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Analysis: Nuclear plant must ensure safety to eradicate people’s fears

TOKYO — With the reactivation of the Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s major task is to operate its No. 1 reactor safely and make preparations to deal with possible serious accidents.

The Japanese government and electric power companies will be tested over whether they have sufficiently learned the lessons and utilised them in safety measures after the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.

In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, the government has to determine how to regulate nuclear energy and reexamine safety criteria of nuclear power plants.

Supervisory authorities left all measures of dealing with possible serious accidents at nuclear power plants before the Fukushima crisis up to electric power companies, and were criticised by the Diet’s Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission as “captives of businesses [the electric power companies].”

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) was established about three years ago as an organisation independent of electric power companies and other entities promoting nuclear power plants.

The NRA drastically reviewed methods to envisage damage from earthquakes and tsunami, and drew up regulatory requirements that included measures to secure electric power supply sources in the event of a serious accident.

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In its safety screenings, the NRA called on the electric power companies to raise the maximum levels of predicted quake tremors, which are the bases of anti-quake work in reinforcing buildings in nuclear power plants.

Reinforcing these buildings raises construction costs of electric power companies, which then face the problem of balancing safety and profitability.

The Sendai plant was the first to raise the envisaged risk levels and was allowed to reactivate its reactor.

Kyushu Electric depends significantly on nuclear energy.

The utility’s executives believed that reactivating the nuclear power plant would be beneficial for its management.

The utility will now have to play an important roles in demonstrating that it can operate the nuclear power plant safely.

The NRA also revised guidelines on standards for the evacuation of nearby residents.

Under the new guidelines, the area with priority disaster prevention measures was enlarged from radius of between eight kilometers and 10 kilometres to a radius of 30 kilometres.

The authority will issue in stages instructions to stay indoors or evacuate depending on the seriousness of an accident at a nuclear power plant.

Though it is local governments’ responsibility to work out actual evacuation plans based on the new guidelines, the Kagoshima prefectural government has not carried out any drills to confirm the effectiveness of the evacuation plans.

It is necessary for the local and central governments and the electric power company to do everything in their power to eradicate fears among local residents.

This article was written by Hiromichi Uemura from The Yomiuri Shimbun, Tokyo / Asia News Network and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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