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News Navigator: Does nuclear power plant in central Japan lack anti-terrorism measures?

This 2017 file photo shows TEPCO's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station. (Mainichi/Masaru Nishimoto)

The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about counter-terrorism measures at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station in Niigata Prefecture along the Sea of Japan coast in central Japan.

    Question: I heard on the news that there is a problem with the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Holdings Inc. What is it?

    Answer: The nuclear power plant has been deemed to lack safety measures against intruders who are planning terrorist attacks.

    Q: Usually, what kind of counter-terrorism measures are taken at nuclear plants?

    A: Terrorists crashing an airplane into the nuclear reactor is considered a possibility. It is necessary to construct an "anti-terrorism facility" so that even if such an incident occurs, the heated nuclear fuel can be cooled by operating the facility from a distance from the reactor. In addition, measures for nuclear security must be taken. For this reason, security cameras must be installed throughout the site and strict identification procedures need to be carried out, such as finger vein recognition, in order to enter important facilities.

    Q: A lot of measures need to be taken, don't they?

    A: In response to suggestions from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has been inspecting nuclear power plants in Japan to see if there are any problems with their nuclear security measures since April 2020. The facilities are judged by the colors "green," "white," "yellow" and "red" in order of safety. At the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, 16 devices for detecting intruders broke down over a one-year period from March 2020, and the replacement equipment was called "very poor quality by anyone's standards" by Toyoshi Fuketa, chairman of the NRA. For this reason, the plant was given a "red" rating by the regulatory commission.

    Q: Will the plant be able to resume operations?

    A: Other problems have been found one after another, so the big question is whether TEPCO is qualified to operate the nuclear power plant.

    (Japanese original by Hisashi Tsukamoto, Science & Environment News Department)

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