistance assessments. Units 7 and 8 of the Fukushima Daiichi plant would now enter commercial operation on October 2014 and October 2015, respectively. Unit 1 of the Higashidori plant is now scheduled to begin operating in December 2015, while unit 2 will start up in 2018 at the earliest.[2]

As of September 2008, Japanese ministries and agencies were seeking an increase in the 2009 budget by 6%. The total requested comes to 491.4 billion Japanese yen (4.6 billion USD), and the focuses of research are development of the fast breeder reactor cycle, next-generation light water reactors, the Iter project, and seismic safety.[3]

Nuclear Power Plants

There are 55 operating nuclear reactors in Japan with a number of others in construction or being planned. For a list, see List of nuclear reactors#Japan, the map link is Template:Japan nuke plant map2.

Nuclear power plants in Japan (view)
Red pog.svg Active plants
Orange pog.svg Suspended operation plants
Blue pog.svg Future plants

Nuclear Organizations in Japan

  • Nuclear Safety Commission 原子力安全委員会 - The Japanese regulatory body for the nuclear industry.
  • Japanese Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) 原子力委員会 - Now operating as a commission of inquiry to the Japanese cabinet, this organization coordinates the entire nation's plans in the area of nuclear energy.
  • Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) 原子力安全・保安院 - The NISA performs regulatory activities and was formed January 6, 2001, after a reorganization of governmental agencies.
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Academic/Professional Organizations

  • The Atomic Energy Society of Japan (AESJ) 日本原子力学会 is a major academic organization in Japan focusing on all forms of nuclear power. The Journal of Nuclear Science and Technology is the academic journal run by the AESJ. It publishes English and Japanese articles, though most submissions are from Japanese research institutes, universities, and companies.
  • Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) 日本原子力産業協会 is a non-profit organization to promote the peaceful use of atomic energy.
  • Japan Nuclear Technology Institute (JANTI) 日本原子力技術協会 is an organization that serves the common interests of its members through developing technological foundation with expertise and continuity, and contributing to the revitalization of the nuclear industry.

Community Societies

  • Stop Rokkasho is a fairly well known anti-nuclear group opposed to the reprocessing (and other) facilities planned for the site at Rokkasho, Aomori.

Research Organizations

These organizations are government funded research organizations, though many of them have special status to give them power of administration separate from the Japanese government. Their origins date back to the Atomic Energy Basic Law, but they have been reorganized several times since their inception.

The original nuclear energy research organization established by the Japanese government under cooperation with US partners.
  • Atomic Fuel Corporation - 原子燃料公社
This organization was formed along with JAERI under the Atomic Energy Basic Law and was later reorganized to be PNC.
This organization succeeded the AFC in 1967 in order to perform more direct construction of experimental nuclear plants.
  • Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute (JNC) - 核燃料サイクル開発機構 (semi-governmental agency)
Was formed in 1998 as the direct successor to the PNC. This organization operated Lojo and Monju experimental and demonstration reactors.
This is the modern, currently operating primary nuclear research organization in Japan. It was formed by a merger of JAERI and JNC in 2005.

Electric Utilities Running Nuclear Plants

Japan is divided into a number of regions that each get electric service from their respective regional provider, all utilities hold a monopoly and are strictly regulated by the Japanese government. For more background information see Energy in Japan. All regional utilities in Japan currently operate nuclear plants with the exception of the Okinawa Electric Power Company. They are also all members of the Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPCO) industry organization. The companies are listed below.

  • Regional electric providers
  • Other companies with a stake in nuclear power
The headquarters of Electric Power Development, or J-Power, whose activities are specially directed towards R&D on new power sources.
JAPC was created by special provisions from the Japanese government to be the first company in Japan to run a nuclear plant. Today it still operates two separate sites.
This company was created by a special law after the end of World War 2, it operates a number of coal fired, hydroelectric, and wind power plants, the Ohma nuclear plant that is under construction will mark its entrance to the industry upon completion.

Nuclear Vendors and Fuel Cycle Companies

Nuclear vendors provide fuel in its fabricated form, ready to be loaded in the reactor, nuclear services, and/or manage construction of new nuclear plants. The following is an incomplete list of companies based in Japan that provide such services. The companies listed here provide fuel or services for commercial light water plants, and in addition to this, JAEA has a small MOX fuel fabrication plant.

  • Nuclear Fuel Industries (NFI) - 原子燃料工業
NFI operates nuclear fuel fabrication plants in both Kumatori, Osaka and in Tōkai, Ibaraki, fabricating 284 and 200 (respectively) metric tons Uranium per year. The Tōkai site produces BWR, HTR, and ATR fuel while the Kumatori site produces only PWR fuel.
The shareholders of JNFL are the Japanese utilities. JNFL plans to open a full scale enrichment facility in Rokkasho, Aomori with a capacity of 1.5 million SWU/yr along with a MOX fuel fabrication facility. JNFL has also operated a nuclear fuel fabrication facility called Kurihama Nuclear Fuel Plant in Yokosuka, Kanagawa as GNF, producing BWR fuel.
MHI operates a fuel manufacturing plant in Tōkai, Ibaraki, and contributes many heavy industry components to construction of new nuclear plants, and has recently designed its own APWR plant type, fuel fabrication has been completely PWR fuel, though MHI sells components to BWRs as well. It was selected by the Japanese government to develop fast breeder reactor technology and formed Mitsubishi FBR Systems. MHI has also announced an alliance with Areva to form a new company called Atmea.
  • Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF)
GNF was formed as a joint venture with General Electric Nuclear Energy (GENE), Hitachi, and Toshiba in 1999. Toshiba has since withdrawn its ownership corresponding with the purchase of Westinghouse. GENE has since strengthened its relationship with Hitachi, eventually forming a new company:
  • GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) - 日立GEニュークリア・エナジー
This company was formed July 1, 2007. Its next generation reactor, the ESBWR has made significant progress with US regulators, and as of July 2007, has been submitted to English regulators as well for the generic design assessment (GDA) process.
  • Toshiba - 東芝 電力システム社 原子力事業部
Toshiba has maintained a large nuclear business focused mostly on Boiling Water Reactors. With the purchase of the American Westinghouse by 5.4 Billion USD in 2006, which is focused mainly on Pressurized Water Reactor technology, it increased the size of its nuclear business about two fold. Toshiba has plans to continue significant expansion in the next decade.

Other Proprietary Organizations

Established in 1978 as by Sumimoto Metal Mining Co. this company did work with Uranium conversion and set up factories at the Tokai-mura site. Later, it was held solely responsible for the Tokaimura nuclear accident

Anti-nuclear organizations

Citizens' Nuclear Information Center

The Citizens' Nuclear Information Center is an anti-nuclear public interest organization dedicated to securing a safe, nuclear-free world. It was established in Tokyo in 1975 to collect and analyze information related to nuclear power, including safety, economic, and proliferation issues. Data compiled by the CNIC is presented to the media, citizens' groups and policy makers. The CNIC is supported by membership fees, donations, and sales of publications, and is independent from government and industry.[4]

Stop Rokkasho

This is a group that campaigns against the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant.

Accidents

Accidents of note include: the fast breeder Monju Nuclear Power Plant sodium leak in December 1995 (the reactor is still shut down), the Tokai reprocessing waste explosion in March 1997, the criticality accident at the Tokai fuel fabrication facility in September 1999 and a widespread falsification scandal starting in August 2002 that lead to shut down all of Tokyo Electric Power Company’s 17 nuclear reactors. Tokyo Electric's officials had falsified inspection records and attempted to hide cracks in reactor vessel shrouds in 13 of its 17 units.[5]

Also, on 9 August 2004 five workers were killed after a steam leak at the Mihama-3 station. The subsequent investigation revealed a serious lack in systematic inspection in Japanese nuclear plants, which led to a massive inspection program.[5]

On 16 July 2007 a severe earthquake (measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale) hit the region where Tokyo Electric's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant is located. As of March 2009, all of the reactors remain shut down for damage verification and repairs. The plant with seven units was the largest single nuclear power station in the world.[5]

See also

Main Articles
Japan and nuclear weapons
Politics
Accidents
Nuclear waste

References

External links


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