TEPCO to apply to put nuclear fuel into Niigata reactor for checks

NHK has learned that Tokyo Electric Power Company hopes to put nuclear fuel into a reactor of a plant in Niigata Prefecture, on the Sea of Japan coast, as early as mid-April, as part of preparations to restart it.

Sources say the company decided to file an application with the Nuclear Regulation Authority on Thursday to put fuel into the No.7 reactor of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant. The procedure is part of the checks necessary for the reactor to go back online.

In 2017, the plant's No.6 and No.7 reactors passed the NRA's screening, which is a prerequisite for restarting them. But the NRA issued a de facto ban on the plant's operation after flaws in anti-terrorism measures were revealed. The order was lifted in December last year.

The sources also say the company will not state the timing of the restart in the application, saying the outlook for the necessary work is unclear. They say the company will give the timing later.

Gaining local consent is key to restarting the plant. The industry ministry has asked Niigata Governor Hanazumi Hideyo for his understanding of the central government's policy of restarting nuclear power plants.

Hanazumi has pointed out that after the Noto Peninsula earthquake that hit the region on New Year's Day there are growing concerns in Niigata about how people would evacuate in the event of an accident. He has indicated that his prefecture is closely monitoring the government's moves.