End of the line for Tsuruga reactor

The Nuclear Regulation Authority on May 22 accepted its five-member expert panel’s report that the D-1 fracture zone of pebbles and sediment running beneath the No. 2 reactor at Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tsuruga nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture is an active fault.

JAPC has long contended that the zone is not an active fault. But given the NRA’s position, it will likely have no other choice but to give up on restarting the reactor and to decommission it.

The NRA has not only refuted the company’s contention but also demonstrated that the safety check done by the now-defunct Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency of the trade and industry ministry was shoddy. The NRA’s conclusion has shown that it will give priority to nuclear power plant safety over profitability and will not approve nuclear power plant operations if there is even the slightest chance of danger.

The NRA faithfully followed the lesson from the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe: that even the smallest possibility of an accident must be eliminated. It should maintain this position even in the face of pressure from the government and the power industry. The power industry should learn from the Fukushima disaster and not ignore any potential dangers however small.

NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said his organization will not carry out a safety review of the reactor in question for licensing because safety standards ban the construction of important nuclear-related facilities above an active fault.

Although JAPC is strongly opposing the NRA’s conclusion, it should be remembered that both it and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency in the past failed to recognize the danger from the Urazoko fault, an active fault lying 200 to 300 meters from the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors of the Tsuruga plant.

The NRA concluded that the D-1 fracture zone running beneath the No. 2 reactor should be considered an active fault because it cannot be proven that the zone has not moved in the past 130,000 years and pointed to the possibility that it will move with the Urazoko fault, thus affecting facilities constructed above the zone.

The NRA panel is now carrying out geological studies at six nuclear power plants. The government should allocate enough funds and personnel to ensure the NRA can rapidly yet thoroughly carry out its studies. The government also should work out necessary measures to help accelerate the decommissioning of the No. 2 reactor, including securing a storage site for its radioactive waste. Similar preparations may be needed for other reactors facing the same fate.

Even though the Tsuruga reactor contains no nuclear fuel, 1,705 fuel assemblies are stored onsite in a fuel pool. If the pool is damaged by a quake, the fuel assemblies could rupture and emit radioactive substances. This shows that even a nuclear power plant kept offline can pose dangers, and is all the more reason why the government should adopt a policy to end Japan’s reliance on nuclear power generation as soon as possible.

  • jazz350

    Excellent editorial, Japan has to totally abolish all its nuclear plants, the country has managed without nuclear plants following the Fukushima crisis. Japan should not sign any nuclear deals with India either as they will be merely exporting danger to another corrupt country with a shoddy safety culture.

    • Masa Chekov

      Japan’s only managed without nuclear energy with great cost to both the economy and the environment. Perhaps that’s the cost that needs to be paid but it’s not inconsequential.

  • SwedishreaderKristinehamn93

    If those who are connected to Tsuruga reactor electrical power have been well seince they closed the reator, should continue to live without that reactor so the dissaster of Fukushima don’t repeat ifself. If they need more electrical power then focus on water energy and wind energy power plant as well as sun energy there it is many sun hours.

    This new type of energy power plants produce less electrical energy then a nuclear power plants by many MegaWatts, GigaWatts and TeraWatts. You would need many and large power plants than the number of nuclear power plants to produce the same leavel of electical power. The futher Japan should be as Austria who has no nuclear power plant active and replace them with many water power plants on their rivers in the alps to a lake or ocean. I thinc that closeing down Fukushima nuclear power plant is one great step of getting new energy sources as well as the recovery of the environment in the Fukushima Prefecture.

    • Starviking

      There aren’t a lot of suitable hydro power sites in Japan.

      • SwedishreaderKristinehamn93

        If there isn’t much places where you can biuld water power plants then focus on sun and wind or the wave technology (get electricity out of the movments the water formed as a wave). It may not be pretty to see but this type of energy source is better for the environment.

      • Starviking

        But then we have to cover a large percentage of Japan with solar panels and wind turbines, and build many large hydro storage dams or battery farms to even out the irregular output of these generators. And we’ll have to replace them every 20-years or so as that is the average lifetime of a solar/wind plant.

        As for wave generators – still unproven on a large scale.

      • SwedishreaderKristinehamn93

        The talk of renewable energy can go on forever but the most important is the first step to replace the nuclear energy and have more of renewable energy sources.

      • Starviking

        So you want to close down low carbon power plants, which can be run for 40+ years, and replace them with low carbon power plants which run for around 20 years before needing replacement?

        Doesn’t make sense to me.

      • SwedishreaderKristinehamn93

        The radioactive energy source of nuclear power plants are runed by a product that only can be used once and the radioactivity needs 100 years minimum to disappare. I would really chose something that has 20 year lifetime than something which has 40+ years lifetime and can make damage equal to Fukushima Prefecture or worse. A blackout is better than big environment disaster. Radioactive source is dangerous for humans and it might come from the food we eat as fish, meat or plants. What would you chose? The chose is important and the next step after that.

      • Starviking

        Sorry, the product can be used again after reprocessing, and can be used even more in Gen IV reactors like GE Hitachi’s PRISM reactor. Dr J. MacKay, the noted renewable & nuclear power authority, noted that with the PRISM design the UK’s plutonium stocks could power the country for 500 years.

        As for environmental disasters – Sweden, with its Hydro/Nuclear mix is contributing little to the biggest environmental disaster – global warming. Nuclear, despite Fukushima, is no where near as damaging as greenhouse gas emission.

        You need to choose – fighting global warming head on, or doing it half-heartedly. Nuclear power plants are low carbon.

      • SwedishreaderKristinehamn93

        I think that you didn’t get get me right on the last reply I send you. Carbonoxid (CO2) and the greenhouse gas wasn’t what I meant when I said fight for the environment, I meant to chose to have and not to have obejcts that can leak particels like Strontium, Tritium and Caesium. If they get radioative Strontium-90 with half-time on each 28 years, Tritum half-time on each 12 years, Caesium could become Caesium-137 with half-time on each 30 years. Right now, according to Tepco in the japan times , Strontium-90 + Tritium + Caesium-137 are leaking in to the groundwater which is heading to the pacific ocean. When it reach the ocean it’s more likely that it enters the food chain which might end up in a human body. A human body can not handel these particels, maybe cause cancer.
        I said earlyer that wave-technology would be a new source of replaceing nuclear energy, if there isn’t any study of it then Japan may be the frist to do it and maybe in the futher have it as a source of energy production.
        Sweden and global warming might be true as you say and the Swedish goverment are fighting to make it less but the lokal people say stop and we don’t getting anywhere.

      • Starviking

        I think we are just going to have to agree to disagree. For me the major problem facing civilisation is global warming, and anything that fights that well is all right by me. Nuclear fits that bill, and if wave power proves itself to be able to do that economically then great.

  • Starviking

    Another point, which seems to have escaped the editorial writer: the presence of fuel rods at the site shows the need to develop sites devoted to the storage of fuel rods, or advanced reactors to use up the fuel rods