NRA eyes allowing Japan's two operating reactors to remain online through September


The two nuclear reactors currently in operation in Japan have no serious safety problems in light of new regulations taking effect in July, regulators said in a draft assessment report released Thursday.

The assessment, if finalized by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, will enable reactors 3 and 4 at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi plant in Fukui Prefecture to remain online through September, when they will be taken offline for mandatory routine checks.

“As of the end of June, we think . . . the situation will not create serious safety problems immediately,” the NRA said in the report, which evaluated the current status of the reactors.

But the NRA noted that some requirements have not been fully satisfied and criticized Kepco for its attitude in exchanges with the regulators during the latest assessment process.

“There were some areas in which Kansai Electric proposed countermeasures bit by bit as if to find the minimum possible standard. Such an approach is likely to be an obstacle in efficiently proceeding with (reactor safety) assessments once the new regulations are implemented,” the report said.

Reactors that are currently offline will have to be checked by the NRA to determine whether they meet the new safety regulations and can be restarted. The NRA is expected to start accepting applications for the safety screening from July 8.

But the NRA decided to conduct a special assessment on the safety of the Oi plant’s reactors 3 and 4 before the regulations take effect, given that they are the only operating reactors in Japan out of a total of 50.

The new regulations, which reflect the lessons learned from the 2011 Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster, require utilities to take specific measures to protect their atomic plants from tsunami and to prevent and minimize the consequences of severe crises, such as meltdowns.

As for emergency command centers that the utilities must establish to handle severe crises, Kepco decided to use a meeting room next to a central control room for reactors 1 and 2 at the Oi plant.

The NRA acknowledged in the draft report that the room is big enough to house supervisors who would be expected to stay there, but also urged the utility to quickly finish construction of a seismically isolated building to further improve safety.

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