The New York Times reported this morning:
In a fresh blow to public confidence, a reactor in southern Japan went into automatic shutdown on Tuesday because of problems with its cooling system, clouding the outlook for an imminent restart of the country’s idled nuclear plants.
Kyushu Electric, the operator of the reactor at the Genkai nuclear power plant, characterized the incident as minor and said there was no risk of a radiation leak. A problem with the condenser unit that turns steam back into cooling water appeared to have caused the halt, but the reactor stopped safely and was undergoing checks, the utility said.
Opponents of nuclear power in Japan see the incident as typical of safety problems with the country’s nuclear plants:
“As we saw in Fukushima, cooling systems are central to the safety of nuclear reactors,” said Chihiro Kamisawa, a researcher at the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, an antinuclear organization.
“We cannot take lightly the fact that there was also trouble with the cooling system at Genkai,” he said. “It underscores the fact that safety problems riddle Japan’s reactors.”
Japan’s reactors remain under close supervision following the meltdowns at Fukushima:
After Tuesday’s shutdown, only 10 of 54 reactors remain on the grid, threatening to deprive the nation of the source of almost a third of its electricity. At least four of six reactors at the Fukushima plant, which suffered multiple meltdowns, are expected to be permanently decommissioned.
Many other reactors have passed maintenance checks, but have not received the go-ahead to restart. At Genkai, five of six reactors remain offline, and the last is scheduled to halt in December for a maintenance check, legally required every 13 months.