Nuclear regulator wants upgrades to meet terrorism threat
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has decided against lifting an order that forbids the movement of fuel at the Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power station, which acts as an effective ban on the facility’s operation.
The ban will remain in place until owner and operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) demonstrates full compliance with a list of 27 areas of safety, four of which have been flagged for various issues.
While Units 6 and 7 at the seven-unit Kashiwazaki Kariwa, in Niigata Prefecture, western Japan, have passed inspection by the NRA, the problems leading to the current shutdown were caused by concerns over the facility’s management, in particular its security arrangements.
According to Japanese broadcaster NHK, the NRA is not satisfied with the current provisions for anti-terrorism measures and unauthorised entry into restricted areas. The station has also been cited for a lack of the equipment needed for full security monitoring in adverse weather conditions.
Tepco had planned to resume production at Unit 7 reactor in October. NHK said the uncertainty regarding the timing of the reopening restart adds to the financial pressures the company has experienced since having to rely on more expensive thermal energy production while Japan restarts its nuclear industry.
Tepco applied for and was granted permission to raise its electricity rate for households by fourteen percent14% in June of this year.
The changes were made on the assumption that reactor Unit 6 at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa would restart as planned in October. Tepco has said it will not seek further increases despite the setback regarding Kashiwazaki Kariwa.
Bringing Kashiwazaki Kariwa back online is part of a larger, nationwide review of Japan’s nuclear energy programme.
After the 2011 accident at Fukushima-Daiichi, also owned by Tepco, all of Japan’s 54 commercial nuclear plants were taken offline for maintenance and structural review, leaving Japan without nuclear power for the first time in 40 years.
So far, only 10 units have resumed production but another 18 are scheduled to resume operations by 2030.
Kashiwazaki Kariwa: Background To Restart Efforts
Kashiwazaki Kariwa was not affected by the earthquake and tsunami which damaged Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear station in 2011. The station’s reactors were all offline at the time following a 2007 earthquake which damaged the site but did not damage the reactors themselves.
While the units were offline, work was carried out to improve the facility’s earthquake resistance. However, like all other Japanese nuclear plants, Kashiwazaki Kariwa was closed after the Fukushima-Daiichi accident, pending further safety checks.
Tepco said in June 2020 it was concentrating its resources on restarting the newer Units 6 and 7 at Kashiwazaki Kariwa while it also dealt with the cleanup at Fukushima-Daiichi. Units 6 and 7 originally began commercial operation in 1996 and 1997 respectively.
In October 2017, the NRA approved a draft report that found that Units 6 and 7 complied with the country’s new safety standards, with a number of additional recommendations, including a seawall and flood barrier.