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Alarm at Japan’s plan to restart Kansai’s ageing No.3 nuclear reactor

As Japan reboots ageing Mihama nuclear reactor, experts express concern, Reuters, Aaron Sheldrick 23 June 21

  • Reactor restarted after sitting idle for 10 years
  • First of four old reactors to get exceptions
  • For an interactive graphic on the status of Japan’s nuclear reactors, click

– The head of a major inquiry into Japan’s nuclear disaster and a former senior Cabinet adviser have sounded alarms over plans this week to restart a 44-year old reactor, saying the industry and government have not taken on board the lessons from Fukushima.

Kansai Electric Power (9503.T), which serves Osaka and its industrial environs – an area with roughly the same economic output as Mexico – said it restarted the No. 3 reactor at its Mihama station in western Japan earlier on Wednesday.

The reactor is the oldest to be restarted since the 2011 Fukushima disaster and needed special approval to have its lifetime extended beyond the standard 40-year limit. Most reactors in Japan remain shut after the accident highlighted failings in regulation and oversight.

Tatsujiro Suzuki, a former deputy chairman of the Cabinet Office’s Atomic Energy Commission, told Reuters he has misgivings over how approval for the restart was obtained.

  • He said he was concerned about a lack of transparency and the use of subsidies to sweeten local opinion to get the necessary restart approval…….
  • It looks like the industry and the government have not learned the lessons of Fukushima,” said Suzuki, who is on the advisory board of a parliamentary committee on nuclear safety.

Bureaucrats from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), which supports nuclear energy to power Japan’s industrial economy, went to Fukui prefecture 110 times over a two-year period until early this year.

The visits to Fukui by officials including the head of the powerful natural resources agency were raised at a recent hearing of the parliamentary committee.

A subsidy of 2.5 billion yen ($23 million) was agreed for local communities before the Fukui governor signed off on the restart…….

  • Five workers died at Mihama power station in 2004 after a pipe that had not been inspected for nearly a decade burst, releasing high pressure steam and hot water.
  • In 2019, Kansai Electric executives admitted to receiving cash and gifts worth 360 million yen from an official from a town hosting one of its other nuclear plants.”They haven’t changed, that’s my impression, despite the scandal involving kickbacks,” Suzuki said……..

A silo mentality among executives and a collectivist mindset among bureaucrats, which puts organisational interests ahead of public duties on safety are still prevalent in Japan, Kurokawa said.

“It’s always important to ask what are the sanctions for bad corporate behaviour. If there are none, and in Japan there are none, then oversight is meaningless,” he said, adding he was concerned about the restart.

Mihama is one of 16 reactors that have received either preliminary or final approval to restart…………

June 24, 2021 - Posted by | Japan, safety

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