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NRA chair ties nuke plant restart to TEPCO taking lead on Fukushima decommissioning

Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka speaks to the Mainichi Shimbun during an Aug. 29, 2017 interview. (Mainichi)

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) must take the lead on decommissioning reactors at the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant if it wants reactors at another of its plants to pass safety inspections, Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) Chairman Shunichi Tanaka told the Mainichi Shimbun in an Aug. 29 interview.

"TEPCO must do things based more on its own judgment," and not depend so much on the government and other organizations, said Tanaka, whose term as NRA chairman comes to a close on Sept. 18 this year. Tanaka added that the No. 6 and 7 reactors at TEPCO's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture would only pass NRA safety screenings if the utility took the initiative in the Fukushima decommissioning. The reactors must pass the inspections before they can be restarted.

The NRA was to summon TEPCO Chairman Takashi Kawamura and President Tomoaki Kobayakawa on Aug. 30 to sound the executives out about the utility's intentions regarding the reactor decommissioning at the Fukushima No. 1 plant and ideas about safety, among other issues.

"We want to confirm whether the top people at TEPCO are aware of their responsibility for the Fukushima No. 1 plant accident, and if they are resolved to deal with it properly," Tanaka told the Mainichi. He had earlier expressed concerns that the utility has so far proven unable to process radioactive tritium-contaminated water, and that the water continues to collect at the plant.

"If TEPCO is unable to finalize the decommissioning of the Fukushima reactors, it is simply not qualified to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant," Tanaka has said. TEPCO submitted a written response to Tanaka's position on Aug. 25, but the document did not include a concrete plan to deal with the contaminated water.

Tanaka pointed out during the Mainichi interview that there were people and industries such as the fishery sector that could be impacted by the water issue, saying, "TEPCO likely can't reveal anything because there are people on the receiving end of this. More than concrete plans, we are asking TEPCO management about their ideas on safety."

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