Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant Weekly Review

The head of Japan's new nuclear regulatory body has said that the agency will not force the Ohi reactors to shut down, and that the so-called stress tests will no longer be required to restart other plants in the future.

Regulatory developments and other highlights from the news in Japan last week related to Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi accident include:

Tanaka: Ohi Can Remain Online

Fukushima unit 4Of Japan's 50 reactors, only two at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Ohi plant have been allowed to reenter service since the accident. For government officials, the summer peak season for electricity demand and looming power shortages outweighed intense political opposition to their restart in July. Shunichi Tanaka, who assumed the chairmanship of the country's new Nuclear Regulation Authority Sept. 19, was asked by the Asahi Shimbun if his agency would compel the reactors to close now that the peak season has passed. Tanaka said it would not, unless a problem is found. KEPCO is studying a fault line below the plant, and Tanaka said the NRA will conduct its own geologic research there and will close the plant if it is unsafe.

Stress Tests Nixed

Tanaka also said the stress tests introduced in July of 2011 will not be among the requirements for the restart of idled nuclear plants. Drawing in part from a nationwide seismic study beginning next month, the agency will begin drafting completely new safety regulations, which will delay restarts until the new rules are completed next summer.

Government Chooses Waste Disposal Sites

Over the opposition of city leaders, the Environment Ministry announced Thursday that a site near Takahagi City in Ibaraki Prefecture will join land near Yaita in Tochigi Prefecture as a disposal site for radioactive waste from efforts to clean up contaminated areas outside the plant.

The government is undergoing a massive effort to remove contaminated soil, tree limbs and debris in more than 100 towns. In addition to the sheer size of the cleanup effort, the government is also contending with the question of where to store the contaminated material. The land selected near Takahagi is national forest, Japan Today reported. The site will store about 1,700 metric tons of waste containing more than 8,000 becquerels of cesium per kilogram. It will be in the form of ash from incinerated debris and mud cleared from ditches.

Photo: Released earlier this month, this image shows unit 4 on March 28, 2011. Source: TEPCO

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