Tepco has shut down its 12th reactor as part of a plan to close all 17 of its nuclear units by mid-April for safety checks. The reactors will remain closed until the company has approval from local authorities to restart them.

The next reactor planned to be taken off line, on 11 February, is Fukushima I-5. This will be followed by Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 5 early in March; then Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 7 and Fukushima I-2 at the end of March; finally Fukushima I-6 on 15 April. All four of the Fukushima II reactors are currently off line.

For its part in the maintenance data falsification scandal, General Electric (GE) has agreed to pay compensation to Tepco. A spokeswoman for GE said the company had acknowledged its failure to meet the terms of a maintenance contract with Tepco.

Following the initial reports of data falsification, Tepco has been conducting safety checks on all its reactors. During the course of these checks it discovered a crack that went virtually all round a portion of the core shroud at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 2. Tepco said a subsequent investigation revealed that GE had failed to check all 34 areas it was contracted to do during routine checks in January 2001.

Meanwhile, the government has decided to allow Tepco’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 3 and Chubu’s Hamaoka 4 to run with cracks in core shrouds left unrepaired. The go-ahead was given on the condition that the cracks would come under the government’s regular facility inspections.

It is the first time that the Nuclear Industrial and Safety Agency (NISA) has permitted a reactor to operate without cracks repaired, in line with a recent policy. Under this policy, adopted at the end of December, operators could resume operating damaged reactors if their safety could be ensured for a period of five years and inspections made regularly.

Resumption of the reactors now hinges on whether the utilities manage to win support from local governments and residents.