社説:原発テスト 「結論ありき」と疑う

(Mainichi Japan) January 20, 2012
Editorial: Gov't nuclear power plant tests mired in doubt
社説:原発テスト 「結論ありき」と疑う

How will the lessons learned from the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant be put into practice in the future?

The government's present response is questionable.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which operates under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, has deemed Kansai Electric Power Co.'s stress tests of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at its Oi nuclear power plant as "appropriate."

This marks the first step in evaluating reactors that are being inspected with a view to restarting them.

The reactors are to undergo further inspection by the Nuclear Safety Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

After that, the prime minister and three Cabinet ministers will make a political decision on whether or not to restart them.

However, debate has arisen over whether Cabinet officials should be making decisions on the technical safety of reactors.

Furthermore, when looking at the results of the stress tests, it seems the technical safety appraisal was a foregone conclusion.

Kansai Electric's stress tests conclude that the reactor cores would not be damaged even if there were an earthquake that shook 1.8 times stronger than what was envisaged when the reactors were built, or if the reactors were hit by an 11.4-meter tsunami -- four times higher than what was initially predicted.

The power company says that even if there were a station blackout and no place for heat to escape, the reactor cores would not be damaged for 16 days and the spent nuclear fuel would remain intact for 10 days.

However, the scenarios forming the basis for power plant's conclusions preceded the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

The March 2011 disasters have shaken conceptions about the maximum shaking and the biggest possible tsunami in the event of another major quake.

There is no guarantee that the plant's previous predictions are on target.

The more relaxed the scenarios are, the more leeway the power plant seems to have.

When considering this, the phrases "1.8 times stronger" and "four times higher" have no meaning.

The probe into the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant has not even been completed. そもそも、事故そのものの検証もまだ終わっていない。

Officials should at least provide a set of risk evaluation guidelines based on the cause of the Fukushima disaster that the public can understand.

In terms of determining the risks of nuclear power plants, doubts also remain over legislation on the life of power plants.

On Jan. 6, Goshi Hosono, state minister in charge of the nuclear disaster, stated that nuclear reactors would in principle be decommissioned after they had been running for over 40 years.

But less than two weeks later the government stated that exceptions would allow reactors to operate for 60 years.

Just where is the government placing its priorities?

Does it really intend to reduce the number of high-risk nuclear power plants?

The way the government is handling the situation invites mistrust over its nuclear power plant policy.

In terms of winning the public's trust, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency's decision to shut the public out of a hearing on the Oi nuclear power plant's stress tests is also problematic.

In principle, debate should be open, and then if there are any major obstacles to proceedings, separate measures can be taken to settle them.

Furthermore, citizens groups have raised questions about a possible conflict of interests among committee members and these must be addressed as a top priority.

Local bodies will have the final decision on whether or not to restart nuclear power plants, but if officials can't gain the public's trust, then it is inconceivable to restart the reactors.

毎日新聞 2012年1月20日 2時31分

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