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The first year for the resumption of nuclear power plants

  • 2015-01-02 15:00:00
  • , Sankei
  • Translation

(Sankei: January 2, 2015 – p.2)

2015 is the year for the resumption of nuclear power plants. For the first time under the new regulatory standards introduced after the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011, reactors 1 and 2 of Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear power plant (Kagoshima Prefecture) will resume operations as early as spring. After the Sendai nuclear power plant resumes operations, the Takahama nuclear power plant (Fukui Prefecture) of the Kansai Electric Power Co. will follow; however, it is still uncertain whether local communities will give consent to the resumption. Though there are still strong voices against the resumption, there are as strong voices for resuming operations on account of precarious state of the economy.


There have been requests to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for inspection of a total of 21 reactors at 14 nuclear power plants for resumption of their operations. The inspections began in July 2013. Currently, the Sendai nuclear power plant is in the middle of the inspection of its mechanical design and operational safety. There have been no major findings and approval is expected; however, it will take longer for final approval since the written request for the two reactors is nearly 40,000 pages and the commission has required the company to provide a supplementary report.


After approval is given, the commission will conduct another inspection prior to the resumption that will take one to two more months. Both the Kagoshima prefectural government and the Satsuma-Sendai City government have consented to the resumption; therefore, once all the inspections are over, the reactors will begin operations.


After the Sendai nuclear power plant, the Takahama nuclear power plant is expected to resume operations. It has received a de facto certificate for passing the inspection last December. The final decision will be made as early as February. However, Kyoto Prefecture and Shiga Prefecture are located within 30 kilometers of the plant, which makes it uncertain whether local communities’ consent will be given in a smooth manner.


It is difficult to predict a possible third nuclear plant for the resumption. Five reactors including reactors 3 and 4 of the Oi nuclear power plant (Fukui Prefecture; Kansai Electric Power Co.) reactor 3 of the Ikata nuclear power plant (Ehime Prefecture; Shikoku Electric Power Co.) and reactors 3 and 4 of the Genkai nuclear power plant (Saga Prefecture; Kyushu Electric Power Co.) have passed the earthquake-proof test, the most important test for resumption of operations.


These reactors are all pressurized water reactor (PWR) type. The inspections of reactors with boiling water reactors (BWR), the type at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, are not making progress. There are nine BWR type reactors at eight nuclear power plants such as reactors 6 and 7 of TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant (Niigata Prefecture) and reactor 4 of the Hamaoka nuclear power plant (Shizuoka Prefecture; Chubu Electric Power). The BWR type is required to have “the bent with filter” to control radiation in case of a nuclear accident. No nuclear power plants equipped with this safety device have passed inspection.

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