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Nuclear News - Nuclear Monitor #832 - 19 October 2016

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Japan's nuclear regulator caves in to industry interests again

Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has again exposed itself as industry-captured by giving the 39-year-old Mihama-3 reactor owned by Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) a green light to operate beyond its 40-year design life ‒ even before the regulator has completed its aging-related safety review.

The Mihama-3 reactor has already had a fatal accident, when in August 2004 a high-pressure pipe rupture in a building housing turbines for the reactor killed five workers.

Mihama-3 went offline in May 2011 for a scheduled inspection and has remained offline since then. Despite the NRA's recent green light, further approval from the NRA will be required before operation recommences concerning details of equipment design and other issues. According to Nuclear Engineering International, Mihama-3 is not expected to restart before 2020 to allow time to complete all the required safety measures, and KEPCO plans to spend about 165 billion yen (US$1.6bn) on upgrades to meet the new regulations.

The Mihama-3 reactor is located in the seismically-active Wakasa Bay region. Concerns over inadequate seismic assessments for KEPCO's Ohi reactors – also located in Wakasa Bay – pushed former NRA commissioner and seismologist Kunihiko Shimazaki to challenge the regulator directly. Although the NRA dismissed his concerns, the agency admitted that they could not reproduce the figures submitted by KEPCO in their assessment and so could not independently verify their accuracy. The same potentially faulty seismic assessment method was applied to Mihama-3.

The restart of Mihama-3 is currently being challenged in court as a part of an umbrella lawsuit against all Fukui reactors. Greenpeace staff are plaintiffs in a case against KEPCO's aging Takahama 1 & 2 reactors, also in Wakasa Bay.

Mihama-3 is the third reactor to have secured approval to operate beyond the 40-year design lifespan. The other two are KEPCO's Takahama 1 and 2 reactors, also in Fukui.

KEPCO's Mihama 1 and 2 reactors are among the aging reactors which have been permanently shut down, along with four others: Kyushu Electric's Genkai-1, Shikoku's Ikata-1, JAPC's Tsuruga-1, and Chugoku's Shimane-1.

Meanwhile, Kyushu's Sendai-1 reactor in Kagoshima Prefecture was taken offline on October 4 for a scheduled three-month refuelling and maintenance outage. In September, Kyushu refused governor Satoshi Mitazono's demand to immediately shut down the reactors over safety concerns, but agreed to what it called "special inspections" in addition to regular maintenance work.

That leaves Japan with just two operating reactors ‒ Kyushu's Sendai-2 and Shikoku's Ikata-3 in Ehime prefecture. Sendai-2 is expected to be shut down for a scheduled outage on December 16, so Japan will likely enter the new year with just one operating reactor.

The October 16 election of an anti-nuclear governor, Ryuichi Yoneyama, in Niigata Prefecture is a set-back for TEPCO's hopes of restarting the 7-reactor Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant. Niigata voters opposed restarting the plant by 73% to 27% according to an NHK exit poll on the day of the election. Yoneyama won on a promise of preventing a Kashiwazaki-Kariwa restart unless TEPCO provides a fuller explanation of the Fukushima disaster. Reuters reported that TEPCO's share-price fell 7.9% in the wake of the election.

Yoneyama is the second prefectural governor elected this year on an anti-nuclear platform, following the election in July of Satoshi Mitazono as the governor of Kagoshima Prefecture.

Czech Republic: 'Platform Against Geological Disposal'

Municipalities and NGOs effected by the siting process for a high-level nuclear waste dump have founded the Platform Against Geological Disposal as a non-profit organization. The aim of the Platform is to enforce a way of finding a solution to nuclear waste management which would be open, transparent and guarantee municipalities and the public the right to consent to or reject a dump.

At a meeting held in Božejovice on October 4, Platform members elected spokespeople, whose function will rotate among them every six months. Currently, the Platform has 25 organisational members (14 Municipalities and 11 NGOs) and others are expected to join.

Members of the Platform have agreed on the following principles:

  • Thorough consideration of all options for nuclear waste management, as opposed to the focus on irretrievable, deep disposal.
  • Stopping current geological surveys under way and reassessment of the current siting process schedule (seven sites are being targeted).
  • Transparency ‒ all relevant documents must be publicly available, and subject to expert scrutiny and public debate.
  • The adoption of laws which ensure that the public can effectively defend their legitimate rights in the siting process, including the right to say 'no'.

A final decision on the proposed dump's location is due to be made by the government by 2025 and it is due to be built by 2065. Last year, municipalities from five of the seven targeted areas sued the government over the environment minister's decision to dismiss their objection to the permit for geological prospecting.

Thousands protest against nuclear power in northern France

Several thousand people demonstrated against the construction of nuclear reactors near the northern French town of Flamanville on October 1. British opponents of the planned reactor at Hinkley Point joined European opponents of nuclear power. The protesters gathered at Siouville-Hague, between a nuclear waste treatment centre at La Hague and the site of a third nuclear reactor at Flamanville, which is currently under construction.

Germany's renewable energy transition

The fossil fuel and nuclear industries ‒ and their supporters ‒ go to extraordinary lengths to undermine Germany's transition to renewable energy. A number of credible experts regularly publish information and myth-busting regarding Germany's energiewende and much of this is freely available ‒ see for example,, and

While it isn't free, a new book by Craig Morris (an American living in Freiburg, Germany's solar capital near the French border) and Arne Jungjohann (a German who lived in Washington DC until 2013), is an important addition to the literature.

Energy Democracy: Germany's energiewende to renewables traces the origins of the energiewende movement in Germany from protests against the industrialisation of rural communities in the 1970s to the Power Rebels of Schönau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel's shutdown of eight nuclear power plants following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident.

The authors explore how community groups became key actors in the bottom-up fight against climate change. Individually, citizens might install solar panels on their roofs, but citizen groups can do much more: community wind farms, local heat supply, walkable cities and more. Energy Democracy offers evidence that the transition to renewables is a one-time opportunity to strengthen communities and democratize the energy sector – in Germany and around the world.

Arne Jungjohann writes: "Following the nuclear phaseout in 2011, the Energiewende drew a lot of attention around the world: either for being a panic reaction to the nuclear accident in Fukushima or for being allegedly exceptional with its rapid move to wind and solar. We both were struck by these awkward interpretations. The Energiewende, with its roots in the 1970s and 1980s, is the opposite of panicking. Yet, Germany and its energy transition is not exceptional; other countries are actually faster transitioning to renewables. But the Energiewende is nonetheless exceptional in one way too often overlooked: Germany is (apart from Denmark and maybe Scotland) the only country in the world where the switch to renewables is a switch to energy democracy. Once we realized how this uniqueness was being overlooked, we wanted to get the word out. So back in September 2014, we decided to write a book: a history of Germany's energy transition – its Energiewende."

The book comes with an accompanying website ‒ ‒ where you can order the book or just individual chapters, and find useful graphics and videos.

Energy Democracy: Germany's energiewende to renewables

Craig Morris and Arne Jungjohann

August 2016

Palgrave Macmillan

Nuclear power's waste legacy

In his new book, The Legacy of Nuclear Power, Andrew Blowers, Emeritus Professor of Social Sciences at the Open University, analyzes the nuclear waste problem by drawing on detailed studies of four sites: Hanford (USA) where the plutonium for the first atomic bombs was made; Sellafield, where the UK's nuclear legacy is concentrated and controversial; La Hague, the heart of the French nuclear industry; and Gorleben, the focal point of nuclear resistance in Germany.

The case studies are considered through a theoretical framework focused on the concept of 'peripheral communities'. The places covered in this book are all, in their different ways, nuclear oases, peripheral places with distinctive identities.

In a short article that previews the book, Blowers writes:

"These four places, Hanford, Sellafield, La Hague/Bure and Gorleben with their different histories exemplify and explain the physical imprint and social conditions that are the continuing legacy of nuclear power. They constitute what may be defined as peripheral communities, places where hazardous activities are located and which are, as it were, physically and socially set apart from the mainstream.

"They tend to be geographically remote. They may be located at the edge whether of a country, as at La Hague, in relatively inaccessible sub-regions as at Sellafield or in areas of sparse population as Hanford was before the war and as Bure is today. They may be areas with a distinctive (real or invented) cultural identity or isolation like Gorleben, in the self-declared Wendland once on the border with Eastern Germany. Peripheral communities tend also to be economically marginal, monocultural and dependent on government investment and subsidy or state owned companies.

"Peripheral communities tend also to be politically powerless. Although nuclear industries tend to have a dominant position in their dependent communities, strategic decisions are taken elsewhere by governmental and corporate institutions. Key political decisions affecting peripheral communities are vested in national governments to which local governments, even in federal systems like the USA and Germany, are subordinated in terms of nuclear decision making.

"These nuclear peripheral communities also express distinctive cultural characteristics. Although it is difficult to pin down the complex, ambiguous and sometimes contradictory values and attitudes encountered in these places, there does seem to be a particular 'nuclear culture', that is both defensive and aggressive. This may be summarised in three distinguishing and complementary cultural features ‒ realism, resignation and pragmatism – which combine to convey a resilience that provides the flexibility and resolution necessary for cultural survival.

"Nuclear communities fulfil a fundamental social role in that they take on (or more usually have to accept) the radioactive legacy of nuclear power. They bear the burden of cost, risk and effort necessary to manage the legacy on behalf of the wider society, a responsibility extending into the far future. This social role enables places like Sellafield, La Hague and Hanford to exercise some economic and political leverage.

"Economically they are relatively secure for, once production ceases, there remain decades of clean up activity often sustaining a large workforce with continuing and open ended commitment from the state. Politically they are able, with varying success, to gain compensation, investment and diversification. By contrast, there are those communities which have mobilised resources of power sufficient to prevent or halt the progress of nuclear power. The story of the Gorleben movement provides a compelling example of the power of resistance."

The full article is posted at:

The Legacy of Nuclear Power
Andrew Blowers, 2017, Routledge