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Is NRA putting screening of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa on hold?

October 10, 2013

NRA chief hints at delaying safety screening of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuke plant




The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) chief has hinted at the possibility of delaying a safety review of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture for a planned restart amid the Fukushima contaminated water crisis, during an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun.

NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka made the suggestion during the interview on Oct. 9, saying, "We will first and foremost evaluate the situation at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant," amid a series of blunders at the plant including leakages of radioactively contaminated water.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, had earlier filed a request with the NRA on Sept. 27 for a safety screening of the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the utility's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant for a planned restart of the facility.

On Oct. 4, the NRA instructed TEPCO to file a written report on its measures to address contaminated water at the Fukushima plant and whether the utility would be able to properly manage safety at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant. TEPCO is scheduled to submit the report by the end of this week.

With a new leak of highly radioactive water from a desalination facility at the Fukushima plant on Oct. 9 in mind, Tanaka told the Mainichi, "The Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has been hit by trouble almost every day. We must wait until the current situation is settled and the utility can properly manage the facility. We will examine if TEPCO is actually implementing what it states in its report (to be submitted)."

"The work environment at the Fukushima plant is fairly harsh. For such tough work, TEPCO's regular employees should take the lead, but I wonder what actually has been going on at the site. TEPCO tends to use subcontractors and is likely to have avoided directly tackling (the trouble-hit work)," Tanaka said.

He said the NRA will take about a month to examine TEPCO's report before determining its validity.

So far, five power companies have filed for safety screenings on a total of 14 reactors at seven nuclear power stations.

While Tanaka withheld from clearly stating that the NRA was putting on hold the screening of the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, he told the Mainichi, "We can't work on the (Kashiwazaki-Kariwa) plant as quickly as with other nuclear plants (whose safety screening is under way). The public won't tolerate that."

Regarding other utilities whose nuclear reactors are currently under review by the NRA for planned restarts, Tanaka said, "Some utilities have shown resistance (to our screenings). It is the power companies themselves that would suffer losses from any delayed screenings. Even if they lag behind, we will not become lenient."

He especially criticized Kansai Electric Power Co. for denying possible links between three active faults surrounding the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant and the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Takahama nuclear plant, both in Fukui Prefecture, saying, "The screening has been sluggish because the utility is maintaining things like that."

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