THOR puts fast reactor fuel to the test in U.S.-Japan TREAT collaboration

January 17, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
U.S. secretary of energy Jennifer Granholm and Japan’s minister of economy, trade, and industry Yasutoshi Nishimura lead energy discussions on January 9 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: DOE)

Researchers at Idaho National Laboratory have completed initial testing on a newly developed fuel test capsule that is expected to provide crucial performance data for sodium-cooled fast reactors. The Department of Energy announced on January 12 that the series of fuel testing experiments being carried out now at INL’s Transient Reactor Test Facility (TREAT) was developed through a joint project between the United States and Japan.

Countries change nuclear policies in response to Ukraine war

January 6, 2023, 7:09AMNuclear News

As a direct result of the war in Ukraine, several countries have changed their policies on nuclear energy—even those with long-standing nuclear phase-out plans. This February will mark one year since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, leading to ongoing war and turning pandemic-era energy shortages into a global energy crisis. Spiking gas prices and concerns about electricity supply during the cold winter months have thrown many governments into a frenzy as they try to ease the impact on their citizens.

Countries in the process of phasing out their nuclear power had been prepared to increase their reliance on natural gas. But as Russia supplies 40 percent of the European Union’s natural gas, nations with no reliable alternative now face sky-high energy prices—even energy poverty. Across Europe and beyond, nuclear power plants slated for permanent closure have been given second chances to shore up energy supply. Nuclear power has also claimed a bigger spotlight in countries’ strategies for energy independence.

U.S.-Japan Nuclear Security Working Group resumes meetings

November 16, 2022, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The U.S.-Japan Nuclear Security Working Group (NSWG) convened for its 11th meeting in early November in Tokyo. The group continued its efforts, begun in 2011, to strengthen global nuclear security and enhance international cooperation in peaceful nuclear activities. The meeting was originally scheduled for 2020 but was postponed because of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

New U.S.-Japan agreement on HEU-to-LEU conversion

September 29, 2022, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe
NNSA administrator Jill Hruby (left) holds up the signed MOU on HEU conversion during the agency’s virtual meeting with Japan’s MEXT. (Credit: NNSA)

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT). The MOU describes their commitment to convert the Kindai University Teaching and Research Reactor (UTR-KINKI) from high-enriched uranium fuel to low-enriched uranium fuel. The nuclear nonproliferation–related agreement also calls for the secure transport of all the HEU to the United States for either downblending to LEU or disposition.

Japanese PM wants more nuclear restarts, next-generation development

August 25, 2022, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Kishida

Having already declared last month his government’s intention to return to service as many as nine idled power reactors in order to ensure stable supplies of energy this winter, Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida yesterday called for additional restarts and endorsed the development and construction of next-generation nuclear plants, according to reports from various news outlets, including Nikkei Asia, the Washington Examiner, and the Los Angeles Times.

Kishida made the comments at the second meeting of Japan’s GX (Green Transformation) Implementation Council, a new group tasked with helping the country achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Why Japan’s response to Fukushima radiation failed while Utah’s response succeeded

August 18, 2022, 7:02AMNuclear NewsJames Conca

Aboveground atomic bomb test at the Nevada Test Site while troops look on. These clouds of material often wafted over to Utah during the 1950s. (Photo: NNSA)

In 1953, the United States detonated above­ground nuclear weapons during tests at the Nevada Test Site. In 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown occurred in Japan. Both events spread radioactive material over many miles and over population centers. Neither event resulted in any adverse health effects from that radiation.

But the response to the Fukushima event was disastrous because of the irrational and misinformed fear of radiation. That fear—not radiation—killed at least 1,600 people and destroyed the lives of at least another 200,000. That fear seriously harmed the entire economy of Japan, stopped cold the fishing industry and other agriculture in that area, and, overnight, reversed the country’s progress in addressing climate change.

The U.S. tests spread two to three times more radiation than did the events of Fukushima over the people of Utah, particularly the town of St. George. Like with Fukushima, no one was hurt, there was never any increase in cancer rates, and no one died as a result. But in Utah, the economy and people’s lives were unaffected. Why was there such a different result?

Japan-to-U.S. HEU transfer fulfills nonproliferation commitment

August 10, 2022, 3:02PMNuclear News
NNSA administrator Jill Hruby (right) and Ken Nakajima, director of the Institute for Integrated Radiation and Nuclear Science at Kyoto University, in the KUCA control room. (Photo: NNSA)

All high-enriched uranium has been removed from the Kyoto University Critical Assembly (KUCA), according to an announcement from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

TerraPower seeks fast reactor data through time-tested U.S.-Japan research ties

February 1, 2022, 3:02PMNuclear News
A rendering of the Natrium plant. (Image: TerraPower)

Natrium, a 345-MWe sodium fast reactor with a molten salt energy storage system, was developed by TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy. TerraPower is planning to build the first Natrium demonstration reactor by 2028 with 50-50 cost-shared funding of about $2 billion from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program. And for the requisite data and testing of reactor components to support that deployment, TerraPower is looking to Japan—a country with decades of experience developing sodium fast reactor designs and testing infrastructure.

IAEA issues report on Japan’s decommissioning program for R&D facilities

June 24, 2021, 9:29AMRadwaste Solutions

Noting the challenges Japan will face in managing the nuclear waste that will be generated from decommissioning 79 of its nuclear research and development facilities, the International Atomic Energy Agency is recommending that the country prepare for delays in the development of disposal facilities and provide appropriate waste storage capacity for the interim period.

The recommendation was one of several that a team of IAEA experts provided to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency after reviewing the agency’s 70-year decommissioning program, called the “Back-End Roadmap,” and contained in the report, ARTEMIS Review of JAEA Back-End Roadmap, which was released on June 22,

Critical Look: PBS Newshour’s coverage of 10th anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear accident

March 15, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

Along with many other media outlets on March 11, the PBS NewsHour reported on the continuing recovery efforts from the earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan 10 years ago. The segment, "Japan marks 10th anniversary of Fukushima nuclear disaster," is just over eight minutes long, most of which discusses the effects of the earthquake and tsunami on the region and Japan’s preparedness for the next major natural incident.

Safely decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi and revitalizing Fukushima

March 11, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear NewsAkira Ono

Akira Ono is chief decommissioning officer of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings and president of the Fukushima Daiichi Decontamination and Decommissioning Engineering Company.

The mission of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO), and my personal mission, is to safely decommission the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station and thereby contribute to the revitalization of Fukushima.

In performing this important work, we are guided by the principle of balancing the recovery of Fukushima with the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, doing everything possible to mitigate the risks as we progress. Since the accident on March 11, 2011, we have stabilized the site and alleviated many of its crisis aspects.

Most significantly, we have been making efforts to improve the working environment by reducing the contamination on the site due to the accident. About 4,000 workers are currently engaged at Fukushima Daiichi. The average monthly radiation dose for those workers has been reduced from 21.55 mSv (2,155 mrem) immediately following the accident to 0.3 mSv (30 mrem).

The Economist: Independent regulators needed for strong nuclear power

March 8, 2021, 9:28AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Nuclear power is an important component in the fight against climate change, but independent regulation is needed to gain the public’s---and governments'---trust, according to a March 6 article in The Economist, “Nuclear power must be well regulated, not ditched.”

The article reviews the negative effect that the Fukushima Daiichi accident had on the worldwide nuclear industry following the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. Japan’s direct economic cost, estimated at more than $200 billion, was larger than that of any other natural disaster the world has seen, according to the article.

China on course to lead in nuclear by 2030, says IEA

March 4, 2021, 3:18PMNuclear News

China will have the world's largest nuclear power fleet within a decade, an International Energy Agency official noted during a session at the High-Level Workshop on Nuclear Power in Clean Energy Transitions, World Nuclear News reported on March 3.

The workshop was held jointly by the IEA and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The IEA official, Brent Wanner, head of Power Sector Modelling & Analysis for the agency's World Energy Outlook publication, said that as nuclear fleets in the United States, Canada, and Japan reach their original design lifetimes, decisions will have to be made about what will happen after that. Absent license renewals, the contribution of nuclear power could decline substantially in those countries while China’s reactor building program will boost it into the first position.

ANS webinar updates progress at Fukushima

March 3, 2021, 9:25AMNuclear News

The accident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011, has sparked many safety improvements in the nuclear industry over the past decade. Lessons from the accident and its aftermath will influence firms and regulators as they consider the future design, construction, operation and decommissioning of nuclear reactors.

An American Nuclear Society webinar, “Nuclear News Presents: A Look Back at the Fukushima Daiichi Accident,” held yesterday was attended by more than 1,550 viewers and generated about 150 questions to the panelists. The attendance was the largest ever for an ANS webinar.

The panelists were Mike Corradini, emeritus professor, University of Wisconsin; Dale Klein, former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Joy Rempe, principal, Rempe and Assoc. LLC; Lake Barrett, senior advisor, Tokyo Electric Power Company and Japan’s International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning (IRID); and Paul Dickman, senior policy fellow, Argonne National Laboratory.

The webinar’s recording and slides are available here, along with an e-version of the March issue of Nuclear News, which features a cover story on the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

Fukushima Daiichi: 10 years on

March 1, 2021, 2:12PMNuclear NewsLake Barrett

The Fukushima Daiichi site before the accident. All images are provided courtesy of TEPCO unless noted otherwise.

It was a rather normal day back on March 11, 2011, at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant before 2:45 p.m. That was the time when the Great Tohoku Earthquake struck, followed by a massive tsunami that caused three reactor meltdowns and forever changed the nuclear power industry in Japan and worldwide. Now, 10 years later, much has been learned and done to improve nuclear safety, and despite many challenges, significant progress is being made to decontaminate and defuel the extensively damaged Fukushima Daiichi reactor site. This is a summary of what happened, progress to date, current situation, and the outlook for the future there.

Farming in Fukushima

February 12, 2021, 11:57AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Screenshot of the video from Vice.

Vice News has published a video on YouTube that follows two farmers from the Fukushima Prefecture, Noboru Saito and Koji Furuyama. Saito, who grows many different crops on his farm, says that the rice grown in the area is consistently rated as the best. Furuyama specializes in peaches and explains his strategy to deal with the stigma of selling fruit from Fukushima: grow the best peaches in the world.

U.K., Japan to research remote D&D, fusion systems

January 22, 2021, 6:53AMRadwaste Solutions

The LongOps project will develop innovative robotic technologies. Photo: UKAEA

Britain and Japan have signed a research and technology deployment collaboration to help automate nuclear decommissioning and aspects of fusion energy production. According to the U.K. government, which announced the deal on January 20, the £12 million (about $16.5 million) U.K.–Japanese robotics project, called LongOps, will support the delivery of faster and safer decommissioning at the Fukushima Daiichi reactors in Japan and at Sellafield in the United Kingdom, using long-reach robotic arms.

The four-year collaboration on new robotics and automation techniques will also be applied to fusion energy research in the two countries.

Funded equally by U.K. Research and Innovation, the U.K.’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, and Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Company, the LongOps project will be led by the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) facility.

Security equipment repository for Asia-Pacific region established

October 8, 2020, 9:29AMNuclear News

During a virtual meeting between the Atomic Energy Licensing Board of Malaysia, Japan’s Permanent Mission in Vienna, and the IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, an agreement was signed to establish a pool of nuclear security equipment, including items pictured here, in Malaysia. Photo: I. Pletukhina/IAEA

The International Atomic Energy Agency has joined with Malaysia’s Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) to establish a pool of radiation detection equipment available for loan to support nuclear security training and detection capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region, the IAEA announced October 7

This is the first such repository facilitated by the IAEA. The equipment was purchased with Japan’s contribution to the IAEA Nuclear Security Fund.

Decommissioning effort delayed for two Fukushima Daiichi buildings

April 22, 2020, 9:57AMRadwaste Solutions

Decommissioning work in parts of the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan has been delayed after engineers discovered that sandbags placed in the basements of buildings near Units 1 and 3 were found to contain excessive radiation levels. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) operates the plant and is in charge of the decommissioning efforts following the accident caused by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

IAEA supports discharge of treated water at Daiichi

April 6, 2020, 9:21AMRadwaste Solutions

An International Atomic Energy Agency team of experts said in a review published on April 2 that the two options for the controlled disposal of treated water stored at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are “technically feasible.” A Japanese advisory subcommittee outlined the two options—vapor release and discharge to the sea—for the water that is being stored at the plant following the 2011 accident.