Japan’s Regulator Unveils Proposed New Safety Measures

Posted by NucNet on 22 January 2013 in NucNet

Japan’s nuclear regulator has presented a draft outline of new safety standards for nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear disaster, including countermeasures against severe accidents and criteria for evacuating areas around nuclear power plants during an emergency.

The proposed measures include a requirement to outfit plants with back-up control rooms away from reactor buildings, install new pressure vents capable of filtering out radioactive gasses, and reinforce protective structures.

The measures say nuclear plant operators should deploy movable alternative equipment such as power supply vehicles in various places so that the plants can be operated safely for at least seven days without outside help.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), which was established in September 2012, is scheduled to compile the final draft by the end of this month, which will be reviewed by the public, and then officially confirm the new standards by July 2013.

Some of the proposed measures, such as the use of mobile back-up electrical generators, have already been implemented by nuclear operators, the NRA said.

The rules would put the NRA in charge of areas where electric utilities had previously had authority to devise their own procedures.

Shunichi Tanaka, the NRA’s head, said the new rules represent “the beginning of real [nuclear] regulation in Japan” and has said no idled plants will be reviewed for possible restart until the new rules come into effect.

In May 2012, the Tomari-3 nuclear unit shut down leaving Japan without any of its 50 commercial nuclear reactors in operation. Since then two reactors have restarted, Ohi-3 and Ohi-4.

Following the Fukushima-Daiichi accident, the government ordered two-stage stress tests on all Japan’s nuclear reactors.

The previous government had committed Japan to phasing out nuclear power by the end of the 2030s, but since taking office the new Liberal Democratic Party prime minister Shinzo Abe has talked of approving the construction of new reactors that he says would be better able to withstand earthquakes and tsunamis.

Earlier this month, Mr Abe said he would take “a level-headed look” at what caused the Fukushima-Daiichi accident and would also look at other energy issues including the continued use of nuclear power.

He said: “Any new nuclear plant would be completely different from Fukushima- Daiichi, which was constructed more than 40 years ago. We will build new nuclear power plants and seek to win the people’s understanding.”