The head of Japan's nuclear regulator says he feels "a sense of danger" over Fukushima nuclear plant operator TEPCO's ability to decommission the stricken plant and manage the utility's other reactors.
During a meeting with TEPCO's top executives, Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority chairperson Shunichi Tanaka, expressed doubts about the utility's commitment to decommission the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, which experienced multiple explosions and reactor meltdowns following the March 2011 earthquakes and tsunami that devastated a large area of northeastern Japan.
Tanaka said that officials at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) do not seem "to have the will" to take the necessary moves toward decommissioning the stricken plant, which has hit upon numerous problems during the first stage of a three-part decommissioning plan, which in total is estimated to take around 40 years to complete.
The NRA chief also questioned TEPCO's ability to adequately manage its other nuclear facilities, in particular the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture. TEPCO has requested the green light to resume operations at the plant's no. 6 and no. 7 reactors in an attempt to finance massive compensation payouts related to the Fukushima disaster, which resulted in the evacuation of more than 150,000 residents living near the plant. Among the compensation costs faced by the utility is a multi-million dollar lawsuit by US navy personnel who were irradiated by poisonous leaks from the plant as they anchored off Japan's Pacific coast following relief operations in the disaster region.
Despite the Niigata plant having cleared the necessary safety upgrades imposed following the Fukushima disaster, Tanaka expressed his doubts during a meeting with TEPCO's chairman Takeshi Kawamura and president Tomoaki Kobayakawa, saying "an operator that is lacking the will to take the (decommissioning) initiative does not have the right to resume operation of nuclear reactors."
This is not the first time that Tanaka has criticised TEPCO. In September 2013 he rapped the operator for continuing to put out questionable data on radiation leaks from the Fukushima plant, a situation that he said was causing confusion and a heightened sense of crisis.
"As I've said before, TEPCO has not been properly disclosing the situation about the contamination and the levels of contamination," Tanaka said at the time.
"This has caused confusion domestically and internationally," he addd. "Because of that, the Japanese government has a sense of crisis and I, personally, feel a little angry about it. ... Releasing incorrect information ... has created trouble around the world."
A month later during an NRA meeting Tanaka questioned TEPCO's technical capacity to operate nuclear reactors.