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Dodgy nuclear reactor to shut down for 1 year

A nuclear reactor of the scandal-hit Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) will be suspended from operations for one year as a penalty for rigging safety tests, officials said Friday.

Mainichi Shimbun
The operation of TEPCO's reactor at Fukushima No. 1 plant will be suspended for 12 months.

The government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency made the decision to suspend the operations of a reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 plant run by TEPCO as regulators believe the test rigging was a "serious misdeed."

The regular test examines how tightly the iron container covers the reactor which is designed to contain any radioactive leakage in the event of an accident.

After nitrogen gas is pumped into the container to increase the air pressure inside, inspectors calculate the air leakage ratio by measuring how much the air pressure decreases.

In the 1992 test, inspectors allegedly pumped air into the container to keep the leakage ratio under the passable level after an earlier preliminary test found the ratio reached beyond the level.

Employees of electronics giant Hitachi Corp. were commissioned to carry out the 1992 test. One of the Hitachi employees reportedly said that the 1991 test was also rigged at the request of TEPCO officials. The utility confirmed that inspectors rigged the tests and reported it to the agency on Friday.

TEPCO officials said that they would voluntarily redo the tests at the plant after operations have ceased.

Utility firms operating nuclear power plants are obliged to carry out such tests regularly to examine how safely the containers of reactors are maintained.

An order to suspend the operations of a reactor is one of most serious penalties imposed by the government in the nuclear power industry, following revocation of an operation license. (Mainichi Shimbun, Oct. 25, 2002)

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