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Kyushu Electric Power Co. scraps plan for emergency facility at Sendai nuclear station

safety-symbol1flag-japan Scrapped emergency plan puts Kyushu Electric’s safety commitment in doubt, Asahi Shimbun, February 01, 2016 Kyushu Electric Power Co. and the Nuclear Regulation Authority are at odds over the utility’s decision to scrap its plan to build an emergency facility at its Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture.

In December, Kyushu Electric requested the NRA’s permission to withdraw the plan, which the company had announced before two reactors at the nuclear plant were restarted in August and October 2015. The nuclear safety watchdog has called on the company to review its request.

This “important base-isolated building” is supposed to serve as a key disaster response center if a serious accident occurs at the nuclear plant. Why is the company trying to withdraw the plan to build such a facility after the two reactors resumed operations?

It is hardly surprising that local citizen groups have criticized the move as a breach of the legal principle of fairness and equality.

Kyushu Electric is causing itself to lose the trust of the public. The NRA’s response to the utility’s decision is reasonable.

The company’s Sendai nuclear plant was the first to meet the NRA’s stricter safety regulations drawn up after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. Consequently, the plant has been operating since August last year.

During the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, a seismically isolated building proved capable of serving as an on-site response center and played an important role in the aftermath of the accident.

Unlike ordinary earthquake-resistant buildings, which are designed to withstand violent shaking, base-isolated buildings are designed to reduce their movements during earthquakes.

When it applied for the NRA’s safety screening to restart the Sendai reactors, Kyushu Electric said it would construct by the end of March this year a three-story base-isolated building housing an emergency response center with a floor space of about 620 square meters.

The company said it would use an alternative emergency response center about a quarter in size for the purpose until the planned facility was built.

The utility, however, decided to change the plan, saying the alternative center, completed in September 2013, meets the requirements under the new safety standards.

Instead of constructing a new base-isolated building, the company plans to continue using the alternative facility and build a new support center……

But the company has not said when the support center will be built. The NRA has pointed out that Kyushu Electric Power has also not explained its claim that the support center will improve safety.

Indeed, the new safety standards do not require the emergency response center to be housed in a base-isolated building…….

Kyushu Electric has also said it has made no decision on whether it will build a base-isolated building to house an emergency response center in its Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture.

How the company’s changed plan will pan out will have significant effects on the safety inspections of other nuclear plants as well as utilities’ efforts for greater safety…..http://ajw.asahi.com/article/views/editorial/AJ201602010032

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February 3, 2016 - Posted by | Japan, safety

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