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10 November, 2014

NRA Exchange Views with Kyushu Electric Power

On October 29, Commissioners of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) met with President Michiaki Uriu of the Kyushu Electric Power Co., along with others from the power utility, to exchange opinions. The NRA has launched a series of public meetings with top executives of the country’s power utilities to discuss those companies’ efforts to improve safety, and the meeting with Kyushu Electric Power was the first. The meetings with the other utilities are to take place about once monthly, and that with the Shikoku Electric Power Co. is scheduled next.

At the outset of the meeting, NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka referred to ongoing examinations — made after applications submitted by the power utilities themselves — of the compatibility of their nuclear power plants (NPPs) with the new national regulatory standards that came into effect in July 2013. The new standards were based on the lessons learned from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in March 2011.

Stressing that “nuclear operators are primarily responsible for ensuring nuclear safety,” Tanaka noted the significance of talking directly with top executives about such matters as the “fermentation” and “permeation” of safety culture in their organizations.

Next to speak was Kyushu Electric Power’s President Uriu. He explained such matters as his company’s activities toward enhancing safety culture, strengthening risk management, communicating with regional residents, and improving safety at NPPs. The power company carries out all those tasks continuously on its own initiative under a framework of “risk governance led by top management.”

Uriu also talked about the personal thoughts that he has been conveying to all employees, as head of the company. Those include the need to keep up to date with the latest information about the uncertainty of natural disasters, severe accident measures, and probabilistic risk assessment (PRA). He also cited the importance of “taking a hands-on approach,” solidifying the system of human resource development, and engaging in effective risk management.

Meanwhile, NRA Commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa asked about Kyushu Electric Power’s investment decisions, in view of potential “bad events” that might happen but are not certain to occur. The power company’s representatives responded that they cannot ignore risks whose effects might be great — even with a low probability of actually happening — adding that they hoped to implement the most effective method to enhance corporate value.

As for the system requiring nuclear operators to improve their safety voluntarily, Kyushu Electric Power noted that “all operators should work hard together” through peer reviews under the auspices of the Japan Nuclear Safety Institute (JANSI).

Asked by the NRA for suggestions for improving the regulatory system, the power company’s representatives said, “As we are undergoing a regulatory examination at the moment, we are not in a position to speak on the matter at this time, though we may make various proposals in the future.”

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