NISA OK on stress tests but gets poor PR grade

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has been overseeing reactor stress tests in a proper manner but needs to communicate better with the people living near such facilities, an International Atomic Energy Agency official said Tuesday.

“Overall, our impression is that NISA’s process is generally consistent with the IAEA safety standards” as well as other international efforts, such as stress tests in Europe, said James Lyons, who led the IAEA team to examine the way NISA has been reviewing utilities’ stress tests on their idled reactors.

The team, which visited the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture, has particularly scrutinized whether NISA is properly weighing the vulnerabilities of nuclear facilities against the loss of all AC power and heeding the need for acute crisis management.

Lyons said the team was impressed with the way NISA and the utilities quickly acted to take additional safety measures at the nation’s atomic plants after the Fukushima meltdown crisis started.

NISA was also praised for conducting on-site inspections, including at the Oi plant, to check emergency safety measures taken by the utilities.

An IAEA endorsement possibly means a step forward for the utilities to restart reactors halted for checks.

The team meanwhile noted there was room for improvement at NISA, urging the watchdog to hold more public meetings to discuss its findings in connection with the stress tests, even though the agency is making efforts toward transparency via use of the Internet.