Japan gives preliminary OK to restart two nuclear reactors without critical safety feature

Sendai 460 (Kyushu)

Japanese regulators have given the first step in regulatory approval for the restart of two reactors at the Sendai nuclear power plant. As World Nuclear News reported today:

Sendai nuclear power plant units 1 and 2 have draft approval to restart and generate electricity again. The final stages in Japan’s new licensing regime could be completed in October.

The draft approval means that the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) considers the two reactors, and the plant as a whole, to be safe for operation. This represents by far the major part of the licensing process which began on 8 July 2013 when NRA formally announced its new requirements.

A public comment period has now started and will run until 15 August, while two smaller regulatory approvals remain for Sendai. NRA must be satisfied with plant owner Kyushu Electric Power Company’s definitive list of required design changes that must be verified by the regulator before restart. Kyushu also needs approval for the operating structure of the power plant.

The next steps, according to WNN:

A public comment period has now started and will run until 15 August, while two smaller regulatory approvals remain for Sendai. NRA must be satisfied with plant owner Kyushu Electric Power Company’s definitive list of required design changes that must be verified by the regulator before restart. Kyushu also needs approval for the operating structure of the power plant.

Some aspects of approval have actually become easier since Fukushima:

Once those steps are complete, the NRA would be able to issue its final approval for operation. Kyushu then has an important social obligation to gain informal approval from political leaders in Kagoshima prefecture. Before the Fukushima accident this kind of approval was an essential but unwritten requirement for nuclear operation, but this aspect has been scaled back and the federal government has been clear that it alone has final say on whether nuclear power plants operate.

Restart seems likely for Sendai, despite one important hurdle that has not been met. As the Asahi Shimun reported last week:

The Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture could restart two reactors in autumn without a crucial emergency facility in place to deal with a possible nuclear accident and evacuations of host communities.

The Sendai plant, operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co., is expected to be the first to resume operations among all plants that have applied for safety screenings by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

The Cabinet Office in September 2012 instructed all prefectures hosting nuclear power plants to ensure that off-site emergency centers be equipped with ventilation and other systems to prevent radiation contamination and be located between 5 and 30 kilometers from the nuclear plant.

It also mandated host prefectures to designate multiple backup facilities in case the functions of the off-site centers are crippled by a disaster, which is what occurred during the Fukushima nuclear disaster that started in March 2011.

As I told you last week, Sendai was directly in the path of Typhoon Neoguri.

Here’s a link to the WNN article: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-Safety-approval-for-first-Japanese-reactor-restarts-1607141.html

And here’s one to the Asahi Shimbun: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201407070029

 

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About Robert Singleton

By day, I work for a call center. In my spare time, I try to save my hometown (and planet) from a nearly constant onslaught of greedheads, lunatics and land developers. I live in a fictional town called Austin, Texas, where I go to way too many meetings.
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