IAEA Concludes Follow-Up Mission to Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant
1 February 2008 | "The first objective of the team has been to confirm that there appears to be no significant damage to the integrity of the plant," said Phillipe Jamet, whose team was able to view key internal components in the plant inaccessible during their first visit in August last year. The IAEA team´s site visit followed three days of open and constructive discussions with Japanese regulatory officials, the plant´s operators, and other experts. The mission concluded that significant data about the earthquake has been gathered and efforts to obtain remaining information are underway. Overall interpretation of all the data will still be necessary to reach a full understanding of the 16 July 2007 earthquake and to assess the possibility of future ones. The team recommended an international cooperative effort which could expand on-going Japanese studies and make a contribution to the evolution of international safety standards. Last year´s earthquake significantly exceeded the level of seismic activity for which the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, in the coastal prefecture of Niigata, north-west of Tokyo, was designed. The Director General of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, said today that an international response to the earthquake is appropriate because of its relevance to other nuclear plants worldwide. He welcomed Japan´s continued cooperation with the effort. The earthquake also caused fractures on the surface of the site. Before the reactors at the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) owned plant started up, between 1985 and 1997, it was acknowledged that geological faults ran deep beneath the site but were considered stable, the team said. Geologists are investigating if surface fractures caused by the earthquake correspond to deeper faults. The team observed one fault during its site visit and was able to conclude that it was stable. Confirmation of the stability of others is underway. The team also indicated that there had been significant improvement in the level of fire safety at the plant, since last year. The seven-unit plant, the world´s biggest, shut down safely during the earthquake and remains shut down. A very small radioactive release at the time of the earthquake was below public health and environmental limits. The second mission returned to Japan after it was invited back by the Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA). The team´s report will be published shortly after completion of the mission.