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Nuclear watchdog's approval still eludes Japan's Tepco

Utility must prove commitment to safety to get go-ahead on restarting key plant

Chairman Shunichi Tanaka, left, said Wednesday that the Nuclear Regulation Authority had to inspect Tepco more stringently than other businesses given its history with the Fukushima meltdown.

TOKYO -- Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority has stopped just short of granting Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings a preliminary pass to restart its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power plant, taking great pains to determine whether the utility that presided over the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown is fit to operate a nuclear plant again.

Tepco seeks to turn back on the Nos. 6 and 7 reactors at the Niigata Prefecture nuclear plant, which is the world's largest by output but has lain dormant since the 2011 Fukushima catastrophe triggered rigorous nuclear safety inspections nationwide. The NRA has already evaluated the plant on a technological basis, but hit unexpected difficulties in determining whether the company itself is trustworthy -- a step the watchdog has never before taken.

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