Kyushu gets approval for Genkai upgrade plans

20 January 2017

Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has confirmed that Kyushu Electric's Genkai units 3 and 4 in Saga Prefecture meet new regulatory standards. The Japan Atomic Industry Forum (JAIF) said today that the decision, which Kyushu announced on 18 January, was based on the NRA's approval of a revised review of reactor upgrade plans at the two 1180 MWe pressurized water reactors.

They are the ninth and tenth Japanese nuclear power units whose upgrade plans have been approved. Of Japan's 42 operable reactors, only Kyushu Electric's 890 MWe Sendai unit 1 and Shikoku Electric's Ikata unit 3 are online.

The NRA issued the report drafts on 9 November and, after referring them to the Japan Atomic Energy Commission and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry for their opinions, had then opened them for public comment.

JAIF said: "Seeking early restarts of the two units, Kyushu Electric Power had filed applications with the NRA for compatibility examinations of the two units on 12 July, 2013, soon after the new regulatory standards came into effect. It then took the power utility three-and-a-half years to obtain permission to make changes to the reactor installations (basic design approvals)."

It added: "The number of nuclear power plants in Japan that have been determined to meet the new regulatory standards has now reached 10. Among them, Genkai 3 and 4 have the highest outputs, 1180 MWe each, and Genkai 4, commercial operation of which began in July 1997, is the newest."

Kyushu Electric said on 18 January it would endeavour to work with the NRA's inspections regarding approval for construction planning and for changes in safety regulations.

Although the utility hopes to complete work on safety measures, including seismic reinforcements, by the end of March, JAIF said it is "quite uncertain" how the process of obtaining local consents will proceed, given that the surrounding municipalities, including Imari City in Saga Prefecture, object to restarting the reactors. "The adequacy of emergency evacuation plans for residents of numerous small islands within a 30km radius of the nuclear site is another issue," it added.

When the two units are eventually restarted, their used fuel pools are expected to become full within several years, JAIF noted. NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka has therefore asked the utility to introduce dry storage in metal casks.

Together with approvals already granted for Sendai units 1 and 2 in Kagoshima Prefecture, all the nuclear power plants that Kyushu has put forward for restarts have now cleared the NRA's examinations.

Tanaka said: "Kyushu Electric Power has become quite used to these procedures."

JAIF President Akio Takahashi noted there will be further steps in the process - approvals of construction work plans, pre-service inspections, and revisions to operational safety programs. He said that while he was confident the utility would complete such procedures smoothly, he expected it to implement all work and inspections with safety as the top priority, and to prepare itself thoroughly for the restarts of the reactors. He also wants the company to "continue giving clear, complete explanations to local residents".

Five older Japanese reactors were officially declared for decommissioning in mid-March 2015, following the introduction of an accounting-related system earlier that month to determine which units should not be restarted. These were Kansai Electric's Mihama units 1 and 2, unit 1 of Japan Atomic Power Company's (JAPC) Tsuruga plant, Kyushu Electric's Genkai 1, and Chugoku Electric's Shimane 1. Kyushu submitted its decommissioning plan for Genkai 1 to the NRA in December 2015, while JAPC and Kansai submitted their respective plans for Tsuruga 1 and Mihama units 1 and 2 in February last year. The following month, Shikoku Electric announced that unit 1 of its Ikata plant would officially enter the decommissioning phase on 10 May 2016.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News