Another troubled nuclear reactor was due to shut down yesterday, less than 100 kilometers (50-60 miles) from Kyoto and Nagoya, reported AFP (see reproduced article below from JapanToday news site). The Mihama Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui has a legacy of incidents over the years as mentioned on Wikipedia (also reproduced hereafter) and it is hardly surprising that Safecast measured radioactive levels in Kyoto higher than normal (Cf. Safecast Publishes Kyoto Radiation Map on SurvivalJapan) last week.
Mihama is at the heart of Nuclear Ginza along the Sea of Japan and radiation leaks or nuclear fallout in case of disaster would easily reach Kansai and Nagoya (Aichi) as well as contaminate the Biwako Lake, a major tap water reservoir.
North-south oriented-valleys at the south of Mihama Nuclear Power Plant make for natural corridors for winds to carry any radioactive plume to these regions, so does a pass to Nagoya area, as can be seen on the map below.
Although I place this city in the no man’s land, based on high radiation readings from citizen surveys, it is really a grey area and an industrial hub with expats working for companies such as Toyota, Mitsubishi Heavy Industry and Toray to name but a few. When Nagoya will be affected by a nuclear accident from Fukui, it will be the end of industrial Japan as we know it.
AFP – Nuclear reactor in Fukui to be shut down due to cooling valve glitch
Operations at the No. 2 reactor of Mihama nuclear power plant in Fukui will be suspended manually, said Kansai Electric Power, which runs the plant.
The company said it was still checking the cause of the trouble but did not believe there was any chance that cooling water would leak out of the plant.
No indication was given as to how long the reactor would be shut down.
Once the plant is suspended, only eight will remain in operation in Japan, amid fears over the safety of nuclear power in a resource-poor country that previously depended on the technology for around a third of its electricity needs.
The 9.0-magnitude quake and resulting tsunami on March 11 killed some 20,000 people and crippled cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, northeast of Tokyo, causing reactor meltdowns.
Since the disaster at Fukushima, Japan has had to ramp up its imports of thermal fuels to plug the supply gap as the number of active reactors has dwindled amid stringent safety checks and local opposition to the technology.
A nationwide campaign to save energy over the summer has been extended over the winter, with continued warnings of a shortfall that could be particularly acute in western Japan, which is more heavily dependent on nuclear generation.
© 2011 AFP
Wikipedia – Mihama Nuclear Power Plant : Events
The Mihama NPP has been notable beyond most nuclear plants due to the severity of accidents that have happened there, the 2004 steam explosion in particular.
September 2, 1991
Unit 2 steam generator had one tube fully break. This triggered a SCRAM with full activation of the Emergency Core Cooling System. Eventually, a small amount of radiation was released to the outside.
May 17, 2003
Unit 2 steam generators had two holes open simultaneously. There was no radioactive release to the environment.
August 9, 2004
On 9 August 2004, an accident occurred in a building housing turbines for the Mihama 3 reactor.Hot water and steam leaking from a broken pipe killed four workers and resulted in seven others being injured. The accident had been called Japan’s worst nuclear power accident before the crisis at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.
The Mihama 3 is an 826 megawatts electric, 3-loop Westinghouse type pressurized-water reactor (PWR) which has been in service since 1976. The pipe rupture occurred in a 55.9 centimeter (cm) (22 inch) outside diameter pipe in the ‘A’ loop condensate system between the fourth feedwater heater and the deaerator, downstream of an orifice for measuring single-phase water flow. At the time of the secondary piping rupture, 105 workers were preparing for periodic inspections to commence.
A review of plant parameters did not uncover any precursor indicators before the accident nor were there any special operations that could have caused the pipe rupture. An investigation concluded that water quality had been maintained since the commissioning of the plant.
Japan’s previous most deadly accident at a nuclear facility took place at a uranium processing plant in Tokaimura, north of Tokyo, on September 30, 1999, when an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction was triggered after three poorly trained workers mixed Uranium nuclear fuel in a bucket. The resulting release of radiation killed two workers, and exposed one other worker to radiation above legal limits.
The Mihama NPP started back up in January 2007 after making various changes and obtaining permission from Fukui Prefecture and industry regulators.
Another fire occurred in 2006, two workers sustained injuries. There were no fatalities and no release of radioactivity detected, though the ash involved in the fire included some low level radioactive waste.
Read also November 2011 articles below about KEPCO and Mihama and Tsuruga Nuclear Power Plants to take a fuller measure of financial and political corruption as well as unethical and unprofessional events which keep affecting them – very much the same combo which operates in Fukushima or in Genkai and which makes perfect ground for further nuclear disasters in Japan.
Asahi Shimbun – Power companies behind anonymous donations in Fukui
November 04, 2011
In September 2006, Kansai Electric Power Co. restarted the aging No. 3 reactor at its Mihama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture and informed the town of plans to operate it for an additional decade.
In that fiscal year, after a dry spell of three years, Mihama received about 1.2 billion yen ($15.4 million) in anonymous donations. The following year, 1 billion yen in anonymous donations poured into the town.
Town officials have refused to say where the money came from. But an investigation by The Asahi Shimbun shows that electric power companies have provided a huge amount of anonymous donations not only to Mihama, but also to other municipalities that host nuclear power facilities in Fukui Prefecture.
Through requests for information disclosure, The Asahi Shimbun found that at least 50.2 billion yen in large anonymous donations were made over the years until fiscal 2010 to Fukui Prefecture and four municipalities.
The prefecture is home to 15 nuclear reactors, including one now being dismantled, the largest number in Japan.
About 30 percent of those donations, or 15 billion yen, came from Kansai Electric and other companies that operate nuclear facilities in the prefecture, according to the findings.
“There are almost no large anonymous donations from companies other than those connected to the electric power sector,” a local government source said.
The large anonymous donations have continued even after the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, sources said.
And the anonymous donation to Mihama in fiscal 2006 came after the No. 3 reactor, which had been in operation for 30 years, was the site of an accident in August 2004 that killed five workers and injured six.
The donations to the local governments were made anonymously because the companies apparently do not want to reveal the extent of their influence. But they came on top of the huge government grants paid to municipalities that host nuclear power plants.
Between fiscal 1974 and 2009, the government paid 324.5 billion yen in grants from electric bills paid by corporate and household users.
The Asahi Shimbun determined that Kansai Electric donated 5.2 billion yen in fiscal 1992 for the construction of a Fukui prefectural university.
The company also made anonymous donations of 3 billion yen between fiscal 2005 and 2010 to convert electricity transmission to direct current for the JR Hokuriku and Kosei lines as well as donations of 5.7 billion yen between fiscal 2000 and 2004 for the electrification of the JR Obama Line.
Kansai Electric officials acknowledged that the company cooperated in those projects, but they did not divulge how much the utility actually donated.
Japan Atomic Power Co. and Hokuriku Electric Power Co. had earlier told The Asahi Shimbun that they also contributed some of the donations. But officials of the two companies said they could not respond to the latest questions.
Another case involves a donation in fiscal 1998 of 5.85 billion yen for the opening of the Wakasa Wan Energy Research Center.
Sources told The Asahi Shimbun that year that some of the money came from Kansai Electric. But officials of the prefectural government and electric power companies now say they cannot disclose any details.
Financial records after fiscal 1965 were also obtained for the city of Tsuruga, home to the Monju fast-breeder reactor operated by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency and the Tsuruga nuclear power plant run by Japan Atomic Power.
Between 1969, the year before the Tsuruga nuclear plant began operations, and 2011, a total of 7.55 billion yen in anonymous donations were made either individually or collectively to Tsuruga. Additional research found that those donations came from Japan Atomic Power, Hokuriku Electric, Kansai Electric and an entity that has since merged into the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.
Tsuruga also received 180 million yen in donations from Japan Atomic Power in March after the Fukushima nuclear accident started.
City officials said no documents with the names of the donors existed for all other donations.
Officials of Oi, which hosts Kansai Electric’s Oi nuclear power plant, and Takahama, home to the Takahama nuclear power plant also operated by Kansai Electric, said they checked documents for the past 30 years.
Based on those documents, officials said donations from Kansai Electric totaled 900 million yen for Oi and 1.29 billion yen for Takahama.
Officials of Kansai Electric and Japan Atomic Power said they could not disclose details about corporate donations.
Mihama officials only said a total of 5.53 billion yen in anonymous donations had been received between fiscal 1991 and 2010. They did not reveal the donors’ names.
As shown by the Mihama case, the anonymous donations to the four municipalities in Fukui Prefecture were often made when additional reactors were being built or immediately after accidents at a nuclear plant.
Another example is a 13.6-hectare athletic park in Oi, which has a population of about 8,800. The complex includes a baseball field with stands, a training gym, lighted artificial turf tennis courts as well as lodging facilities.
The predecessor to the current town agreed in 1985 to allow the construction of two additional reactors. Between fiscal 1985 and 2010, Oi received 4.72 billion yen in anonymous donations to go toward paying for landfill expenses and construction of the gymnasium.
The town received no such anonymous donations in the three years until fiscal 1984.
A town government official would not divulge where the anonymous donations came from, but only said, “We believe the donor understood the situation in the local community.”
Kansai Electric officials said they could neither confirm nor deny that the company made donations for the park.
Original article may still be available here.
Japan Times – Kepco eyes ¥200 billion for sea walls
Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011
FUKUI — Kansai Electric Power Co. estimates that around ¥200 billion will be required to protect its nuclear plants in Fukui Prefecture from major natural disasters.
The estimate, up from an initially projected ¥70 billion, is included in an additional set of safety measures presented to the Fukui Prefectural Government, officials of the utility said Monday.
Under the measures, Kansai Electric plans to surround its nuclear plants in the towns of Mihama and Takahama with sea walls of up to 11.5 meters by the end of fiscal 2015.
The new plan includes an increase in staff to be called in when a major accident occurs and an increase in satellite-based mobile phones to secure communications during emergencies.
On Monday, Japan Atomic Power Co. and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency also presented to the Fukui Prefectural Government new safety plans for their nuclear power facilities in the prefecture facing the Sea of Japan.
The prefecture called on the three entities in October to submit additional safety measures, including those to address serious accidents, amid efforts at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant to contain the nuclear crisis triggered by the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Meanwhile, Kansai Electric President Makoto Yagi said the utility will resume operating the No. 2 thermal power generator, with a capacity of 450,000 kw, at its plant in Kainan, Wakayama Prefecture, around next summer in anticipation of a delay in the restart of nuclear reactors idled for inspections.
Original article may still be available here.
Read also Mihama Reactor Shutdown Update 1 on SurvivalJapan.