New nuclear safety standards

The Nuclear Regulation Authority has made public the draft of new safety standards for nuclear power plants and plans to put them into force in mid-July. If power companies want to restart nuclear power plants now offline, they must meet the new standards. Currently only the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors of Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture are in operation.

The NRA must make the process of writing the new standards transparent. It also must make the content and the application of the new standards clear-cut so that people’s worries about the restart of nuclear power stations will be fully addressed.

After making public the draft, the NRA started collecting opinions from the public. The deadline for submitting opinions is Friday. It is regrettable that the public was given only a month to submit their opinions.

The draft is about 3,000 pages. It is extremely difficult for ordinary citizens to clearly understand so that they can express their opinion. Even after the deadline for accepting public comments passes, the NRA should explain important points of the draft in plain language so that ordinary citizens will understand them, and should continue open discussions with the public about the new standards.

The draft calls for such measures as installing filters to remove radioactive substances in case such substances are vented from reactor cores into the atmosphere during an emergency as well as setting up a seismically isolated emergency command center and an emergency control room to cope with emergency situations caused by a natural calamity or a terrorist attack.

It demands that each power company anticipate the highest possible tsunami and construct a seawall or a tide gate that will withstand such tsunami. It also prohibits construction of a nuclear power plant above a geological fault.

One problem with the draft is that the work of anticipating the highest possible tsunami is left to each power company. Another problem is that the NRA allows a grace period of five years for installing the filter for a pressurized light water reactor (on the grounds that the containment vessel of a pressurized light water reactor has a bigger capacity than the containment vessel of a boiling water reactor) and for setting up an emergency control room for all types of reactors. Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant uses boiling water reactors.

The NRA also plans to carry out a virtual preliminary review of the conditions of the Oi Nos. 3 and 4 reactors before the new safety standards take effect — raising the suspicion that the NRA is giving special treatment to the Oi plant to prevent power shortages this coming summer.

The NRA should make serious efforts to write adequate safety standards and apply them in a transparent manner to get back people’s trust. Nuclear power generation should be a provisional power source. The government must set a deadline to abolish it.

  • kyushuphil

    And the fact that, for 1,000’s of years, there’s no safe disposal for all the toxins?

    And, while we’ve no safe storage for all that nuke waste, we keep spewing it out and leave it anyway — and leave all the costs of our recklessness to future generations.

    • Starviking

      We collectvely do worse every day in our daily commutes and with our fossil-fueled power supplies.

  • Starviking

    “Nuclear power generation should be a provisional power source. The government must set a deadline to abolish it.”
    The Japan Times should conduct an in-depth review of realistic alternatives to nuclear power. It should be scienific and realistic – no touting of “possiblities” as certainties. It should be clear on costs – both financial and climatic, and even-handed -no free passes for proponents of favoured energy sources.
    I would be interested in the result.

  • Lilly Munster

    The problem is depending on fuel based sources of power, uranium, fossil etc. It leaves any country dependent on a supply of fuel. This means someone as a middle man always reaps a huge profit off that dependent country. If that country does not have the fuel resources they are dependent on other countries.
    Stop depending on fuel based energy sources. This is a huge change, not because the technology isn’t ready (it is) or because it would provide enough power (it would) but because those entrenched interests will not go down without a big fight.
    The people saying you can’t move to renewables are those with a financial stake in the fuel based system. Realize who is dragging the entire country down to make a buck and fight it. I would hope that ruining a region of Japan and making the country dependent on foreign fuel imports (uranium or fossil) would be enough to get them branded as a social parasite.