Japan nuclear plant tests “next to useless”

January 30, 2012
Useless Japanese nuclear safety tests

Experts advisings Japan's nuclear safety agency say stress tests carried out last year do not prove that Japanese nuclear plants are safe.

Currently only three of Japan's 54 reactors are in operation and without approval for restarts, all reactors could all be shut by the end of April, boosting the use of fossil fuels and adding more than USD30 billion a year to energy costs.

A plant operated by Kansai Electric Power near the town of Ohi in western Japan could be the first to resume operations. The company says two of the facility's four reactors are able to withstand quakes and tsunami much stronger than those predicted for the area – a view also said to held by Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

However, according to Masashi Goto, a former nuclear power plant designer, the stress tests at Ohi and elsewhere were next to useless.

Goto was quoted in The Guardian as saying: “It is a misunderstanding to believe these tests prove that a nuclear plant is safe. The reality is that the inspectors only look at the reactors' design and then factor in possible problems, such as earthquakes and tsunami of a certain size. They do not take into account the various malfunctions that can result in a disaster, including human error and equipment failure."

His views are echoed by Hiromitsu Ino, an emeritus professor at Tokyo University and a fellow member of the nuclear safety agency advisory panel, who said the tests were flawed because they had been introduced before the full facts of the Fukushima disaster were known.

Goto and Ino say it is impossible to appraise the causes and consequences of the Fukushima disaster unless the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power, releases all the relevant data that could then be used to perform a simulation.