A high court in Hiroshima has given the green light to restart a reactor on Japan's Shikoku island, revoking an injunction issued last year and clearing the way for the remaining 39 inactive reactors in Japan to be brought back online.
The court upheld Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s appeal to restart the nuclear reactor in Ehime, western Japan, despite ongoing concerns that a volcanic eruption could damage the plant.
Despite having earlier sided with residents groups about the potential threat to the Ikata power plant by volcanic activity from Mt. Also in Kumamoto Prefecture, the court stated Tuesday that those claims were not backed by solid scientific evidence.
Presiding Judge Masayuki Miki was quoted as saying that there was only a remote possibility that volcanic ash and rocks would reach the plant should there be an eruption at Mt. Aso, which is about 130 km away.
Shikoku Electric president Hayato Saeki said in a statement that the court’s decision to remove the previous injunction, which would have expired this month anyway, “proves the facility’s safety.”
“We will begin preparing the facility to resume operations,” he said. The utility reportedly plans to reboot the reactor and bring it back online by Oct. 27.
Other residents groups in nearby Oita, Kagawa and Yamaguchi prefectures, however, are continuing court proceedings to block the restart.
Yet, the ruling, which has paved the way for Japan’s ninth reactor to restart since the March 2011 nuclear disasters in Fukushima, are widely viewed as providing a much-needed boost to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s goal to bring dozens more reactors back online and reduce Japan’s current dependency on costly coal and fossil fuel imports, which are threatening to derail Japan's carbon emission reduction goals, set during the Paris Accord.
A recently released report has found that 75 percent of Japanese financial institutions surveyed were effectively “funding climate change and nuclear risk.”
“Energy Finance in Japan 2018,” a research paper commissioned by climate change-focused NGO 350.org, shows that 113 of the 151 Japanese financial institutions surveyed, including such giants as Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), Nippon Life Insurance (NLI) and Nomura Holdings, have funneled US$92 billion into coal and nuclear energy development over the past 5 years — a sum that is equivalent to the combined gross domestic products of Cameroon, Bolivia and Paraguay.
The objective of the report was “to identify Japanese financial institutions with no record of financial relations with Japanese companies engage in coal development, fossil fuel ownership and nuclear power, while profiling the financial institutions (banks, asset managers and insurance companies) with the highest exposure to fossil fuels and nuclear power in Japan.”
In order to achieve this goal, researchers utilised financial databases to calculate all known corporate loans, underwritings, bondholdings, and shareholdings from 151 financial groups and their subsidiaries provided to 26 Japanese companies engaged in fossil fuel and nuclear power generation between January 2013 and July 2018, according to the report.
The study, which was conducted by Amsterdam-Based Profound, found that those companies gave US$80 billion in loans and underwriting services, the lion’s share of which ($67 billion) went straight to coal and fossil fuel development/ownership, with the remainder going to nuclear. A further US$12 billion was invested in bonds and shares in those same industries, 65 percent of which went to coal development and 23 percent to fossil fuel owners.
It was also revealed that 59 parent companies of the financial institutions surveyed held shares in companies engaged on coal development; 22 held bonds and shares in companies engaged in fossil fuel ownership; and 48 held bonds and shares in companies engaged in nuclear power.
Despite the “even greater momentum” for decarbonising the energy sector and transitioning to renewable energies since the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, and despite the worsening impacts of climate change and nuclear risk, “Japanese financial institutions continue to support fossil fuel and nuclear projects at home and across the globe” through such investment strategies, the report states.
However, “most consumers in Japan do not realise how financial institutions invest their finds due to a lack of information disclosure regarding climate and environmental risks.”
Should the pattern continue Japan would find it difficult to reach the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets pledged in 2016, the report concludes.
In addition to MUFG, Nomura and Nippon Life, other top investors included Sumitomo Mitsui Trust, Meiji Masuda Life and Mizuho Finance.
The top three creditors of the 55 finance institutions providing loans and underwriting services to coal development companies were Mizuho Financial Group, Sumitomo Financial Group and MUFJ. The three companies listed as being the top three creditors of fossil fuel owners were Sumitomo Mitsui, Mizuho and MUFG.
Among the 151 Japanese financial institutions analyzed, only 38 of them were not involved with coal or nuclear energy projects, though the report pointed out that not all financial relationships are publicly disclosed in company publications, in financial institution publications, or through financial data service providers. There may also be links to companies involved in coal development and fossil fuel ownership that the survey was unable to unearth, the report added.
The figures in the report indicate the continuation of a huge turnaround for Japan, which until March 2011 sourced roughly 40 percent of its energy mix through nuclear power and renewables, against 25 percent sourced through coal. In 2012, nuclear and renewable contributions plummeted to 11 percent of that energy mix, while coal rose to 48 percent, according to Japanese government data. Japan has vowed to increase nuclear (to 22 percent) and renewables (to 24%) and reduce coal (to 26%) by 2030. In 2016 Japan generated its power using 82 percent conventional thermal sources (gas, coal, fuel oil), 8 percent hydro, 4 percent biomass and waste, and 2 percent nuclear, according to the International Energy Agency. The remaining 4 percent came from wind, geothermal and solar, meaning a total of 16 percent came from renewables - well below the IAE average.
There was, of course, a reason for this imbalance. On March 11, 2011 a massive earthquake and tsunami crippled one nuclear plant in Fukushima, causing multiple meltdowns and explosions at three of its six reactors.
Japan subsequently switched off all of its 54 reactors and ordered utilities to implement safety checks and upgrades where necessary. Over the seven and a half years since the disasters — which forced the evacuation of 160,000 residents living near the plant — only half a dozen of those reactors have been restarted and Japan has looked to coal to bridge the gap in energy demand.
A feed-in tariff to encourage renewable projects was introduced in the aftermath of the disasters, but has by-and-large proven to be unsuccessful. Solar development in Japan has failed to keep up with other nations, and has even been referred to as a "shambles".
And while financial institutions have spied a chance in coal and fossil fuels, Japanese banks, which are some of the world’s biggest backers of coal-fired plant projects overseas, especially in emerging economies, have created stricter financing guidelines that would disqualify new credit-seeking coal-fired plant projects that failed to implement advanced air-pollution technologies. Some of those banks, such as Sumitomo Mitsui, have suggested that they may make exceptions to some overseas projects.
Sumitomo is one of a few of the institutions listed in the 350.org report have started to tighten up their coal-financing policies. Meanwhile Nomura announced in July that it would no longer invest in coal-fired plants for environmental reasons and Dai-ichi Life has pledged a similar move to cease its financing of overseas coal plants.
Some argue that in the wider scheme of things these changes are nothing more than token gestures and will not prevent the continuation of massive Japanese investments into coal as long as suitable alternatives — to both coal and nuclear — are ignored.
Sources: IAE; Bloomberg; Energy Finance in Japan 2018
I have just been reading about a nuclear plant in North Carolina that houses reactors that share the same design as those at the Fukushima plant that suffered multiple meltdowns in 2011.
Duke Energy Corp.'s Brunswick nuclear plant's two boiling water reactors (BWR) were built by General Electric. The reactor containment vessels are BWR-4s -- the exact same models as 4 of the 6 reactors housed at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Two of those four reactors and a further one (model BWR-3) went into meltdown following the magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami that hit northern Japan March 11, 2011 forcing the evacuation of over 160,000 residents.
One report says the Carolina utility had started powering down one reactor early Thursday and would start shutting the second reactor later in the day.
Hurricane Florence reached land near the plant on Friday.
Following the Fukushima disaster US regulators enforced new regulations whereby all U.S. nuclear nuclear plants had to be reinforced against earthquakes and flooding.
Duke Energy has not indicated if it has yet implemented those changes at Brunswick, but has said emergency generators and pumps will remove stormwater should the plant flood.
Local news yesterday broadcast images and footage of the aftermath of the strong earthquake that rocked Hokkaido Thursday, but little mention was made of another deja vu drama that was unfolding on Japan’s northernmost island.
As the magnitude 6.7 quake toppled buildings, ripped up roads and triggered massive landslides, resulting in 16 confirmed deaths and 100s of injuries, more than half of the 5.3 million residents on Hokkaido were left without electricity as power plants went into blackout -- including the Tomari nuclear power plant.
Albeit for a relatively short time, the Hokkaido Electric Power Co.-operated nuclear plant was reduced to relying on backup generators, much as the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant had done with such devastating results more than seven years ago.
In March 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunamis caused three of the six reactors there to go into meltdown causing the evacuation of more than 150,000 residents. On this occasion, the outage at the Tomari nuclear facility was relatively brief and unlike Fukushima, 600 km to the south, backup power remained intact, meaning cooling of the reactor cores could continue — a part of the “redundant” safety systems that are set up, at massive expense, within nuclear facilities around the globe.
Nonetheless, the temblor, which also damaged a local coal-fired power station among other facilities, knocked out the grid leaving many residents without electricity. More than a day on, that situation remains the same for many residents, who are also stuck in shelters rocked by aftershocks on a regular basis.
According to a government statement, the shutdown of all Hokkaido Electric's power facilities has affected around 2.95 million households, as well as business and oil and LPG terminals on the island.
While Hokkaido Electric has managed to restart some hydropower plants and one 125 megawatt coal-fired unit, its power supply capacity remains short of meeting the regional power demand, which was around 3.10 GW at the time of the earthquake.
According to one local news report Hokkaido has more than a dozen coal-fired and other power plants located in coastal areas that combined can supply close to double that amount. The interconnected system, however, means that if one goes down that interconnectivity is adversely affected, the Fuji TV report said. It also meant that it would take time to reconnect, it added. As a result, a state minister has warned that reduced power likely would continue to affect Hokkaido for over a week.
Hokkaido Electric says it hopes to restore much of that demand by Friday, topping up the supply from its restarts with an undamaged 600 MW power cable that connects Hokkaido with Japan’s main Honshu island, where Tokyo, Osaka and other major connotations are located.
The Tomari nuclear power plant, which restored power 10 hours after Thursday’s temblor, will be of little help: Like most of Japan’s nuclear reactors it has been out of service since the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima as it undergoes stringent safety checks. While the blackout will undoubtedly caused more than just a little concern, an official said there had been no radiation leakage from the plant.
Japan has acknowledged for the first time that a worker at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which experienced triple meltdowns and explosions more than seven years ago, died from radiation exposure.
According the the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, the man, who was in his 50s, took up employment with a sub-contracting company of plant operator TEPCO in the immediate aftermath of the March 2011 nuclear disaster, which was triggered by a magnitude 9 earthquake and mega-tsunami.
The man had been charged with monitoring radiation levels at the stricken plant and had worked their on and off until 2015, the ministry said. Shortly after, he was diagnosed with lung cancer.
While Japan’s government has previously recognised four worker illnesses, such as cancer and leukaemia, as being directly linked to working at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the recently announced case marks the first occasion that it has recognised a death from working at the stricken facility.
The employee who died had an accumulated radiation dose of around 195 millisieverts (mSv), despite wearing the stipulated protective masks and clothing, according to local media reports.
Nuclear plant workers in Japan are limited to an accumulated dose of 100 mSv over any given 5-year period -- an amount that was controversially increased for several months to 250 mSv in the aftermath of the disaster -- which is generally accepted as being the 2nd worst in history after Chernobyl in 1986.
According to the World Nuclear Association, exposure to 100 mSv a year is the lowest level at which any increase in cancer risk is clearly evident. A cumulative 1,000 mSv would likely result in a fatal cancer in five out of every 100 persons exposed to it, the WNA says*. These estimates are made for people without protective masks or clothing.
*Some scientists believe there are cancer and other health risks from much lower doses. Others, such as Oxford University professor Wade Allison, believe there are no risks even from exposure to 1,000 mSv of radiation or more.
A new map shows radioactive contamination in Tokyo is at such levels that Japan should make an "honourable retreat" from hosting 2020 summer Games, claims former ambassador to Switzerland.
Reports out today that the Fukushima government and Japan's Reconstruction Agency are considering taking action over an episode from Netflix's “Dark Tourist” series.
The episode in question covers a tour of areas hit by the March 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, when multiple meltdowns and reactor explosions caused the evacuation of 160,000 residents.
During the tour, which was organised for foreign tourists, claims are made that a meal served at a restaurant in a town that was badly affected by the meltdowns had been contaminated with radiation.
The video also shows tour participants getting upset by rising radiation readings on their bus.
Concerned by the potential negative impact the video could have, the Fukushima Prefectural Government and Reconstruction Agency has said it was "examining" the content, with an eye to possible legal action, according to some Japanese news outlets.
Kiwi journalist David Farrier appears to have caught the attention of Japanese authorities over his video tour of Fukushima.
The Dark Tourist series is fronted by David Farrier, who explores so-called "dark tourist" spots, or destinations with a dark and sometimes grisly background. In the episode n question, the New Zealand journalist went on a tour of areas affected by the March 2011, 9.0-magnitude earthquake and mega-tsunami, which triggered the meltdowns and explosions at three of the six reactors at Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.