Approvals in place for Ikata 3 restart

20 April 2016

The operational safety programs for the Ikata nuclear power plant have been approved by Japan's nuclear regulator, moving unit 3 one step closer to restart pending final inspections. The regulator has also confirmed Takahama units 1 and 2 meet new safety standards.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority's (NRA's) approval of Shikoku Electric Power Company's operational safety programs means that it is satisfied with the utility's emergency response plans for the Ikata plant in Ehime prefecture. These plans include the event of fire, flooding or other natural disasters, or a serious accident.

Ikata NPP - 400 (NRA)
Shikoku's Ikata plant (Image: NRA)

Under Japan's reactor restart process, plant operators are required to apply to the NRA for: permission to make changes to the reactor installation; approval of their construction plan to strengthen the plant; and, approval of the plant's operational safety programs. Operators are required to add certain safety-enhancing equipment within five years of receiving the NRA's approval of a reactor engineering work program.

Shikoku submitted its engineering work program for Ikata 3 - an 846 MWe pressurized water reactor - to the NRA in July 2013. This was approved by the NRA in July last year. That approval - which means the NRA considers the reactor, and the plant as a whole, to be safe for operation - represented by far the major part of the licensing process. Shikoku's 'construction plan' for Ikata 3 - what it plans to do to strengthen the unit - was approved on 23 March.

With Ikata 3 now receiving the third and final approval, Shikoku can request the NRA carry out final pre-operational safety inspections of the unit, which should clear the way for it to resume operation.

The unit is expected to become the fifth Japanese reactor to resume operation under new safety standards introduced following the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Unit 1 of Kyushu Electric Power Company's Sendai plant in Kagoshima prefecture was the first to be restarted last August, followed by Sendai 2 in October. Unit 3 of Kansai Electric Power Company's Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui prefecture resumed operation on 29 January. Takahama 4 was restarted on 26 February, but has remained offline since 29 February following an automatic shutdown of the reactor due to a "main transformer/generator internal failure". However, an injunction imposed by a district court on 9 March led to unit 3 being taken offline as well and both units have since remained idle.

Takahama units

The NRA has also confirmed that units 1 and 2 of Kansai Electric Power Company's Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui prefecture meet new safety regulations.

Kansai requested in March 2015 that the NRA carry out inspections of the units - both 780 MWe (net) pressurized water reactors - to check their compatibility with the revised standards.

In February 2016, the NRA said that it had determined Takahama 1 and 2 meet the new regulations, but its decision needed confirmation from the Japan Atomic Energy Commission and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The NRA has now officially finalized the results of its examinations of the units, the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) said today.

Takahama units 1 and 2 are the oldest of the seven reactors so far to be deemed to meet Japan's new safety standards. JAIF noted, "This is the first instance of 'ageing reactors' - in service for more than 40 years - being granted approval for their basic designs."

To extend the operating periods of Takahama 1 and 2, Kansai must receive NRA approval by July - the mandatory deadline - on three outstanding issues: safety measures, detailed designs and extension of operations. The company applied to the NRA in April 2015 to extend the operation of both reactors by 20 years each.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News