Japan’s nuclear regulator, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), has effectively banned Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO) from restarting its largest nuclear power plants due to serious safety flaws. The NRA formally issued the order not to transport nuclear fuel stored at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture or loading it into reactors until corrective actions are taken to address the security breaches at the complex. The order was the first of its kind issued to a commercially operated nuclear facility in Japan.
NRA said that the plant had been found to have been vulnerable to unauthorised entry at 15 locations since March last year because of defective intruder detection systems and backups. The punitive measure is expected to remain in place for at least a year while the NRA carries out additional inspections. Although the plant’s Number 6 and 7 reactors cleared safety screenings by the regulator, all seven reactors remain idle.
The delay in resuming the plant’s operation would be a setback for the central government’s push to restart more nuclear plants to cut greenhouse gas emissions while a shift to renewable power generation is promoted.
Tomoaki Kobayakawa, President of TEPCO, said: “We have grave concerns about whether we can continue to operate the nuclear power generation business.”