2017/10/25 Japanese regulator must halt delivery and inspect potentially flawed Kobe Steel nuclear parts – demand Greenpeace and citizens groups
RELEASE ENERGY 2017.10.25

2017/10/25 Japanese regulator must halt delivery and inspect potentially flawed Kobe Steel nuclear parts – demand Greenpeace and citizens groups

Tokyo, 25 October 2017 – Japan’s nuclear regulator must take urgent action to launch a comprehensive investigation into the supply and widespread use of potentially flawed Kobe Steel products in the Japanese nuclear industry, Greenpeace and five other NGOs demanded today.(1) The groups submitted analysis of Kobe Steel’s supply chain to the nuclear industry together with a demand letter to The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa on 24 October.(2)

The letter demands that the NRA: immediately suspend the delivery of Kobe Steel components to nuclear reactor operators; provide full public disclosure of complete supply chain of Kobe Steel products installed and used in existing Japanese reactors, thoroughly inspect plutonium MOX and spent fuel casks and the JNFL Rokkasho-mura reprocessing plant; publicly release of quality control, certification, and customer specifications for all Kobe Steel components; and finally, at the earliest opportunity, conduct  inspections of installed Kobe Steel components. Operating reactors must be shutdown at the earliest opportunity for inspection. For reactors nearing completion of the NRA safety review, as well as those due to restart in the coming months, the NRA must immediately suspend the approval process, pending a comprehensive, verifiable and transparent inspection.

On 13 October 2017 it was confirmed that Shinko Metal Products Co owned by Kobe Steel supplied tubes to the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) for use in heat exchangers at the Fukushima Daini nuclear plant but failed to conduct required inspections.(3)

“Failure of the Kobe Steel components during nuclear reactor operation has the potential to cause or exacerbate a severe nuclear accident, with major radiological consequences which would directly threaten the health and safety of millions of Japanese citizens and the environment. The Kobe Steel scandal should have triggered an immediate review led by the NRA of the nuclear industry. Instead, this significant safety scandal has been met with near silence and inaction. The NRA must act, and do so with a commitment to transparency. Failure to conduct extensive and robust investigations will further expose the NRA as unable to ensure nuclear safety in Japan,” said Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany.

The NRA has so far failed to issue direct instructions over the Kobe Steel scandal to Japan’s nuclear utilities and fuel cycle companies. Commissioner Fuketa admitted last week that “I have not gotten (any) information except Fukushima Daini (and) have not found a matter directly related to safety, so I am observing carefully.”

There is mounting evidence that for many decades Kobe Steel has been falsifying inspection data and supplying components that did not meet customer specifications or even legally required industrial standards. This is the same time period in which Kobe was supplying the Japanese and worldwide nuclear industry.

Kobe Steel supplies metal products and services across the nuclear industry, both in Japan and overseas. Of particular concern are Kobe Steel materials that are used in the welding of Reactor Pressure Vessels (RPVs), pipes for cooling systems in both Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs) and Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs), nuclear fuel cladding, and reactor fuel channels in BWRs.

In partnership with AREVA of France, Kobe Steel is also a designer and manufacturer of spent fuel and plutonium Mixed Oxide (MOX) transport casks, which are widely used domestically  and  internationally. It is also a supplier of major pipework systems at the Rokkasho-mura reprocessing plant.

The NRA has a poor track record in investigating quality control failures in steel production. In 2016, it concluded within a matter of weeks an investigation into below-specification steel supplied by Japan Casting and Forging Company (JCFC) and Japan Steel Works (JSW) with a finding that this was not an issue for Japanese reactors.(4) In contrast, the French nuclear regulator took over two years to conduct investigations, and these are still are continuing.  The NRA failed to provide a credible explanation of the multiple issues exposed by the 2016 steel crisis, instead relying on assurances from the manufacturers and utilities.


For further information:

1 – The letter was signed by Green Action, Mihama-no-kai, Citizens Nuclear Information Center, Citizen’s Eyes on Nuclear Regulation, Friends of the Earth Japan, and Greenpeace Japan

2 –  The Kobe Steel Group Supply Chain to the Nuclear Industry And Safety Implications
Nuclear plant customers of Kobe Steel are: Tokyo Electric Power Company, Kansai Electric Power Company, Chubu Electric Power Company, JAPCO, Tohoku Electric Power Company, Hokuriku Electric Power Company, Kyushu Electric Power Company, Hokkaido Electric Power Company, Shikoku Electric Power Company, Chugoku Electric Power Company, and J-Power are all likely customers of Kobe Steel together with Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd, the operators of the Rokkasho-mura fuel cycle plant, as well as the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute.

3 – See the TEPCO’s announcement (in Japanese)

4 – ”Irregularities and anomalies relating to nuclear reactor primary coolant circuit components installed in Japanese nuclear power plants”


Contacts:

Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist, Greenpeace Germany, email: sburnie@greenpeace.org, mob: +81 (0)80-3694-2843 (Currently based in Japan)

Chisato Jono, Communications Officer, Greenpeace Japan, email: chisato.jono@greenpeace.org, mob: +81 (0) 80-6558-4446

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