The Nuclear Regulation Authority has finally decided to begin the safety check process on the world’s biggest nuclear plant at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO). The utility had applied for the assessment two months ago, but because of issues at their other facility, the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant, the nuclear watchdog had misgivings until they finally decided to begin the process.
This is a small step forward for TEPCO, which is currently beset with problems at the Fukushima plant, with issues over the clean-up process as well as dealing with the financial repercussions of having all of its nuclear reactors offline for the past two years. The delay over the assessment stems from the NRA’s distrust over their handling of the issues after the 2011 meltdown at Fukushima. They had already conducted open safety screening meetings for other facilities that had applied for the nuclear checks but only had one at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant this Thursday. NRA chairman Shunichi Tanaka said they finally decided to check out reactor number 6 and 7 because TEPCO had already submitted all the necessary documents and they could not put off the meeting any longer.
While the NRA has been encouraged by TEPCO’s recent announcements about restructuring the company and improving workers’ conditions, he also warned them that if any serious problem arises at the decontamination efforts in Fukushima, the assessment may be temporarily suspended. The process itself may be slower than the others as the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa is the first boiling water reactors to undergo the safety checks. Under the new safety requirements to be imposed by the NRA, this kind of reactors would need to have filtered venting systems that will reduce the spread of radiation in cases where gas and steam have to be released to protect the containment vessels. Sources say TEPCO has approached banks to look for 2 trillion yen of fresh loans in order to be able to get their operations back on track and also renew their thermal power generation facilities.
[ via The Mainichi ]