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Japan’s Nuclear Watchdog Lifts Ban on TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Plant

Despite Improved Counterterrorism Measures, Local Consent Still Required for Plant's Resumption
Japan
t 9501.TSE Mid and Small Cap 2000
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Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has lifted its de facto ban on Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings’ Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata prefecture. This development comes more than two years after an improvement order was issued for counterterrorism measures at the plant. Following thorough inspections of the seven-reactor complex and discussions with TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa, the NRA confirmed enhanced security measures. However, the future operation of the plant remains uncertain, pending local approval.

Niigata Governor Hideyo Hanazumi emphasized the importance of considering residents’ opinions before making a decision on the plant’s operation. In April 2021, the NRA had halted the transportation and loading of reactor fuel at the plant due to inadequate counterterrorism measures, prompting TEPCO to undertake corrective actions.

NRA Chairman Shinsuke Yamanaka urged TEPCO to view this as a starting point for continuous improvement, in line with the inspection report’s recommendations. The restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, one of the world’s largest in terms of output, is crucial for TEPCO’s restructuring plan, especially in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

This disaster, triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami, was the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986, leading to the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini plants. The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa facility had been found to have multiple security vulnerabilities, including defective intruder detection systems, despite its reactors 6 and 7 meeting the NRA’s stricter safety standards established post-2011.

The NRA confirmed that measures to prevent radioactive material leakage have been significantly strengthened, following additional inspections totaling over 4,268 hours. This decision marks a critical step in Japan’s ongoing efforts to address nuclear safety and public concerns in the post-Fukushima era.

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