Japan’s nuclear safety chief raps Tepco’s attitude on Fukushima No. 1 crisis, restarting other reactors

Kyodo

The head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority told Tepco’s top management he questions their attitude toward decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and the company’s ability to resume operating its other reactors.

“I feel a sense of danger,” NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said during a special meeting Monday with the top management of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.

Tanaka also said Tepco does “not seem to have the will to take the initiative” toward decommissioning the crippled nuclear power station that suffered three reactor meltdowns in March 2011.

Tepco Chairman Takashi Kawamura and President Tomoaki Kobayakawa attended the meeting. The authority felt it is necessary to hear from the top executives before it could make a decision on whether to approve Tepco’s plan to resume operation of reactors 6 and 7 at its massive Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture.

Tepco filed for a safety assessment of the two reactors in September 2013 to reactivate them, hoping to restore its financial condition as it needed massive funds to pay compensation related to the Fukushima disaster and to scrap the plant.

The NRA’s safety screening found that Tepco failed to report insufficient earthquake resistance for an emergency response center at the Niigata complex even though it knew about the insufficiency for three years.

In June, Tepco submitted to the watchdog its revised safety measures for the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex.

“An operator lacking the will to take the initiative does not have the right to resume operation of nuclear reactors,” Tanaka said.

Tepco’s chairman responded by saying: “There are citizens who believe nuclear power is necessary. Operating reactors is our responsibility.”

But Kawamura also admitted there is room for only two more years’ worth of space in the tanks to accommodate the contaminated water building up at Fukushima No. 1.

During the meeting the NRA asked Tepco’s management about the company’s safety measures for the Niigata complex — the biggest nuclear power station in the world — as well as its safety awareness.

Tanaka said the NRA does consider Tepco’s responses at the meeting as sufficient and requested that it submit further explanations on its plan to decommission Fukushima No. 1 and resume operation of the two reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa.

Tanaka plans to conduct on-site checkups at the two reactors, saying, “Tepco, which caused the (Fukushima) accident, is not an ordinary operator.”

The two boiling water reactors at the Niigata plant are the same type that suffered core meltdowns at Fukushima No. 1, and no such reactors have cleared the authority’s safety screening since the 2011 crisis.