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Izumida apparently reassured by promise of extra venting equipment

 September 26, 2013



TEPCO makes progress toward restarting idled reactors in Niigata



NIIGATA, Japan (Kyodo) -- Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida said Thursday that he basically approves Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s plan to apply for a safety assessment of its two idled reactors in Niigata Prefecture, a key step toward resuming their operation.

The announcement came a day after TEPCO President Naomi Hirose met Izumida and promised to install at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant reactors additional safety equipment to deal with severe nuclear accidents.

The approval from Izumida is expected to pave the way for the utility to apply to the Nuclear Regulation Authority for the safety assessment of the Nos. 6 and 7 units at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant. Only reactors that satisfy a set of new safety requirements introduced in July will be allowed to restart.

TEPCO said it will file the application on Friday.

The company, which is struggling to turn its business around following the 2011 accident at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, wants to reactivate its idled reactors to cut fuel costs, which increased when it returned to thermal power generation following the closure of its other nuclear power plants.

The need to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant was stipulated in a 10-year special business plan for TEPCO, which is under effective state control after its receipt of 1 trillion yen in public funds last year.

TEPCO owns the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini plants as well as the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex -- the world's largest nuclear power plant with a combined output capacity of 8.2 million kilowatts.


Niigata governor approves TEPCO reactor-restart plan on one condition





Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida, who has criticized and humiliated Tokyo Electric Power Co., has now removed a hurdle in the utility’s drive to restart two nuclear reactors.

Izumida on Sept. 26 approved TEPCO’s plan to apply for a safety screening for restarting the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture.

But he attached one condition.

In a document handed to a TEPCO executive on Sept. 26, the prefectural government demanded that the utility promise, in an application request, not to use filtered venting equipment without prefectural approval in the event of an accident at the nuclear plant.

Filtered venting equipment is required for nuclear power plants under new safety standards that took effect in July. The equipment is designed to release steam to keep pressure from building within the containment vessel after radioactive materials are filtered. Still, the steam released would contain radioactive substances.

TEPCO plans to file an application for the safety screening with the Nuclear Regulation Authority on Sept. 27.

In a meeting with Izumida on Sept. 25, TEPCO President Naomi Hirose explained the company’s plans to install additional filtered venting equipment at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant.

Hirose also said TEPCO will abide by a safety agreement with the prefectural government and promised not to apply for an NRA safety screening until it obtains prefectural approval for the construction of filtered venting equipment.

Izumida appeared impressed by TEPCO’s policies to take additional safety measures and respect its relationships with the local communities, the sources said.

After the meeting at the prefectural government office on Sept. 25, Izumida said he will decide how to respond after consulting with prefectural government officials.

“I have taken note of the new proposal,” he said, referring to the additional filtered venting equipment.

Hirose said: “We are looking forward to (Izumida’s) judgment. We want to file an application (for restarting the reactors) as soon as possible based on it.”

TEPCO, operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, is desperate to restart the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant to improve earnings.

Securing a profit for the current fiscal year is a precondition for TEPCO to continue to receive loans from creditors. The utility has suffered losses due to fuel costs for thermal power generation to make up for lost capacity at its nuclear plants.

Izumida previously criticized TEPCO’s proposals to ensure safety in case of a major accident at the plant, as well as the utility’s handling of the Fukushima nuclear crisis and its response to the growing problem of radioactive water at the site.

The governor spurned Hirose’s request for approval when they last met on July 5.

Izumida has questioned TEPCO’s plans to put filtered venting equipment on foundations different than those for the reactor buildings.

He repeatedly asked Hirose what would happen if piping that connects the two facilities came off during an earthquake.

“To what extent would residents be exposed to radioactive materials if an accident occurs?” Izumida asked Hirose on Sept. 25.

Hirose said TEPCO will have heavy machinery in place to reconnect piping in case of an accident. He also said the utility will install additional filtered venting equipment underground, which is more quake-resistant than on the surface.

A senior prefectural government official said Sept. 25 that progress has been made since an irate Izumida showed Hirose the door on July 5.

“We cannot tell whether (Izumida) has stopped shaking his fist (at TEPCO), but there is no question that the situation has moved forward,” the official said. “We have at last come to a stage where we can talk.”

On Sept. 25, Hirose handed a document to the governor requesting prior approval for construction of filtered venting equipment. Izumida refused to accept the document during his previous meeting with Hirose.

Officials of Kashiwazaki and Kariwa, the municipalities that together host the nuclear power plant, received the same document when they met with Hirose on July 5.

They gave prior approval for construction of filtered venting equipment in August.


Niigata gov. gives conditional nod to TEPCO plan



The governor of Niigata Prefecture has granted conditional approval to TEPCO to apply for a safety screening at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant.

The screening will test whether the plant meets stringent new guidelines. Tokyo Electric Power Company cannot resume operations at the compound until it satisfies these standards.

The power company is expected to file an application with the Nuclear Regulation Authority on Friday to restart 2 reactors at the plant, which is on the Sea of Japan coast.

A prefectural official handed a document of approval from Governor Hirohiko Izumida to TEPCO executive Yuji Masuda on Thursday.

Izumida granted his consent after meeting with TEPCO President Naomi Hirose.

Hirose promised to install additional filtered vents at the plant. The vents are designed to release pressure in containment vessels in an emergency, while limiting emissions of radioactive substances.

TEPCO is required to install them before it can restart the reactors.

Hirose also promised to work hard to increase trust in TEPCO by local governments in areas where it has operations.

The Niigata governor says that as a condition of his approval, the firm has to discuss with Niigata and municipal governments how it will avoid exposing residents to radiation from the vents.

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