• Kyodo

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A geological fault running directly beneath a nuclear reactor at Hokuriku Electric Power Co.’s Shika power plant may be active, a panel of geological experts under the Nuclear Regulation Authority said Thursday.

If the nuclear watchdog finalizes the conclusion, the utility will be unable to restart the unit, the No. 1 reactor at the plant in Ishikawa Prefecture. The facility, which stands on the Sea of Japan coast, is currently idle.

The power company rejected the finding. It has said its data shows the fault is inactive.

Building regulations in quake-prone Japan prohibit the construction of nuclear reactors or other critical facilities above active faults. A spotlight was thrown on the matter after the triple meltdowns and contamination of swaths of land at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in 2011, an incident that triggered a nationwide shutdown of nuclear power.

At the meeting Thursday, Akira Ishiwatari, the head of the panel and an NRA commissioner, said panel members largely agreed on the evaluation of the fault’s status.

He said the regulator will compile a draft report to present to an NRA meeting.

The panel said last year that the S-1 fault, which runs beneath the No. 1 reactor building, may have moved within the last 120,000 to 130,000 years. This assessment was verified by third-party experts.

Two other faults run beneath the turbine buildings of the No. 1 and No. 2 units at the plant. The panel said they, too, could be active.

The utility has already filed an application with the NRA to restart the No. 2 reactor and may be required to enhance the plant’s safety.

Meanwhile, the power company rejected the panel’s assessment.

“We can’t accept a decision that was made based on assumptions,” Hokuriku Electric Executive Vice President Akizumi Nishino said after the meeting.

Hokuriku Electric has said its own studies showed the faults were not active.

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