Japanese nuclear plant moves closer to restart

Sponsored by

TOKYO (AP) — A nuclear power plant in southern Japan won regulators' approval Wednesday under new safety standards imposed after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, a key step toward becoming the first to restart under the tighter rules.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority unanimously approved an inspection report for the Sendai Nuclear Power Station's two reactors. It concluded that the reactors complied with new regulations designed to avoid major damage during disasters such as the massive earthquake and tsunami that caused meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

The power plant's safety approval and its expected restart are a big boost for Japan's nuclear industry. All of the country's 48 remaining reactors have been offline since the 2011 disaster for safety checks and repairs, except for two that briefly operated under the previous safety standards.

The approval of the inspection report followed a 30-day review in which regulators read about 17,000 questions and comments from the public and experts, reflecting the huge public interest in the reactors' safety and possible restart.

The authority, however, has no say over a restart of the plant, and it will probably be several months before Sendai's reactors are back online. The plant, which is operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co., still faces an on-site operational inspection and must obtain the consent of local authorities.

Kyushu Electric has upgraded the plant's seismic resistance and is tripling the height of its tsunami seawall to 15 meters (50 feet). It also has evaluated newly added risks including terrorist attacks, airplane strikes and volcanic explosions.

But opponents say the approval is premature because Kyushu Electric can wait two years to implement some key safety measures, such as filters on vents to reduce radiation leaks, and because nearby communities still lack adequate evacuation plans.

They worry in particular about the region's volcanic activity since the plant is surrounded by at least five active volcanoes. Nuclear Regulation Authority Commissioner Shunichi Tanaka said a catastrophic eruption is unlikely before the end of the reactors' functional lifespan in about 30 years.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he will put all reactors deemed safe back online, reversing a nuclear phase-out policy adopted by the previous government.

Abe's government has been pushing for nuclear plant restarts despite strong public opposition, saying their shutdown hurts Japan's economy.

Sponsored by

Get All the Electric Light & Power and POWERGRID International to Your Inbox

Subscribe to Electric Light & Power or POWERGRID International and the email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest news and information.

Related Articles

Santee Cooper sale may not be up to SC's governor

03/21/2019

Sen. Larry Grooms says he will fight any move to sell the utility without additional study

Entergy New Orleans pilots residential rooftop solar program

03/20/2019

The Residential Rooftop Solar Program is a way for New Orleans customers in need to participate in the benefits of distrib...

NuScale, energy company to explore small modular nuclear reactors for Romania

03/19/2019

Nuclear power currently provides 20 percent of domestic energy in Romania

Lobbyist-packed NRC may be listening to calls for less nuclear oversight

03/18/2019

Annie Caputo, a former nuclear-energy lobbyist now serving as one of four board members appointed or reappointed by Presid...