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Confusion reigns as deadline nears

May 9, 2013


Confusion prevails as decision deadline approaches on Tsuruga nuke plant



Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) Chairman Shunichi Tanaka stated during a regular press conference on May 8 that there is no need to rush toward reaching a final conclusion on whether there is an active fault line running directly underneath the Tsuruga nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture.

The comments revealed the possibility that the decision may be postponed until sometime after July, when procedures for restarting the reactor are set to begin.

Following numerous questions from reporters regarding the intent of his comments, however, Tanaka backtracked from his earlier position, releasing a statement indicating that "a consensus among NRA members with respect to the issue would be reached without delay."

If the NRA concludes that the fault line is indeed active, the decommissioning of reactor No. 2 will likely ensue, along with administration problems for the Japan Atomic Power Co. (JAPC).

JAPC has indicated that it will undertake all measures at its disposal to deal with the matter, including the possibility of taking legal action against the government.

The comments by Tanaka have exposed the confusion existing with regard to this matter as the deadline approaches for making a final decision.

An inspection team comprised of influential individuals from the regulatory panel released a draft report in January stating that there was a "high possibility that the fault line is active." This position is not expected to change with respect to a follow-up report due to be compiled at a meeting scheduled for May 15. The NRA will render a conclusion based upon the report.

JAPC has requested that the final decision be held off until the results are released from an additional study that is scheduled to be completed by the end of June.

Tanaka stated during a meeting of the inspection team members held last December, "Under present conditions, (the No. 2 reactor) cannot be analyzed as safe" -- thereby indicating that the restart was not likely to be approved. He later clarified on May 8, however, that he "may have spoken too strongly" with regard to the matter.

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