Japan NRA to Lift Ban on Kashiwazaki-Kariwa N-Plant Operations

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Reactors Nos. 5, 6 and 7, from left to right, are seen at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The Nuclear Regulation Authority decided Wednesday to lift its de facto ban on operations at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant as early as Dec. 27.

The nuclear watchdog determined that it now has enough information to decide to lift the ban at the plant in Niigata Prefecture, central Japan, following additional inspections and meetings with TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa.

The NRA instructed its secretariat to start procedures for lifting the ban, imposed for a series of flaws in the plant’s antiterrorism measures.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant passed the NRA’s safety screening, necessary for a restart, in 2017. TEPCO intends to resume work to bring the plant back online once the ban is lifted, but it is uncertain when the restart will take place as the operator needs to gain consent from local governments.

“As the company that caused the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, it’s not an easy task to win trust,” Kobayakawa told a meeting with the NRA on Wednesday. “I think it’s essential for the power plant as a whole to continue improvement activities to win the trust of local residents.”

The series of flaws in antiterrorism measures happened at the plant from 2018, including malfunctions of equipment to detect intruders and a TEPCO employee entering a central control room by using another worker’s identification card.

After issuing the de facto ban in April 2021, the NRA carried out additional inspections to check whether the company had made improvements.

The nuclear watchdog also redid checks on TEPCO’s qualification as a nuclear plant operator, which was a condition for passing the 2017 safety screening.

The decision to lift the ban reflected the NRA secretariat’s finding that TEPCO was implementing measures in line with seven points it had promised to carry out.

A draft report released Dec. 6 this year by the secretariat said that TEPCO’s measures remain in place to prevent malfunctions of intrusion detection equipment that may happen in stormy weather.

In May, the company established a new monitoring body under the direct control of the president for thorough efforts to prevent any recurrence of problems.

“There is a system in place so that improvement measures do not become one-off efforts,” the draft said.

NRA Chairman Shinsuke Yamanaka conducted an on-site investigation of the plant Dec. 11, speaking with the plant manager and staff members. “The level of efforts to protect nuclear materials is improving,” Yamanaka said.