07/06/2011, 00.00
JAPAN
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Tokyo plans new "stress test" for its nuclear facilities

Many reactors stopped for routine maintenance were not put back into use for the fear aroused by the Fukushima disaster. The new controls are intended to reassure people. In force as of July 1, a cut of 15% of electricity consumption. Two reactors operating without government approval.
Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Japanese government is preparing to submit all nuclear power plants in the country to stress control tests to calm the fears that have so far prevented the restart of some reactors after the earthquake and tsunami of 11 March . Among other things, the two companies, the Kansai Electric Power Co. and Hokkaido Electric Power Co. are running two nuclear reactors without the final approval of the government, but only on the basis of start up tests. A fact that even if not illegal, as stated by Tomohiro Sawada, an official of the government’s control body Nisa, certainly does not diminish public fears.

The technicians are still engaged in fighting the crisis that started in the Fukushima plant, the worst nuclear crisis in 25 years since the time of Chernobyl. Tokyo is concerned that if other reactors, currently stopped for regular maintenance work are not re-started, the country will face power outages when the power demand is highest during the summer.

The Cabinet chief secretary, Yukio Edano, said today that he has asked the Minister of Commerce, Banri Kaieda, and the Minister for nuclear issues, Goshi Hosono, to plan new tests. "I gave instructions to study ways to improve the safety of nuclear facilities in general, and to conduct assessments based on stress tests conducted in Europe".

The stress test will tell if the nuclear reactors will be able to deal with extraordinary events, such as an earthquake measuring nine and a tsunami wave 15 meters high, such as those that devastated the Daiichi Fukusima facility. Currently, because of concerns about the restart of the reactors stopped for maintenance, only 19 of the 54 Japanese reactors are in operation.

Minister Kaieda said that "the safety of nuclear facilities has already been secured, but these additional tests will give a feeling of greater tranquillity to people." In the meantime, to avoid sudden power failure, the government has asked the leading utilities in Tokyo and northeastern Japan to cut peak demand by 15% from 1 July. It 'the first time since 1974, year of the great oil crisis, that such measures have been taken.

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