Global Energy News Roundup: May 31


Allison Macfarlane Nominated to Head U.S. NRC
Allison Macfarlane will replace Gregory Jaczko as head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. President Obama’s pick was met with both praise and skepticism. Macfarlane currently serves on George Mason University’s Environmental Science and Policy faculty. She was also a member of the White House’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. Bloomberg reports that The Nuclear Energy Institute has endorsed the nomination, but Macfarlane’s support for on-site dry cask storage of spent fuel — rather than long-term storage at Yucca Mountain — is at odds with the nuclear industry.

Japan’s Parliament Discusses New Nuclear Regulatory Agency
On Tuesday, Japan’s parliament revisited its consideration of a new nuclear regulatory body. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda had hoped the new regulatory structure would be in place at the start of Japan’s new fiscal year (April 1), but political fighting over how the agency is structured and staffed became an obstacle. Reuters reports that Osamu Fujimura, Chief Cabinet Secretary, said some gaps exist “between the government’s bill and the one submitted by the (opposition) Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito party but we share the awareness that it is necessary to set up the new nuclear regulator as soon as possible.” There is an increasing sense of urgency to establish the new regulatory regime, as several regional governments insist they cannot support reactor restarts until a new regulatory body is in place.

Former PM Kan: Japan’s National Energy Policy to Blame for Fukushima
During a recent inquiry before Japan’s parliament, former Prime Minister Naoto Kan apologized for the Fukushima accident, saying the national energy policy promoting nuclear energy was to blame. “As the person who was in charge of the country at the time of the accident, I sincerely apologise for my failure to stop it,” he said, according to The Telegraph. Kan’s administration was heavily criticized for its unclear emergency response and communication of events in the days and weeks after the accident.

Japan’s Environment Minister Addresses Concerns Over Fukushima Reactor No. 4
Mixed news reports point to potential safety issues regarding the spent fuel pools at the damaged Fukushima Reactor No. 4. MSNBC.com reports that Hiraoki Koide, from Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute, told the New York Times, “The No. 4 reactor is visibly damaged and in a fragile state, down to the floor that holds the spent fuel pool.” However, Japan’s Environment Minister Goshi Hosono, who toured the site on May 26, said he believes the spent fuel pools are stable, but that clean-up would take decades and require the help of decommissioning experts.

GE-Hitachi and University of Manchester Collaborate on PRISM Reactor
On May 29, GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy announced it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Manchester. The university will contribute “expert technical knowledge and input” on the deployment of the PRISM reactor, which is an advanced fast reactor that will manage the United Kingdom’s plutonium stockpile by using the plutonium as fuel to generate 600 MW of power.

>>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.