Japan Completing 3 new Nuclear Reactor Plants despite no-nuclear policy 2040 mandate

The government said Saturday it would go ahead with planned work to complete three new nuclear power reactors, despite saying a day earlier it would phase out nuclear power generation by 2040.

The construction of the reactors at three different plants was suspended after a massive earthquake and tsunami sparked the Fukushima nuclear crisis on March 11 last year—the worst such accident in a generation.

“We don’t intend to withdraw the permission that has already been given by the ministry,” Yukio Edano, the minister of economy, trade and industry, said on Saturday as he met local administrators in Aomori, according to reports.

Two of the reactors are located at plants in Aomori while the third is in Shimane Prefecture.

Edano added, however, that the start-up of the reactors would be subject to approval by a newly created government commission to regulate nuclear power.

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Japan shedding nuclear by 2030s under new policy

Japan is expected on Friday to propose abandoning nuclear power by the 2030s, a major shift from policy goals set before last year’s Fukushima disaster that aimed to increase the share of atomic energy to more than half of electricity supply.

But Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s unpopular government, which could face an election this year, also looks set to call in the meantime for the restart of reactors idled after the 2011 disaster if they are deemed safe by a new atomic regulator.

Japan’s growing anti-nuclear movement, which wants an immediate end to atomic power, is certain to oppose any such proposal to secure electricity supplies.

A shift from nuclear means Japan should seal its position as the world’s biggest importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and third-largest purchaser of oil to feed its power stations.

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Japans PM Meets With Anti-Nuclear Protesters

Japans prime minister met for the first time with leaders of weekly anti-nuclear protests Wednesday but rejected their demand that two recently restarted nuclear plants should be shut again.

Tens of thousands of people have been gathering every Friday night outside Prime Minister Yoshihiko Nodas office compound to protest against nuclear power because of safety concerns set off by last years Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear crisis.

The 11 protest leaders were allowed into the complex for the first time since they started chanting anti-nuclear slogans outside the tightly guarded building in April.

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Energy Policy Chief Makes Remarks on Moving Toward a Nuclear-free Japan

The nation’s new energy policy goal should be to no longer depend on nuclear power, national policy minister Motohisa Furukawa said Tuesday.

Furukawa told reporters this means Japan would have to embark on a broad quest to become totally nuclear-free. His comments could spark a backlash because he chairs the government panel that this month must unveil the nation’s future energy mix.

His remarks came as he announced the government will convene a meeting of experts Wednesday to study public opinions it collected during the course of hearings on the future use of atomic power. Furukawa said the government will reflect the results when drawing up a plan that will wean Japan off nuclear power.

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Japan’s Government Pledges Safer Energy

Amid growing aversion to the use of nuclear energy in Japan, officials calling for the elimination of nuclear arms at anniversary rites in Hiroshima have been obliged to also call for a safer energy policy for the country.

The city was devastated by a US atomic bomb on Aug 6, 1945, in the final days of World War II, with Nagasaki the second city to be hit three days later.

The Hiroshima event yesterday comes nearly 11/2 years after a quake and tsunami triggered a nuclear plant disaster in Fukushima prefecture, releasing massive amounts of radioactive materials.

Speaking at the city’s Peace Memorial Park, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said: “The government will continue to call for the importance of a world free from nuclear weapons and will support activities to hand down the memories of atomic-bomb sufferers beyond borders and generations…”

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TEPCO Removes 2 Fuel Rods From Fukushima Nuke Plant

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) removed the first two nuclear fuel rods from the damaged Fukushima power plant on Wednesday. A necessary step in reducing the risk of more radiation being released into the environment, all 1,535 rods in a spent-fuel pool need to be removed and taken somewhere for safer storage, which TEPCO doesn’t expect to complete until the end of 2013. The primary concern is over the large amount of radioactive material that remains in the pool, where it is not protected inside thick containing walls like fuel inside the reactor cores are.

Now that almost a year and a half has passed since last year’s nuclear crisis, the cooling system for the pool has been repaired, and the containment has been strengthened. However, TEPCO has admitted recently that one of the building’s walls has started to bulge, but the pool itself isn’t tilting so it hasn’t caused any damage at this time. Tama University’s Hiroshi Tasaka, a professor and nuclear engineer, says the government’s goal of removing all the fuel rods by the end of next year seems a bit optimistic. There are many unknowns, as well as a need to develop new technology.

Takasa adds that the greatest threat at this point is if a strong aftershock were to hit the building, it is not secure enough to prevent more radiation from leaking. Thousands of aftershocks have occurred in the region, with several in the last few months alone measuring at magnitude 6 or higher. The engineer says that everyone must hope for the best, but it is not right to think that everything is safe right now. No one knows what will happen in the case of another significant earthquake.

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Cooling System Fixed at Fukushima No. 4 Reactor Pool

The cooling system for the No. 4 reactors hazardous spent-fuel pool came back to life Sunday at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant after emergency repairs succeeded, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.The cooling system automatically shut down on Saturday for unknown reasons, allowing the water in the pool to reach 42.9 degrees Sunday. The pool must stay filled to prevent the used rods from burning up.The cooling system resumed shortly after 3 p.m. The temperature in the pool, which is sitting perilously atop the reactor in a heavily damaged building, was 33.3 degrees when the cooling system failed Saturday morning.

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Japan powering up nuclear reactor amid protests

Energy-starved Japan will regain nuclear-powered electricity on Sunday, as the first reactor to be switched on since last year’s Fukushima disaster comes online.

Kansai Electric Power Co. Ltd. KEPCO said the No. 3 reactor at the country’s Ohi Nuclear Power Plant will be activated on July 1 and start providing electricity to western Japan — which includes Osaka, Japan’s second biggest city by July 4. Ohi’s No. 4 reactor is also scheduled to resume operations by July 24th.

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TEPCO shareholders approve government bailout

The power company behind Japans nuclear crisis got support from shareholders Wednesday for a decision to take 1 trillion yen $12.6 billion in public funds that effectively nationalizes the utility.

Meanwhile, activist shareholders including the Tokyo city government demanded more restructuring and safety improvements from Tokyo Electric Power Co., which owns the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

Outgoing TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata told more than 4,000 shareholders who gathered at a national gymnasium in downtown Tokyo that the utility desperately needs taxpayer money to avoid insolvency. It faces huge compensation and cleanup bills.

“We are cutting to the bone to restructure,” he said, as shareholders yelled at him, criticizing him as clinging to the top post for more than a year after the crisis. Katsumata will be replaced by Kazuhiko Shimokobe, a lawyer who headed the companys restructuring plans.

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20,000 Protest Outside Noda’s Home Over Nuclear Restarts

About 20,000 people gathered in front of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s residence in Tokyo late Friday to protest his decision to restart two nuclear reactors.“No to the restart!” shouted the protestors, who were led by investigative journalist Satoshi Kamata and Nobel Prize-winning author Kenzaburo Oe, who started an anti-nuclear petition that has so far gathered more than 7.5 million signatures.

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