Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority has decided to begin their inspection of the reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, the world’s biggest nuclear facility. The facility is operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the same utility operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which raises concerns over the possible restart of the plant in Niigata Prefecture.
TEPCO applied for the safety checks six weeks ago but the NRA only reached a decision now to start the inspections, the first step towards restarting the reactors, the No. 6 and 7 units to be exact. Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, located 220 kilometers northwest of Tokyo, has seven reactor units that are between 16-28 years old. TEPCO believes that restarting the two units will greatly help the utility financially, as they have been hard hit by the clean-up efforts at the Fukushima site.
NRA chairman Shunichi Tanaka emphasized that the highest priority for both the operator and the nuclear regulator should still be the situation at Fukushima, which experienced the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. He also warned TEPCO that any sign of a serious problem at Fukushima and the inspection at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa would stop. Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida also insists that an official investigation in the 2011 nuclear meltdown should happen first before a restart of any TEPCO facility. Many have been highly critical of the way they have handled the decontamination efforts at Fukushima, which has resulted in several missteps, including a leak of around 300 tons of irradiated water into the Pacific Ocean. TEPCO has recently announced some reforms in their operations, which mostly has to do working conditions of the workers at the plant.
[ via Bloomberg News ]