April 9, 2009

Japanese Nuclear Power Plant Set To Reopen

A Japanese government safety commission has approved the reopening of the world's largest nuclear power plant just two years after an earthquake resulted in a radioactive leak.

The generator now needs approval from Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida, as well as the heads of Kashiwazaki City and the village of Kariwa before resuming operation.

"We are still unclear as to when the governments can give the final endorsements to Tokyo Electric," Takeshi Kumakura of Niigata's nuclear safety division told Bloomberg. "It hinges on public understanding in Niigata."

Since the massive 6.8-magnitude quake in July 2007 that resulted in a radioactive spill into the Sea of Japan, the plant has undergone major restructuring work aimed at strengthening its framework.

"The safety of the plant was secured after scientists concluded their discussions," Kumakura told AFP.

Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida also said he "regards the plant secure overall after having received a final report by the science committee."

Kamakura said the final decision would be made during the next meeting between the three government chiefs, but no dates have been discussed.

Some locals are still irked by the reopening of the seven-reactor nuclear plant.

"There has not been enough discussion in terms of the evaluation of geological faults near the plant, which is essential in defining its quake-resistance strength," geology professor Masaaki Tateishi told AFP.

"I agreed to issuing a final report on the condition that it attaches an annexe saying there were dissenting opinions," said the Niigata University professor, who is also a member of the prefecture's science committee.

"I feel a deep sense of dismay after the committee reached a conclusion when it has yet to address residents' concerns," he said in a statement.

In an August 2007 report, the International Atomic Energy Agency said damage to the nuclear power station appeared to be "limited and less than expected."

"Safety related structures, systems and components of the plant seem to be in a general condition, much better than might be expected for such a strong earthquake, and there is no visible significant damage," said the report.


Image Caption: The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Japan. (Photo: IAEA)


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