NRA blames plant operators for prolonged reactor safety checks

Kyodo

The head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority said Wednesday that nuclear power plant operators, rather than regulators, are the ones to blame for the prolonged safety review of reactors that started last July.

“We are working hard so that the assessment process will be carried out as swiftly as possible. When thinking who is to blame, delays are occurring because the response of operators (to the NRA’s requests) has been slow,” NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka told a news conference.

Earlier in the day, local business federations of the Kansai and Kyushu regions jointly urged the NRA to “more efficiently” conduct the review so that reactors will be allowed to restart, citing concerns over power shortages and rises in electricity bills to cover fuel costs for thermal power generation.

“The safety review was initially expected to take around six months, but it is difficult to foresee the prospects as a year has nearly passed,” Hiroshi Sato, vice chairman of the Kansai Economic Federation, told NRA Secretary-General Katsuhiko Ikeda.

“We strongly hope for a swift restart of nuclear power plants. We therefore want the NRA to improve work efficiency and speed up the process,” said Sato, who is also chairman of Kobe Steel Ltd.

Ikeda said the safety assessment could be seen as a “collaborative process” between regulators and plant operators and that it is important for operators to respond “accurately” to requests made by regulators.

He also said he cannot tell when the NRA would finish safety checks of two reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture that are expected to be the first to finish the assessments among those seeking restarts.

“We found that the more than 7,000-page application document (submitted by Kyushu Electric) lacks information in many areas and we are asking for revisions. It is quite difficult to tell when (the review will finish),” Ikeda said.

Currently, all of the country’s 48 reactors are offline. Only those that have cleared a set of new safety requirements introduced after the 2011 Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster will be eligible to resume operation.