Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Stress tests for Japan nuke plants

Sliding concrete slabs, seen above orange floats, form part of the sluice screen for Unit 2 reactor at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant (AP/Tokyo Electric Power Co)
Minister Banri Kaieda said that all 54 of Japan's nuclear reactors will undergo additional safety checks (AP/Kyodo News)

Japan will conduct "stress tests" on all the country's nuclear plants to ease fears about disaster defences, a government minister has announced.

The new safety checks will gauge the facilities' defences against extreme events such as major earthquakes after this year's tsunami sparked the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, said industry minister Banri Kaieda.

"There is no change in our view that it is safe," Mr Kaieda said, adding that the tests are intended to offer more reassurance to local residents.

Mr Kaieda said Japan's stress tests will incorporate elements from those ordered by the European Union on the 143 nuclear plants in its region. Those reviews, which started on June 1, are supposed to consider the impact of both natural and man-made events such as plane crashes and terrorist attacks.

The March 11 earthquake and tsunami in north-east Japan knocked out power at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, sending it towards meltdown in a crisis which engineers are still struggling to contain.

The plant's operator has come under heavy criticism for failing to sufficiently prepare for the disasters.

Exhaustive safety checks on all the country's 54 nuclear reactors were ordered following the disaster and it was not immediately clear what additional measures the stress tests would provide.

More than two-thirds of Japan's reactors remain out of commission. Utilities with plants that were shut down for safety reviews after the crisis or for routine maintenance have been reluctant to restart them due to public anxiety and anti-nuclear protests.

Nuclear power generates about 30% of Japan's electricity. If nuclear reactors currently shut for maintenance face delays in resuming operations, the country could face a power shortfall in the months ahead. But Mr Kaieda played down such worries.

"I will take responsibility to ensure that there are no power supply problems," he said.

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