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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

Not so transparent

May 9, 2013



New nuclear safety standards



The Nuclear Regulation Authority has made public the draft of new safety standards for nuclear power plants and plans to put them into force in mid-July. If power companies want to restart nuclear power plants now offline, they must meet the new standards. Currently only the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors of Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture are in operation.

The NRA must make the process of writing the new standards transparent. It also must make the content and the application of the new standards clear-cut so that people’s worries about the restart of nuclear power stations will be fully addressed.

After making public the draft, the NRA started collecting opinions from the public. The deadline for submitting opinions is Friday. It is regrettable that the public was given only a month to submit their opinions.

The draft is about 3,000 pages. It is extremely difficult for ordinary citizens to clearly understand so that they can express their opinion. Even after the deadline for accepting public comments passes, the NRA should explain important points of the draft in plain language so that ordinary citizens will understand them, and should continue open discussions with the public about the new standards.

The draft calls for such measures as installing filters to remove radioactive substances in case such substances are vented from reactor cores into the atmosphere during an emergency as well as setting up a seismically isolated emergency command center and an emergency control room to cope with emergency situations caused by a natural calamity or a terrorist attack.

It demands that each power company anticipate the highest possible tsunami and construct a seawall or a tide gate that will withstand such tsunami. It also prohibits construction of a nuclear power plant above a geological fault.

One problem with the draft is that the work of anticipating the highest possible tsunami is left to each power company. Another problem is that the NRA allows a grace period of five years for installing the filter for a pressurized light water reactor (on the grounds that the containment vessel of a pressurized light water reactor has a bigger capacity than the containment vessel of a boiling water reactor) and for setting up an emergency control room for all types of reactors. Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant uses boiling water reactors.

The NRA also plans to carry out a virtual preliminary review of the conditions of the Oi Nos. 3 and 4 reactors before the new safety standards take effect — raising the suspicion that the NRA is giving special treatment to the Oi plant to prevent power shortages this coming summer.

The NRA should make serious efforts to write adequate safety standards and apply them in a transparent manner to get back people’s trust. Nuclear power generation should be a provisional power source. The government must set a deadline to abolish it.


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