A panel from Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) said on Wednesday that a reactor at Japan Atomic Power Co.'s Tsuruga nuclear plant lies above an active geological fault line in Fukui Prefecture on the Sea of Japan.
The finding came after more than two years of research at the nuclear plant which could force Japan Atomic Power Co. to permanently keep the reactor offline due to increased safety concerns.
Despite a detailed report being presented to the plant's operator saying that the fault line below one of its reactors is active, the utility refuted the findings, saying that it still plans to apply for safety screenings with the intention of bringing all of its reactors, including its No. 2 reactor, which sits above the active "D-1" faultily, back online.
It will be unlikely the utility will have the decision reversed, however, unless it can submit new data which nullifies the NRA's findings, a scenario NRA chairman Shunichi Tanaka said was unlikely as the report compiled by his panel is being regarded as the definitive expert report on the matter.
Tanaka said the report would be"one of our key judgments,"in determining whether or not the fault line is active.
In 2013, the NRA first detected the fault line, but said they needed to further investigate the severity of the situation. Meanwhile, the plant's operator compiled its own data in an attempt to have the NRA's findings overturned.
In the same year, the panel said initially that the fault line under the No. 2 reactor is"an active fault that can move if it is pulled by the Urasoko Fault near it."
New regulations put into place following the ongoing 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility, the worst civilian nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986, maintain that nuclear power plants are not allowed to be built above active fault lines.
While all of Japan's 48 commercial reactors remain offline due to safety concerns following the multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima facility, the panel also said Wednesday that multiple active fault lines run under the vicinity of Tohoku Electric Power Co.'s Higashidori nuclear power plant in Aomori Prefecture.
The final judgement determining whether the Higashidori nuclear facility will have to be scrapped will come following an additional safety screening session.
Scrapping the reactors will come as a blow to the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who has been looking to restart all of Japan's idled reactors at the earliest juncture following them passing the new safety tests as import costs for fossil fuels to power non-nuclear stations have severely dented the government's balance sheet, punctuated by the yen's weakness versus other major currencies of late. Endi