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Japan eyes restarting 10 nuke reactors by summer

Publication Date : 11-02-2014

 

The government aims to restart about 10 of Japan's idle nuclear reactors by this summer, when electricity demand is expected to increase.

According to sources, the government is considering resuming its work on compiling the nation’s new basic energy plan, with the aim of announcing it by the end of this fiscal year ending in March.

It hopes about 10 nuclear power reactors will resume their operations under the new plan.

The government’s work on the new plan was suspended to avoid negatively influencing the candidate supported by the ruling bloc during the Tokyo gubernatorial race that ended Sunday.

According to a draft of the plan, nuclear power generation is defined as an “important basic source of electricity that is part of the nation’s infrastructure”.

The government aims to resume operations of nuclear power plants under the plan, after their safety is confirmed by the ongoing screenings of the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

In the Tokyo election Sunday, candidates who centered their pledges around denuclearisation came up short. With the results in mind, a government official said that night, “We’ll move our work [for the energy plan] into full gear.”

All the 48 reactors in the country have been suspended since September when the No. 4 reactor of Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi nuclear power plant in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, went offline for regular maintenance.

To make up for the shortfall of electricity supply, domestic power firms have been taking measures to increase the output capacity of their thermal power plants. However, this led to an increase in fuel imports, resulting in a rise in electric rates by about 20 per cent, from levels before the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. The higher rates had the effect of increasing the financial burden on corporate businesses and household economies.

Power companies have applied to the NRA for safety reviews to resume operations of 16 reactors at nine plants. The safety screenings are said to be smoothly proceeding for the No. 3 reactor at Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture; the Nos 1 and 2 reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture; and the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors of Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture. The safety reviews are expected to be completed by April at the earliest.

To resume nuclear plant operations, however, the consent of respective local governments is needed.

Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara is considering assuring the local governments of aid for their disaster prevention measures.

Among the issues discussed in the Tokyo gubernatorial race was the handling of final disposal sites for high-level radioactive waste produced by nuclear power plants.

Most used nuclear fuel, of which there is about 17,000 tonnes in total, is preserved temporarily at each nuclear power plant. However, their capacity is said to be 20,000 tonnes. To resolve this, the government aims to decide on final disposal sites as early as possible.

 

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