JAPAN | Okada says Japan’s reactor ‘stress tests’ should be shorter than EU’s

Posted on July 10, 2011

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JAPAN | JAPAN TIMES | 10 July 2011

OFUNATO — Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Katsuya Okada indicated Sunday that Japan’s safety assessment to be conducted on nuclear reactors before restarting them following suspension for regular checks should be shorter than the European Union’s version of “stress tests” on which it will be based.

“A long-term test similar to the European Union’s would have an impact on industries and people’s daily lives,” Okada told reporters while on a visit to Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture. “The point is how to create Japan’s version of the test.”

Although Okada had been reluctant to make the stress tests a precondition for resuming operations of reactors suspended for regular maintenance, he said, “We have come to a point where we cannot gain people’s understanding under current standards. We have no choice but to take the path of restarting them after they clear the stress tests.”

According to an outline of the government’s unified view on the resumption of the reactors, the state will conduct the stress tests in two stages — first checking the damage tolerance of the reactors and then conducting a comprehensive safety assessment based on the European Union’s stress tests.

Whether operation of a reactor can be resumed will be determined during the first stage, and the second stage, involving the detailed EU method, will be conducted to enhance the reliability of the safety checks, government sources have said.

In the wake of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan triggered by the March earthquake and tsunami, the European Union has been conducteding stress tests since June to see how reactors would respond supposing they lost all power as a result of disasters such as earthquakes and floods.

It is expected to take about three-and-a-half months to prepare an interim report and seven months for the final report.

During his visit to Rikuzentakata, also in Iwate Prefecture, one of three prefectures severely hit by the March 11 disaster, Okada’s inspection of a bridge that had been restored was interrupted as the Japan Meteorological Agency issued a tsunami warning for the Pacific coastal areas of northeastern Japan following a magnitude 7.3 quake.

The DPJ’s No. 2 man temporarily evacuated to a makeshift municipal government office on higher ground, but later continued his tour of the area after the agency lifted the warning. No tsunami was observed in the coastal areas of Rikuzentakata.

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