Japanese utilities seek more reactor restarts

19 February 2018

Japan’s Chugoku Electric Power Co plans to initiate procedures to gain approval to start operation of Shimane 3, a unit which was still under construction at the time of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Construction began in 2005 and work was close to completion, with the operation then scheduled for March 2012. The post-Fukushima safety review process brought construction work to a halt, and before Chugoku Electric can apply to the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) for a safety screening, it must gain approval from the Shimane prefectural authorities and the Matsue municipal government.

Chugoku Electric had earlier applied for a safety screening to resume operations at Shimane 2 and received NRA approval on 16 February after the regulator accepted the utility's basic earthquake ground motion calculations, Asahi Shimbun reported on 17 February. "Now that we have approval for the basic earthquake ground motion for the unit 2 reactor, we will work toward also applying for a safety screening for the unit 3 reactor," said a utility official. The unit under construction at Shimane 3 is an improved version of the boiling-water reactors at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant.

If Chugoku Electric Power applies for a safety screening of Shimane 3, it will be the second screening application for a reactor under construction. In December 2014, Electric Power Development Co (J-Power) applied to NRA for a screening of its Oma NPP in Aomori Prefecture.

Elsewhere in Japan, Kyushu Electric Power Company on 16 February began loading fuel into the core of Genkai 3 in Saga Prefecture. Genkai 3 and 4, both 1180MWe pressurised water reactors, are expected to be restarted later this year. Kyushu applied to NRA in July 2013 to restart the two reactors, which have been offline since December 2010 and December 2011. In January 2017, NRA confirmed that Genkai 3&4 meet new regulatory standards. The Saga prefectural governor gave his approval in April after the prefectural assembly adopted a resolution permitting restart of the units, despite protests.

Residents from Saga and neighbouring Fukuoka Prefecture filed a lawsuit with the Saga District Court in 2011 expressing concern about the safety of the Genkai plant. However, the court in June 2017 said it had found no issues with the plant's earthquake resistance or steps taken against serious accidents.  

Earlier in February, Kansai Electric Power Company completed fuel loading at Ohi 3 in Fukui Prefecture. The utility plans to restart Ohi 3 and 4, both 1127MWe pressurised water reactors, by mid-2018. The governor of Fukui Prefecture approved the restart of the units in November.

Five of Japan’s 42 operable commercial reactors units have so far resumed commercial operation after meeting revised regulatory standards. They are Kyushu's Sendai 1&2; Shikoku's Electric’s Ikata 3; and Kansai's Takahama 3&4.  



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