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Nuclear Regulation Authority scraps reactor stress tests

41 Comments

Japan's new Nuclear Regulation Authority has scrapped plans to make stress tests a prerequisite for the reopening of Japan's idled nuclear power plants.

Radiation physicist and chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority Shunichi Tanaka told a news conference, "It is a good thing to make businesses focus on safety, but I'm not going to make stress tests a prerequisite to restarting reactors," TBS reported.

Tanaka said the organization plans to draw up new regulations in regard to restarting Japan's idled nuclear power plants based on the results of a study of Japan's active fault lines that will start next month.

When asked about the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture, at which two reactors underwent stress tests before being restarted, Tanaka replied, "I do not have the authority to stop those reactors."

In February of this year, the former Nuclear Safety Commission Chairman Haruki Madarame said the first round stress tests were insufficient because they only examined essential safety equipment used in times of natural disasters. Madarame emphasized that a second stage of stress testing was necessary. Those comments came shortly after the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency controversially cut off a debate by a panel of experts and gave their approval to the Oi stress test results.

The new Nuclear Regulation Authority was established on Sept 19 and charged with overseeing the safety of Japan's atomic reactors, supposedly marking a fresh start in nuclear regulation. However, the organization immediately came under fire from lawmakers and civic groups when it was announced that Tanaka, who previously served key positions in bodies that donated to Japan's nuclear energy drive before the Fukushima crisis, would be made chairman. Tanaka was appointed under the authority of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda without winning Diet approval.

The organization has also been criticized for having been created under the umbrella of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which promotes nuclear power.

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41 Comments
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overseeing the safety of Japan’s atomic reactors, supposedly marking a fresh start in nuclear regulation

If this is the fresh start, I'd hate to see what it's going to look like in a few years...

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Yet another political snow job! However, the stress tests were only something to have on paper anyway. Well done Japan! Fools!

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Tanaka is a Yes Man, and this whole scenario has been planned all along.

Not sure how accurate the stress tests were anyway, but they gave a bit of assurance at the very least.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So a govt spokesman is put into a position of ensuring the safety of nuclear power plants, says he has no authority and will scrap safety tests. All just 18 months after Japan gave us the 2nd worst nuclear disaster in world history.

I've been here too long to even bat an eye at this...

2 ( +5 / -3 )

An atomic safety agency without the authority to shut down a reactor or even a whole atomic plant or issue and enforce safety standards like NISA did, is beyond useless.

Seems like even a bigger return to the days of the nuclear village. Shunichi Tanaka, along with the Director General of the IAEA believes that the "nuclear disaster is behind us!" even though no real progress has be achieved on reactors 1-3 at the Fukushima atomic plant.

On his first day " at "the office" he stated he would make nuclear energy safer?.

The gov't have agreed to restart the 25 year old Monju Fast Breeder reactor in Fukui.

The gov't has abandoned its intention for zero nuclear energy by 2030, or 2040, or even by the end of this century. But an end to nuclear energy can't be achieved by a single gov't and would need the support and agreement of all the parties and the Diet.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

So he scrapped the stress tests but has no authority to stop reactors..great..so who in this country has the authority or should I say balls to really do anything about the nuclear issue ? ( except Kan who was shafted for having the audacity to take on this cancer like, corrupt nuclear village oyaji club) I thought Noda appointed this puppet and created the new agency precisely so that it should have the authority to make such decisions - since no-one in the government seems to have any willingness to take responsibility and exercise "authority " either. As zichi says - if this guy and his agency have no such authority WTF are they good for?

1 ( +4 / -3 )

The Japanese government and its agencies should not have any authority over nuclear power what-so-ever! There are just a bunch of dithering old fogies gambling with the whole planet's survival and really don't seem to give sh!t as long as they can balance their books. There is a report in international newspaper (The Examiner) stating the cesium fallout from Fukushima was equal to over 4,000 Hiroshima bombs. And then, they turn around and do this? Who are these twits?

2 ( +6 / -4 )

This is beyond a joke. Whatever next? 2 + 2 no longer equals 4? An extra day in the week to increase production? I hope someone somewhere has a lamp to rub.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Back to the same old, Japan has never learnt from history it seems.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

It is more surprising that people did not see this coming. What has the J-government done in the the recent past to give anyone a reason to have faith in it? Moneyed interests always trumps public opinion. Politics is only about marketing what those interests want to the population.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Wow. This makes the old neuclear regulation authority seem... somewhat decent?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yes because stress tests are bloody useless. They're just simulations. But I don't think that that's what they had in mind.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

so what exactly is the role of this agency then? to kiss METI's arse?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It will be good to get the plants online. It will save a lot of money and allow for planing, building of green electric plants like Geo-thermal. While Japan is importing all of this oil and gas it is impossible to move forward.

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

It will be good to get the plants online. It will save a lot of money and allow for planing, building of green electric plants like Geo-thermal. While Japan is importing all of this oil and gas it is impossible to move forward.

Except when there's yet another accident.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Good choice of words Thomas. I only hope the government notices and understand the difference between "when" and not "IF"

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The organization has also been criticized for having been created under the umbrella of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which promotes nuclear power.

Seems like the critizism was well founded. Japan Inc will never learn, nor change. And the rsidents there will continue to pay the price as the country continues its long slide down.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Typical.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Japanese must be bold enough to call a spade,a spade.They sould reject the view of the newly created Nuclear Energy regulatory board chairman that there is no need for stress tests and that he cannot stop oi reactors even if tghey are found to be risky not only for japan but for the whole world particularly as they are located on pacific desteructive seismic belt which will face higher magnitude earthquakes one day or the other and cause another fukushima-like explosion and spew intense radio activity in the air,over land and in the ocean waters so that all forms of fisheries and fish food organisms besides ruining food chains and food webs in terrestial and aquatic ecological systems which ultimately ruin the health and welfare of people.There are proven alternate sources of energfy which japan can use instead of the political leaders working to promote the financial interests of Business lobby that offer huge funds for election campaigns of greedy politicians who know that politics is the last resort of only scoundrels like the saddist Hitler who was happy to kill millions of Jews to satisfy his ego and fascist tendencies.The world should be ruled by honest and sane people for ensuring peace and prosperity in all countries.Man does not live by bread alone and he should be more humane for getting NIRVANA

2 ( +5 / -3 )

"All just 18 months after Japan gave us the 2nd worst nuclear disaster in world history."

No, you mean after a 9.2 earthquake followed by an insane tsunami gave us the 2nd worst nuclear disaster in world history, don't you?

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

This is the only issue I have with nuclear power. It's not about safety. When properly managed, as it is in many places around the world, nuclear is no more dangerous than other commonly used method of power production.

It's the human factor that screws things up. Corporations appling an acceptable loss formula to profitability scenarios scares the bejeezus out of me, because believe you me, if a dollar can be made, corners will be cut to make it. And if people have to die to allow that to happen, there are more than a few CEOs out there who think, "Meh... why the heck not?"

Reminds me of a line from one of my favorite graphic novels: "Who watches the watchmen?" It's bad enough If no one keeps an eye on the industry, but it's inexcusable for an official body set up to do just that to effectively shirk their responsibilities without explanation.

Nuclear isn't evil. It isn't wrong. It isn't unfeasalbe. It's people that knock the entire machine cockeyed.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

LFRA No - I think he means the accident that was created because of TEPCO,s persistent refusal to listen to safety upgrade recommendations and reports resulting in a plant that was not prepared as well as it should have been for a natural disaster that was predicted by numerous experts to happen one day.

The "no one could have imagined / predicted the earthquake" line is Tepco propaganda designed to shield it from criticism and liability for their professional negligence.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

YuriOtani - It will be good to get the plants online. It will save a lot of money and allow for planing, building of green electric plants like Geo-thermal. While Japan is importing all of this oil and gas it is impossible to move forward.

Are you serious? Or, is this sarcasm?

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Marcelito - just saw LFRAgain's unfortunate post now, but you have my reply down.

LFRAgain - if Tepco had any integrity, no one would know what Fukushima Dai-ichi was today.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Had TEPCO and all the other power companies with atomic plants had built and operate them with the highest safety levels instead of putting profits before safety, there would not have been a LEVEL 7 nuclear disaster which will now take tens of decades and tens of trillions to end. Most of the safety standards mostly only needed some common sense and not even millions of yen to install.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

"just saw LFRAgain's unfortunate post now..."

Nothing unfortunate about it. What is unfortunate is this persistant monkey-flinging-poo response to the mere mention of "nuclear power."

The stats don't support your fears. The numbers don't support your worries. The reality doesn't support your demand that nuclear power be mothballed for all eternity.

What nuclear power needs -- what any complex system needs -- is a reliable and verifiable process of ensuring safety issues are being adequately addressed.

TEPCO screwed the people of Eastern Japan. There's no argument about that. They put profit above safety and gambled with lives, when the ways and means to prevent the disaster was readily available, had they cared to adopt them.

Call a spade a spade and put the blame squarely where it belongs: The asshats that made ridiculously inadequate safety decisions at TEPCO.

Nuclear is not to blame.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

The reality doesn't support your demand that nuclear power be mothballed for all eternity.

But with the reactors up and running again, the waste they produce will need to be 'mothballed' for thousands of years - which is for all eternity as far as we are concerned.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Surprise, surprise...

@LFRAgain, you're right. People are to blame. But not only the corner cutters trying to make an easy buck. The docile, quick-to-forget, shoganaine, happoshu and canned coffee drinking Japanese public are certainly helping helping out as well. They do so by shifting their ever short attention spanned minds from the issue that was on TV last night, back to what they care most about: shopping and brands.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Tell me when, where and why I should be shocked and surprised. All I can really do is drop my head, sway it back and forth in disgust - concerning how this whole this has been handled - not controlled - by the ones that should have a clue about something that went wrong.

People will look back (in a not so close future) and pin point these 2 years as the area that started the mess they are in then.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So some are saying "nuclear energy is safe but not in the hands of humans!"

There were many design defects with the Fukushima plant. The design defect of the most concern are the containment vessels around the reactor pressure vessels. The problem at Chernobyl was there wasn't a containment vessel so they were introduced following that disaster. The purpose is to contain meltdowns and radiation. The ones at Fukushima in reactors 1-3 have large cracks caused by the earthquake or from the heat of the meltdowns. They are not containing the radiation and are also leaking about 400 tons of highly irradiated cooling water, every day, creating an additional problem of storing this water which currently is about 220,000 tons.

Another design defect is building spend fuel pools 100 feet above the ground. The No4 spend fuel pool came so close to collapsing.

These defective design features are present on other reactor, at other plants.

The stress tests would not have addressed these defects.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

LFRAgain - your first post suggests it was an act of god. You then admit it was a man-made screw up.

I have nothing against nuclear power, I just have a problem with it being run by 12 year-old children.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

When the Oi reactors were restated, NISA placed its inspectors at the plant, 24/7. Since NISA is no longer, I would guess those inspectors are also gone.

Every atomic plant should have a team of inspectors checking that safety is being maintained.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

"But with the reactors up and running again, the waste they produce will need to be 'mothballed' for thousands of years - which is for all eternity as far as we are concerned."

The materials used to produce a nuclear reaction wereradioactive when they were mined, they'll be radioactive long after we're done with them. Nothing changes the essential physics of that. Without trying to be rude, this argument is a very, very old one.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

zichi,

"There were many design defects with the Fukushima plant..."

No, they are not "design defects," as you would suggest. If you insist on talking about the issue, then at least get the terminology correct. These reactors were designed and built according to very specific stress thresholds. Had the earthquake and subsequent tsunami been within those thresholds, then we very likely wouldn't even be having this conversation.

The reactors stood up to what they were designed to stand up to, and no more. Thus the catastrophic failure of the cooling systems due to the Tsunami. As a point of fact, the Fukushima reactors all withstood the quake with very little damage, despite having been designed to withstand a weaker magnitude tremor. That's impressive design by any estimation.

The problem with the reactors is that they weren't designed to withstand what experts and studies had suggested could be even more powerful quakes and higher tsunamis.

That's not a defect. That's poor judgment.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

The materials used to produce a nuclear reaction wereradioactive when they were mined, they'll be radioactive long after we're done with them.

True, but before they were mined they were incorporated in low concentrations (<1%) in ore and spread over a relatively wide area; by the time we've 'done' with them they're highly concentrated, highly radioactive and far more dangerous. Trying to equate one with the other is, without trying to be rude, either very naive or very dishonest.

Would you be happy to have a nuclear waste disposal site in your back garden? or your basement?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

LFRAgain,

the 1-3 reactor containment vessels failed to do what they were designed for. The cracks in them could have been caused by the earthquake or the heat from the meltdowns. TEPCO isn't sure which because due to very high levels of radiation, workers can't actually inspect them nor repair them to stop the massive leaks of cooling water. The 1-3 suppression rings also have cracks which again could have been caused by the earthquake or the heat from the meltdowns. It's impossible to enter the Torus Rooms because the radiation level is about 10 sieverts/hr. Unlikely anyone will be able to enter for decades. The reactors were suppose to be build to a higher tolerance earthquake level than what happened at the location.

The reactor containment vessels were suppose to prevent radiation leakage in the event of a meltdown and also contain the meltdowns. They have failed to do that. There are other reactors of the same design.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

The materials used to produce a nuclear reaction wereradioactive when they were mined, they'll be radioactive long after we're done with them. Nothing changes the essential physics of that. Without trying to be rude, this argument is a very, very old one.

Uranium has to be enriched before it can be used for nuclear fuel. The radiation level in nuclear fuel and spent fuel is far higher than when uranium is mined.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

There's a long list of defective designs and design defects at the Fukushima plant, and some of those features are present at other atomic power plants. I find it amazing that this new atomic safety agency lacks any authority to shut down reactors or plants which is would consider unsafe.

NISA were investigating possible active fault lines under two plants. Has that investigation now stopped?

This new agency has less power than NISA or the NSC and is a big step backwards.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

zichi, the other nuclear powers are running their plants why does Japan have to shut them all now? It only makes our foes rich and Japan poor. Foreigners have come to Japan for a long time and demanding change. The IEA needs to inspect each plant and make an unbiased ruling if the plants can start.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

YuriOtani, other countries using nuclear energy don't have the problem of mega earthquakes and tsunami so unless the atomic plants are built or updated to withstand those, closing them down should be a serious option.

Foreigners have come to Japan......

Nothing will be decided on this opinion forum nor by foreigners living here since they lack the vote. I would have hoped the gov't would have at least listen to the will of the people, the majority of whom are now opposed to the use of nuclear energy or at least want a reduction but judging from the DPJ which held town hall meetings, made a website for collecting opinions and received a petition with 6 million signatures, won't listen to that will of the people.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

One thing seems clear to me: nuclear power stations are here to stay, as are the politicians flip-flopping on the issues.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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