Niigata puts Tepco’s reactor inspection request on hold

Kyodo

Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida said Wednesday that his decision on whether to let Tokyo Electric Power Co. request safety tests for two idled reactors in Niigata Prefecture won’t be made for some time.

“I will keep this issue on hold,” Izumida told Tepco President Naomi Hirose at the prefectural government’s headquarters during their second meeting on restarting reactor Nos. 6 and 7 at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power plant.

Tepco, facing massive compensation and cleanup costs from the 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, is desperate to bring its idled reactors back online to reduce growing fuel costs from its return to thermal power generation.

But Tepco is having a difficult time persuading Izumida to approve its requests for safety checks at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex. In light of the Fukushima crisis, all seven reactors at the complex were taken offline by March 2012.

Hirose told reporters after meeting with the governor that he will wait for the prefectural government to sign off on the utility’s request before formally submitting Tepco’s applications for state safety checks.

He also told Izumida that Tepco will reinforce the plant’s safety by installing additional emergency vents in the reactors’ containment vessels, on top of plans for a new venting system.

To restart their reactors, nuclear utilities need confirmation from the Nuclear Regulation Authority that their facilities are in line with new safety regulations introduced in July.

Under the new regulations, boiling water reactors like units 6 and 7 at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, the largest nuclear power plant in the world, must be equipped with filtered venting systems so radioactive substances can be reduced when gas and steam must be released from the containment vessels during emergencies.

Other utilities have applied for safety assessments involving a dozen reactors, but Tepco’s push is seen as more controversial because it owns the aging, poorly protected Fukushima No. 1 complex, which was crippled by the huge earthquake and tsunami of March 2011.