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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 March 18 - 24  > Suspension of Sendai NPP operations indicates laxness of nuclear regulations
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2020 March 18 - 24 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Suspension of Sendai NPP operations indicates laxness of nuclear regulations

March 21, 2020

Akahata editorial (excerpts)

The No.1 reactor at the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant (Kagoshima Prefecture) went offline on March 16 as its operator, Kyushu Electric Power Company, failed to meet the deadline set by the nuclear regulator to install anti-terrorism safeguards. As facilities with safeguards are one of requirements in the revised nuclear safety standards, the reactor will become unable to operate after the time limit expires on March 17. In addition, the No.2 reactor at the Sendai NPP and the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at the Kansai Electric Power Company’s Takahama NPP (Fukui Prefecture) will also suspend their operations within this year for the same reason.

The Prime Minister Abe Shinzo-led government in its basic energy policy insists that Japan’s nuclear safety standards are the strictest in the world. However, the government has allowed nuclear power plants to operate without terrorist countermeasures in place as a transition measure. This shows that the Abe government does not attach priority to people’s safety.

Initially, the Nuclear Regulation Authority set the deadline for the completion of anti-terrorism facilities for July 2017. The NRA, however, extended the time limit in response to NPP operators who complained that the initial deadline was hard to meet.

The NRA, which was established in 2012, spent less than a year to draw up the current nuclear safety standards without sufficiently reflecting on the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdowns. Even before the deadline for the installation of anti-terrorism facilities was extended, the nuclear safety standards have been criticized for containing many problems. Under the standards, for example, a nuclear reactor can be built near an active fault if it is not right above the active fault. The standards do not require operators to implement a safety measure against nuclear meltdowns which is required in Europe. An evacuation plan in the event of a nuclear emergency is a precondition for the operation of a nuclear reactor in the U.S., but not in Japan. Japan’s nuclear safety standards are full of flaws and far from the world’s strictest standards.

The 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdowns transformed Japanese public opinion in regard to nuclear power. A survey by Nihon Yoronchousa Kai, an opinion poll organization, has found that 56% of the respondents think that the current nuclear safety standards do not improve nuclear safety, 84% believe that there exists a risk of a severe accident at nuclear power plants, and 70% said that Japan should seek to stop using nuclear power. The majority of people in Japan want to do away with nuclear energy as this technology is inseparable from the risk of nuclear accidents.

Past related articles:
> JCP Shii issues statement opposing restart of Sendai NPP [August 12, 2015]
> Local residents strongly concerned about Sendai NPP safety [October 11, 2014]
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