Niigata team inspects nuclear power plant

Prefecture looks to verify Tepco's measurements on radiation leaks

Compiled From Kyodo, AP

News photo
Volunteer workers from across the nation gather Saturday in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, to help people hit by last week's earthquake. KYODO PHOTO
The plant — the world's largest in terms of capacity — announced a barrage of leaks and malfunctions in the wake of last Monday's magnitude-6.8 temblor, which killed 10 people and injured more than 1,000.The inspection was based on a safety agreement signed by the operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., with Niigata Prefecture, the city of Kashiwazaki and the village of Kariwa."Concerns over nuclear power plants have been spreading. It is important for Tepco to ensure transparency and promptly disclose information," Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida said after a meeting on the disaster.The prefectural team spent more than four hours inspecting radiation measurement data provided by Tepco and leak sites after arriving at the nuclear power plant at around 11 a.m."The data that Tepco has been showing is correct, and the measures they employed for – detection were appropriate,” team member Tetsuo Hashimoto said after the inspection.

The team agreed with the assessment that the leaks appear to have posed no threat to local residents.

The earthquake resulted in a raft of malfunctions, damage and mistakes at the plant. Among them were an electrical transformer catching fire, planks toppling into a pool of spent nuclear fuel and some barrels of atomic waste getting knocked over.

The problems — exacerbated by Tepco’s delays in notifying the public — were capped by news that radioactive water had sloshed out of a tank and was flushed out to sea, and that radioactive material was vented into the air in two separate instances.

Plant officials acknowledged they had not foreseen such a powerful quake hitting the facility. They also repeatedly underreported its impact after it hit.

The government has urged the operators of all 55 nuclear reactors, which supply nearly a third of the nation’s energy — to speed up safety checks for earthquake resistance.

No IAEA inspection

Kyodo News

Japan has decided not to ask the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power plant for damage caused by last week’s powerful earthquake, government sources said Saturday.

Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida criticized the decision, saying “withholding an acceptance (of inspection) could give an unintended impression that there may be something wrong.”

Izumida said Japan should bring in an IAEA team “as soon as possible to show to the world what has happened.”

The government has already conveyed its decision to the IAEA, the sources said.

They added that while Japan’s nuclear safety authorities will go it alone for the time being, the government’s decision leaves room to seek an IAEA inspection in the future.

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said Wednesday that Japan needs to conduct a full and transparent assessment.