CNIC Statement: “Nuclear Safety Culture” Exists Nowhere, Completely Superseded by Economic Egoism

 — Our Response to the Recently Discovered Loss of Nuclear Material Protection Facility Functions at the TEPCO Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station and the March 18 Court Decision Preventing JAPC from Restarting the Tokai Daini Nuclear Power Station

Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center

March 18, 2021

On March 16, 2021, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) issued a provisional “red” evaluation to Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) in response to the fact that, at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station (KKNPS) owned by the utility, the nuclear material protection facilities were found to have been inactive. Then, on the 18th, the “red” was finalized. The “red” evaluation is the most serious in the authority’s four-tier evaluation program concerning nuclear material protection. Two days later, on March 18, the Mito District Court, Ibaraki Prefecture, handed down a decision that prevented the Japan Atomic Power Company from restarting the Tokai Daini Nuclear Power Station located in the prefecture.

According to the information disclosed by the NRA, KKNPS was in a condition where unauthorized entries could have remained undetected at multiple locations after March 2020; some locations were in such a condition for 30 days or more. In addition, part of the station’s nuclear material protection facility functions was lost at several locations at least during the period between January 2018 and March 2020, and function recovery required a considerable period of time. As everyone knows, TEPCO caused the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi NPS nuclear disaster, whereas back in 2002, the operator was found to have covered up faults in its nuclear power plants (the hidden faults were traced back to 1986). TEPCO has revealed by its own conduct that it is not qualified to handle hazardous substances such as nuclear materials, not to mention its inability to ensure safety at nuclear power plants.

The Japan Atomic Power Company, or JAPC, has received a tremendous amount of monetary support from TEPCO, which essentially became a state-owned company after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. JAPC is a wholesaler of nuclear-power-generated electricity, having been established in 1957 by the nine then monopoly power companies, as well as the Electric Power Development Company (J-Power), etc. The JAPC-owned Tokai Daini Nuclear Power Station (TDNPS) was hit by the Great East Japan earthquake in 2011 and has not been able to resume operation to date. JAPC owns one more reactor, Tsuruga Nuclear Power Station Unit 2, Fukui Prefecture, which has also not been able to restart since May 2011. JAPC should have been earning income from electricity sales, but has, in fact, not generated any output of value in the last ten years. Nonetheless, five of the nine founding power companies, including Kansai Electric, Chubu Electric, Tohoku Electric and Hokuriku Electric as well as TEPCO, each paid out as payment for power supply an average of 120 billion yen a year, a total of more than 1 trillion yen, during the period between 2011 and 2019. These expenses, as a matter of course, have been added to customers’ power bills. The electric companies have supported JAPC, ignoring their own economic rationale as businesses.

However, such business practices will no longer work. JAPC plans to complete the ongoing TDNPS construction work in December 2022, but it is unknown whether neighboring municipalities will agree to the restart of the reactor. The summary of the March 18 court decision states: “With respect to the fifth defense level that requires evacuation planning, more than 940,000 people live in the Nuclear Emergency Preparedness and Response Focus Zones, namely, the Precautionary Action Zone (PAZ) and Urgent Protective Action Planning Zone (UPZ, about 30 km in radius), around the nuclear power station in question in this court case, whereas the evacuation plan for realizing the defense measures specified in the Emergency Preparedness and Response Guide and the framework for implementing these are nowhere close to being prepared, leaving the disaster prevention framework extremely deficient.” This argument hits the nail on the head.

According to CNIC’s analysis, the power generation cost of the TDNPS would be no lower than 15.9 yen/kWh even if it were to be restarted in 2022. The later the station is restarted, the higher the cost. From any point of view, it is apparent that JAPC has no economic reason to exist. The lack of economic rationale is certain to have great impact on the safety of the nuclear power plants owned by the company.

TEPCO planned to restructure its business on condition of a restart of KKNPS, while for JAPC, the resumption of the TDNPS is almost equivalent to its reason for being a business. Both companies have brought their own economic egoism to the front, bypassing the risks the locals have to suffer.

All three (or five, depending on the scale) severe nuclear accidents the world has experienced thus far, including the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi, Chernobyl, and Three-Mile Island, indicate that the underlying cause of the accidents is that interested parties lacked fear of nuclear power. Each time an accident or misconduct occurred, slogans for strengthened nuclear safety culture were raised. However, even TEPCO, which caused a severe accident, is behaving in an incredibly irresponsible manner. Although no effective evacuation plan is practically possible for the TDNPS, JAPC has pursued its restart, encouraged by other power companies and the Japanese government. This indicates that none of these parties share anything that might be considered to be a nuclear safety culture. Such a government and operators are not qualified to handle nuclear power. They should withdraw from nuclear power generation immediately.

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