The head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority told Tepco’s top management he questions their attitude toward decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and the company’s ability to resume operating its other reactors.
“I feel a sense of danger,” NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said during a special meeting Monday with the top management of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.
Tanaka also said Tepco does “not seem to have the will to take the initiative” toward decommissioning the crippled nuclear power station that suffered three reactor meltdowns in March 2011.
Tepco Chairman Takashi Kawamura and President Tomoaki Kobayakawa attended the meeting. The authority felt it is necessary to hear from the top executives before it could make a decision on whether to approve Tepco’s plan to resume operation of reactors 6 and 7 at its massive Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture.
Tepco filed for a safety assessment of the two reactors in September 2013 to reactivate them, hoping to restore its financial condition as it needed massive funds to pay compensation related to the Fukushima disaster and to scrap the plant.
The NRA’s safety screening found that Tepco failed to report insufficient earthquake resistance for an emergency response center at the Niigata complex even though it knew about the insufficiency for three years.
In June, Tepco submitted to the watchdog its revised safety measures for the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex.
“An operator lacking the will to take the initiative does not have the right to resume operation of nuclear reactors,” Tanaka said.
Tepco’s chairman responded by saying: “There are citizens who believe nuclear power is necessary. Operating reactors is our responsibility.”
But Kawamura also admitted there is room for only two more years’ worth of space in the tanks to accommodate the contaminated water building up at Fukushima No. 1.
During the meeting the NRA asked Tepco’s management about the company’s safety measures for the Niigata complex — the biggest nuclear power station in the world — as well as its safety awareness.
Tanaka said the NRA does consider Tepco’s responses at the meeting as sufficient and requested that it submit further explanations on its plan to decommission Fukushima No. 1 and resume operation of the two reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa.
Tanaka plans to conduct on-site checkups at the two reactors, saying, “Tepco, which caused the (Fukushima) accident, is not an ordinary operator.”
The two boiling water reactors at the Niigata plant are the same type that suffered core meltdowns at Fukushima No. 1, and no such reactors have cleared the authority’s safety screening since the 2011 crisis.
People stage a protest rally in front of Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s office in the city of Saga on Tuesday after a district court rejected an injunction request to halt the restart of two reactors at the utility’s Genkai power plant.
SAGA – A district court on Tuesday dismissed a request from about 230 local residents for an injunction to stop the restart of two reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture over safety concerns.
The Saga District Court handed down the ruling concerning reactors 3 and 4 at the complex as the utility prepares for their restart this summer or later, having secured the necessary consent of the governor of Saga and the mayor of Genkai. The town hosts the four-reactor power station.
Reactors 3 and 4 have cleared Nuclear Regulation Authority screenings that were based on safety standards revamped after the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
In Tuesday’s decision, presiding Judge Takeshi Tachikawa said the new safety standards are “reasonable.” The court has found no issues with earthquake resistance or steps taken against serious accidents and does not see any specific danger of radiation exposure at the plant, he added.
The focus of the lawsuit, filed by the residents in July 2011, was whether the operator has adequate measures in place against earthquakes. The plaintiffs argued that serious accidents could occur due to degradation in piping.
“The court is supposed to help the weak, but the ruling is based on economics and politics,” said Hatsumi Ishimaru, 65, who leads the group of residents. “We will continue to fight until we stop the nuclear plant.”
The plaintiffs said they will immediately appeal the decision to the Fukuoka High Court.
Kyushu Electric said in a statement it considers the latest decision “appropriate” and will continue to try to ensure safety at the plant.
The ruling may inject momentum into the government’s policy to restart nuclear plants that have fulfilled the new safety standards.
While declining to comment on the court decision itself, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government respects the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s judgment that the reactors meet the new safety standards.
Tuesday’s ruling followed a series of court decisions rejecting similar suits seeking to halt the operations of nuclear power plants.
In March, the Osaka High Court overturned a lower court order to halt two nuclear reactors at the Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture, while in the same month the Hiroshima District Court dismissed a request by local residents to order the halt of a nuclear reactor that was restarted last year at the Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture.
Of the more than 40 commercial reactors nationwide, five are currently in operation. At the Genkai plant, the No. 1 unit is set to be decommissioned due to aging.
The leader of the Diet investigation into the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster blasted the Abe administration’s policies on restarting reactors, noting that proper evacuation plans are not in place.
“What are you going to do if a tsunami comes?” Kiyoshi Kurokawa, former chairman of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, said at a June 12 meeting of the Lower House ad hoc committee for research of nuclear power issues. “How can you go (there) to rescue people if cars cannot move forward on roads?”
Kurokawa was referring to the restarts of the No. 4 and No. 3 reactors of the Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture in May and June.
The reactors cleared the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety standards that were established after the accident unfolded at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said these standards are the strictest in the world.
But Kurokawa said, “I cannot accept such rhetoric.”
Kurokawa, also a professor emeritus of medical science at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, was selected as chairman of a third-party advisory body established by the ad hoc committee in May.
He and other experts of the advisory body responded to questions at the meeting of the ad hoc committee on June 12.
Kurokawa also raised questions about the rules for personnel at the NRA, the country’s nuclear watchdog.
In January, Masaya Yasui, an official of the Ministry of the Economy, Trade and Industry, assumed the post of secretary-general of the NRA’s secretariat
Kurokawa said he was concerned that an official of the economy ministry, which has promoted nuclear power generation, is now at the top of the secretariat.
Previously, a “no-return rule” was in place that prohibited employees of the NRA secretariat from returning to the economy ministry.
However, the Abe administration changed the rule to allow them to return to the ministry at bureaus not directly related to nuclear power generation.
Regarding the change, Kurokawa said, “The most important thing is to protect the no-return rule.”
Saga Assembly OKs Restart of 2 Genkai N-Plant Reactors
Saga, April 13 (Jiji Press)–The Saga prefectural assembly on Thursday voted to accept the restart of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai nuclear power station in the southwestern Japan prefecture.
Following the decision by majority vote, Saga Governor Yoshinori Yamaguchi said he will make his final judgment as early as this month on whether his prefecture should approve the restart.
The mayor and the town assembly of Genkai, the host municipality of the power plant, have already given the green light. Local government procedures needed for reactivating the reactors will finish if the governor approves.
The resolution to accept the Genkai reactor restart was introduced mainly by members of the Liberal Democratic Party, which holds a majority in the assembly.
Two other assembly groups, including members of the Japanese Communist Party, submitted a resolution to call on Yamaguchi not to jump to a hasty decision.
One year after Kyushu quake, and 2,000 active faults beneath us
Novelist Michiko Ishimure, 90, was in Kumamoto when a megaquake jolted the southwestern region exactly one year ago.
“It felt as if my legs had been ripped off from the knees and I was being dragged over a grassy field. The excruciating pain was something I’d never experienced before,” she wrote for the Seibu edition of The Asahi Shimbun for the Kyushu region.
Ishimure blacked out while trying to make an escape after grabbing some food and a ream of writing paper.
Her injury was minor. But when the “main shock” of the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake struck more than 24 hours after the initial jolt, she was taken to a hospital.
Upon discharge, she returned to the nursing home for the elderly where she was a resident. But her sense of alienation deepened.
“I’d never felt I really belonged there, to begin with,” she explained. “I think this feeling intensified–along with a sense of emptiness–after being shunted around because of the quakes.”
April 14 marks the first anniversary of the massive Kumamoto Earthquake. Many citizens are still unable to return to their prequake lives and are experiencing inconveniences of all sorts. More than 40,000 people are still living in emergency shelters and temporary housing.
A poem by Jun Tsukamoto depicts the plight of survivors fearing aftershocks and sleeping in their cars: “Unable to sleep and wide awake/ Night after night/ Parked cars cover the ground.”
Last summer, “Gendai Tanka” (Contemporary “tanka” poetry) magazine featured verse about the Kumamoto disaster. The pieces reveal the hardships of evacuees, as does this one by Rika Hamana: “My father starts shuffling his feet along a street at night/ The lavatory he is headed to is far away in the driving rain.”
The Kumamoto Earthquake claimed 50 lives. Another 170 died later and their deaths were ruled to have been quake related.
Even after the jolts subsided, survivors were still fighting in the midst of a long battle. How difficult it is to continue providing them the care they need to ensure they don’t feel alone and helpless.
About 2,000 active faults run beneath the Japanese archipelago. I try to imagine what it will be like to have my life completely disrupted and changed, even tomorrow. And I think about what I should do to ensure my own survival.