Global Energy News Roundup: March 22


This week’s global energy news roundup features articles and information from a range of sources, including Reuters, Yomiuri Shimbun, The Wall Street Journal’s  Korea Real Time Blog and the Office of Sen. Robert P. Casey, Jr. Headlines in this roundup include “Shikoku Electric Nuclear Plant Passes Stress Test“; “Mixed Support for Reactor Restart Continues Among Japanese Municipal Leaders”; “IAEA Anticipates ‘Significant’ Nuclear Growth Despite Fukushima; “South Korea Sees Nuclear Plant Jitters”; and “PA Senator Wants Review of Nuclear Plant Evacuation Zones”. The Forum on Energy weekly news roundup brings together a mix of global energy stories from around the web. It is published every Thursday morning on forumonenergy.com and is available on Twitter via @forumonenergy.

Shikoku Electric Nuclear Plant Passes Stress Test

Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) added the Shikoku Electric-owned Ikata Nuclear Power Plant to its small list of plants that passed the internationally reviewed stress tests. Last month, NISA gave approval to two Kansai reactors; the Ikata reactor could join the Kansai Ohi reactors as the first to be restarted after being shut down for scheduled maintenance and refueling outages. Normally, plants are allowed to restart after meeting maintenance guidelines. However, the process changed after Fukushima. Now, in order to receive NISA approval, plants must first undergo stress tests to measure their integrity during a major earthquake and tsunami. It is up to the regional governments to approve the actual restart of the reactors.
Source: Reuters 

Mixed Support for Reactor Restart Continues Among Japanese Municipal Leaders

According to a recent poll of the heads of 34 prefectures and municipalities, only four said they favored allowing the restart of reactors if the central government deemed it safe. The four were all mayors. All seventeen heads of municipalities opposed immediate restart, with seven of those 17 supporting conditional restart pending approval by the central government. Nine mayors said they were undecided on whether to support restarts, with the mayor of Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture opposing restart. Meanwhile, Kansai Electric, whose two Ohi plants passed the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency’s stress tests, may face a recommendation at its June shareholder meeting that it exit the nuclear business. A joint prefectural-municipal energy strategy panel proposed that Kansai replace its nuclear business with renewable energy sources. The panel also called for the utility to present a timetable for ceasing nuclear operations. This recommendation was among a number of proposals submitted by the energy committee. The city assembly will have the opportunity to consider these proposals — which  range from complete abolition of nuclear to more-stringent emergency planning at its nuclear facilities — at a meeting next month.
Source: Yomiuri Shimbun

IAEA Anticipates “Significant” Nuclear Growth Despite Fukushima

A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) explains that despite reactor shutdowns in Germany and restart delays in Japan, nuclear power capacity worldwide will continue to grow. Reuters was able to review the report, which has not yet been released. According to Reuters, the report states that “[s]significant growth in the use of nuclear energy worldwide is still anticipated — between 35 percent and 100 percent by 2030.” The IAEA also explains that the factors driving demand for nuclear energy — namely an increasing global demand for electricity, climate change, energy security and fossil fuel-supply concerns — have not changed since the events of Fukushima just over one year ago.
Source: Reuters 

South Korea Has Concerns Ahead of Nuclear Summit

As South Korea prepares to host the 50-Nation Nuclear Summit, the government has found itself in the hot seat with its own people over a February 9 blackout and cover-up at the 14-year-old Kori nuclear plant. Human error during a routine safety inspection resulted in a 12-minute blackout; a diesel emergency backup generator also failed when the power went out. Plant operators did not report the failure to the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission, which they should have under the law. The only reason the error was revealed a month later was because a city council official overheard plant engineers discussing the incident at a restaurant. It is not lost on South Koreans that a power failure of backup generators was the cause of the Fukushima meltdown. The fact that the Kori plant is one of the older units and is operating under a 10-year license extension fueled concern over the safety violation. South Korea is among the countries aggressively looking to expand its nuclear capabilities to emerging nuclear markets across the globe.
Source: Wall Street Journal’s Korea Real Time Blog 

PA Senator Wants Review of Nuclear Plant Evacuation Zones

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) sent a letter to NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko asking for a re-examination of the standard 10-mile evacuation zone around power plants. Casey states that his “constituents are deeply concerned about the emergency evacuation plans for Pennsylvania’s five nuclear power plants, and they deserve to know that all aspects of our preparedness plans have been re-evaluated in the wake of the disaster in Japan.” He added, “One year after Japan’s disaster, it is time that millions of Pennsylvanians living in close proximity to nuclear power plants know that the unique characteristics of each plant have been taken into account in the development of evacuation plans.” The discussion surrounding evacuation zone distances has generated debate following Chairman Jaczko’s recommendation that Americans in Japan during the great east earthquake and tsunami evacuate to 50 miles from the Fukushima plant, while the Japanese government implemented a 12-mile evacuation zone for its citizens. At a recent American Nuclear Society (ANS) press conference, ANS members said they could not find any data to support the need for a 50-mile evacuation zone and said that 10-mile zone was a good base. Circumstances such as wind direction and the location of shelters should be considered on a case-by-case basis to supplement the 10-mile evacuation zone recommendation.
Source: Office of Sen. Robert P. Casey, Jr.