Public statement to Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority in response to the Fukui District Court injunction against restarting Takahama reactors No. 3 and 4

Urgent request to halt vetting procedures for the restart the nuclear reactors and instead to review the new nuclear safety standards
(In response to the Fukui District Court provisional ruling to halt the restart of Takahama reactors)

To: Shunichi Tanaka, Chairman, Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA)
From: Friends of the Earth Japan
Citizens Group to Watch Nuclear Regulations
Date: April 15, 2015

“Justice lives!” This was the jubilant message on the steps of the Fukui District Court at 2 pm on April 14. The jubilation was because the content of the court ruling restates exactly what we citizens and experts have continually been saying. Our main point has been that Japan’s nuclear safety standards do not ensure nuclear safety.

With the Fukui District Court’s decision to issue an injunction against the Takahama nuclear power plant, Kansai Electric Power Co. will be unable to restart reactors No. 3 and 4 there.

NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka, in response to the decision, made a comment to the effect that the Nuclear Regulatory Authority is not a party to this issue. However, that statement is incorrect. Indeed, the NRA is a key party even among the key parties.

The court decision states that the fact that the Takahama nuclear plant is not subject to the new safety regulations makes it vulnerable, and points out specifically that the vulnerability cannot be reduced without, to name a few things, (1) a review of standards for design/reference seismic movement and implementation of fundamental seismic upgrading, (2) upgrading of external power supplies and main water supplies to S-class seismic standards, (3) enclosing spent nuclear fuel in robust facilities, and (4) upgrading the water supply facilities of spent nuclear fuel pools to S-class seismic standards. The decision also points out the need for better seismic resistance of monitoring equipment and the need for seismic isolation buildings.

In addition, the court ruling, while following the Ikata Supreme Court ruling (see note), states that “The rationality that should be sought in new regulatory standards is that they should be stringent enough that if nuclear facilities meet the standards there is no fear of causing a serious disaster even in a rare event.” But the ruling says that the new regulatory standards are far from sufficient, and even if the power plant in question complied with standards, their safety is not assured. The new regulatory standards are lacking rationality.” (Provisional translation.) (Note: Ikata refers to the Ikata Nuclear Power Plant in Ehime Prefecture, owned by Shikoku Electric Power Company.)

The Court ruling also states “As for the statement by (NRA) Chairman Tanaka regarding the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant that ‘We vetted compliance with standards. We are not saying it is safe.’—This can have no other interpretation than acknowledging that ‘Even if (the plant) complied to the letter with standards, this in no way means that safety is assured.’ ” (Note Sendai Nuclear Power Plant is in Kagoshima Prefecture, and is owned and operated by the Kyushu Electric Power Company.)

Although this Court ruling relates directly to the Kansai Electric Power Co., the actual brunt of criticism is the NRA’s nuclear safety standards, and the new regulatory standards based on them. If the new regulatory standards lack rationality, then the only possible conclusion is that it is not only Takahama reactors No. 3 and 4 but the safety of all nuclear power plants that is not assured.

Until now, the NRA has continued to completely ignore the opinions of outside experts, citizens, and the general public.

We request that the NRA take very seriously the ruling of the Fukui District Court, stop all procedures currently underway to vet reactors for compliance with standards with the aim of restarting them, and that you undertake a fundamental review of the new regulatory standards. In addition, with regard to the formulation of standards and reviews of nuclear plants, it will be important that you return to the original principles for them to be established, and listen sincerely to the opinions of citizens and experts.

On April 14, 2015, the Fukui District Court in Japan issued an injunction to prevent the restart of No. 3 and 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama nuclear power plant. Regarding this court ruling, the Citizens Group to Watch Nuclear Regulations and Friends of the Earth Japan (FoE Japan) are paying particular attention to the Court’s harsh criticism of Japan’s nuclear regulations. In the reasons for the ruling, the Court points out that the country’s new nuclear safety standards do not cover important aspects relating to nuclear safety, saying that “the new regulatory standards are far from sufficient, and even if the power plant in question complied with standards, their safety is not assured. ”

As citizens and experts we have continually made this same point to the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), and have been continually ignored, but now the Fukui District Court has restated this same point. Based on this observation, our two groups jointly submitted the following request to the NRA.

Related links:
Fukui court forbids Takahama nuclear plant restart” (by Eric Johnston, The Japan Times, 14-April-2015)
Japan court bars restart of Takahama nuclear reactors” (BBC News, 14-April-2015)
Japan nuclear regulator says no need to revise rules after injunction” (Reuters, 15-April-2015)
Japan Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA): www.nsr.go.jp/english/

 

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