Final restart approval nears for Sendai

10 September 2014

Japan's nuclear regulator has approved changes in the reactor installations of units 1 and 2 of the Sendai nuclear power plant, moving the units one step closer to restarting.

Sendai 460 (Kyushu)
The two-unit Sendai plant (Image: Kyushu)

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) announced today that it had granted permission to Kyushu Electric Power Company to make changes to the reactor installations of the two units.

It said that the applied design and safety features of the Sendai units were deemed to meet the NRA's new regulatory requirements, announced in July 2013. The NRA noted, "This is a regulatory step to grant permission for the basic design of nuclear reactors and related facilities from the operator."

The NRA said it granted approval for the units' basic design after reviewing an 18,600-page document from Kyushu - taking more than 110 hours - holding 62 review meetings and conducting field investigations for safety assessment. It also took into consideration public comment received following the publication of its draft assessment.

Kyushu received draft approval from the NRA in mid-July for the restart of the Sendai units. That approval - which meant the NRA considered the two reactors, and the plant as a whole, to be safe for operation - represented by far the major part of the licensing process.

Two smaller regulatory approvals remain before the Sendai plant can restart. The NRA said that it will now review the detailed design and construction of the reactors and related facilities, as well as operational safety programs, including organization systems and procedures for accident responses. These final stages could possibly be completed by the end of the year.

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. However, the federal government has final say on whether nuclear power plants operate.

Japan's entire fleet of 48 operable nuclear reactors has remained out of service for almost the past year following loss of confidence in Japan's nuclear safety arrangements after the Fukushima accident of 2011. Safety assessment applications for 18 other reactors remain at the review stage with Takahama 3 and 4 said by the NRA to be the next most advanced.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News