TOKYO — Specialists said Wednesday that a nuclear reactor in western Japan stands above an active fault, a finding that could lead to the first permanent shutdown of a reactor since the Fukushima crisis two years ago.
The decommissioning of a reactor at the Tsuruga power plant would deal a big blow to a push by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to get the country’s nuclear program back online.
It would also show that the country’s new nuclear regulator, put in place to bolster oversight of the nuclear industry after the 2011 disaster, has teeth. Its predecessor was criticized for its close industry ties and lax approach to safety.
All of Japan’s 50 reactors closed for inspection after the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi station, which forced more than 100,000 people to evacuate. Only two reactors have been restarted.
The fate of the country’s reactors lies in safety assessments being carried out under the Nuclear Regulation Authority, which has been studying earthquake, tsunami, and other safety risks.
There is pressure from Japan’s power industry, business community, and pro- nuclear politicians in Abe’s ruling party for the agency to allow more reactors to restart. Keeping reactors closed has led to hundreds of millions of yen in losses for utilities.
Japan Atomic Power Co., which operates the two-reactor Tsuruga station, contends the fault is not active.