Japan is beginning to restart some of its nuclear power plants

Japan's nuclear safety culture still lacking says watchdog

Japan’s nuclear industry still lags on safety, the country’s regulator said, after discovering documents submitted by an operator had been falsified.

Chugoku Electric Power Co said on June 30 it had not conducted the mandatory inspection of equipment for handling low-level nuclear waste, yet had recorded that the checks were carried out.

Shunichi Tanaka, head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) set up in 2012, said this highlighted the fact that safety standards are still far from perfect more than four years after the Fukushima plant meltdown.

"From a safety culture point of view, if that kind of thing happens, it's not good enough," he said at a regular press conference today, when asked about the incident by Reuters. "It is not a violation under law, so I don't think we would take legal action.”

Since the meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station in 2011, the NRA has been pushing operators to improve safety and the mindset of their personnel.

Investigations into the disaster concluded that close relations between nuclear power companies and regulators led to poor industry oversight and all nuclear reactors have been shut down while utilities apply for new operating licenses.

The NRA is continuing to review the No. 2 reactor at Chugoku Electric's sole Shimane nuclear plant for relicencing despite the falsification of documents, an NRA official told Reuters.

The utility has set up a team to investigate the matter and establish measures to prevent a recurrence, the company said in a statement on Thursday. However, president Tomohide Karita expects the incident may make it harder to gain the consent of local residents to eventually restart the nuclear plant, a Chugoku spokesman told Reuters today.

Utilities that belong to the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan and which operate nuclear reactors have had checks made and it was confirmed there were no similar cases, an official at the federation said.

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