TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The head of Japan's nuclear safety watchdog on Monday criticized the attitude of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. toward decommissioning of the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and questioned the company's ability to resume operation of other reactors.
"I feel a sense of danger," Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said during a special meeting with the company's top management, adding that Tokyo Electric does "not seem to have a will to take initiative" toward decommissioning of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Takashi Kawamura, the chairman of the power company known as Tepco, and its president, Tomoaki Kobayakawa, attended the meeting. The authority felt it is necessary to hear from the top executives before it could make a decision on whether to approve Tepco's plan to resume operation of the Nos. 6 and 7 reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture.
Tepco filed for state safety assessment of the two reactors in September 2013 to reactivate them, hoping to restore its financial condition as it needed massive funds to pay compensation related to the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, triggered by a huge earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, and to scrap the plant that suffered meltdowns.
The watchdog's safety screening has found Tepco's failure to report insufficient earthquake resistance of a facility built to serve as the base to deal with a possible nuclear accident at the Niigata complex although it had acknowledged the insufficiency for three years.
In June, Tepco submitted to the watchdog its revised safety measures for the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex.
"An operator lacking will to take initiative does not have the right to resume operation of nuclear reactors," Tanaka said.
Tepco's chairman responded by saying, "There are citizens who believe nuclear power is necessary. Operating reactors is our responsibility."
But he also admitted there is room for only two more years' worth of space in the tanks to accommodate contaminated water stemming from the Fukushima complex.
At Monday's meeting, the watchdog asked Tepco's top management about the company's safety measures for the Niigata complex on the Sea of Japan coast as well as its safety awareness.
Tanaka said the authority does not view that it received sufficient responses from Tepco at the meeting and requested that the company submit more explanation on its plan to decommission the Fukushima complex and resume operation of the two reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.
Tanaka plans to conduct on-site checkups at the two reactors of the plant in Niigata, saying, "Tepco, which caused the (Fukushima) accident, is not an ordinary operator."
The two boiling water reactors at the Niigata plant are the same type as those that suffered core meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi complex, and no such reactors have cleared the authority's safety screening since the Fukushima disaster.