Japan's Tepco to be denied restarting only operable nuclear plant after safety breaches

Tepco has been trying to get Kashiwazaki-Kariwa (above) restarted to cut operational costs. PHOTO: THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority said on Wednesday (April 14) that Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), operator of the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, will be punished for safety breaches at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

The move will prevent Tepco from restarting its only operable nuclear station - another blow to a company that has been trying to get Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, the world's biggest atomic power plant with a nominal capacity of 8,212MW, restarted to cut operational costs.

Tepco's security missteps led to an unauthorised staff member accessing sensitive areas of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa last year. Regulators previously assigned their most serious assessment - known as a red evaluation - to the breaches, which included failure to protect nuclear materials.

The company was subject to a hail of criticism last month when the failings came to light, including from Japan's industry minister, who said the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant would not be restarted any time soon.

Tepco estimates it can save 90 billion yen (S$1.1 billion) in fuel costs annually by getting reactors number 6 and 7 at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa restarted.

The 1,356MW units have been off-line since at least 2012 and are the only ones at the station that have received basic preliminary licences to operate.

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