Reactors closer to safety review finish may be specified in weeks

The Nuclear Regulation Authority decided Wednesday to judge in two or three weeks' time whether there is any reactor that could enter the final stage of the ongoing safety review process toward resuming operation.

After narrowing down reactors that are seen to have no major problems so far, the NRA said it will intensively work to accelerate the review process of the candidate unit, or units.

With all of the country's nuclear power plants currently offline, attention is focused on which reactor will be the first to be reactivated after satisfying the country's new safety requirements introduced after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex disaster.

According to procedures agreed during a meeting Wednesday, the NRA plans to specify which reactor or reactors have cleared the main agendas related to countermeasures against earthquake and tsunami hazards and have no other serious problems in proceeding with the review.

The NRA will then start crafting what it calls a "draft screening report" that summarizes its assessment on whether the reactor's basic design complies with the new regulations.

"At this moment, I want to confirm in about two or three weeks' time (whether there is a reactor that can move on to the stage of compiling the draft screening report)," NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said during the meeting.

In what would be the first attempt to create the draft document, Tanaka also said he wants the staffers involved in the review process to "make concerted efforts" so it will serve as role model for other cases to follow.

After compiling the draft, the NRA plans to solicit public opinion from scientific and technical viewpoints over a period of about four weeks. At the request of local governments, it will also create an opportunity for the views of people living near the nuclear power plant to be heard.

Of a total of 17 reactors for which applications for NRA safety checks have been submitted, the assessment process is apparently more advanced for 10 facilities at six nuclear power stations, most located in western Japan.

The NRA is likely to pick one reactor from the preceding group as qualified to move on to the final stage of the review.

But when the first review process will finish is not clear, with Tanaka telling a press conference that he is uncertain how long it will take for the NRA to draft the screening document.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Tuesday that clarifying the prospects of the safety review process will help power utilities foresee their business conditions to a certain extent.