Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s apparent inept handling of the triple-meltdown crisis at its Fukushima No. 1 atomic plant may foreclose on its bid to restart two idled reactors in Niigata Prefecture, the head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority indicated Wednesday.
The NRA decided during a meeting of its commissioners the same day that it will start checking whether reactors 6 and 7 at Tepco’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant are safe enough to restart, as sought by the utility.
But NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said at a press conference after the meeting that it wants Tepco to “put its organization together” when unexpected events occur at the Fukushima No. 1 complex as the utility tries to deal with the massive buildup of radioactive water at the site and the scrapping of the crippled reactors.
“It depends on the situation . . . but I want Tepco to do what it should do first, which is to deal with the problems at Fukushima No. 1,” Tanaka said, suggesting the safety assessment of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors could be put on hold because of the serious problems plaguing the Fukushima plant.
Tanaka also said regulators will check whether the utility really has the technical capacity to operate nuclear power plants.
During the meeting of commissioners, NRA member Kayoko Nakamura voiced skepticism over Tepco’s technological knowledge in dealing with radioactive substances and said she was “surprised” that the utility had applied for safety assessments of the two reactors at the seven-reactor Niigata complex.
Tepco applied to the NRA for the safety assessments in late September, joining moves by other utilities toward reactivating idled atomic plants to improve their tough business situation.
All 50 of the nation’s still operable commercial reactors are currently offline. Before any reactor can be restarted, it must first pass new safety requirements introduced in July.