The Controversy Over Japanese Nuclear Plants -

The Controversy Over Japanese Nuclear Plants

japanese nuclear plants

The Japanese Government recently approved the restart of two nuclear plants that had been temporarily shut down due to the tsunami and earthquake. If all goes as planned, these two plants will start up again as early as next week, once they are safe to do so. However, many wonder how safe these new nuclear plants are after the recent string of disasters in Japan. As with all nuclear plants, there are many constraints on the type and size of fuel that is allowed to be used. A few years ago, a small amount of nuclear waste was released from one of the plants; some nuclear experts worry that this small amount may be enough to trigger a disaster.

New Guideline Of Japanese Government

A screen shot of a glass door

The new requirements from the Japanese Government requires that any plant with an average capacity of 5% of the country’s total electricity needs must ensure that a significant proportion of their fuel is spent by storing it securely in deep underground storage. This is done through the process of pressurized steam flue gasification. Any excess gases would then be stored in low pressure vessels. All of this is done in order to ensure that no leaks or accidents happen, and that nuclear safety is maintained at high levels.

New Guidelines

Background pattern

There are also new guidelines being put into place for the containment of spent fuel. All Japanese nuclear plants must ensure that fuel is not allowed to come into direct contact with the environment for a full year after the fuel has been removed from the spent fuel pools. It is thought that there is less chance of a nuclear accident occurring if there is a spent fuel containment facility in place; but until this is fully implemented, no one knows for sure. The added cost of such a facility would also need to be assessed.

The Japanese Nuclear Regulatory Authority has issued numerous guidelines and set-up guidelines for various aspects of the safety of Japanese nuclear plants. Among these are recommendations for maintaining proper control of coolant levels and for closing all valves and pump stations on a continual basis when they reach a certain level of deterioration. There are also suggestions for the regular replacement of cooling tubes, and the inspection of equipment to identify any problems before it comes too late. Of particular importance is the possibility of a meltdown occurring, and the procedures that must be used in bringing the spent fuel back up to safety.

Failing To Protect The Public’s Drinking Water

The operator at the Miei power station near Niigata, Japan was recently fined $6.5 million for failing to protect the public’s drinking water. Miei is one of the six units of nuclear power plants operating in Japan. It is one of the only units to have a storage facility for high-level radioactive waste from the other units. As it happens, this nuclear power plant also had two drinking water reservoirs at its operation.

The storage facility at the Miei power station contained about fifteen thousand pounds of highly radioactive material. This material had been contaminated with spent fuel rods from the four nuclear plants in Japan. The average lifespan of these fuel rods, according to estimates, is only ten years, so by storing them for this long, the nuclear plants could have exposed their workers to harmful levels of radiation. The long-term storage of the highly radioactive material also poses a risk of leakage, especially with the possibility of one unit leaking at a time.

Bottom Line

In response to this, and to efforts to produce electricity using more environmentally friendly and less harmful methods, the Japanese government has allowed for two new types of nuclear plants to be built. The first of these is the Hoshin Reactor, which is located in Sendai, Japan. It is intended to reduce costs associated with operating the existing Japanese nuclear plants while allowing for increased production of electricity. The second is the Wolsan facility, which is in Hyesan, Okayama Prefecture. This facility will also allow for increased production of electricity while decreasing costs associated with the Hoshin Reactor.

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