A day after meeting with TEPCO's President Hirose on September 25, 2013, Governor Izumida gave his approval that TEPCO can now go ahead and apply for Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant inspection by Nuclear Regulation Authority, which is very likely to pave the way for the restart of the nuclear plant.
I never clearly understood what Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida said he wanted from TEPCO, as he and TEPCO executives talked past each other over the application for safety inspection and the restart of TEPCO's nuclear power plant in Kashiwazaki City and Kariwa-mura in Niigata Prefecture (see my post from July 30, 2013).
It was not "his" to approve to begin with, as he has no legal authority over the nuclear power plant. But he's now apparently satisfied that TEPCO's top management has kowtowed enough, pledging that the company will consult the municipalities before submitting the application to NRA.
(TEPCO's Hirose bowing deeply, properly showing the top of his head to Governor Izumida, on September 25, 2013, from Asahi.)
Izumida's reasons for "approving" TEPCO's submission of the application to NRA sound awfully like what TEPCO has been pleading with him ("safety must be ascertained by the neutral third party that is NRA"), but there is one new condition: that in case of a severe accident, TEPCO won't do the vent unless the municipalities (Kashiwazaki, Kariwa) agree.
Hmmm. Wouldn't that be more dangerous? Not venting the reactor in a severe accident until you get approval from local politicians?
From Asahi English (9/26/2013):
Niigata governor approves TEPCO reactor-restart plan on one condition
Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida, who has criticized and humiliated Tokyo Electric Power Co., has now removed a hurdle in the utility’s drive to restart two nuclear reactors.
Izumida on Sept. 26 approved TEPCO’s plan to apply for a safety screening for restarting the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture.
But he attached one condition.
In a document handed to a TEPCO executive on Sept. 26, the prefectural government demanded that the utility promise, in an application request, not to use filtered venting equipment without prefectural approval in the event of an accident at the nuclear plant.
Filtered venting equipment is required for nuclear power plants under new safety standards that took effect in July. The equipment is designed to release steam to keep pressure from building within the containment vessel after radioactive materials are filtered. Still, the steam released would contain radioactive substances.
TEPCO plans to file an application for the safety screening with the Nuclear Regulation Authority on Sept. 27.
In a meeting with Izumida on Sept. 25, TEPCO President Naomi Hirose explained the company’s plans to install additional filtered venting equipment at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant.
Hirose also said TEPCO will abide by a safety agreement with the prefectural government and promised not to apply for an NRA safety screening until it obtains prefectural approval for the construction of filtered venting equipment.
Izumida appeared impressed by TEPCO’s policies to take additional safety measures and respect its relationships with the local communities, the sources said.
...Izumida previously criticized TEPCO’s proposals to ensure safety in case of a major accident at the plant, as well as the utility’s handling of the Fukushima nuclear crisis and its response to the growing problem of radioactive water at the site.
The governor spurned Hirose’s request for approval when they last met on July 5.
Izumida has questioned TEPCO’s plans to put filtered venting equipment on foundations different than those for the reactor buildings.
He repeatedly asked Hirose what would happen if piping that connects the two facilities came off during an earthquake.
“To what extent would residents be exposed to radioactive materials if an accident occurs?” Izumida asked Hirose on Sept. 25.
Hirose said TEPCO will have heavy machinery in place to reconnect piping in case of an accident. He also said the utility will install additional filtered venting equipment underground, which is more quake-resistant than on the surface.
(Full article at the link)
Asahi Shinbun is wrong in implying as if the "prefectural government" is in charge. Prefectural governments do not have legal authority over the nuclear power plants once they are built. The safety agreement is not legally binding, is only a "gentlemen's agreement"; there is no "safety agreement with the prefectural government but only with the municipalities where the nuclear power plant is located.
Nikkei Shinbun has his full official statement, and it does not say "prefectural" approval; it simply say:
We now have a common understanding that "the safety of the residents cannot be secured simply by clearing the new regulatory standards, and consultation with the municipalities is necessary".
Izumida's fans in Japan continue to solidly "support" his stance until September 26, 2013 - i.e. champion of ordinary people who are against nuclear power plants and against TEPCO. The dominant theme is that Izumida has been "blackmailed" by anyone from Ministry of Economy to international nuclear mafia.
The second dominant theme is that Izumida has actually accomplished something by insisting that TEPCO consult with the "prefecture" (as many wrongly assume has any authority) before using the filtered vent in a severe accident. (Or something to that effect I can't really understand.)
In the meantime, thanks to Governor Izumida finally agreeing to the submission of the application, the group of financial institutions has agreed to continuously fund TEPCO by allowing the company to refinance 80 billion yen (US$80 million), according to Asahi (9/28/2013).