Sunday, June 23, 2013

Japan's Nuclear Regulatory Authority's "World Toughest" Safety Standards, Assumed to Work Perfectly


Although no one outside the NRA seems to know clearly what is in the new safety standards that will be effective as of July 8, 2013, it has been praised by the media as the "world number one" and "world toughest".

So I looked for any write-up by the media about these standards, which should be of interest to many in Japan after the Fukushima nuclear accident. I couldn't find any beyond a mention of "filtered vents". So I went to the NRA website.

All they have is the drafts from February this year. As almost always happens in Japan and other "democratic" countries, the drafts were very likely to have been adopted as the official standards after public comments were solicited so that the government could claim the public had been consulted and then the comments were ignored.

From NRA's English page, "NRA Library":

Safety Standards


Is there anyone who would care to read and highlight the points, problems for us? (I'm being too lazy, I know.)

If you prefer Japanese, here they are (in PDF):

I am skimming through the second one, "Severe Accident Measures". So far, many details on what facilities, equipment, manuals, measures to prepare in advance in case of a severe accident as defined by the NRA (core damage including core melt, containment vessel damage, spent fuel damage, and fuel damage while reactor is not in operation), but NRA seems to assume such facilities, equipment, manuals and measures will all work.

What if they don't work? Then what?

Or what if the next major accident is not BWR or PWR but fast breeder with liquid sodium as coolant?

Or what if the next accident happens at a plant not easily accessible like Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant? KEPCO's Ooi Nuclear Power Plant is only accessible through a tunnel, and Mihama Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefectureis is located on a peninsula connected to the mainland by a single bridge:


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5 comments:

Vyse Legendaire said...

There is no such thing as 'safe nuclear plant', it is hogwash. It's a bit of Orwellian doublespeak so that's why you can't verify the information, it's impossible.

Anonymous said...

There is, if you use the popular definition of "safe", ie. "not fatal within two weeks".

Anonymous said...

Here are the simple facts why this would not work:

1. Japan has no willpower, no political courage, no industry leadership, no societal mechanism to enforce the standard.

No one has been arrested, put in a jail as a result of the Fukushima incident. If the pre-Fukushima standard was weak, they could not enforce even that sloppy standard; they have no brain or willpower to enforce a tougher one.

2. This initiative (creating the new toughest standard) actually contradicts what the Japanese had said about the Fukushima Daiichi failure.

Both Japanese government and TEPCO insisted that it was the "beyond expectation natural disasters" that caused it. They repeated this line of blame over and over again to the entire world. Then, no levels of safety standards and regulations can prevent another nuclear power plant failure. We humans have no way of controlling the mother nature.

3. Japan does not have the essential nuclear safety expertise and experts. TEPCO, Japan's largest utility company, has no experts in running and managing nuclear power plants. They've been outsourcing essentially all of actual operational tasks to its vendors.

And the vendors, such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Hitachi, Toshiba, etc. who build the nuclear power facilities are the same guys who caused the design errors that led to the permanent closure of San Onofre plant.

At the time when the earthquake hit the Fukushima Daiichi, there were several GE workers from the US helping TEPCO do the maintenance because TEPCO does not have expertise. The GE workers fled Fukushima immediately upon the earthquake because they knew what would happen soon.

Anonymous said...

In the past 8 years there have been 5 beyond-expectations events; obviously expectations are set too low.

@7:46 interesting to know GE fled Fuku 1 right after the quake. Really it seems that the only one who did not know what was going on were the people living nearby.

Beppe

Anonymous said...

I took a quick look at the new severe accident requirements. There are some advanced points that some other countries don't have, like the requirement of a containment filtered venting system, and the requirement that reactor depressurization must be possible even in the event of loss of DC power (page 17).

In my opinion, the biggest deficiency in the new requirements is the lack of probabilistic safety criteria. There is no limit for maximum probability of core damage, or for maximum probability of a large release of radioactive materials to the environment. Almost all other countries have such probabilistic requirements in addition to deterministic requirements.

The new Japanese safety standards do not have an absolute requirement to make a probabilistic risk assessment for external events (like extreme weather events). They just state that external event probabilites shall be evaluated "where applicable". It is difficult to imagine a reactor where external events would not be "applicable" for safety analyses.

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