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.
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
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,