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2013年7月10日 (水)

原発再稼働申請 安全確認は公正で効率的に

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 10, 2013
Nuclear plant safety must be confirmed fairly, efficiently
原発再稼働申請 安全確認は公正で効率的に(7月9日付・読売社説)

The true worth of the Nuclear Regulation Authority is being put to the test.

New regulation standards for nuclear power plants, which had been compiled based on lessons from the nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, took effect Monday.

Following the enforcement of these new standards, Hokkaido Electric Power Co., Kansai Electric Power Co., Shikoku Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co. filed applications with the NRA for 10 of their idled reactors at five plants to undergo safety checks, a procedure to obtain approval for restarting the reactors.

The new guidelines have significantly increased steps to help prevent a serious problem at a nuclear plant from becoming even worse. The assessment of the impact of earthquakes and tsunami has been bolstered.

Each reactor has many components that need to be inspected, so checking just one unit will reportedly take more than six months. Moreover, several reactors will be checked simultaneously, so the nuclear watchdog will need to conduct its work efficiently.

New rules not perfect

The new standards, however, still have some shortcomings.

To prepare for possible difficulties keeping a reactor cool, the new guidelines call for installing a filter-equipped exhaust system to reduce pressure inside the reactor and setting up an emergency measures center. Other steps include building new seawalls and watertight doors.
Some critics say these measures rely too much on safety standards for the plants’ “hardware.” Safety must be checked comprehensively, including such “software” factors as operators’ ability to cope with and respond to an emergency.

A grace period of five years has been set for building some facilities and installing equipment at the plants because improvements have been made in safety arrangements, including the deployment of vehicle-mounted electricity generators. Such a realistic approach will be crucial also in the safety check process.

The assessment of the potential impact of earthquakes and tsunami on the nuclear plants also is likely to face rough going. The NRA has taken a blatantly biased approach in hastily concluding that topographic strains under some facilities are active faults. Its checks must be based on scientific facts.

Moreover, the NRA has often lacked fairness in making decisions, as it did not give utilities a sufficient opportunity to rebut its assessment of the faults. To ensure the safety screening goes smoothly, the NRA must shed its self-righteous mind-set and hold constructive and repeated dialogue with the utilities.

Niigata gov. not bending

Almost all of Japan’s nuclear reactors have been sitting idle for more than one year. Operating thermal power plants to fill the power shortage has cost an additional 4 trillion yen a year. This has led to a series of power rate increases, which has seriously affected the national economy as a whole, including businesses and households.

We believe nuclear reactors must be restarted as early as possible once they have been confirmed safe to operate.

TEPCO did not apply for safety checks on its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture. This is because Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida had strongly opposed the utility’s plan to apply, saying it “disregarded local opinion.”

The utility’s president, Naomi Hirose, met with Izumida, but their talks ended with no agreement. Regrettably, the governor’s opposition revolved around the fact that TEPCO did not consult with the prefecture before announcing its plan to apply for safety checks. It is problematic that the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, which holds the key to securing a stable electricity supply to the Tokyo metropolitan area, will not be able to undergo even a safety check.

We urge Izumida and the utility to discuss the matter with cool heads and seek an end to the impasse. The government will need to make painstaking efforts to obtain the understanding of Niigata and other local governments that remain cautious about restarting nuclear reactors.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 9, 2013)
(2013年7月9日01時52分  読売新聞)


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