Japan’s nuclear regulator caves to industry interests yet again–Gives nearly 40 year old reactor a green light before the aging safety review even completed
RELEASE ENERGY 2016.10.05

Japan’s nuclear regulator caves to industry interests yet again–Gives nearly 40 year old reactor a green light before the aging safety review even completed

5 October 2016, Tokyo _ Today, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has again exposed itself as industry-captured by giving the Mihama 3 reactor owned by Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) a green light under post-Fukushima guidelines — clearing the way for restart — even before the regulator has completed its ageing-related safety review. The safety risks of age-related degradation can be enormous.

“The Mihama 3 reactor is like a vintage 1976 car that’s been driven at top speed for nearly 4 decades — and then sat idle for more than 5 years. Major safety components wear out, designs become outdated, and extended disuse creates yet another set of safety problems. Worse, it’s already been in a major accident 12 years ago due to a high-pressure pipe rupture that killed 5 workers. Most people wouldn’t just load up the kids in a car like that and speed off on a road trip. Yet, KEPCO and the NRA are trying to do just that, and they haven’t finished looking under the hood to see if the engine is alright. Unlike old cars, if an old reactor has a major accident, the victims can number in the hundreds of thousands and the crash site can extend for hundreds of kilometers. It’s nothing short of reckless, and puts the lives and livelihoods of families throughout the region at unnecessary risk,” said Kendra Ulrich, Senior Global Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Japan.

Nuclear power plants are enormously complex, and safety-related components are only subject to normal age-related degradation. Constant irradiation of major components embrittles the metal, leading to an increased likelihood of potentially catastrophic failure during operation or emergency shutdown.

The Mihama 3 reactor is also located in the seismically-active Wakasa Bay region. The deep concerns over inadequate seismic assessments for the KEPCO’s Ohi reactors _ also located in Wakasa Bay _ pushed former NRA commissioner and seismologist, Kunihiko Shimazaki, to challenge the regulator directly. Although the NRA dismissed his concerns, the agency admitted that they could not reproduce the figures submitted by KEPCO in their assessment and so could not independently verify their accuracy. The same potentially faulty seismic assessment method was applied to Mihama 3.

The restart of aging reactors in Fukui has caused concern in surrounding prefectures. On 23 August, the Kyoto Governor Keiji Yamada said of the potential restart of the Takahama 1&2 reactors, “ . . .we should be extremely wary when it comes to aging nuclear reactors.”(1)

The restart of Mihama 3 is currently being challenged in court as a part of an umbrella lawsuit against all Fukui reactors. Greenpeace staff are plaintiffs in a case against KEPCO’s aging Takahama 1 & 2 reactors, also in Wakasa Bay.

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