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NRA new standards not sufficient to ensure safety

June 29, 2013

Niigata gov. raises doubts about gov't safety requirements for nuclear reactors



NIIGATA -- Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida has raised doubts about the government's new safety requirements for nuclear reactors -- a stance that could make reactivating the prefecture's idled Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant at an early date difficult.

"Even if the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant run by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) meets new safety requirements set by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), it won't mean its safety is guaranteed," Izumida said in an exclusive interview with the Mainichi Shimbun.

"Setting safety standards without getting to the bottom of the Fukushima nuclear disaster provides no guarantee of safety. Unfortunately, the new safety requirements won't win public confidence," he said.

Izumida also questioned the composition of the NRA, stating, "Nobody familiar with local government administration is on the panel."

The Niigata governor also criticized the NRA for failing to listen to opinions from the prefectural government about safety measures including a plan to evacuate local residents in the event of an accident at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

"Such an absurd stance is totally unheard of," he said.

Izumida also pointed out that even if a serious accident occurs at a nuclear plant, current legislation does not allow anybody to be dispatched to a site where levels of radiation are high to prevent the situation from worsening.

"Abandoning the site of a serious accident could result in a meltdown. Unless the government determines how to respond to such a situation, we can't say it has gotten to the bottom of the Fukushima accident," he said.

The national government intends to resume operations at nuclear plants that meet the NRA's new requirements on condition that consent is gained from local governments hosting such power stations.

Izumida hinted that he will not agree to reactivation of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, saying, "Before doing that, the government must get to the bottom of the Fukushima nuclear crisis." He added, "The NRA standards alone won't ensure the safety of prefectural residents."

TEPCO needs to resume operations at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in order to achieve its goal of moving into the black during the current business year. If reactivation of the plant is delayed, it may force the utility to once again raise its electricity rates.

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