TSURUGA, FUKUI PREF. – An International Atomic Energy Agency delegation visited the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture on Thursday to inspect its two reactors, which are awaiting approval to resume operations.
The IAEA team is tasked with reviewing the adequacy of Japan’s safety tests for nuclear plants in light of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power station.
The IAEA’s inspection of reactors 3 and 4 at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi plant comes after the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency endorsed the results of first-stage safety tests submitted by the utility. Both reactors were idled for regular checks.
After receiving the IAEA’s review, the agency will finalize its report on the two reactors in February at the earliest and submit it to the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and pertinent ministers will then make a final decision on whether to restart the two reactors.
The Fukushima meltdown crisis prompted the government to order utilities to conduct stress tests — safety tests using computer simulations — to determine the extent to which their systems would protect fuel rods in the event of massive earthquakes and tsunami, as well as during power outages.
Panel to report in July
A government-appointed panel investigating the Fukushima nuclear crisis will compile its final report and hopes to end its probe by the end of July, according to panel head Yotaro Hatamura.
The panel will also hold a two-day meeting in Tokyo from Feb. 24 with at least four overseas experts to review the interim report it released in late December, said Hatamura, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo.
During their stay in Japan, Richard Meserve, former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Andre-Claude Lacoste, chairman of the French nuclear safety authority, and other foreign experts are expected to visit the site of Japan’s worst nuclear crisis.
In the process of compiling its final report, the panel may conduct hearings with key Cabinet ministers involved in dealing with the nuclear crisis, said Shinji Ogawa, chief of the panel’s secretariat.
No specific schedule has been set, he added.
Ogawa said the government’s failure to take minutes during 23 meetings held by a task force set up to deal with the crisis is not expected to hinder the investigation.
The task force made important decisions, such as setting evacuation zones around the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, but it was recently revealed that government officials only recorded items such as agenda points during the meetings.
In late December, the panel issued a 500-page interim report highlighting the poor response to the nuclear crisis by the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co.