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Japan Power News

Monju Nuclear Plant Operator Ordered To Stop Restart Preparation 72

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-so-fast dept.
AmiMoJo writes "Japan's nuclear regulator has ordered the operator of the Monju fast-breeder reactor to suspend preparation for its restart until measures are put in place for its proper maintenance and management. The regulators acted after finding the operator had missed checkups on about 10,000 pieces of equipment. They ordered that sufficient manpower and funds be allocated for maintenance and management. The reactor in Tsuruga City, central Japan, is at the center of the nation's nuclear-fuel recycling policy. But its operator has been hampered by a series of problems."
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Monju Nuclear Plant Operator Ordered To Stop Restart Preparation

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  • So, not a Tepco site (Score:5, Informative)

    by dhammabum (190105) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @11:43PM (#43869355)

    According to the Japan Times [japantimes.co.jp], the Japan Atomic Energy Agency runs the site. Well done for not allowing them to get away with the same old practices.

    • Unfortunately Japan seems to easily forget about Fukushima and its effects, side effects and future effects. The new Japanese government is in favor of a drastic change regarding power plants future: from an all-stopped-and-deep-check (May 6, 2012) to a lets-go-restart-asap-what-you-can policy. They probably estimate the probability of another such F-event very low (F as in Fukushima, but you can put what you want here). This is one of the globalization problem: economical globalization trend, without globa
      • by khallow (566160) on Friday May 31, 2013 @02:49AM (#43869961)

        Unfortunately Japan seems to easily forget about Fukushima and its effects, side effects and future effects.

        I see no indication of this.

        The new Japanese government is in favor of a drastic change regarding power plants future: from an all-stopped-and-deep-check (May 6, 2012) to a lets-go-restart-asap-what-you-can policy.

        Why do you consider that a worse approach? There's never been a safety or engineering justification for a "all-stopped-and-deep-check" approach. Magnitude 9 earthquakes don't happen all the time and that was a fundamental cause of the Fukushima accident.

        They probably estimate the probability of another such F-event very low (F as in Fukushima, but you can put what you want here).

        Given that only one "F-event" has happened in the history of nuclear power, I think it is fair to consider the probability of such events to be very low.

        This is one of the globalization problem: economical globalization trend, without global consensus on fundamental issues.

        No, it is common sense risk management taking over. There's no safety reason to slow down the restarting of well maintained nuclear reactors. And there's plenty of costs to such delays.

        And I have to roll my eyes at "global consensus". I think Japan wouldn't be satisfied with the sort of compromises that it'd have to do in order to reach a consensus with say, Russia, the US, and China, all who appear to take some sort of short cuts with respect to nuclear power.

        For example, Russia still operates a few reactors of the sort that failed at Chernobyl (and will continue to do so, for at least a decade). China is notorious for its disregard for human health. And the US has a number of oversight issues (and NIMBY politics) hampering the safety of its reactors. A "global consensus" isn't going to be the best practices possible, but rather an ugly compromise.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Russia still operates a few reactors of the sort that failed at Chernobyl

          There is a reason none of those ever caused another incident, ever seen a documentary about Chernobyl? I still can't imagine what the operators thought when they disabled half the safeties to see if continued operation was safe - followed by a shift change and some quite bad communications problems caused by two separate control rooms independently doing damage control.

          Chernobyl was safe during normal operation and I really hope that the remaining reactors of that type have a strict "don't turn the safeties

          • by doom (14564)

            I know what you mean, and you can say similar things about Three Mile Island-- once the operators learn that, no, you really shouldn't over-ride those alerts, the problem goes away... and indeed there's an identical reactor at the same site that's been running fine ever since then.

            But the design in use at Chernobyl was genuinely stupid by western standards-- I mean, no containment building! Come on, it's just a bunch of thick reinforced concrete, it's not exactly high tech.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          There's no safety reason to slow down the restarting of well maintained nuclear reactors

          That's where you would be wrong. It has been discovered that Fukushima was damaged by the quake and the damage contributed to the problems they had cooling the reactors in the aftermath. We have learned a little about how large quakes affect nuclear plants. They don't happen that often so much of the theory is just that - theoretical. Now we have some actual data to work with it has become apparent that many plants are vulnerable in ways we didn't anticipate before.

          As a result there are new rules and things

          • by doom (14564)

            There's no safety reason to slow down the restarting of well maintained nuclear reactors

            That's where you would be wrong.

            Possibly he might be, but you haven't proven the case. Rolling out new safety checks sounds good, but it's hardly impossible to do that while a reactor is in operation. Even if there's a need for new equipment, you could shut down and install it later.

            Seriously, the anti-nuclear side in these debates always seems to feed and feed off of hysteria, in much the same way the national s

          • by khallow (566160)

            That's where you would be wrong. It has been discovered that Fukushima was damaged by the quake and the damage contributed to the problems they had cooling the reactors in the aftermath.

            There were several reactors affected by the earthquake. Sure, keep them offline until they've been inspected. The problem here is that all of the reactors were taken offline, including the ones not affected by the earthquake. Planning and inspection of Fukushima is not in any way hindered by those other reactors resuming operation.

            As a result there are new rules and things which previously were not considered safety critical or in need of regular checks now are. This is where this issue stems from and the reason why it is taking a long time to get things re-started. Checks had to be thought up to counter the new problems that were discovered, then tested out and finally rolled out with monitoring of compliance.

            You don't need reactors off line in order to decide on and implement these policies. Plus, nuclear reactors are naturally taken off line for refueling and maintenance. Any safety

          • +1. Obviously I cannot upvote your post, but you deserve it nonetheless.
      • This is one of the globalization problem

        Not really, the same problem has existed since the first caveman took a dump upstream from his neighbors cave.

  • I'm starting to think the people who own nuclear plants shouldn't be the same people who operate them, at least in Japan.
    • by sidevans (66118)

      I'm starting to think the people who own nuclear plants shouldn't be the same people who operate them, at least in Japan.

      You're tripping mate. Its not like USA and Russia haven't had their own fair share of nuclear fuck ups.

      I think Japan, who have been bombed twice and recently had a plant explode, are more educated and informed than most countries, when it comes to the dangers of nuclear power.

      • Canada did the same BS with chalk river. The plant didn't have redundant cooling so the government fired managers until they got someone willing to run it. The GPs idea doesn't fix anything. Ideally, they should be running designs that can't function in an unsafe condition or fail safe.
        • Chalk River was a completely different scenario.

          First the reactor had two sets of redundant cooling, but one of the sets was not earthquake resistant. Secondly the government didn't fire any plant managers, they fired the head of the nuclear safety commission, Linda Keen.

          The nuclear power plant didn't produce nuclear power, it produces a huge portion of the worlds medical isotopes [wikipedia.org]: Cobalt-60 (75% of global supply), Technetium-99m (80%), etc . Many of isotopes have a very short half-life so it is imposs

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 31, 2013 @12:33AM (#43869537)

        I used to (keyword: used to) work in the nuclear industry. Rumors I have heard was that Japan plants were very quick to fix equipment that broke. When something broke(Safety Related* or not) they had technicians out looking at it in very short order(within a week). At the plants I've been at and heard about here in the USA when stuff breaks if its not deemed "important" or Safety Related* it may be put off for months or years due to strict schedules, not enough work hours and insufficient technicians on staff, etc. It's not uncommon to see equipment that has been broken for more than 3 years, and INPO doesn't start hounding you until it's been more than 4 years. The NRC doesn't really care about anything that isn't classified as Safety Related* so they don't care how long it takes to fix it. Of course, the rumors of how Japan does business could be wrong as I've never actually toured or met someone that worked at one.

        And the best part is you can easily get that clock restarted. If you think a switch is broken and then later find out its something else, you simply close that work order and open a new work order on the correct part. New work order = new date for when the job was created. So now that thing that's been broken for 4 years could be 8 years. And guess what.. what if it isn't that either? *Poof*... 12 years to fix something. And I guarantee you if its a job that needs parts that are VERY expensive, require alot of man-hours to perform, or requires alot of dose for the technicians doing the job, it'll be put off as long as someone can come up with an excuse to push the work date back.

        Don't get me wrong, I consider nuclear power plants in the USA to be very safe, but when you stop and think "gee.. this has been broken since 2010 and we STILL haven't fixed it or even solidly troubleshot the issue to a particular piece of equipment?" you start questioning where the priorities are and what could be going on process-wise behind the scenes that nobody has noticed. I know that if something starts having problems with my car I preemptively fix it, even if its not something related to my own safety(like my brakes). Some parts in the nuclear industry are quite expensive(think 5, 6 figures or more) but are pennies on the dollar when you look at the amount of money the stations make per day. If they have an expected lifespan of only 5 years you can effectively get "something for nothing" just by not fixing it for a while. Those 3 parts that should have lasted you 15 years combined now can last over 20 if you wait 2 years between each fix. Suddenly you saved yourself big money in the long run. There's some hidden cost savings for the shareholders and its not like the company is going to come out and admit to how much money they saved just by not fixing stuff for a while. The general public would probably have a big cow if they knew the truth.

        * - Safety Related is a classification for equipment that is deemed necessary for a safe shutdown, sufficient cooling and control of the reactor during accident conditions.

        Posting for obvious reasons...I might want to work in the industry again someday. It is good money, a very reliable job and I know I'll be working with some of the smartest people I'll ever meet. Hopefully it won't get drowned out with all the other BS AC comments.

        • On the other hand, my understanding is that the problem which caused the hydrogen explosions at Fukashima I had been anticipated in the USA and all relevant plants were retrofitted to be able to safely vent hydrogen. Despite this being a known problem, the Japanese plants were not.

          • by thegarbz (1787294) on Friday May 31, 2013 @03:35AM (#43870167)

            The hydrogen explosions aren't the issue. You're venting to atmosphere or flaring, or you're putting it in a building and causing it to explode, the only thing the people will here is OMG radiation got out!

            The problem is not the hydrogen explosion, the problem is that it got that far to begin with.

          • by nojayuk (567177) on Friday May 31, 2013 @06:35AM (#43870755)

            The Fukushima Daiichi reactors were in fact fitted with venting apparatus -- if you look at pictures of the site you'll see large white vertical pipes standing beside the reactor buildings, braced with girders to cope with earthquakes. The problem is that if the vents are used they can (and probably will) release radioactivity as well as hydrogen gas since at that point in time the fuel elements in the reactors will have suffered heat damage.

            I've heard claims that the decision to not vent the gas buildup was taken by politicians in the Japanese government since they didn't want to be responsible for deliberately releasing radioactive contamination across parts of Japan. Whether that is true or not venting would have released much less radioactivity than the explosions did.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          It's human nature. We can't seem to create organizations capable of running these things properly.

        • by umghhh (965931)
          this costs/profit structure poses interesting dilemma to any supervision authority. Huge profits every year and if something happens like it did in Fukushima gov simply jumps in and pays. The worse that can happen the company is broke and administrators take over. Perfect or?This looks to me like privatization of profits and nationalization of costs. The best way it seems would be mandatory insurance but who is silly enough?
    • mr burns will buy the plant.

  • until measures are put in place for its proper maintenance and management

    Pfft .. why wait.

  • by thesupraman (179040) on Friday May 31, 2013 @12:35AM (#43869553)

    Firstly its an experimental facility that has not been run up yet, even for testing, and they are currently considering not testing it soon..

    Secondly the decision is based on a re-evaluation of Japans actual need for a fast breeder immediately, and due to overspends by its
    contractors.

    It is quite amazing how hard the anti-nuclear lobby will work to smokescreen any news as a near disaster and try and scare
    us all away with the nuclear apocalypse bogeyman..

    Japans economy is in recession, their energy needs are falling, they are cutting back on spending that is currently not required.
    Any real news here?

    • The regulators acted after finding the operator had missed checkups on about 10,000 pieces of equipment

      You don't consider that news?
      imo nuclear can be safe. It's people that can't be trusted.

      • Because digging deeper it appears to be either completely false, or a horrific mis-translation, or most
        likely comletely made up.

        The best I can find out, the facts are that the contractor wanted to be paid for another round of checking
        of everything, at a large cost, which the govt. was not willing to fund as there is little demand for the startup
        of the station now anyway, so why prepare to start up something thats being mothballed anyway.
        The only real news here seems to be a governement actually willing to c

        • Where did you read that? All the articles I've read say the same thing :One link [nhk.or.jp]:

          The regulators acted after finding the operator had missed checkups on about 10,000 pieces of equipment. The Nuclear Regulation Authority requested that Japan's science ministry urge the operator to comply.

          If you read anything different, a link would be appreciated.

    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      try and scare us all away with the nuclear apocalypse bogeyman

      He's 20km's wide, lives in the former Fukushima powerplant, explodes when you expose him to oxygen and pisses unmeasurable amounts of radiation into the ocean. But I'm not afraid, we're going fishing this weekend.

    • by nojayuk (567177)

      The Monju fast-breeder has been a white elephant for a long time. Sodium leaks/fires (a perennial problem with fast reactors around the world) and general poor operational practices have meant it has spent most of its life sitting idle getting reworked or repaired.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      It is quite amazing how hard the anti-nuclear lobby will work to smokescreen any news as a near disaster and try and scare
      us all away with the nuclear apocalypse bogeyman..

      It's quite amazing how the pro-nuclear lobby will always trot out their favourite old straw man in every debate. If you read the summary or even TFA you would have noticed that it clearly does not call this a disaster or do any scaremongering. Either you are deliberately trying to use this straw man to stir up rage or you are so paranoid that you read every story about nuclear that isn't 100% positive as some kind of foaming at the mouth attack.

      Japans economy is in recession, their energy needs are falling, they are cutting back on spending that is currently not required.

      Well, two out of three ain't bad. Their energy needs are fallin

  • This was about time. This decision was about 30 years overdue. Just a selection from the wiki article:
    1. accident in December 1995, in which a sodium leak caused a major fire, forced a shutdown.
    2. On August 26, 2010, a 3.3-tonne "InVessel Transfer Machine" fell into the reactor vessel when being removed after a scheduled fuel replacement operation.
    3. 16 February 2012 NISA reported that a sodium-detector malfunctioned
    4. 30 April 2013 an operating error rendered two of the three emergency reactors unusable. Duri
  • Kinda sad... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by xenobyte (446878)

    But nuclear power (fission) is the only truly sustainable energy source for the future given the alternatives of today.

    Fossil fuels are out due to their CO2 footprint.

    Solar and wind are useful supplements but too unreliable to stand alone and still with far too low yield to provide enough power per installation. To supply power to everything world-wide 24/7 with room to grow (triple most likely) would require insane amounts of windmills and square miles of solar arrays which would affect both land for food

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      I really don't understand this belief that fusion will be a panacea.

      Yes, I'm excited about the prospect of commercial energy positive fusion plants, but that's as much because I love the idea of fusion drives for spaceships with easy refueling as anything else.

      Fusion still produces radiation, it still contaminates the primary containment vessel, and it will probably contaminate the primary heat transfer loop's working fluid as well. The big thing is that when you hit the scram button, it should stop almost

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        the real point is that the pollution is highly local and contained and not all over the atmosphere..

      • by amaurea (2900163)

        Why would fusion plants need "hydrogen storage out of the wazoo"? The amount of hydrogen involved is pretty small, isn't it? A 1 GW (i.e. moderately large) fusion power plant would need less than 10 grams of hydrogen per hour according to my back of the envelope calculation (assuming 40% efficiency (and a 1% rest mass fusion yield) - I don't know how efficient a real plant would be). So I don't see why they would need to store such large amounts of hydrogen.

      • it still contaminates the primary containment vessel

        Yes, and that's the worst of it, and it's basically copper that's going to be slightly radioactive for 60 years.

        The best we can do with the existing nuclear fuel waste is 300 years, and the current nuclear waste is 300,000 years.

        BTW, it's "environmentalists" who are blocking the conversion of the 300,000 year waste into 300 year waste, a process that will safely power the globe for a century. c.f. integral fast reactors

    • Solar and wind are useful supplements but too unreliable to stand alone

      I don't know how it is at your side of the planet, but here you can set your watch at the time the sun gets up. The sun has never let us down so far. I sincerely cannot see why we should have power 24/7 * 3, given the fact that we literally are burning an unsustainably large part of our planet as we speak. But especially with solar energy, there is more than enough room if we all put our sunboilers and solar panels on our houses and just share the excess. The main problem here is off course that the electri

  • by Anonymous Coward

    in operating a breeder reactor is of course... you end up with a bunch more little reactors later. A fast-breeder reactor... jeez, you end up with more than you can shake a uranium fuel rod at before you know it! And if someone's playing anything by Barry White nearby... forget it!

    • Monju Fast Breeder
    • As TEPCO chases profit
    • Incompetance dances with disaster

We don't know who it was that discovered water, but we're pretty sure that it wasn't a fish. -- Marshall McLuhan

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