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Reversing Course, Japan Makes Push to Restart Dormant Nuclear Plants

A TEPCO employee in protective clothing works around tanks filled with radioactive water at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. (photo: AAP) - by Hiroko Tabuchi - February 25, 2014

TOKYO — The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made its biggest push yet to revive Japan’s nuclear energy program on Tuesday, announcing details of a draft plan that designates atomic power as an important long-term electricity source.

The new Basic Energy Plan, which states that Japan will push to restart reactors that were closed after the disaster in 2011 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, overturns a promise made by a previous government to phase out the country’s nuclear reactors. The plan also leaves open the possibility of building new plants as well as restarting existing ones.


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Three Mile Island Veteran Optimistic on Fukushima Fuel Removal


Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato, in the orange helmet, inspects the contaminated water tanks at Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture on Oct. 15, 2013. Photograph: JIJI Press-Pool/AFP via Getty Images - by Jacob Adelman - October 17, 2013

The first removal of nuclear fuel rods next month from the stricken Fukushima atomic station should be successful based on findings that the rods -- each about twice the average weight of a sumo wrestler -- appear undamaged from an explosion at the site almost three years ago.

That’s the view of Lake Barrett, a former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission official appointed last month as an adviser to Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501), the operator of the wrecked Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.

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FAS - Regulating Japanese Nuclear Power in the Wake of the Fukushima Daiichi Accident

Federation of American Scientists - - by Katie Colten
May 13, 2013

The 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was preventable. The Great East Japan earthquake and the tsunami that followed it were unprecedented events in recent history, but they were not altogether unforeseeable. Stronger regulation across the nuclear power industry could have prevented many of the worst outcomes at Fukushima Daiichi and will be needed to prevent future accidents.

In a new FAS issue brief, Dr. Charles Ferguson and Mr. Mark Jansson review some of the major problems leading up to the accident including the lack of regulation of the nuclear power industry and slow updates to safety requirements, such as using probabilistic safety assessment (PSA) methods to  improve accident management plans.

Wind Surpasses Nuclear in China

Graph of wind- vs nuclear-generated electricity in China. Image: Graph of wind- vs nuclear-generated electricity in China. - February 19th, 2013 - J. Matthew Roney

Wind has overtaken nuclear as an electricity source in China. In 2012, wind farms generated 2 percent more electricity than nuclear power plants did, a gap that will likely widen dramatically over the next few years as wind surges ahead. Since 2007, nuclear power generation has risen by 10 percent annually, compared with wind’s explosive growth of 80 percent per year.


Japanese Energy Policy (Several Links)

submitted by Linton Wells - several links about Japanese energy policy

March Highlights
from the
CSIS Energy and National Security Program

Please find a review of the Energy and National Security Program's activities from the past month.

Congressional Testimony
March 29
"Current and Near-Term Gasoline Prices," before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
By Frank A. Verrastro

Fukushima, One Year After

submitted by Luis Kun


by Steven Cherry - - March 6, 2012

On the somber first anniversary, Japan still has a lot of work ahead.

This is part of IEEE Spectrum's ongoing coverage of Japan's earthquake and nuclear emergency. For more details on how Fukushima Dai-1's nuclear reactors work and what has gone wrong so far, see our explainer and our timeline.

Steven Cherry: Hi, this is Steven Cherry for IEEE Spectrum’s “Techwise Conversations.”

IAEA Fukushima Daiichi Status Report - Full Update - November 4, 2011


The IAEA has received new information regarding the detection of xenon-133 and xenon-135 gases on 1 November inside the Primary Containment Vessel (PCV) of Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2.

Based on further analysis, Japanese authorities have concluded that the xenon concentrations are not due to a criticality event but rather from the spontaneous fission of curium-242 and 244. (Spontaneous fission is a form of radioactive decay that does not involve chain reactions and is characteristic of very heavy isotopes. Spontaneous fission occurs in low levels in all nuclear reactors.)

This conclusion is based on three key factors outlined and discussed in the report:

Xenon Means Recent Fission in Reactor 2



Graphic by The Asahi Shimbun


By KAZUAKI NAGATA and MIZUHO AOKI - The Japan Times - November 3, 2011

Tepco claims level in gas too small to affect shutdown effort

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Wednesday that some of the melted fuel in reactor 2 at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant may have triggered a brief criticality event.

Although the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said there have been no drastic changes in the reactor's temperature and pressure level, and the reactor itself is stable overall, the discovery may mean the goal of Tepco and the government to achieve cold shutdown of all three crippled reactors by the end of the year may not be possible.

Suggesting that criticality, or a sustained nuclear chain reaction, may have occurred temporarily, or partially, Tepco said one hundred thousandth of a becquerel per cubic centimeter of xenon-133 and xenon-135 was detected in gas samples.

New fission suspected at Fukushima nuclear plant National

Nov. 02, 2011 - 03:00PM JST ( 38 ) TOKYO — The operator of Japan’s tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant said Wednesday it feared nuclear fission had resumed inside one of the reactors. Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said it had begun injecting water and boric acid into No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which began leaking radiation after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. “We cannot rule out the possibility of a small nuclear fission reaction,” TEPCO spokesman Hiroki Kawamata said, adding that the injection was a precautionary measure. He said there was no fresh danger at the plant, as the reactor’s temperature and pressure, as well as radiation levels at monitoring posts, showed no substantial changes. Fission is the process by which an operating nuclear reactor produces power. The reactor automatically shut down in the wake of the disaster but nuclear fuel is believed to have melted through its container onto the bottom of the outer vessel when the tsunami knocked out the plant’s cooling systems. The injection was ordered after preliminary analysis of gas samples from the reactor building showed the possible presence of xenon 133 and xenon 135, byproducts of a nuclear reaction. The two substances have short half-lives—five days for xenon 133 and just nine hours for xenon 135—indicating that any nuclear fission was a recent phenomenon.

Microbes Generate Electricity While Cleaning Up Nuclear Waste

Michigan State University - September 6, 2011

Homeland Security Newswire - September 7, 2011


MSU microbiologist Gemma Reguera (right) and her team of researchers have unraveled the mystery of how microbes generate electricity while cleaning up nuclear waste. Photo by Michael Steger.

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Researchers at Michigan State University have unraveled the mystery of how microbes generate electricity while cleaning up nuclear waste and other toxic metals.

Details of the process, which can be improved and patented, are published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The implications could eventually benefit sites forever changed by nuclear contamination, said Gemma Reguera, MSU microbiologist.

“Geobacter bacteria are tiny micro-organisms that can play a major role in cleaning up polluted sites around the world,” said Reguera, who is an MSU AgBioResearch scientist. “Uranium contamination can be produced at any step in the production of nuclear fuel, and this process safely prevents its mobility and the hazard for exposure.”


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