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Environmental economics expert questions clearing of TEPCO reactors in safety review

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has endorsed a draft document certifying that the No. 6 and 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station in Niigata Prefecture operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (TEPCO) have met new safety standards introduced after the Fukushima disaster -- paving the way for the reactors to be restarted. This move, however, has been questioned by Kenichi Oshima, a professor in environmental economics at Ryukoku University. Below is a summary of his comments.

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In an assessment of whether the No. 6 and 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant meet new safety criteria, TEPCO, which was responsible for the Fukushima nuclear disaster, was also screened over whether it was qualified to resume nuclear power plant operations. The NRA gave TEPCO a "passing grade" in the assessment, but TEPCO's nature of covering up the truth remains unchanged, and I have serious misgivings about the NRA certifying reactivation.

During screening by the NRA, it emerged that TEPCO had exaggerated the quake resistance of a quake-proof building that would be used as the command and control hub in case of an accident at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant. In addition, the company has continued to take an irresponsible attitude in a lawsuit residents filed over the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, saying that it was not possible to predict the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami (that triggered the plant meltdowns). In the assessment, TEPCO basically just declared, "We'll do things properly." How does that enable the NRA to judge that the company is qualified as a nuclear power operator? I'm left doubtful.

Under its rehabilitation plan, TEPCO says that it will be able to cover the costs of handling the Fukushima nuclear disaster if the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant goes back into operation. But two successive governors of Niigata have taken a cautious approach toward reactivation, and if the feelings of prefectural residents are taken into consideration, there's probably no way this (reactivation) can be permitted. I imagine that unless TEPCO faces the reality that reactivation of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant is difficult, it will find its management in disarray.

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