By Kim Kyung-hoon
“Sleeping nuclear giants” – That was my first impression when I visited the world’s biggest nuclear power station, Kashiwazaki Kariwa power plant in Japan’s Niigata Prefecture.
With seven reactors which can produce a total of 8,212 megawatts of electricity, this power station is officially registered as the largest nuclear power station in the Guinness Book of Records. But the reality of the power station is much different than its reputation. Two of its reactors were shut down for a time after the 2007 earthquake and the remaining reactors were taken offline for safety checks and maintenance due to public concerns about the safety of nuclear energy in the quake-prone country after Fukushima’s nuclear disaster.
However its operator Tokyo Electronic Power Co (TEPCO) hopes to get this power plant operating because they are overwhelmed by the soaring cost of fuel as well as radiation cleanup costs and compensation payments to displaced residents. TEPCO invited the Reuters multimedia team into the nuclear power plant in order to show their upgraded safety practice.
The tour of the nuclear power plant started as we passed through the tightly secured main gate and we entered the nuclear station which has been the scene of countless battles against the invisible threat of radiation.
Here inside the reactor building each worker carries their own personal radiation gauge and full-body screenings are a common daily practice for them. Journalists are not exempt from this routine. We had to wear a helmet and goggles along with thick gloves and socks when we entered the No.6 reactor building.