Following is a first-person account by EM Assistant Secretary Anne White on her trip to Japan as part of a delegation attending the U.S.-Japan Bilateral Commission on Civil Nuclear Cooperation, the U.S.-Japan Decommissioning Forum, and a tour of the Fukushima Daiichi Site from Aug. 7-10.
I had the honor of traveling to Japan proudly representing EM, while accompanying Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, Under Secretary Mark Menezes and Acting General Counsel Ted Garrish, as part of the official DOE delegation for several events related to decommissioning. This was all part of Japan’s “Decommissioning Week,” where we share information on cleanup practices and approaches, help U.S. industry advertise their experience in cleanup, and generally work to reinforce the strong relationship between the U.S. and Japan. It was an incredible trip and a wonderful opportunity to talk about the great work that our EM program is doing as well as to tout the capabilities of U.S. decommissioning contractors.
My first event of the week was the U.S.-Japan Decommissioning Forum on Tuesday, Aug. 7 in Tokyo. This forum is focused on building connections between U.S. decommissioning companies and Japanese organizations and companies as potential customers or partners. Beautifully cohosted by the U.S. Embassy in Japan and the Japanese Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, it featured 26 U.S. companies sharing their expertise and experience. As co-chair (with Mr. Toyoaki Yamauchi of the Japan Atomic Power Company) of the session on decommissioning perspectives from the U.S. and Japan, I was very proud to be able to share some of our best practices and lessons learned for safe and cost-efficient decommissioning. The presentations and panel discussions throughout the day shared a wealth of information by all parties. I learned a lot about the Japanese cleanup at Fukushima Daiichi and see many areas of overlap in challenges and issues. It is clear to me that the EM experience and expertise in environmental cleanup is widely recognized and respected in Japan.
The next day brought the meeting of the U.S.-Japan Bilateral Commission on Civil Nuclear Cooperation (abbreviated BLC). The BLC was co-chaired by Deputy Secretary Brouillette, along with Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Takeo Mori for Japan. The BLC is a high-level forum that was established in 2012 to advance cooperation on a variety of nuclear matters. There are five working groups under the BLC, including the Decommissioning and Environmental Management Working Group (DEMWG) which I co-chair with Mr. Tatsuya Shinkawa, Director General of International Cooperation for the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), Jane Nishida of the EPA, and Mr. Yutaka Matsuzawa of the Ministry of Environment (MOE). The BLC meeting is a very high-level and formal meeting, so our DEMWG presentation was a high-level summary of areas of U.S.-Japan cooperation on cleanup and decommissioning — very ably developed on EM’s part by our own Ana Han.
Following the BLC, my co-chair, Shinkawa-san, and I had an excellent discussion on working together to define new ways to increase the impact of the DEMWG. I am looking forward to working with Shinkawa-san to increase collaboration between EM and METI, as well as defining opportunities for increased U.S. commercial engagement in Japan.
The BLC meeting coincided with the landfall of a typhoon in Japan — with lots of wind and rain as you would expect! Because of concerns about high winds and flooding, we had to cancel our planned tour of the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant, so I had some time to catch up on my work and even had a couple of hours late in the day (after the rain had stopped) to explore a small part of Tokyo. This was my first visit to Tokyo, and I marked it by buying a real kimono at a used kimono store. Although I got some excellent “training” at the store, I don’t think I have yet been truly qualified to the level where I can put it on correctly! But, it was fun and it was good to be able to see some of Tokyo.
The final day of my visit was devoted to a tour of the Fukushima Daiichi Site. Daiichi means No.1, so the site is often called the 1F site. The drive from Tokyo is about 2.5 hours, with many scenic views along Japan’s Pacific coast. The 1F tour was conducted by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) staff and I was pleased to be joined by Shinkawa-san and Ms. Yumiko Hata of METI. TEPCO is the license holder for the site and is responsible for the cleanup itself. METI is the government agency that sets cleanup policy — somewhat akin to DOE-EM.
We were welcomed to the site by Mr. Naoto Moroo — Senior VP for the TEPCO Decommissioning Company and Mr. Tomohiko Isogai — 1F Site Superintendent for TEPCO. Before the tour began, Isogai-san surprised me by taking me to a nearby room to see my old friend Dale Klein. Dale is the former head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and now chairs TEPCO’s international advisory board on nuclear safety — the reason he was visiting the 1F site that same day. It was wonderful of Isogai-san to take me to see Dale and great to run across an old friend so unexpectedly!
The 1F tour was led by Mr. Yoshihiko Itoh — Manager of the D&D Communication Center — and was fantastic. The site itself is very small compared to many of our sites — only about 3.5 square kilometers, less than 0.5 percent of the Savannah River Site's (SRS) area, but is densely packed with facilities, people (over 4000/day) and ongoing work. The progress made by TEPCO in seven years is very impressive. Although we were dressed In protective clothing and saw many things, three items really stood out for me: 1) They are making extensive use of ion exchange for their contaminated water cleanup, using the same technology that we will soon deploy at SRS with Tank Closure Cesium Removal and at Hanford with Tank-Side Cesium Removal. They have been very successful with IX and I think their experience can be very helpful to us as we go forward. 2) The only radionuclide that remains in their treated water is tritium, which is at levels that necessitates a detailed analysis of disposal options. The result is that they have over 1 million tons of contaminated water stored in thousands of water tanks as far as you can see. Assessing and analyzing treatment and/or disposal options is an area where U.S. industry experience and expertise may be able to provide important support. 3) Lastly, I was very impressed by the facilities and capabilities that TEPCO has put into place to support site operations. Even in the midst of their urgent, ongoing cleanup work, they worked hard to recover portions of the site and establish badly needed rest areas, training and briefing rooms, remote monitoring capabilities, and even a convenience store for site workers. These kinds of activities have made their site work much safer and more efficient. It was all very impressive!
I should also mention that I had some excellent meetings with the President and Chief Decommissioning Officer for TEPCO Decommissioning Company, Akira Ono, and the President of the Nuclear Damage Compensation & Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation (NDF), Dr. Hajimu Yamana. NDF is the organization responsible for providing strategic support and oversight as TEPCO conducts the cleanup work at the 1F site. TEPCO already has contracts with Savannah River National Laboratory for DOE laboratory support and Ono-san expressed an interest in closer work with EM. Because of their strategic and oversight role, NDF is particularly interested in EM’s experience in developing end states and in our contract and project management experience. EM has already made a number of connections with NDF and there are other opportunities for mutually beneficial collaboration that I want to explore in the future.
All in all, the trip to Japan was a wonderful experience. I see many areas where I think EM can 1) learn valuable lessons from the Japanese experience, and 2) help U.S. industry provide experience and expertise to support Japanese cleanup efforts.
I want to thank the DOE folks at the U.S. Embassy: Ross Matzkin-Bridger, Cameron Salony, and Emily Eng (on loan from the National Nuclear Security Administration) for their untiring efforts to support us and shepherd us around in this busy week. Finally, I want to thank Ana Han for her efforts in planning the agenda and developing the material that made this week such a success.