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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 September 6 - 12  > TEPCO is unqualified to run NPPs
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2017 September 6 - 12 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

TEPCO is unqualified to run NPPs

September 9, 2017

Akahata ‘current’ column

On a sand hill on the coast of the Sea of Japan is located the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant which stretches over Niigata’s Kashiwazaki City and Kariwa Village. The plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), boasts that the NPP is equipped with seven reactors and its total power output is one of the largest in the world.

The No.1 reactor at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP began commercial operation more than 30 years ago. However, no reactor at the NPP has generated electricity since 2012 after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdowns.

As a precondition for the restart of the offline reactors, TEPCO has applied to the Nuclear Regulation Authority for official recognition that the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP meets the NRA-set nuclear safety standards. NRA commissioners discussed if the utility is qualified to operate NPPs at a meeting held on September 6. One commissioner, who is scheduled to be the next NRA chairman, defended the utility by saying, “I think that even if a utility other than TEPCO had operated the Fukushima Daiichi NPP, it could not have prevented the 2011 nuclear meltdowns from happening.” He went on to say that having observed TEPCO’s handling of the serious accident, he gained the impression that the company is advanced in technology.

However, the commissioner’s assurance will not remove public distrust in TEPCO. The utility has been repeatedly criticized for not making critical information public. In 2002, for example, it came to light that the utility had neglected to inform the state watchdog of the fact that the utility had found cracks in critical equipment at its nuclear reactors. The utility’s secretive attitude appears to remain unchanged even after the 2011 Fukushima accident.

In the course of the ongoing NRA screening, TEPCO was found to have provided false explanations about anti-seismic measures in a building at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant. The building is expected to play a key role in the event of an accident. It is unlikely that TEPCO has become a company that gives top priority to safety. Its qualification as an NPP operator should be called into question.
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