Japan Atomic Blasts Regulator on Ruling That Keeps Reactor Shut

Japan Atomic Power Co., which has Tokyo Electric Power Co. as its largest shareholder, said a decision by the regulator that will keep one of its nuclear reactors off line is “unacceptable.”

The Nuclear Regulation Authority, set up after the Fukushima disaster, today approved a report by its advisory board that said the No. 2 reactor at Japan Atomic’s Tsuruga plant has been built on an active earthquake fault.

That violates safety regulations for nuclear plants, Shunichi Tanaka, the chairman of the regulator, told reporters in Tokyo today. Despite repeated questions, he declined to say outright that the ruling means the regulator would deny an application to restart the reactor in western Japan.

The report on the earthquake fault is “wrong” and “unacceptable,” Japan Atomic said in a statement today. The operator wants the NRA to reconsider the decision after additional investigations of the fault line commissioned by Japan Atomic are completed at the end of June, it said.

All but two of Japan’s 50 reactors remain shut with no announced schedule for restart after the quake and tsunami in March 2011 caused meltdowns and radiation leaks at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant owned by Tokyo Electric.

Nuclear plant operators are carrying out checks and upgrading equipment and tsunami defenses to meet the NRA’s new safety standards, which will be put into effect in July.

Fault Line

Last week, a group of scientists led by Kunihiko Shimazaki, an NRA’s commissioner, concluded a fault running under the No. 2 reactor at the Tsuruga plant is active.

The regulator, known as the NRA, will assess possible damage to the Tsuruga plant, which has two reactors and a spent fuel pool, if the fault under the No. 2 unit moves, NRA Chairman Tanaka said today.

Currently, the 1,160-megawatt Tsuruga No. 2 reactor, which has been shut since May 2011, doesn’t hold any fuel rods, the NRA said in a statement today. The spent fuel pool at the No. 2 reactor stores 1,705 uranium fuel rods, it said.

Both Japan Atomic’s and the NRA’s reports “need to provide a lot more information, and be evaluated by independent experts to see that the issues are addressed comprehensively,” a group of scientists commissioned by the plant operator said in a statement yesterday.

Japan Atomic would have 256 billion yen ($2.49 billion) in losses and become insolvent if the company decides to decommission its two reactors at the Tsuruga plant and one at its Tokai Dai-Ni nuclear station, the trade and industry ministry estimated last June.

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