[ RadSafe ] [Nuclear News] Japan's TEPCO admits 1978 nuclear criticality

Sandy Perle sandyfl at cox.net
Thu Mar 22 15:44:54 CDT 2007


Japan's TEPCO admits 1978 nuclear criticality
Germany can abandon nuclear power and cut CO2: Greenpeace
Vietnam wants nuclear power
Fluor Forms Nuclear Power Business
2 UK sailors killed in nuclear submarine accident
Ireland Unions call for nuclear energy debate
Rate-setters look at rules for possible nuclear plant

Japan's TEPCO admits 1978 nuclear criticality

TOKYO, March 22 (Reuters) - Japan's largest utility, Tokyo Electric 
Power Co. (TEPCO) , said on Thursday there was a "criticality" 
incident at one of its nuclear power plants in 1978 that could have 
lasted for up to 7-½ hours. 

TEPCO's admission came a week after another Japanese utility said it 
had concealed a similar incident in 1999. 

There were no records of the incident at the No.3 unit at TEPCO's 
Fukushima Daiichi plant in Fukushima, northern Japan. 

It came to light during interviews with two former workers at the 
plant, both now aged around 70, a news briefing was told by Nagao 
Suzuki, general manager at TEPCO's nuclear power plant management 

TEPCO said it was still investigating but was unaware of any injuries 
or radiation leak as a result of the incident. 

"One of them had a quite clear memory about the incident. He took it 
quite seriously," Suzuki said. ADVERTISEMENT

Fuel rods fell in a reactor core and may have caused self-sustaining 
nuclear fission, or criticality. 

It took about 7 ½ hours to place the rods into the proper positions, 
he said. 

Technical data which should have recorded the incident was abandoned 
after 10 years in line with regulations that governed nuclear power 
plant management in the 1970s. Toshiba Corp. ., the maker of the 
unit, provided some data to back up what the worker said about the 
incident, Suzuki said. 

It was unclear if the workers had intended to conceal the incident, 
he said. 

TEPCO has found five past cases of mishandling of fuel rods, 
including the one at the Fukushima plant. 

The other four, which did not lead to criticality, also involved 
Toshiba units. 

Utilities are now reporting such incidents to the government after 
the Trade Ministry ordered them in November to investigate power 
plant records and report the findings by the end of March, a process 
the ministry said would help improve the industry's safety controls. 

TEPCO's admission comes after Hokuriku Electric Power Co. said last 
week it had covered up an incident in 1999 that caused criticality 
that lasted for 15 minutes.

Germany can abandon nuclear power and cut CO2: Greenpeace

BERLIN (AFP) - Germany could abandon nuclear energy more quickly than 
planned and still achieve a 40-percent cut in carbon dioxide 
emissions, environmental group Greenpeace said on Thursday. 
If all nuclear power stations were closed by 2015, instead of the 
planned date of 2020, Germany could still reduce its CO2 emissions by 
40 percent, according to a study prepared for Greenpeace by the 
EUtech institute, based in the western German city of Aachen.

Germany has the resources and the technology available to achieve 
both goals, the report said.

"There can be no more excuses, a 40-percent cut by 2020 is 
achievable," said Greenpeace Germany's energy expert Andree Boehling.

Shutting down the country's nuclear plants would indirectly have a 
positive effect on emissions by encouraging the energy industry to 
develop new technology, Boehling said.

Germany, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the        
European Union, helped broker an agreement this month under which the 
27 member states will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent 
from 1990 levels over the next 13 years.

But the Greenpeace-backed report, entitled "Climate protection: Plan 
B," says Germany could achieve a greater reduction by using renewable 
energy to generate one fifth of its heating needs and one third of 
its electricity by 2020, according to the report

"The German government's Plan A has failed," Boehling said, referring 
to a slight rise in CO2 emissions in Germany since 2006.

Germany has agreed to phase out nuclear power by around 2020, but 
France relies on atomic energy for around 40 percent of its needs and 
has pushed for it to be classed as a renewable form of energy when 
the EU deal is firmed up.

Vietnam wants nuclear power

SINGAPORE, March 22 (UPI) -- Vietnam intends to build nuclear power 
plants to diversify sources for its increasing energy demand, moving 
away from traditional hydropower. 

"Maybe in 15 years, we hope to have a plant in operation," said Ta 
Van Huong, director general of the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry's 
Department of Energy and Petroleum. "Nothing is confirmed yet." 

Huong, talking at the 10th Asia Power and Energy Congress in 
Singapore, said he hopes the government will approve nuclear power so 
his department can begin feasibility studies, Thanhnien News reports. 

Iranian PressTV reports Huong plans to build a 2,000 megawatt nuclear 
plant by 2015, which will come online by 2020. 

The Energy Information Administration, the data arm of the U.S. 
Department of Energy, says Vietnam will increase its electricity 
demand by 15 percent a year over the next three years. More than half 
is supplied by hydropower.

Fluor Forms Nuclear Power Business

Fluor Forms New Unit to Focus on Engineering and Construction 
Services for Nuclear Industry 

IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Engineering and construction services provider 
Fluor Corp. on Thursday said it has formed a new business to focus on 
the nuclear power market.
Nuclear power generation has gained new favor amid government 
officials' increasing concerns about global warming. Proponents 
consider nuclear power an alternative to coal-fired plants, which are 
blamed for contributing to air pollution.
Nationwide, U.S. utilities are pursuing plans for some 30 new 

Fluor named Ron Pitts to head its nuclear business, which will fall 
under the umbrella of its power group. David Constable, president of 
Fluor's power group, will lead the nuclear business development 

The new unit will be headquartered in Greenville, S.C.

President Bush advocated the use of nuclear power in his State of the 
Union address earlier this year, as part of a plan to diversify the 
nation's energy supply.

No new nuclear reactors have been ordered in the United States since 
a 1979 accident at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania raised 
public ire about nuclear power

2 UK sailors killed in nuclear submarine accident

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- Two British sailors were killed in an 
explosion aboard a Royal Navy nuclear-powered submarine in the Arctic 
Ocean, and an injured crew member was evacuated to a hospital in 
Anchorage, officials said Wednesday.

The explosion occurred late Tuesday aboard the HMS Tireless, which 
was submerged under an ice cap about 170 miles north of Deadhorse, 
Alaska. The submarine was conducting a joint exercise with the U.S. 
Navy when its air purification system malfunctioned, British defense 
officials said.

According to the U.S. Navy, a self-contained oxygen generation candle 
exploded. The attack submarine surfaced quickly through the ice and 
its nuclear reactor was not affected, according to the British 
Ministry of Defense. The Tireless does not carry nuclear missiles.

The injured sailor, whose name was not released, was transported by 
the Alaska Air National Guard from Deadhorse, in northern Alaska's 
Prudhoe Bay, to Kulis Air National Guard Base in Anchorage, 625 miles 
away, where an ambulance took him to a local hospital.

He was then taken to Alaska Regional Hospital, where he was in stable 
condition, said hospital spokeswoman Kjerstin Lastufka.

"He was initially reported to have some burns," said Kalei Brooks, 
spokeswoman for the Alaska Air National Guard.

The Tireless was operating with the USS Alexandria in a joint 
operation to test submarine operability and tactical development in 
Arctic waters. The submarine's forward compartment was damaged in the 

The equipment that failed had a 100 percent safety record, according 
to a Ministry of Defense spokesman. The piece of air-purification 
equipment was fitted to the submarine as part of an update in 2001.

"I am deeply saddened at the loss of the crew members from the 
Tireless," said U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Jay Donnelly, commander of the 
Submarine Force. "We stand by to assist in any way we can."

Since 1986, every Arctic tactical exercise has involved both U.S. 
Navy and Royal Navy submarines.

Lt. Col. Andy Price, spokesman for the Royal Navy, said the 
submarine, while fully functional, will be evaluated over the next 12 
hours to determine whether it will continue to be part of the joint 
exercises or return to the United Kingdom. Two weeks of exercises are 
scheduled to end March 30.

Ireland Unions call for nuclear energy debate

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has called for a national debate 
on nuclear power as a way of providing enough energy for Ireland's 
growing population.

Speaking at the launch of a congress policy document on sustainable 
energy, General Secretary David Begg said that he was not 
'cheerleading' for nuclear power.

However, he said that within five years it must be acknowledged that 
some energy imported from the UK would undoubtedly be generated by 
nuclear means.

AdvertisementHe accused the Government of a lack of 'joined-up 
thinking' in its formulation of energy policy.

Congress has also called for the establishment of a National Energy 

It said the energy issue is too serious to be left in the hands of 
politicians engaging in 'electoral gimmickry'.

Rate-setters look at rules for possible nuclear plant

Consumers could be charged before any facility is built 

Measures designed to encourage the development of new nuclear plants 
in the state -- created with "significant deference" to Entergy -- 
were postponed by a month on Wednesday so the Louisiana Public 
Service Commission can consider additional protections for the 
state's electric customers. 

The proposed rules would turn the traditional regulatory process on 
its head by allowing a utility to earn money on a nuclear plant 
before it is in operation. The rules would also require the PSC to 
approve of the need for a nuclear plant before it is built and again 
at the beginning of each of three phases. The PSC would annually 
review the construction costs and, in the case the plant is never 
completed, would allow a utility to collect its costs from its 

The rules were requested by Commissioner Jay Blossman last year. 
Other states, including Florida, Georgia and Indiana, have adopted 
similar rules to encourage the development of nuclear plants. 
"I wanted Louisiana to have an aggressive rule," Blossman said 
Wednesday. "We may decide in two years that we really don't think 
it's a smart idea. I just hope we would have the chance." 

In crafting the rule, the Louisiana Public Service Commission staff 
gave "significant deference" to Entergy and its position, PSC staff 
attorney Ann Hill said. Entergy is the only company that has 
expressed an interest in building a nuclear plant in the state. 

Entergy Nuclear, a subsidiary of Entergy Corp., has said it is 
considering a new nuclear unit at its Riverbend facility in St. 
Francisville. It plans to apply for a license for such a plant next 
year. It also intends to apply for a license to build a new unit at 
Grand Gulf, in Port Gibson, Miss. 

Mike Twomey, vice president of regulatory affairs for Entergy 
Louisiana, has said the company may build only one unit, and could 
chose between Louisiana and Mississippi, depending on which state 
offers the best environment. Louisiana needs to adopt rules that 
provide the company certainty it will recover its costs for a nuclear 
plant, he said. 

When companies built the last generation of nuclear plants in the 
1980s, many utilities were not allowed to collect all of their costs 
because public service commissions found them to be imprudent. Twomey 
has said that such regulations discourage development of new nuclear 

The rules presented on Wednesday take positions on issues favorable 
to Entergy that the staff opposed. 

The commissioners seemed inclined to adopt at least one of the 
staff's recommendations -- to remove language from the rule that 
would make all costs involved with the construction of a nuclear 
plant "presumptively valid."

"We have to make sure they are prudent," said Commissioner Foster 
Campbell. "As a safety net, you have to leave it in there." 

The staff also recommended the utility not be guaranteed the right to 
earn money from customers before a nuclear plant is completed. 

That staff recommended that earnings be granted if the utility can 
demonstrate that they would be in the public interest, which a 
company could do when it came before the commission for approval of 
the project. 
"We're not suggesting we're for or against (collection of earnings), 
but it should be done in the certification process," when the 
commission can look at all of the facts of a particular proposal, 
said David Dismukes, a consultant to the PSC who helped draft the 

Dismukes said collecting earnings can be good for the public because 
they lessen the eventual rate shock of paying for a nuclear plant and 
can keep the company in good financial standing. 

Some commissioners agreed. 

"I don't feel comfortable at all saying that they can collect this 
without" proving it's necessary, Commissioner Jimmy Fields said. 

Even without the guarantee, the rule goes far in changing the way 
such earnings were handled in the past, Dismukes said. 

In the 1970s and '80s, utilities that were constructing nuclear 
plants were allowed to earn money on their work in progress only if 
they could prove to the commission that they were in financial 
distress, he said. 

"This company is not in financial distress," Campbell said. "I don't 
have a problem with looking a nuclear. My dilemma is making a 
sweetheart or handsome deal with a company that is flush." 

The commission postponed adopting the rules after Commissioner 
Lambert C. Boissiere III asked to amend them to make sure that if 
Entergy stopped construction of a nuclear plant for its own reasons, 
that the company would not be able to collect its costs from 
Louisiana customers. 

Boissiere later said such a provision is necessary because Louisiana 
is competing with Mississippi for the nuclear plant. Mississippi 
could offer Entergy a better deal after construction begins in 
Louisiana. In that case, Entergy shouldn't be able to move the 
project and charge Louisiana customers for the unfinished plant here, 
he said. 

After the meeting, Twomey said he has no problems with Boissiere's 
amendment or the staff's recommendation to take out the language 
saying the costs would be presumptively prudent. 

But, he said that not including the guarantee on earnings doesn't 
provide the incentives needed to attract nuclear to the state. 

"I don't think it provides the same positive message," he said. 

Sandy Perle
Senior Vice President, Technical Operations
Global Dosimetry Solutions, Inc.
2652 McGaw Avenue
Irvine, CA 92614 

Tel: (949) 296-2306 / (888) 437-1714  Extension 2306
Fax:(949) 296-1144

E-Mail: sperle at dosimetry.com
E-Mail: sandyfl at cox.net 

Global Dosimetry Website: http://www.dosimetry.com/ 
Personal Website: http://sandy-travels.com/ 

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