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Rash of problems prompts fears that Japan’s reactor restarts have been too hasty

JIJI, Kyodo

In the wake of problems with restarted reactors, concerns have grown that nuclear authorities and power suppliers have been too hasty in putting the idled units back into operation.

On Tuesday, Kansai Electric Power Co. said the emergency shutdown of its reactor in Fukui Prefecture the previous day — three days after it went back online — may have been triggered by an abnormally strong electrical current.

The utility said a monitoring device at the Takahama facility had detected an abnormality, and workers were checking its settings as other monitoring devices were not triggered.

The trouble followed a leak of some 34 liters of radioactive water from a cooling system for the reactor on Feb. 20. The operator found that a valve bolt had come loose.

“It’s very regrettable,” industry minister Motoo Hayashi told a news conference Tuesday. “I hope Kansai Electric will do its best to find out what caused the problems and proceed carefully without rushing the (restart) schedule.”

The reactor is the third brought back online under the new safety standards adopted after the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

Reactors 1 and 2 at the Sendai plant operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co. in Kagoshima Prefecture were reactivated last year.

The Sendai reactor 1 had a problem with equipment that caused a seawater leak from a cooling system before shifting to commercial operation mode.

Experts say reactors are prone to problems after being idled for years.

The Takahama unit had been left offline for four years and seven months and the Sendai reactor four years and three months.

“Kansai Electric was so hasty in resuming nuclear power generation that it skipped thorough inspections of the reactor before its restart,” Hideyuki Ban, co-head of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, said of the problems at the Takahama reactor.

He also blamed the Nuclear Regulation Authority, which assesses applications to restart idled reactors based on the new safety standards, for failing to look closely at facilities and equipment in the screening process.

Ban alleged that the NRA has put a priority on examining the safety of reactors 6 and 7 at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture toward their restart even though electric cables for safety-related equipment were installed in a substandard fasion.

“Overhauling all facilities at nuclear power plants is absolutely necessary,” he stressed.

  • fromjapan

    Regulation against Nuclear Plants in Japan is still insufficient.

  • Roy Warner

    No surprises here. KEPCO and TEPCO have had years to come into compliance with the lax pro forma post Fukushima standards and still obviously have no intention of even waving in the direction of safety.

  • solodoctor

    Did someone confirm what is alleged about the lack of compliance with safety regs and substandard instillations? Given that the majority of Japanese are still opposed to the restart of these facilities how will these problems affect their already low levels of confidence in TEPCO and KEPCO? Obviously, not in a good way. Just as obvious, however, is Abe’s determination to go ahead with more restarts. Aging equipment inadequately inspected and/or restarted after faulty replacements is a setup for continuing problems. Will Abe ever recognize that this strategy is doomed to fail? Not likely.

  • Starviking

    The utility said a monitoring device at the Takahama facility had detected an abnormality, and workers were checking its settings as other monitoring devices were not triggered.

    A safety device stops an abnormal situation. Shock!

    The trouble followed a leak of some 34 liters of radioactive water from a cooling system for the reactor on Feb. 20. The operator found that a valve bolt had come loose.

    Once again, detected by a safety device and stopped. Released the equivalent of 1000 bananas-worth of radioactivity into a sealed room. Shock!

    And KEPCO didn’t even have to report it, as it was 1/200th of the reporting level, but still did.

    They should be being praised for their honesty, not attacked because of it.

    • Roy Warner

      That would be precisely the issue, wouldn’t it? KEPCO isn’t required to report it. There are weak requirements for transparency. Well, looking at the recent announcement five years on that TEPCO did not even follow the guidelines in its own disaster manual regarding the definition of a meltdown, one would have to say there are effectively no requirements for transparency.

      • Starviking

        KEPCO wasn’t required to report it because it was inconsequential – there were infinitesimally small health risks in the building concerned, and none to the public.

        If others had to report such risks to health, we would have trucking companies reporting every second of the day to the National Truck Emissions Agency, and any citizen’s flatulence events would have to be detailed and posted in to the Flatulence Agency’s Reporting Taskforce .

        As for TEPCO, once again, wrong focus: the Daiichi staff worked heroically to prevent the accident – but you concentrate on a definition of a word, rather than the situation itself. The Daiichi staff focused on the situation, as they were professionally meant to do.*

        * Though of course, if they had decided to pour over the minutiae of the manuals instead (rather than working to fix the problems of the plant) and reported multiple meltdowns – mass panic and deaths would have likely occurred, and the plant’s situation may have been worse.

        That would have pleased a lot of anti-nuclear supporters.

      • Joffan

        An acronymic shout-out for “Flatulence Agency’s Reporting Taskforce” – well done.

      • Starviking

        Cheers!