IAEA starts assessing anti-terror measures at nuclear plant in Japan's Niigata

The International Atomic Energy Agency has launched an onsite expert mission at a nuclear plant on the Sea of Japan coast to assess Tokyo Electric Power Company's revamped anti-terror measures.

TEPCO had asked the IAEA to assess measures at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture from a third-party perspective.

The request came after a series of security flaws prompted Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority to issue a de facto ban on the plant's operation. The ban was lifted in December last year.

Five experts from the IAEA met with TEPCO officials on Monday.

The head of the power plant, Inagaki Takeyuki, said the utility intends to humbly learn from the IAEA's assessment, improve anti-terror measures and operate a plant that is trusted by the local community.

IAEA team member Tapani Hack said the purpose of the expert mission is to assess the enhancement of the protection measures and to provide further advice to TEPCO as necessary.

The mission is expected to continue until April 2. Experts will check facilities related to anti-terror measures and conduct interviews.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant is awaiting permission from local residents to go back online.

The economy and industry ministry has asked Niigata Governor Hanazumi Hideyo to support the government's policy to restart the plant.

Hanazumi noted that there are growing concerns in Niigata about how people would evacuate in the event of an accident. He says the prefecture is closely monitoring the government's moves.