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

Wait for new standards

September 20, 2012
No restart for nuke reactors until new standards drawn up: Regulation chief




No additional nuclear reactors will be restarted in Japan until new regulatory standards are drawn up sometime after next spring, the chief of the newly launched Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) said on Sept. 19.

NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka made the statement during a press conference on the NRA's inauguration in Tokyo the same day, saying, "It is impossible to give the green light until we finish reviewing the current provisional standards (for reactivating reactors)."

Tanaka's remarks suggest that 48 nuclear reactors across the country -- whose operations have been suspended for regular inspections and other reasons -- will not be restarted within fiscal 2012 as it is expected to take around 10 months for the NRA to formulate new regulatory standards. The remaining two reactors -- the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture -- have already been reactivated, drawing harsh criticism from the public still reeling from last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster.

"The Oi nuclear plant was restarted based on political judgment, out of consideration for energy supply and demand during the summer. The provisional standards are incomplete, allowing the plant to be restarted with no disaster-prevention measures in place," Tanaka said, criticizing the government's hasty decision for the restart.

The NRA has begun reviewing the framework of the current standards, including stress tests on nuclear reactors. Regarding whether the 40-year cap on the operation of reactors will be extended by 20 years, Tanaka said, "It will be considerably difficult." However, he stopped short of clarifying whether the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at the Mihama nuclear plant and the No. 1 reactor at the Tsuruga nuclear plant -- both more than 40 years old -- should be decommissioned. "I can't make any prejudgment," he said.

The NRA is adopting a so-called "backfit system" in judging whether reactors under construction -- including the No. 3 reactor at the Shimane nuclear plant -- meet the new regulatory standards while allowing their construction to continue. If those reactors -- as well as other existing reactors -- fail to meet the new criteria, the NRA will suspend their operations.

"The most important thing is to recover confidence in the nuclear safety administration, which has reached rock-bottom," Tanaka said during the NRA's inauguration ceremony.

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