Japan Cleared to Re-Start World’s Largest Nuclear Plant

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TEPCO, which responded so badly to the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear disaster, has won approval from Japan’s nuclear reactor to crank back up the world’s biggest nuclear power plant.

The word “nuclear” has a lot more power in Japan than it does elsewhere. 

 

Tokyo Electric Power, or TEPCO (TKECY) as it is better known, has just won approval to re-start two reactors at the world’s largest nuclear power plant. Its shares got a jolt of 3% at that announcement.

Nuclear-linked stocks will be worth watching as the company pushes on with that attempt. TEPCO is, after all, the company that responded so badly to the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant in 2011.

The only country to have been hit by an atom bomb nevertheless embraced the technology behind nuclear power. Around one-fifth of all electricity is intended to be produced that way.

Then came the disaster at Fukushima. The March 2011 earthquake unleashed a tidal wave that ultimately killed 15,894 people, causing ¥21.5 trillion ($191 billion) in damage. Only the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in Ukraine was worse.

The tsunami deluged the nuclear reactors at Fukushima, and three of them melted down. That shined a spotlight on the inept operations and response of TEPCO, which ran the plant.

The company was terrible at responding to the disaster and even worse at responding to the public. Its executives went into shutdown mode, as Asian companies are wont to do. It denied facts that turned out to be true, downplayed the impact and generally pretended that there’s nothing to see here, we’ve got it all under control, please move along.

So it’s amazing that it’s back in big-time nuclear business. Most recently, Japan’s nuclear regulator, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, has granted TEPCO initial safety approval to restart two reactors, six and seven, at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, the world’s largest.

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The five NRA commissioners voted unanimously for permission to crank the reactors back up. Formal approval will likely go ahead after a 30-day period for public comment.

The governor of Niigata prefecture, where that plant is based, says he won’t consider allowing the plant to run again until the prefecture conducts its own review of what went on at Fukushima, and that won’t happen until 2020 at the earliest.

Opinion polls show that a majority of the Japanese public now opposes nuclear power and would ultimately like Japan to cease producing it. It’s likely that nuclear power will come up as an issue in the Japanese election, slated for Oct. 22. 

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe believes nuclear power is a viable and stable source of energy. His Liberal Democratic Party wants to see more of Japan’s nuclear reactors put back to work.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, a former defense minister in the Abe government, has formed a conservative party to rival Abe’s conservative government. Although she says she won’t run for prime minister, her Kibo no To, or Party of Hope, will contest many of the seats up for grabs.

The party is considering an anti-nuclear stance. “We’ll examine how to bring down the reliance to zero by 2030,” Koike told a news conference, according to the Japan Times.

Nuclear power is intended to produce around 22% of Japan’s electricity if all its plants are operating. Government plans call for another 27% to come from liquefied natural gas, around 23% from renewable sources, and only 26% from coal.

All 42 of Japan’s nuclear reactors were ordered to shut down in 2011.

Kyushu Electric Power (KYSEY) was the first company to fire back up a nuclear plant after the 2011 quake, on the island of the same name in the city of Sendai. That’s part of Japan’s industrial heartland.

Kansai Electric Power (KAEPY) was last week granted permission from the mayor of Ohi, in Fukui Prefecture, to re-start two reactors there. The company had applied in August for permission to do so, from Japan’s nuclear regulator, the Nuclear Regulation Authority. 

Meanwhile, TEPCO continues the cleanup of the mess at Fukushima. It has delayed the removal of used nuclear rods from fuel pools at the plant. It shifted fuel removal from 2017 to 2018 at the safest of the reactors, and from 2020 to 2023 for another two.

It also has to mop up about 770,000 tons of contaminated water that was pumped into the plant to cool the melted fuel reactors. That’s due to be cleaned out of around 580 tanks where it is stored on site by 2020 – the same year that Tokyo will host the Olympics.

https://www.thestreet.com/story/14332182/1/japan-set-to-restart-worlds-largest-nuclear-plant.html

kashiwazaki-kriwa npp location

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Watchdog’s safety clearance for Tepco reactors irks Fukushima victims

n-reactions-a-20171005Anti-nuclear activists protest on Wednesday near a building in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, where the Nuclear Regulation Authority held a meeting to give safety approval for two reactors at Tepco’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture.

 

Two nuclear reactors run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. cleared the safety review of Japan’s nuclear watchdog on Wednesday, drawing fierce criticism from residents who remain displaced more than six years after the nuclear crisis at the utility’s Fukushima complex.

The government safety clearance of reactors 6 and 7 at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station in Niigata Prefecture is a key step toward having operations resume.

It appears that things are moving forward as if the (Fukushima nuclear) crisis is over,” said Hiroko Matsumoto, 68, who lives in a temporary shelter house in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, away from her home in Tomioka, also in the prefecture, due to the triple meltdown at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 plant in March 2011.

I want (Tepco) to never forget that a serious nuclear accident can cause enormous damage,” she said.

The approval by the Nuclear Regulation Authority shocked residents in Niigata and surrounding areas who are concerned about the reactors’ reactivation, but others are hoping to see economic benefits from the restart.

I am surprised that the regulatory authority abruptly softened its stance toward Tepco. I doubt such a hasty decision can guarantee citizens’ safety,” said Nobuko Baba, 76, who lives about 23 kilometers east of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

Whether to resume operation (of the two reactors) should be the decision of Niigata Prefecture citizens. I am counting on Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama, who has been wary about it,” she said.

Yoneyama ordered a local investigation into the causes and impact of the Fukushima disaster, and is not expected to decide on whether he will approve a restart until the assessment is completed around 2020.

In contrast, Yasuo Ishizaka, 53, an executive of an industrial equipment company in Kashiwazaki, was happy to hear the news.

I am glad that the safety screening went smoothly, and it is a big step forward for the local economy,” Ishizaka said.

On Wednesday, anti-nuclear activists gathered near a building in Tokyo’s Minato Ward where the nuclear watchdog held a meeting and endorsed a draft document, which serves as certification that the two reactors have met the new, stricter safety standards introduced after the Fukushima disaster.

Amid chants of “Tepco should not be qualified” and “No reactor resumption,” a representative handed over a letter of protest to an official of the regulator.

With the authority’s safety approval, the two reactors became the first of Tepco’s idled units to pass the safety screening since the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

In a media statement on Wednesday, international environmentalist group Greenpeace criticized the regulator’s decision as reckless and said local opposition against the restarts remains strong.

It’s the same disregard for nuclear risks that resulted in Tepco’s 2011 triple reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 site. Approving the safety of reactors at the world’s largest nuclear plant, when it is at extreme risk from major earthquakes, completely exposes the weakness of Japan’s nuclear regulator,” said Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist for Greenpeace Germany.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/10/04/national/nuclear-watchdog-safety-clearance-tepco-reactors-fukushima-victims/#.WdXxBRdx3rd

The World’s Biggest Nuclear Plant Approved to Be Restarted in Japan

Fukushima operator can restart nuclear reactors at world’s biggest plant

Tepco, still struggling to decommission Fukushima Daiichi, gets initial approval to start two reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa

Screenshot from 2017-10-05 23-25-08.pngReactors No 6, right, and No 7 at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.

 

 

The operator of Japan’s stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has been given initial approval to restart reactors at another atomic facility, marking the first step towards the firm’s return to nuclear power generation more than six years after the March 2011 triple meltdown.

Japan’s nuclear regulator on Wednesday approved an application from Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) to restart two reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa – the world’s biggest nuclear power plant – even as the utility struggles to decommission Fukushima Daiichi.

The process will involve reviews and consultations with the public, and the restart is also expected to encounter strong opposition from people living near the plant on the Japan Sea coast of Niigata prefecture.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) ruled that the No 6 and No 7 reactors, each with a capacity of 1,356 megawatts, met stringent new safety standards introduced after the Fukushima disaster. The authority’s five commissioners voted unanimously to approve the restarts at a meeting on Wednesday.

The decision drew criticism from anti-nuclear campaigners.

Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany, accused the NRA of being reckless.

He added: “It is the same disregard for nuclear risks that resulted in Tepco’s 2011 triple reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi site. Approving the safety of reactors at the world’s largest nuclear plant when it is at extreme risk from major earthquakes completely exposes the weakness of Japan’s nuclear regulator.”

Greenpeace said 23 seismic faultlines ran through the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa site.

Tepco said in a statement that it took the regulatory authority’s decision seriously and would continue making safety improvements at its plants while it attempted to decommission Fukushima Daiichi and compensate evacuees.

Despite the NRA’s approval, it could take years for the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors to go back into operation.

The governor of Niigata, Ryuichi Yoneyama, has said he will not decide on whether to agree to the restarts until Tepco completes its review of the Fukushima accident – a process that is expected to take at least another three years.

Fukushima evacuees voiced anger at the regulator’s decision.

It looks like things are moving forward as if the Fukushima nuclear crisis is over,” Hiroko Matsumoto, who lives in temporary housing, told Kyodo news. Matsumoto, whose home was close to Fukushima Daiichi, said Tepco should “never forget that a serious nuclear accident can cause enormous damage”.

Tepco has been seeking permission to restart the idled reactors to help it reduce spending on fossil fuel imports, which have soared since the disaster, triggered by a huge earthquake and tsunami, forced the closure of all of Japan’s nuclear reactors. Four have since gone back online after passing safety inspections.

The utility faces huge compensation claims from people who were evacuated after three of Fukushima Daiichi’s six reactors went into meltdown on 11 March 2011, as well as a rising decommissioning bill.

Earlier this year, the Japan Centre for Economic Research said the total cost of the Fukushima cleanup – which is expected to take up to 40 years – could soar to between 50-70tn yen (£330bn-£470bn). Earlier estimates put the cost at about 22tn yen.

Nuclear power is expected to become a key issue in the election later this month.

The prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has argued that reactor restarts are necessary for economic growth and to enable Japan to meet its climate change commitments. The government wants nuclear to provide about 20% of Japan’s energy by 2030.

But the newly formed Party of Hope, which has emerged as the main opposition to Abe’s Liberal Democratic party, wants to phase out nuclear power by 2030.

Opinion polls show that most Japanese people oppose nuclear restarts.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/04/fukushima-operator-tepco-restart-nuclear-reactors-kashiwazaki-kariwa

NRA approves safety measures at TEPCO plant in Niigata

 

Photo/Illustration The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture

 

Japan’s nuclear watchdog on Oct. 4 approved Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s safety measures taken to restart two reactors in Niigata Prefecture, the first such approval for the company since the Fukushima nuclear disaster unfolded.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority confirmed the results of its screening on the technological aspects of the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors that TEPCO wants to bring online at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant.

It was also the first time for the NRA to conclude that boiling-water reactors, the same type as those at TEPCO’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, met the new safety standards adopted after the meltdowns at the plant in 2011.

The NRA plans to hear opinions from the public about its judgment for 30 days before deciding on whether to make the approval official. It will also solicit the views of the minister of economy, trade and industry.

As one condition for official approval, the NRA is requiring the industry minister to oversee the utility’s management policy concerning its initiative and responsibility for work to decommission the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

From now, the NRA will check equipment designs and security regulations, including how TEPCO will guarantee its promise that its priority is on safety, not economic benefits.

The NRA’s screening process at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant went beyond checking technological aspects of TEPCO’s safety measures. Given TEPCO’s history of mistakes and blunders, NRA members also discussed whether the utility was even eligible to operate nuclear power plants.

In response to the NRA’s demands that TEPCO take full responsibility for decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 plant, the utility in late August stressed that its stance of putting importance on safety is “a promise to the people.”

The NRA then approved TEPCO’s eligibility but attached some conditions.

In late September, however, it came to light that workers at the Fukushima No. 1 plant were erroneously setting water gauges to measure groundwater levels of wells around reactor buildings, which could cause leaks of highly contaminated water to the outside water.

Inspectors will face a formidable challenge in judging individual issues facing TEPCO based on security regulations.

However, even if TEPCO passes all of the screenings, it must win the consent of local governments to restart the reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant.

Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama has said that he will wait for three or four years to make decision on the restarts, until his prefectural government completes its own investigation into the cause of the 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201710040031.html

TEPCO reactors clear safety review for 1st time after Fukushima

Screenshot from 2017-10-05 18-14-56.pngFrom left, the No. 5, No. 6 and No. 7 reactors of the Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Niigata Prefecture are seen from a Mainichi Shimbun aircraft on Sept. 30, 2017.

 

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Two reactors in Niigata Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast run by the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant cleared government safety standards on Wednesday, becoming the first of the utility’s idled units to pass tightened screening.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority endorsed at its meeting a draft document that serves as certification that Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Nos. 6 and 7 reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station have met the new, stricter safety standards introduced after the Fukushima disaster.

The two reactors are the newest among the seven units at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant. The complex is one of the world’s largest nuclear power plants, with a combined output capacity of 8.2 million kilowatts.

Despite the effective approval by the nuclear regulator, the actual restart of the two reactors will likely be at least a few years away as Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama says it will take “around three to four years” for the utility to win local consent for the resumption of operation.

Formal approval of the restart by the nuclear watchdog is expected after receiving public opinions and consulting with the economy, trade and industry minister to confirm that Tepco is fit to be an operator.

The clearance of the two units is likely to be a boost for the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which is keen to retain nuclear power generation despite Japan suffering the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex in March 2011, triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami.

Tepco, facing huge compensation payments and other costs stemming from the Fukushima crisis, has been desperate to resume operation of its idled reactors so it can reduce spending on costly fossil fuel imports for non-nuclear thermal power generation.

It filed for safety assessments of the two idled reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in September 2013.

In addition to assessing technical requirements, the review focused on whether Tepco is qualified to once again operate a nuclear power plant as it struggles with work to scrap the Fukushima Daiichi complex, an effort expected to take until around 2051, and reduce contaminated water around the crippled plant where radiation levels remain high.

The two reactors are boiling-water reactors, the same as those that experienced meltdowns in the Fukushima crisis. No such types have previously cleared Japan’s safety standards after the Fukushima disaster, partly as they are required to conduct major refurbishment to boost safety.

Under the new safety requirements, BWRs must be equipped with filtered venting systems so that radioactive substances will be reduced when gas and steam need to be released to prevent damage to containment vessels.

The venting facilities are not an immediate requirement for pressurized water reactors as PWRs are housed in containers larger than those of BWRs, giving more time until pressure rises inside the containers.

In the review, the regulator had questioned Tepco on its posture to ensure the safety of the units. The company last month agreed to a request from the regulator to include a safety pledge as part of its legally binding reactor safety program.

Safety programs drawn up for reactors need to be approved by the regulator and if it finds a grave violation, it can demand the utility halt nuclear power operations.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20171004/p2g/00m/0dm/054000c

Tepco promises legal safety vow as it seeks to restart reactors

Promises are meant to be broken

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The head of Tepco Electric Power company Holdings Inc. promised Wednesday to institute a safety pledge as requested by nuclear regulator, as the company seeks clearance to reactivate undamaged, idle reactors located far from its plant crippled by natural disaster in 2011.

has been calling for the company to make such a pledge part of its legally binding reactor safety program because it operates the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the site of a major nuclear disaster in the aftermath of the massive earthquake and tsunami.

President Tomoaki Kobayakawa told the regulator on Wednesday that will stipulate a pledge to build “safety culture” in its program developed for ensuring safe operation of the Nos. 6 and 7 reactors at the company’s power station in Niigata Prefecture on the Sea of coast.

promise will pave the way for the regulator’s safety clearance for the two units — boiling-water reactors that are the same type as the ones that experienced meltdowns in the disaster.

The regulator will soon compile a draft document for the two units that will serve as certification that the utility has satisfied new stricter safety requirements implemented since the nuclear disaster.

It will then consult the economy, trade and industry minister, who oversees the nuclear industry, to confirm that is fit to be an operator. It will also solicit comments from the public before formally giving safety clearance.

Even if the reactors clear the safety checks, local governments in the area on which the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant sits remain cautious about their resumption.

Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama, for example, has said it will take “around three to four years” for the utility to win the required local consent for a restart.

said last week was “qualified” as a nuclear plant operator, but that it wanted the utility to express its resolve to ensure safety in a legal document, not just in words.

Safety programs drawn up for reactors need to be approved by the regulator and if it finds a grave violation, it can demand a halt to nuclear power operations from the utility.

“We intend to tackle the unending mission of improving the safety of nuclear power and to complete the decommissioning and compensation of the Fukushima Daiichi complex,” Kobayakawa said at the regulator’s meeting on Wednesday. “We will also make efforts to maintain qualification” as operator of nuclear reactors, he said.

The Nos. 6 and 7 units at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant are the newest among the seven units at the plant. The complex is one of the world’s largest nuclear power plants with a combined output capacity of 8.2 million kilowatts.

For a reactor to be restarted, it first needs to clear the safety requirements introduced in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. filed for safety assessments of the two units in .

, which is facing massive compensation payments and other costs in the aftermath of one of the world’s worst nuclear crises, has been desperate to resume operation of its idled reactors so it can reduce spending on costly fossil fuel imports for non-nuclear thermal power generation.

While some reactors run by other utilities have resumed operations in by satisfying the new safety regulations, has been under close scrutiny by regulators on whether it is qualified to once again operate a nuclear power plant.

http://m.4-traders.com/TOKYO-ELECTRIC-POWER-COMP-6491247/news/Tokyo-Electric-Power-Tepco-promises-legal-safety-vow-as-it-seeks-to-restart-reactors-25144769/

Nuclear regulator defers giving safety OK for idle Tepco reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant

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TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japan’s nuclear safety watchdog on Wednesday deferred giving safety clearance for two idle Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. reactors on the Sea of Japan coast, although its chairman said the utility was “qualified” as a nuclear plant operator.

Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said following Wednesday’s meeting that Tepco, operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, was qualified but needs to stipulate its resolve to ensure safe operation of nuclear plants in its safety rules.

“It’s insecure” if Tepco expresses its resolve to ensure safety only in words, Tanaka told a press conference.

Safety rules need to be approved by the regulator and if there is a grave violation the regulator can demand that the utility halt nuclear power operations.

The regulator will formally inform the utility’s president, Tomoaki Kobayakawa, about the matter on Sept. 20. A final decision on whether Tepco is fit to be an operator will be made following discussions with the economy, trade and industry minister.

If Tepco agrees to include its resolve to ensure safety in its safety rules, the regulator will compile a draft document for the Nos. 6 and 7 reactors at Tepco’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture that will serve as certification that the utility has satisfied new safety requirements implemented since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The regulator had been expected at Wednesday’s meeting to confirm that the units have cleared the new safety requirements, but it reversed course after facing criticism over a lack of debate on whether the operator is fit to run a nuclear power plant.

For a reactor to be restarted, it first needs to clear the stiffer safety requirements introduced in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, which was triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. Tepco filed for safety assessments of the two units in September 2013.

According to sources close to the matter, the regulator had planned to give safety clearance while Tanaka was still on the board. Tanaka’s term expires on Sept. 18, although he will continue to work until Sept. 22.

The regulator had reached a near consensus on the issue of Tepco’s qualification when its members previously met on Sept. 6.

During the summer, the regulator questioned the Tepco management, including Kobayakawa, about its nuclear safety awareness. In July, Tanaka criticized Tepco’s attitude, saying, “An operator, which cannot take concrete measures for decommissioning efforts at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, does not have the right to resume operation of nuclear reactors.”

Tanaka urged the utility to further explain in writing issues such as how to deal with contaminated water at the Fukushima plant.

While Tepco, in its subsequent written response, did not give details about what it would do regarding the contaminated water, it did pledge to see through the scrapping of the plant, gaining a certain level of understanding from the regulator.

Meanwhile, the prospect of gaining local consent needed for the restart of the two reactors remains uncertain, with Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama saying it will take “around three to four years” for the utility to win local consent for the envisioned restart.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170914/p2g/00m/0dm/006000c

 

 

TEPCO gets OK to restart Niigata reactors, with conditions

Screenshot from 2017-09-15 01-39-06.png

 

The nation’s nuclear watchdog gave conditional approval Sept. 13 to Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s application to resume operations of its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant.

It marks the first time that reactors operated by TEPCO, which manages the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, have passed more stringent reactor regulations imposed by the Nuclear Regulation Authority after the triple meltdown in 2011.

The two reactors at the plant in Niigata Prefecture–the No. 6 and No. 7 units–are the first boiling-water reactors in Japan to clear the regulations. They are the same type as the reactors at the Fukushima plant.

The NRA already accepts that TEPCO has the technological know-how to operate the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, one of the world’s largest.

But it had harbored doubts about the company’s fitness to operate a nuclear plant, given its tendency to put its balance sheet ahead of safety precautions.

The NRA ordered TEPCO to provide in the legally required safety code a detailed explanation of procedures it will take to ensure that the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant is operated safely.

That way, the watchdog body aims to make the utility legally accountable if problems arise.

It will also closely monitor the utility’s actions in adhering to the safety code once the NRA approves the measures proposed by TEPCO.

The NRA will summon Tomoaki Kobayakawa, the new president of TEPCO, to request a more demanding safety code from the company.

As another condition for a restart, the NRA called for the industry ministry’s clear-cut commitment to oversee TEPCO’s compliance with safety if it is satisfied with the utility’s pledge to respond appropriately to the decommissioning of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The industry ministry oversees the nuclear industry.

Despite the NRA’s conditional approval, the utility will need to gain consent from local governments for a restart.

Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama, who took office last year, has made it clear that he will not agree to the restart until the prefectural government completes its investigation into the Fukushima nuclear disaster to determine what went wrong. The investigation is expected to take several years.

In an effort to underscore its eligibility as an operator of a nuclear plant, TEPCO submitted a written pledge in August that it is “determined to take the initiative in addressing the needs of victims in Fukushima Prefecture and accomplish the decommissioning of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.”

If the safety code and the industry minister’s commitment are secured, the NRA concluded that the utility will be eligible to resume operations of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the NRA, said at the Sept. 13 meeting that TEPCO’s vow in August is “binding.”

The NRA indicated that if TEPCO fails to adhere to its “promise” to heed to safety, it will exercise the power to suspend the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant’s operations or revoke its license to operate it.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant has seven reactors. The No. 6 reactor and the No. 7 reactor started operations in 1996 and 1997, respectively. Each has a capacity of 1.36 gigawatts.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709130058.html

Japan’s Nuclear Regulator Not Agreeing to Tepco’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP Reactor Restart Plans

Nuclear regulator does dizzying U-turn on TEPCO reactor restart plans

Screenshot from 2017-09-08 00-09-16.pngFrom left, the No. 5, 6 and 7 reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant are seen in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, in this April 21, 2016 file photo.

 

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the utility responsible for the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and its March 2011 triple meltdown, is aiming to get the reactors at its other power plants back on line.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), which must approve any restarts, had been holding to a very strict line on TEPCO applications. However, on Sept. 6 the NRA abruptly changed track, taking a more sympathetic attitude and indicating that the No. 6 and 7 reactors at the utility’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture would likely pass their safety inspections — a prerequisite for restart approval.

Despite the NRA’s suddenly sunny attitude, the prefectural government has not budged from its more cautious position. And TEPCO, which has made the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant a chief pillar of its business recovery plans, cannot flip the reactors’ “on” switch without the prefecture’s imprimatur, meaning the plant still has no clear restart schedule.

When the NRA summoned TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa and other top managers on July 10 this year to testify on the utility’s competence to keep running nuclear plants, authority chairman Shunichi Tanaka was unequivocal and unforgiving.

Screenshot from 2017-09-08 00-09-47.png

Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka speaks to the Mainichi Shimbun during an Aug. 29, 2017 interview. (Mainichi)

“If TEPCO is unwilling or unable to finalize the decommissioning of the Fukushima (No. 1 station) reactors, it is simply not qualified to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant,” Tanaka told the executives, adding, “I don’t see TEPCO showing any independent initiative whatsoever.”

The NRA chairman was referring to the longstanding problems with contaminated water and radioactive waste disposal plaguing TEPCO’s Fukushima plant decommissioning efforts. The utility tends to focus too much on trying to read the government’s mind on any and all Fukushima issues — an attitude that has long drawn NRA criticism.

When the NRA inspected the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant’s No. 6 and 7 reactors, it added a new evaluation category to the usual technological checklist, though it was not part of the new safety standards: “eligibility.” That is, TEPCO’s eligibility to run a nuclear power plant at all. After all, it was one of TEPCO’s plants that had succumbed to the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. “TEPCO is different from other (power) companies,” Tanaka had said.

TEPCO President Kobayakawa and Chairman Takashi Kawamura are also a source of NRA concern. The two had no role in the utility’s response to the 2011 meltdowns, and Kobayakawa replaced a much more experienced hand in Naomi Hirose, a TEPCO managing director when the disaster struck. After his NRA dressing-down in July, Kobayakawa apparently visited the Fukushima disaster zone seven times.

However, there has been an apparent U-turn in Tanaka’s stance. A document submitted on Aug. 25 to the NRA under Kobayakawa’s name was sewn with phrases like, “We will carry the (Fukushima) reactor decommissioning through to the end,” and other terms suggesting a determined TEPCO attitude. At the same time, the document was bereft of details on specific preparedness measures or progress benchmarks for the decommissioning work.

Nevertheless, when Kobayakawa again appeared before the NRA on Aug. 30, the body indicated its acceptance of TEPCO’s position. Taking the contaminated water problem “as one example,” Tanaka stated that he recognized TEPCO’s lack of concrete countermeasure planning couldn’t be helped under the circumstances. One NRA executive revealed to the Mainichi Shimbun, “We avoided demanding a detailed (disposal measures) plan because we don’t legally have that authority, and doing so could pose legal risks.”

Pro-TEPCO sentiment was on conspicuous display when the NRA met again on Sept. 6, including acting Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa’s declaration that he “felt TEPCO’s drive to pass on the lessons of the (Fukushima nuclear) accident.”

Committee member Nobuhiko Ban stated that while the document the utility had submitted in the summer was a “declaration of intent,” he was “concerned over whether this alone can constitute eligibility” to run a nuclear plant. However, Tanaka wrapped up discussion by saying that “circumstances are not such that we can deny (TEPCO’s) eligibility.”

Tanaka will leave his NRA post on Sept. 18 after completing his five-year term in the chairmanship, and at a post-meeting news conference he was asked if he had wanted to bring the TEPCO issue to a close while in office.

“I can’t say that I’ve never felt that way,” Tanaka replied.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170907/p2a/00m/0na/019000c

NRA doubts TEPCO’s safety vow in Niigata, plans legal move

Screenshot from 2017-09-08 00-11-58.pngTokyo Electric Power Co. wants to restart the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors, shown in the forefront, at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture.

 

The Nuclear Regulation Authority, skeptical of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s promise to put safety ahead of profits, plans to gain legal assurances before allowing the embattled utility to start operating nuclear reactors again.

TEPCO has applied to restart two reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture, which would be the first run by the company since the disaster unfolded at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in March 2011.

Although NRA members agreed that the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant passed new regulations on technological aspects, they could not agree on whether the company has learned its lessons about safety management since the triple meltdown at the Fukushima plant.

To ensure TEPCO will put safety at the forefront of its operations, the NRA is considering holding the utility legally responsible for completing the entire decommissioning process of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The regulator expects to draft a checklist to verify the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant’s safety and other steps before it makes a final decision on whether to allow TEPCO to restart the reactors. The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 13.

The NRA had previously determined that 12 reactors at six nuclear plants met new nuclear reactor regulations shortly after completion of their technological examinations.

The NRA also finished its technological examinations of the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors, the newest ones at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

The plant has seven reactors, making it one of the largest nuclear power stations in the world. The two reactors that TEPCO wants to put online each has a capacity of 1.36 gigawatts.

TEPCO has said the resumption of the reactors are needed to turn around its business fortunes.

But NRA commissioners are reluctant to allow TEPCO to bring the plant online based solely on the results of the technological screening.

After the chairman and president of the utility were replaced in June, the NRA summoned the new top executives in July.

The watchdog demanded that they give a written response to the regulator’s position that TEPCO “is not qualified to operate the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, given the seeming lack of determination and spotty track record to take the initiative in decommissioning (the Fukushima No. 1 plant).”

In August, the company submitted a paper to the NRA promising to “take the initiative in addressing the problem of victims of the nuclear disaster and to fulfill the task to decommission the plant.”

The paper also said the company “has no intention whatsoever to place economic performance over safety at the (Kashiwazaki-Kariwa) plant.”

Tomoaki Kobayakawa, the new president of TEPCO, called the paper a “promise to the public.”

Although the NRA commissioners on Sept. 6 recognized TEPCO’s commitment to safety to a certain degree, doubts remained.

Nobuhiko Ban, an NRA member who is a specialist on radiological protection, called for a system that would keep TEPCO committed to safety management in the future.

Is it all right for us to take TEPCO’s vow at face value?” he said.

The NRA then decided to consider legal ways to hold TEPCO accountable for safety issues.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709070026.html