News Watch

Trial Conclusion and Sentencing in Fukushima Nuclear Accident Criminal Suit Set for September 19

The Tokyo District Court has set 19 September 2019 as the date for trial conclusion and sentencing of the three former executives of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) who had received mandatory indictments for professional negligence in the nuclear accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (NPP). That will be one year and eight months after the first hearing (see NIT No. 179). At the March 12 hearing, lawyers for the three defendants, former president Katsumata Tsunehisa and former vice-presidents Takekuro Ichiro and Muto Sakae continued to deny the foreseeability of the accident, asserting their innocence. The court-appointed attorney serving as prosecutor recommended the maximum sentence under the law of five years imprisonment for each of the three defendants on December 26, saying the accident had been foreseeable and could have been prevented if measures had been taken.

In class action lawsuits by evacuees seeking compensation for the accident, nine district courts so far have handed down decisions recognizing the accident’s foreseeability and ordering compensation. However, while two decisions by the Chiba District Court recognized the accident’s foreseeability, they did not go as far as saying that countermeasures could have prevented the accident.

JAPC Declares Intent to Restart Tokai No. 2 Nuclear Power Plant

President Muramatsu Mamoru of Japan Atomic Power Co. (JAPC) met with Ibaraki Governor Oigawa Kazuhiko on February 22 to declare his company’s intended goal of restarting the Tokai No. 2 NPP, which has been approved by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) for 60 years of operation. The governor heard him out and said that to declare an intent to restart when the prefecture’s committee on nuclear power safety measures had yet to reach a conclusion in its own examination showed contempt for the prefecture and left him “feeling inevitably a bit uneasy.”

President Muramatsu also met on the same day with mayors Yamada Osamu of Tokai Village and Takahashi Yasushi of Mito City, declaring the same intent to both of them. Mayor Yamada said, “I don’t believe progress in construction [of safety countermeasures] has any bearing on the restart,” effectively denying JPAC’s notion that the restart would be approved if the safety countermeasure construction work moves ahead.

 Mayor Takahashi warned, “Until realistic evacuation plans are made and the citizens’ understanding of them is gained, there will be no restart.”

Halting Restarts, Expediting Decommissioning

The Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) announced on February 4 that the completion of safety countermeasure construction for Takahama Units 1 and 2 and Mihama Unit 3 would be delayed. Construction at Takahama Unit 1 will not be completed until May 2020, and at Unit 2, construction will take until January 2021, which is about a nine-month delay in each case. A six-month delay at Mihama Unit 3 is also expected, with completion in July 2020. Each of these reactors has been approved by the NRA for 60 years of operation. The Tokai No. 2 NPP, which has similarly been approved for 60 years of operation, has only reached the stage of declaration of intent to restart, as described above. The March 2 morning issue of the Asahi Shimbun reported that the cost of the safety countermeasures at the Tokai No. 2 NPP is expected to balloon to about 300 billion yen, nearly twice former estimates. The article says that Japan’s five electric power companies, who are JAPC’s clients, will support this jointly, with TEPCO footing a massive 190 billion yen worth. This situation is indeed crazy, but it highlights just how unreasonable it is to have NPPs exceed 40 years of operation.

Speaking of restarts, upon hearing the above news from KEPCO, The Electric Daily News (Denki Shimbun) headlined, “Zero Restarts in 2019” in its February 8 issue. The restarts of Takahama Unit 1 and Mihama Unit 3, scheduled to follow upon nine other restarts so far, have been held up, and no target dates have been set for the restarts of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Units 6 and 7, which the NRA found to be in compliance with Japan’s new regulatory standards, or the Tokai No. 2 NPP. The Electric Daily News inferred that Onagawa Unit 2 and Shimane Unit 2, which it called “relatively ‘qualified,’” would have trouble restarting in 2019.

Progress has been made, on the other hand, toward decommissioning elsewhere. Kyushu Electric Power Co. decided on February 13 to decommission the Genkai Unit 2 reactor. This makes the total number of applications filed for inspection of pressurized water reactors for compliance with the new regulatory standards zero. As for boiling water reactors, in addition to the Fukushima Daini NPP, which is confirmed for decommissioning, there are eight other reactors for which no applications have been filed and may possibly be considered candidates for decommissioning. The NRA concluded on February 22 that the ‘F-1 fault’ running through the Tomari NPP site is undeniably active and that the activity of the ‘D-1 fault’ running through the Tsuruga NPP site was likewise undeniable, so decommissioning is inevitable in both cases. Nonetheless, they continue to be among Japan’s NPPs applying for safety inspection in order to restart.

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