Operator of Tsuruga plant says NRA assessment is “beyond comprehension”

Japan Atomic Power Co. may have to decommission one of its reactors after seismologists concluded the plant is sitting over an active faultline

A final report on the findings of an investigation into active faults at the Tsuruga nuclear power plant will be submitted to the Nuclear Regulation Authority by Kunihiko Shimazaki, acting chairman of the authority and the investigating team’s leader.  The report will include assessments not only the crush zone beneath the No. 2 building but also similar zones under the No. 1 reactor building, Hideka Morimoto, a senior official at the NRA, said.

In addition to the crash zone under the No. 2 reactor building, the zones under the No.1 building are suspected of moving in tandem with the active Urazoko fault which is also located near the power plant.  The experts all agreed that it was highly likely that the Urazoko fault and the D-1 fault would move in tandem, increasing the risk to the surrounding area.

The investigation team is unable judge the reactor as safe in its current condition, said Shunichi Tanaka, the head of the investigation team. “Prospects for restarting the nuclear reactors are slowly being squashed, and that’s going to increase the cost of electricity,” said Ayako Sera, a market strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank Ltd. in Tokyo told BusinessWeek.

In response, Japan Atomic Power Company, the operator of the Tsuruga nuclear power plant sent an open letter to the NRA on Tuesday, which said the assessment given was “beyond comprehension”, the conclusions reached were “unacceptable, and called for the regulators to give full explanations related to the inspection team’s conclusion that the crash zone running directly beneath the No. 2 reactor building at the plant is highly likely to be an active fault. The utility also contested whether the Urazoko fault and the D-1 fault which runs underneath the facility would move together.

At a press conference, Japan Atomic Power Vice President Hiroshi Masuda warned that JAPCO’s own experts would carry out investigations to support its claim that the fault is not active, it said.  JAPCO officials also confirmed that the utility had not decided whether to decommission the Tsuruga facility, but is studying what would make decommissioning unavoidable.

The outcome of the NRA’s assessment will likely be that the authority will not allow both reactors to go online again, sources close to the matter said.  In response to the news, the stock prices of nuclear related companies dropped on the markets across the board.

“The assessment raises the risk” that the nuclear watchdog will come to a similar conclusion for other atomic generators under investigation, Reiji Ogino, a Tokyo-based analyst at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley, said by phone today.

Kansai Electric Power Company led declines among Japan’s utilities, falling by 9.7% and closing 4.4% lower.  Chubu Electric Power Co. slid 4.1 percent, and Tokyo Electric Power Co. fell 1.4 percent.   JAPCO’s credit rating was also downgraded two stages from A+ to A- by the Japan Credit Rating Agency after the announcement of the findings.  The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry may come to the aid of Japan Atomic by encouraging it to merge with another power utility or offering financial assistance for decommissioning, the Nikkei newspaper reported today, without citing anyone.

“The power suppliers are pulling the stock market back today,” Takuya Takahashi, deputy head of research at Daiwa Securities Co. told BusinessWeek “There isn’t that much news in the market right now, so the utilities are having a big effect on the market.”

Source: JiJi Press

Source: NHK

Source: Businessweek

Source: JiJi Press

Source: Reuters

Source: Bloomberg

Source: JiJi Press

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