The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

June 19, 2013

Japan formally OKs new nuke safety requirements

— TOKYO (AP) — Japan's nuclear watchdog formally approved a set of new safety requirements for atomic power plants Wednesday, paving the way for the reopening of facilities shut down since the Fukushima disaster.

The new requirements approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority will take effect on July 8, when operators will be able to apply for inspections. If plants pass inspection, a process expected to take several months, they can reopen later this year or early next year.

All but two of Japan's 50 reactors have been offline since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered multiple meltdowns and massive radiation leaks at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, about 250 kilometers (160 miles) northeast of Tokyo. The plant, which barely runs on a precarious cooling system, has struggled with swelling contaminated water leaking out of broken reactors and other mishaps related to its makeshift operations.

Wednesday's decision setting the launch date for the new requirement comes nearly two weeks ahead of the legal deadline, prompting critics to suspect industrial and political pressure so that utilities can start the procedure for restart as soon as possible.

Many utilities have complained about soaring fuel costs to run conventional thermal power plants to make up for the shortfalls by idle nuclear plants.

The critics also say the new requirements still have loopholes that make things easier for operators, including a five-year grace period on installing some mandated new equipment.

However, watchdog officials denied any outside influence.

The new requirements for the first time make compulsory that plants take steps to guard against radiation leaks in the case of severe accidents such as a core melt, install emergency command centers and enact anti-terrorist measures. Operators are also required to upgrade their protection against tsunamis and earthquakes.

Safety was previously left up to the operators, relying on their self-interest in their own investments to be incentive for implementing adequate measures. Fukushima Dai-ichi operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. came under harsh criticism for underestimating the tsunami risk and building a seawall that was less than half the height of one that hit the plant two years ago.

Text Only
State and Nation
Poll

What is your favorite Easter candy?

Chocolate bunnies
Marshmallow chicks
Chocolate eggs with filling
     View Results
Facebook
AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest
Twitter Updates
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Stocks
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Business Marquee