20 November 2016

Japan’s regulator approves more restarts

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) approved a preliminary report on 9 November that says units 3 and 4 at Kyushu Electric Power Co’s Genkai NPP meet post-Fukushima safety rules – a necessary condition for restart. A 30-day comment period must be held before any final approval.  Following NRA inspections, Kyushu Electric carried out modifications to the design of an onsite emergency response facility at Genkai. The facility will serve as a centralised headquarters in the event of a severe accident.

NRA’s draft reports will take official form after hearings at the Japan Atomic Energy Commission and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and a period for comments from the general public. Genkai-3 and -4 are both 1,127MWe pressurised water reactors. Unit 3 was shut down for an annual outage in December 2010 and Unit 4 in December 2011. The units were never restarted following a nationwide nuclear shutdown as a result of the March 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi accident.

However, the possibility of legal action and local opposition could delay their restart. Almost 51% of the citizens of Saga prefecture, where the Genkai plant is located, oppose its restart, while 39.3% approve, according to a recent regional newspaper. The same poll last year showed that 45.3% against and 46.8% in favour.

Japan aims to have nuclear energy supply 22% of its energy mix by 2030, compared with more than a quarter before Fukushima and a little more than 1% now. Last year, Kyushu Electric restarted units 1 and 2 at its Sendai NPP, becoming the first utility to bring a reactor back online since new safety rules were brought in following the Fukushima disaster.