TOKYO Dec 10 Japan Atomic Power Co. may have to
decommission one of its reactors after seismologists concluded
the plant is sitting over an active faultline, potentially the
first permanent shutdown of a nuclear unit in Japan since the
Fukushima disaster last year.
"There is no way we can carry out safety assessments for a
restart," the chairman of Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority
(NRA), Shunichi Tanaka, said on Monday at an open meeting after
being presented with an assessment there is an active fault
under the No. 2 reactor at the Tsuruga nuclear plant.
The government in Japan, one of the world's most seismically
active countries, does not allow nuclear plants to be situated
over active faultlines. An NRA panel of seismologists has been
reviewing geological records and this month visited Tsuruga to
watch the results of boring and other tests.
A fault line extending from below the reactor was assessed
to have moved in the past in tandem with another nearby fault,
Kunihiko Shimazaki, an NRA commissioner who led the seismic
panel, told the meeting.
While Tanaka has no authority to order a permanent shutdown,
his comment implies he will not allow the reactor to be
restarted, forcing a decision on Japan Atomic over whether to
mothball the unit.
A Japan Atomic official who attended the meeting said the
company would carry out further seismic studies.
The agency will meet at a later date to make an official
announcement on the 1,160 megawatt reactor, the larger of two at
the plant in western Japan. The No. 2 unit started operating in
1987, while the 357-megawatt No. 1 reactor started in 1970.
The NRA is reviewing possible faultlines under or near
Tsuruga and five other nuclear stations as part of moves to beef
up safety and Tanaka has said any reactors sitting above won't
be allowed to restart.
All but two of Japan's nuclear reactors are idled for safety
checks after the Fukushima disaster, forcing the country to
spend billions of dollars extra on fossil fuels to run power
An earthquake and tsunami in March last year knocked out
cooling and power at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s
Fukushima Daiichi station north of the Japanese capital, causing
the biggest release of radiation since Chernobyl in 1986.
(Reporting by Risa Maeda; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and Ron