(Tokyo Shimbun: November 27, 2015 – p. 3)
On Nov. 26, Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) submitted an application to the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) requesting approval for a 20-year extension to the operating life of the No. 3 reactor at the Mihama Nuclear Power Plant (Fukui Prefecture), which will have been in operation for 40 years next year. At a regular press conference on Nov. 26, KEPCO President Makoto Yagi said, “We confirmed that there are no safety problems (by completing special inspections). We would like to continue to use the nuclear power plant.”
After the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, procedures were put in place under which a nuclear power plant can be designated an exceptional case and its service life extended once only for a maximum of 20 years provided NRA approval is gained through a safety screening. Applications have already been made for the No. 1 and 2 reactors at KEPCO’s Takahama Nuclear Power Plant, making this the third application to extend the operating life of an older nuclear power plant through designation as an exceptional case.
According to KEPCO, if the No. 3 reactor at the Mihama plant is restarted, the company’s account balance would improve by about 6 billion yen a month. Safety countermeasures are expected to require a huge investment, but (President Yagi) has judged that “restarting Mihama is economical.”
On Nov. 26, KEPCO also submitted an application to the NRA for approval of its construction plans that give detailed designs of facilities for the Mihama No. 3 reactor.
Before the application was submitted, KEPCO Managing Executive Officer Ikuo Morinaka visited Fukui Prefectural Government in the afternoon of Nov. 26 to report to the government about the application to extend the operating life of the Mihama No. 3 reactor. Hiroshi Sakuramoto, a Fukui prefectural official in charge of safety, said, “It is essential that we gain the understanding of prefectural residents as to why we need to operate the plant beyond 40 years.”
Since May 2015, KEPCO has conducted the “special inspections” required to extend the operating life of the Mihama No. 3 reactor. The power company investigated the level of deterioration of the reactor through October and confirmed that there were no problems with the [reactor’s] facilities.