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2013年2月 2日 (土)

原発の新基準 安全と再稼働の両立を目指せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 2, 2013)
N-plant restarts, safety concerns must be reconciled
原発の新基準 安全と再稼働の両立を目指せ(2月1日付・読売社説)

Remember this: Setting safety criteria for nuclear power plants is tantamount to passing judgment on the rights and wrongs of operating them.

An expert panel meeting of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) worked out on Thursday a draft outline of new safety standards based on the lessons of the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

To prevent another nuclear disaster, the draft outline calls for mandatory countermeasures against severe accidents, citing specific steps that should be taken. Such measures have so far been left up to the utilities' voluntary efforts.

After seeking public opinion on the nuclear safety standards, a set of NRA rules are to be set down by the end of July.

On the basis of the NRA rules, the government will screen long-idled nuclear complexes to determine whether they may be reactivated.


Avoid blanket application

Restarting nuclear plants is a prerequisite for ensuring the nation's stable supply of electricity.

The new standards must be used to enhance the actual safety of nuclear power generation, not as a means of making nuclear plant operations impossible.

To deal with potential incidents similar to the Fukushima disaster, the draft outline seeks to oblige power companies to set up a second control room capable of remotely controlling the cooling reactor containment vessels. This is meant as preparation for a scenario in which an ordinary control room is rendered unusable for reasons such as a loss of power supply.

Regarding fire-prevention measures at power plants, the draft calls for making it obligatory for power utilities to boost the fire resistance of their nuclear facilities. On measures against earthquakes, the draft seeks to require power companies to even more closely scrutinize any possible active faults beneath the facilities.

Concerning tsunami, the draft outline envisions having power companies look into the greatest tsunami known to have struck areas where plants are located. On the basis of the examinations, specific mandatory safety measures should be imposed, such as construction of sea walls, according to the draft.

We hope the NRA will tailor these rules and measures to the specific circumstances of each plant, rather than applying them in a blanket manner.

In the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, every nuclear facility has already augmented its electric power sources and emergency water injection functions in accordance with government instructions. Layers of precautions against severe accidents are now in place.

Safety enhancements requiring large-scale construction work, such as a second control room, should be given a grace period, allowing them to be completed as medium- or long-term projects.


Many experts' views needed

As for active faults, it would be meaningless to conduct examinations solely aimed at 100 percent confirmation of their nonexistence.

If there is a possibility of an active fault beneath a nuclear facility, it is definitely important and realistic to study measures to minimize the risks of radiation leakage by strengthening the earthquake-resistance of the facility.

A colossal amount of money will certainly be needed to put into effect the measures sought under the new safety standards.

Some power companies may be left with no choice but to decommission their reactors.

NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka has dismissed these concerns, saying, "We have no intention whatsoever of taking such matters into consideration." Some members of the expert meeting reportedly objected to this stance, calling the safety requirements "excessively stringent."

The draft outline this time has been put together by a handful of experts and the secretariat of the NRA.

Opinions from a broader spectrum of experts should be listened to in the process toward eventual legislation of new nuclear safety standards.

Regulatory measures for nuclear safety must be efficient as well as reasonable.

An unnecessarily long time must not be spent on safety screening procedures for reactivation of nuclear plants.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 1, 2013)
(2013年2月1日01時17分  読売新聞)


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