Global Energy News Roundup: April 19

The Forum on Energy weekly news roundup brings together a mix of global energy stories from around the web. It is published every week. Please visit our page on Twitter via @forumonenergy

TEPCO Looks to Foreign Workers to Help Clean Fukushima Site

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (TEPCO) has communicated to its subcontractors that it plans to allow foreigners to work at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant site. This has been made possible by a new visa program that started earlier in April that aims to address Japan’s labor shortage. Under the new visa program, foreigners may help with the work to decommission the plant. Foreigners may also work to help clean buildings and in the food services sector. TEPCO stated that all workers “must have Japanese language abilities that allow them to accurately understand the risks and to follow procedures and orders communicated to them in Japanese.” According to the article, on average 4,000 people work for TEPCO subcontractors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant every day. A TEPCO official also said that it is also considering accepting foreign workers at its Kashiwazak-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture. At this site, the company is aiming to reboot reactors which suspended operation after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. The TEPCO official stated that “the decision to hire foreign workers under the new visa system is up to our subcontractors and we have not set a target figure…We will manage the situation as a company that placed orders” for laborers.

Source: Nikkei Asian Review

Alaskan Senator Promotes Advanced Reactors in Opinion Piece 

The Juneau Empire, an Alaskan news outlet based in the state’s capital published an article that describes why next generation nuclear reactors could be extremely beneficial to Alaskans. The author is Senator Lisa Murkowski, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and sponsor of the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA). She describes how these advanced reactors “could help relieve crippling energy prices in isolated villages and provide baseload power for an array of other applications. What’s more, the technology is safer than ever before.” Advanced reactors are supported in the article for using new materials, fuels, and methods to convert heat to electricity. They are also promoted as being safer, never melting down, and using better systems to extract heat and generate electricity that equates to higher efficiency and cheaper power. The Senator argues that these reactors can provide electricity to many of Alaska’s rural villages. Her bipartisan legislation was introduced in the Senate last month and has been read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Source: Juneau Empire

White House Has Until July 15 to Decide on Uranium Imports 

On April 15 the US Department of Commerce (DOC) submitted the results of an investigation into the effects of uranium imports on US national security to the White House. The Administration now has up to 90 days to decide if it will act on the findings and recommendations which have not been made public. The investigation was triggered by a January 2018 filing of a petition by uranium mining companies Energy Fuels Inc. and Ur-Energy. In the petition the companies argue that “the loss of a viable US uranium mining industry would have a significant detrimental impact on the country’s national, energy and economic security and its ability to sustain an independent nuclear fuel cycle.” The petition aimed to: 1) limit imports of uranium into the US, which effectively reserves 25% of the market for domestic production; and 2) create a “buy American” policy for any federal entities that purchase uranium. The companies stated this week that “We have not seen the DOC report, which is expected to remain confidential, but we believe the facts are clear…The once robust American uranium mining industry is disappearing because a flood of state-subsidized imports has made fair competition impossible.” However, an article published by Bloomberg claims that former US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz reacted to the filing by stating that since a commodity such as uranium can be stored in large amounts, the issue is not a driving concern for national security. The administration must make a decision on the results of the investigation by July 15.

Source: World Nuclear News