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Thursday, 13 August 2015

Japan resumes nuclear reactor operation for 1st time in 2 years

Kyushu Electric Power Co. on Aug. 11 restarted the No. 1 reactor at its Sendai Nuclear Power Plant in Satsumasendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, making it the first reactor to be reactivated under new safety regulations established in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
It was the first time in about two years for a nuclear reactor to operate in Japan, after the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Oi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture were shut down in September 2013. The Kagoshima plant's 890 megawatt No. 1 reactor had been inactive for around four years, three months.
At 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 11, a lever in the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant's central control room was operated to remove rods controlling nuclear fission from the reactor. The reactor is expected to reach criticality at about 11 p.m. the same day.
After the reactor reaches criticality, Kyushu Electric Power Co. will check that it can be safely shut down, and if there are no problems, power generation and transmission will begin on Aug. 14. The power company will bring the reactor to full operating capacity in stages while checking the temperature and pressure inside the reactor.
If Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) finds no problems with the reactor during an inspection, commercial operation will resume in early September.
Operation of the No. 1 reactor at the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant was suspended in May 2011 for a regular inspection. Since the reactor has been offline for a long time, possible trouble caused by deterioration of pipes and other equipment has been feared. It is rare globally for a reactor to be restarted after being offline for more than four years.
NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka has commented that various problems are envisaged, and the nuclear watchdog is therefore seeking solid safety precautions. The power company has said it will quickly release information if there is any trouble or if equipment malfunctions.
Kyushu Electric Power Co. has also had the nuclear plant's No. 2 reactor undergo preoperational checks, and if there are no problems, the reactor is expected to be restarted in mid-October.
Japan has a total of 54 nuclear reactors. In the wake of the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, reactors were gradually shut down, and in May 2012 no reactors were in operation. In July that year, the government restarted the No. 3 and 4 reactors at the Oi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture as a special measure, but they were shut down in September 2013 for regular inspections, again leaving Japan with no reactors in operation.
Applications have been filed with the NRA to screen 25 reactors at 15 nuclear power plants in Japan. In addition to the No. 1 and 2 reactors at the Sendai plant, other reactors to have received safety approval from the regulator are the No. 3 and 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture, and the No. 3 reactor at Shikoku Electric Power Co.'s Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture. All of these reactors are pressurized water reactors, different from those at the Fukushima plant.
The Fukui District Court has issued a temporary injunction halting activation of reactors at the Takahama plant, and there are no immediate prospects of the plant's reactors being restarted.
It is unclear whether local consent can be obtained for restarting the Ikata plant reactor, and it is unlikely that it will be reactivated this year.
Source: Mainichi

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