2016/11/22 NRA complacent on risks exposed by flawed Japanese components in French nuclear reactors – Fails to conduct physical tests at Japanese reactors in stark contrast to French regulator

2016/11/22 NRA complacent on risks exposed by flawed Japanese components in French nuclear reactors – Fails to conduct physical tests at Japanese reactors in stark contrast to French regulator

22 November 2016, Tokyo – The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) is failing in its oversight mandate by not extending its investigations into potentially flawed major components in Japanese reactors with a mere paper exercise, warned Greenpeace. Japanese-manufactured major components installed in French nuclear reactors are currently under investigation by the country’s safety regulator due to the discovery of excess carbon in the steel, which reduces the material’s toughness and increases the risk of catastrophic failure and reactor core meltdown. At its meeting this morning, the NRA commissioners announced that they had concluded there was no risk of excess carbon in reactors in Japan. However, not able to ignore reality completely, the NRA also stated that the situation in France with Japanese components under investigation means they will have continue to review the situation.

Physical testing in France revealed substandard, flawed steel in components supplied by Japan Casting and Forging Company (JCFC) and others, leading the regulator to order 11 reactors with JCFC components to be shut down either immediately or before the end of this December. As a result of the French disclosures, the NRA in August 2016 ordered Japanese reactor operators and steel component manufacturers to provide details for the carbon content in their reactors.The NRA only received documentation from their nuclear operators three weeks ago. In contrast, the investigation by French regulator, ASN, after nearly two years is ongoing and will continue well into 2017.

“The NRA knows that this  is not the end of the issue.. French investigations are ongoing, including into Japanese steel. The NRA cannot have it both ways – assuring that there is no risk in Japan, while at the same time saying they will continue to review the situation in France. The people of Japan, and particularly the victims of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, deserve at least the same standard of nuclear safety as the people of France. Today’s decision by the NRA exposes it as a sham of a regulator,” said Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace.

In addition to JCFC, Japan Steel Works (JSW) supplied components are also under investigation by the regulator in Paris. The components were supplied and installed under contract to AREVA and reactor operator, Electricite de France (EdF).

Today, Greenpeace submitted a petition to the NRA with 12,078 signatories requesting physical testing be done on potentially flawed components in Japanese reactors.

“Only after the French nuclear regulator ordered physical testing, was the scale of this flawed steel scandal confirmed. Japanese components are at the centre of what is clearly the biggest ever crisis in the history of the French nuclear reactor program. As was seen in France, paper exercises did not reveal the problems because the historical record was inaccurate, and in some cases, outright fraudulent. The only way for the NRA to prove that the same carbon problem seen in Japanese-manufactured components in France does not exist in Japanese reactors is to require physical testing, which is exactly what the thousands of people who signed the Greenpeace petition have called for. The NRA needs to revisit this bungled decision and order such testing immediately,” said Burnie.

Greenpeace commissioned technical analysis released in October revealed the scale of failure and risks in the manufacture of steam generator and reactor pressure vessel components in French reactors, including those supplied by JCFC and JSW.

A seminar on the carbon steel issue and implications for Japanese nuclear reactor safety will take place at the House of Councilors House of Councilors/National Diet Building from 13.00-14.30 hours today.

For further information:
Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist, Greenpeace Germany (Tokyo): shaun.burnie@greenpeace.org, +81 (0)80 6647 8503
Chisato Jono, communications officer, Greenpeace Japan: chisato.jono@greenpeace.org, +81 (0)80-6558-4446