On March 26, a group of reporters and the Japanese minister tasked with overseeing the cleanup toured unit 4 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The last week also saw growing political support for the restart of reactors at the Ohi plant, which would be the first to resume operation since the accident.Developments related to Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima plant severely damaged following last year’s earthquake and tsunami include:
As Power Shortages Loom, More Support for Ohi RestartJapanese media reported a decision on restarting units 3 and 4 at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Ohi nuclear plant could be made early this month. Citing concerns about potential power shortages’ impact on residents and the local economy, the Union of Kansai Governments dropped its opposition to the restart in an announcement Wednesday. The following day, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported, the mayor of Osaka also said he would tolerate the units’ operation. At the national government level, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told cabinet members Wednesday that nuclear power would continue to be necessary to stabilize and improve Japan’s economy. A cabinet report has estimated that if all of Japan’s power reactors remain offline, power costs will go up by 10 percent while the country’s gross domestic product declines by as much as 0.6 percent.
Fuel Removal Plans, Press Tour Highlighted at Unit 4On Saturday reporters viewed the roofless top levels of unit 4 for the first time since the accident during a tour with Goshi Hosono, the government minister overseeing the cleanup.The day before, TEPCO released a report confirming the unit’s structural integrity, despite an outward bulge of 3.3 centimeters in the west wall from a hydrogen explosion that also ripped large holes in the unit’s concrete building. The Asahi Shimbun quoted Hosono as saying the government accepted TEPCO’s findings and has concluded the building could handle a large earthquake. TEPCO reinforced the unit’s spent fuel pool with steel and concrete in July and has sought to allay concerns the building could collapse, spilling tons of radioactive water and exposing the fuel to the atmosphere.Even with a stable building, site workers and engineers face a monumental task in decommissioning the unit. TEPCO has reported only about 60 percent of the debris has been removed from unit 4 since that work began last fall. Plans call for the installation of a crane in the fall of 2013 to begin spent fuel removal that December. That process is scheduled to take two years, although the Asahi quoted unnamed sources as saying TEPCO is considering moving a small number of unused fuel assemblies from the pool as early as July. Eventually TEPCO will also need to find a place to store the fuel, the Asahi reported, because the plant’s common spent fuel pool only has room for 456 of the 1,535 fuel assemblies in unit 4’s spent fuel pool.
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