7 November 2018
On 7 November, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) approved changes to safety regulations that will allow Tokai No. 2 NPP (BWR 1100MW) to operate beyond 40 years. Tokai No. 2 is the oldest boiling water reactor in Japan that has not been decommissioned. It sustained damage in the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake, making it even more hazardous.
In order to make the deadline of 27 November, which marks 40 years since commercial operation commenced at Tokai No. 2 and beyond which operators cannot apply for an extension, formal approval to review compliance with the new safety regulations was granted by NRA on 26 September. Exceptionally, at the same time, Tokai No. 2 construction plans, extension of operation and changes to safety regulations were all under review. The construction plans were approved on 18 October and then today (7 November) approval was granted for the extension and safety regulation changes.
But there are many reasons, such as the flammable cable issue, why Tokai No. 2 should not pass inspection. Recently it was revealed that the stress value for the reactor pressure vessel stabilizer was over allowable limits. In this state, if there was an earthquake, the pressure vessel may not remain horizontal. If it slips, the multiple pipes that are attached to it may rupture which could lead to a major loss-of-coolant accident. Also, if the pressure vessel is not maintained in an upright position, the insertion of the control rods may be hampered, and the vital function of stopping nuclear fission would be lost. Even though this type of serious problem exists, the NRA approved the seismic evaluation.
It is not possible for Tokai No. 2 to restart immediately, despite the extension approval and even if the necessary construction is completed. Japan Atomic Power signed a new agreement with not just Tokai Village, but another five surrounding districts, which makes it necessary to get prior approval from each local government before any restart can take place. In October the Mayor of Naka City declared his opposition to the restart and in June the Mito City Council adopted an opinion brief also opposing the restart. Furthermore, several municipalities in the Tokyo metropolitan area have also raised their voices against restarting Tokai No. 2 and the 20 year extension of operation.
960,000 people live within a 30km radius of Tokai No. 2 NPP and it is only about 110km from Tokyo. Considering the risk of an accident, it must never be allowed to restart. The NRA must withdraw all approvals for equipment alteration, construction plans, extension of operation and changes to safety regulations. Tokai No. 2 should be decommissioned.