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Three in favour

3 members of nuclear panel OK gov't standards for judging safety of Oi reactors



Three of the 12 members of Fukui Prefecture's nuclear safety expert committee have given the thumbs-up to government safety judgment guidelines accompanying the planned restart of the No. 3 and 4 reactors at the Oi Nuclear Power Plant in the prefecture, it has been learned.

Committee head Hideyuki Nakagawa, a professor emeritus at the University of Fukui, told the Mainichi that if the government's safety judgment standards and plant operator Kansai Electric Power Co.'s roadmap for safety measures were implemented, then the reactors "would be safe." Two other committee experts on nuclear power and earthquakes interviewed by the Mainichi also gave a positive valuation of the government's guidelines.

Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa is expected to respect the expert committee's evaluation when making a decision on restarting the reactors. The committee had previously expressed reservations when a 30-point list of safety countermeasures was presented by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), but the latest development raises the possibility that the committee will back up the government's recent decision favoring a restart of the reactors.

The committee comprises experts in fields including nuclear power, seismology, geology and radiology. It independently evaluates issues such as the safety of nuclear power plants in the prefecture from a technical perspective, and provides suggestions to the prefectural government. In the past, when the Monju fast-breeder reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, was restarted following a sodium leak that forced it to shut down, Nishikawa conveyed his consent to the government after receiving a final report from the expert committee.

Seven other members of the committee interviewed by the Mainichi said they had not yet received an explanation of the latest measures from the government and Kansai Electric Power Co., while one member was unwell and was unable to be interviewed, and another member could not be reached for comment.

The government's standard for deciding whether to restart the two reactors at the Oi plant are based on NISA's 30-point list of safety countermeasures. In February, the expert committee held a discussion on these 30 items after receiving an explanation from NISA. At the time members sought further confirmation of safety issues, with Nakagawa commenting, "It's important for all things to be explained clearly, including numerical items," and Toshiyuki Meshii, a University of Fukui graduate professor, saying it was necessary to state how the latest knowledge and minority opinions would be scientifically incorporated and engineered into regulations. However, there was no direct criticism of the 30 points themselves.

On April 16, the committee was set to hold its first meeting following the government's request to Fukui Prefecture to restart the reactors. It will conduct a number of field studies to evaluate the appropriateness of the government's judgment standards and whether the reactors at the Oi plant meet those standards.

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