2 Mars 2017
March 1, 2017
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
The nation's nuclear watchdog, incensed at more blundering by Tokyo Electric Power Co., ordered it to re-submit documents for the restart of two reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant after checking them again for accuracy.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority also summoned TEPCO's president to its office and gave him a dressing-down for failing to reveal information that could have compromised safety at the plant.
The NRA's action Feb. 28 followed revelations in mid-February that a key building at the facility may not be able to withstand anything like the strong earthquake shaking it is supposed to. This fact came to light in 2014 but was not reported to the NRA until last month.
TEPCO said that the information was not shared within the company, and as a result, was not conveyed to its division in charge of NRA screenings.
It was the first time for the NRA to summon TEPCO President Naomi Hirose to its office as part of the screening process for the restart of reactors.
“TEPCO needs to learn from other electric power companies, but its stance is insufficient. As the company lost public trust due to the accident (at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011), it needs to make much greater efforts than others. But it is not doing so,” said NRA chairman Shunichi Tanaka.
Hirose acknowledged that TEPCO needs to work harder to regain society's trust, saying, "We are taking that fact seriously.”
He said TEPCO had shown "insufficient humility and displayed arrogance."
Hirose stated that the company intends to learn its lesson and will re-submit documents so that the plant passes the screening process.
To get to that point, the top management of TEPCO will have to check several thousand pages of documents. As drastic changes may have to be made, it is inevitable that the NRA screenings will be prolonged.
In 2013, TEPCO applied to the NRA for screenings so it can restart the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture.
The screenings entered the final stage in 2016. But this coincided with big changes in policies over the designs of quake-resistant capabilities of buildings and measures for sea walls to deal with liquefaction.
Then, this year, it was learned that TEPCO failed to report to the NRA for three consecutive years that a key building, which is expected to serve as an on-site emergency headquarters in the event of a severe accident, may not be able to withstand even half of the assumed strongest seismic shaking.
The upshot of the series of problems meant that the NRA wasted time for discussions.
But the NRA is also miffed that TEPCO seems unable to decide its basic policies in a determined manner.
(This article was written by Hiroshi Ishizuka and Masanobu Higashiyama.)