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Japan Atomic Power co.defiant

July 12, 2013



Operator bullish over Tsuruga reactor restart despite active fault row


The operator of the Tsuruga nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture has defended its denial of any active faults running beneath the facility's No. 2 reactor, saying the company is going to prepare for reactor reactivation.

Yasuo Hamada, president of the Japan Atomic Power Co. (JAPC), stated during a press conference on July 11, "If they scrutinize our report for deliberations, they can fully understand (that there are no active faults)," referring to a survey report the company has filed with the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA).

The JAPC report denies the existence of active faults underneath the No. 2 reactor, despite the NRA's conclusion on May 22 that the fault running right beneath the No. 2 reactor is active. If the NRA does not overturn its decision, the reactor is likely to be decommissioned.

"We will prepare for reactivating the reactors," Hamada nevertheless stated in defiance of the NRA decision, pledging to restart the Tsuruga plant's No. 1 and No. 2 reactors as well as the No. 1 reactor at the Tokai No. 2 power plant in Ibaraki Prefecture.

Behind the company's tough stance lies the fact that the firm is dedicated to nuclear power generation and whether to restart the reactors is a make-or-break issue for its management. Because the company has received "basic fees" for equipment maintenance and other costs from five major power companies including Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) during the suspension of the reactors, and four utilities including Kansai Electric Power Co. and Chubu Electric Power Co. have supported JAPC through debt guarantee and other measures, JAPC reportedly faces no financial problems this fiscal year. However, if the reactors remain suspended, utilities could stop funding JAPC after the next fiscal year, leaving the company financially-strapped.

While it remains to be seen if the NRA could overturn its decision that the fault running under the No. 2 reactor is active in compliance with the JAPC report, the other two reactors run by the company are also fraught with challenges before being restarted.

The No. 1 reactor at the Tsuruga nuclear plant is aging, with 43 years having passed since the start of its commercial operation. Under the new regulatory standards that came into effect earlier this month, special inspections are required for running nuclear reactors that are over 40 years old, making it more costly for JAPC to take safety measures for the No. 1 reactor. The Tokai No. 2 plant's reactor is 34 years old and faces strong opposition from local residents against reactivation. Hamada avoided clarifying when his company is going to apply for the safety screening of the reactors.

With no prospects for restarting many idled reactors, an expert panel to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has started reviewing an accounting system aimed at leveling the financial burdens from decommissioning reactors, in anticipation of a situation in which reactors are scrapped one after another.

Makoto Yagi, chairman of the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, said, "If the Tsuruga plant's No. 2 reactor is to be decommissioned, it is because of a policy change. The costs for decommissioning the reactor should be discussed with the government," suggesting that the central government be called upon to share the financial burden

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