Safety screening meeting for TEPCO's Kashiwazaki plant to be held

The Nuclear Regulation Authority decided Wednesday to hold its first official safety screening meeting for Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, which the utility is seeking to restart.

The decision came after TEPCO presented last week a set of measures to improve the tough working conditions for people engaging in cleanup efforts at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, also operated by TEPCO, in response to the NRA's suggestions.

Although TEPCO has filed for safety inspections of the Nos. 6 and 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in late September, the NRA has not held an official safety screening meeting, which is open to the public, amid concerns over the utility's poor handling of the crisis-stricken plant.

During a regular gathering of the five NRA commissioners on Wednesday, Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said, "It is the NRA's legal obligation to conduct screening of reactors...If we continue to keep the matter on hold, a legal problem could emerge."

Other members agreed to hold a safety screening meeting, while also noting that they should continue to keep a watch on the situation at the Fukushima plant, which is struggling to manage the buildup of a massive amount of radioactive water.

"I agree to hold a safety screening meeting, but TEPCO is not allowed to do careless work at Fukushima," Kayoko Nakamura, one of the commissioners, said.

TEPCO is eager to bring the idled seven-reactor Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant back online as it faces a tough business situation due to the massive costs stemming from the Fukushima crisis that began in March 2011. Resuming some of the reactors will help the utility cut huge costs for importing fuel for thermal power generation.

A total of 14 reactors in the country have so far applied for state safety checkups toward restarting their operations.

Of the 14, the two Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors are the only boiling water reactors, the same type as the reactors that suffered meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in northeastern Japan.