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April suicide of Kansai Electric manager also deemed 'karoshi'

The Japan Times

A labor standards office has determined the April suicide of a Kansai Electric Power Co. employee who logged hundreds of extra hours to extend the operating life of two nuclear reactors was another case of karoshi (death by overwork), sources close to the matter said. The section chief in his 40s was trying to get the Nuclear Regulation Authority's approval to extend the operating life of reactor Nos. 1 and 2 at Kansai Electric's Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture, the sources said Wednesday. Both were approaching their operating limit of 40 years. The man, who has not yet been publicly named, is estimated to have worked over 200 hours of overtime in February and around 100 hours in both March and April. He committed suicide at a hotel in mid-April during a business trip to Tokyo.

State funds planned for cleaning heavily contaminated zones in Fukushima

The Japan Times

The government plans to use state funds to finance the radiation cleanup in the areas most seriously contaminated by the Fukushima disaster in 2011, government sources said Friday. It is the first plan to decontaminate the "difficult to return to" zones, including a large portion of the two towns hosting the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and parts of other nearby municipalities in the prefecture. The move is intended to expedite the cleanup process but may draw criticism because it will effectively reduce the financial burden on Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., the utility responsible for the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl. Under the current legal framework, the decontamination costs are first shouldered by the state, with Tepco told to reimburse the expenses over time. But since the costs are expected to far exceed the 2.5 trillion estimated earlier, the utility has requested more financial support.

Fukui Prefecture plans tax on spent nuclear fuel

The Japan Times

FUKUI – The Fukui Prefectural Government is planning to submit an ordinance to an assembly session next month that calls for a tax on spent nuclear fuel stored at nuclear plants in the prefecture, informed sources said Thursday. The ordinance is aimed at encouraging nuclear plant operators to transfer spent fuel outside the prefecture, the sources said. It will propose a tax of 1,000 per kilogram of spent nuclear fuel that has been cooled for over five years at storage pools and is ready to be relocated. If the ordinance is passed by the assembly, the prefecture will put it into effect on Nov. 10 after receiving approval from the internal affairs minister. Fukui will become the first prefecture to tax spent nuclear fuel.

Public-private council launched to make Fukushima renewable energy hub

The Japan Times

FUKUSHIMA – A public-private council tasked with devising measures to make Fukushima Prefecture a renewable energy hub was launched in the city of Fukushima on Sunday. This summer the council will draw up an action plan calling for supplying electricity to be generated by wind power facilities in Fukushima to the Tokyo metropolitan area and producing hydrogen for fuel-cell vehicles. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proposed the establishment of the council on March 5 as part of efforts to accelerate the reconstruction of Fukushima, one of the three prefectures hit hardest by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami and also home to Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant where an unprecedented triple reactor meltdown occurred following the disaster. The council's first meeting Sunday was participated in by officials from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Fukushima Prefectural Government, Tepco and Tohoku Electric Power Co. as well as representatives from industries related to wind power generation and fuel-cell vehicles. Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Motoo Hayashi stressed the need for the private sector to intensively make investment and conduct research and development activities in Fukushima, while showing the government's stance of offering full-fledged cooperation.

NRA begins checks on Ikata No. 3 reactor

The Japan Times

If the checks go smoothly, Shikoku Electric plans to load nuclear fuel into the reactor in late June ahead of its reboot in late July. Under new nuclear safety standards, introduced after the March 2011 nuclear catastrophe at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 plant, the Ikata No. 3 reactor is the fifth to go through the NRA's inspections before being allowed to restart. The four others are the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, and the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture. According to Shikoku Electric, there are 50 items on the checklist for the Ikata No. 3 reactor, including confirming whether safety instruments work properly. The inspections, including final checks, will last about 4½ months and include examining how the utility would respond to possible accidents.