Japan’s Nuclear Regulator Approves ``Unsafe`` Mihama 3 Safety: Greenpeace

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Mihama Nuclear Power Plant across the bay

Tokyo- (PanOrient News) Japan' Nuclear Regulatory Authority today approved the safety assessment of the Mihama 3 reactor, despite admitting on the 20th of July that the agency is both understaffed for its safety assessment tasks and made public statements about seismic risks without understanding the facts, Greenpeace said.

These statements would be consistent with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) task force, the Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS), assessment of the NRA in April of 2016. The IRRS report makes clear that the NRA is currently conducting its work outside the IAEA’s recommendations and guidelines for regulators and operators, globally. One of the most critical issues identified by the IRRS is the inadequacy of NRA inspections of nuclear facilities including poor training, limited inspections rights, and extended periods between inspections, said a statement by Greenpeace.

“The former deputy Chair of the NRA and seismologist, Dr. Shimazaki, has called the NRA out on its utter failure to adequately assess the seismic risks to KEPCO’s Ohi reactors. The same insufficient method was applied to all KEPCO’s nearby reactors, including Mihama 3. The safety implications could be enormous, especially for the aged Mihama 3 reactor, which also lies near dangerous fault lines. The fact that the current NRA Chair Tanaka can in one breath admit that the commissioners are too few and lack the expertise to fully understand the issues, and in the next approve the purported safety of these reactors, is beyond an embarrassment to themselves and Japan. It puts the lives and livelihoods of millions of people at significant risk,” said Kendra Ulrich, Senior Global Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace Japan.

The Mihama 3 reactor is currently 39 years old. It will reach the limit of its original operating license of 40 years in December, 2016. It lies only 30km from Lake Biwa, a source of drinking water for 14 million people.

Currently, KEPCO’s other reactors – and many others throughout the country – are facing legal challenges to their restart. In the first case of its kind filed on 14 April in the Nagoya District Court, the NRA is being challenged directly on its regulatory failure in its restart assessment process for the aging Takahama 1&2 reactors. Two Greenpeace staff have joined the lawsuit along with other plaintiffs.

Two other reactors at the Takahama plant – units 3&4 – are shut down on court order due to outstanding safety issues that would make their operation a violation of citizens’ constitutionally protected human rights. On 12 June, the Otsu District Court rejected KEPCO’s appeal of the injunction, thereby assuring that these reactors will remain shut down, Greenpeace said.

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