Nuclear watchdog to have outline of new safety standards by next March

September 27, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

The head of Japan’s new nuclear watchdog body has said that it plans to complete an outline of new tougher safety standards for nuclear power plants by the end of March, a prerequisite for restarting some of the nation's 48 of 50 reactors that are currently idle.

Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, said at a news conference on Sept. 26 that he “wants to form an outline (of new standards) by the end of this fiscal year.”

However, Tanaka did not specify when the next reactor might be reactivated. That would be the first following the restart in July of the No. 3 and 4 reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture, operated by Kansai Electric Power Co.

The NRA is legally charged with reviewing nuclear power plant safety standards and writing new ones by July next year, based on the lessons learned from the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011, when a massive quake and tsunami struck the site and led to one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters.

The NRA will not make a revision of the provisional standards based on which the administration of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda decided to bring the two reactors at the Oi plant back online.

Tanaka said the organization plans to give a judgment to restarting a reactor if the plant meets the safety criteria in the new standards.

Asked if his organization will make a similar judgment when a reactor meets the criteria laid out in the new standards that are still in the outline stage, Tanaka replied, “I want to give it some thought.”

The NRA chairman also said it could take years to restart some of the reactors before they are judged capable of complying with the new standards, since that could entail additional work and countermeasures to be taken in the event of disasters.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, speaks at the newly formed safety agency's first meeting on Sept. 19. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, speaks at the newly formed safety agency's first meeting on Sept. 19. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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  • Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, speaks at the newly formed safety agency's first meeting on Sept. 19. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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