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Japan Nuclear Agency Must Focus on Safety, Niigata Governor Says

Aug. 28 (Bloomberg) -- The mission of Japan’s nuclear regulator is too narrow and neglects the safety of local residents, said Hirohiko Izumida, the governor at the center of the debate over whether to restart Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority isn’t listening to the concerns of local officials, Izumida, governor of Niigata prefecture, told reporters today in Tokyo where he criticized Tokyo Electric for putting financial considerations ahead of safety.

Izumida’s approval is critical before Tepco, as Tokyo Electric is known, can go ahead with plans for the restart of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, the world’s largest nuclear power station by generating capacity.

The governor’s comments come as Tepco grapples with ways to plug a toxic outflow of water from its wrecked Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant 220 kilometers (137 miles) northeast of Tokyo.

The leak at a contaminated water storage tank, discovered last week at the Fukushima plant, may have continued since last month before it was detected and the tank drained, Tepco said.

Crews found elevated levels of radiation in July near where the leak was ultimately detected on Aug. 19, Mayumi Yoshida, a Tepco spokeswoman said today by phone.

Tepco originally characterized the leak as a small one before determining by the change in the tank’s water level that 300 metric tons of contaminated water had escaped. A protective barrier around the tank didn’t stop the leak because a valve in the concrete structure had been left open, Tepco said.

Japan’s nuclear regulator last week labeled the leak a “serious incident” in its worst assessment of the problems at Fukushima since the earthquake and tsunami of 2011 caused reactors to melt down.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jacob Adelman in Tokyo at jadelman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jason Rogers at jrogers73@bloomberg.net

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