Licensing For Tepco Plant Runs Into Tepco's Shattered Reputation

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) in Japan held off on granting the Tokyo Electric Power Company clearance to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant's two units – No. 6 and 7 – this week, but noted that the company (Tepco) was capable of running nuclear reactors.

Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPPThe drama of the restarts included criticism during a meeting on July 10 from NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka that Tepco should not be granted any restart licenses for idled plants as it had not made “concrete” progress on decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Generating Station that was the site of a triple-reactor meltdown in March 2011. Tepco had applied for a review of safety upgrades and overall readiness to restart Units 6 and 7 at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa in September 2013.

Tanaka also chided Tepco's President Tomoaki Kobayakawa and Chairman Takashi Kawamura for their lack of understanding of the issues at Fukushima Daiichi, citing ongoing issues with contaminated water at the devastated facility. Since the criticism in the meeting in July, Kobayakawa has visited Fukushima Daiichi seven times, according to Japanese media. Tepco has also sent a letter to the NRA claiming that while it did not have resolution available for all the problems with decommissioning the plant, it had no plans to abandon its efforts there.

The regulator on Wednesday agreed that Tepco was capable of running a nuclear power plant, but held back on certifying the two reactors, citing the need for further debate over new safety standards.

NRA Chairman Tanaka is scheduled to retire from his post on 18 September.

The regulator's application process aside, the local government in the Niigata Prefecture must also approve of the restarts for the two units. The prefecture's governor Ryunichi Yoneyama said recently that it would take up to four years for local support to move in Tepco's favor.

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