Regulator approves restart of Takahama reactors

17 December 2014

Units 3 and 4 of Kansai Electric Power Company's Takahama nuclear power plant meet new safety standards, according to Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA).

Takahama 460  (NRA)
The four-unit Takahama plant (Image: NRA)

The NRA has granted preliminary permission to Kansai to make changes to the reactor installations of the two units. It said that the applied design and safety features of the Takahama units were deemed to meet the NRA's new regulatory requirements, announced in July 2013.

Rate increase

Kansai said today, despite the NRA's approval for the restart of Takahama units 3 and 4, it again needs to increase the rates it charges to its electricity customers.

"As the compliance review is still ongoing, it remains unknown when our plants will be restarted. At this point, the restart of nuclear power plants is already considerably delayed from the assumed timeline that was defined at the time of last year's rate revision," the company said.

When Kansai raised electricity prices last year, it assumed Takahama 3 and 4 would restart by July 2013 and that its Ohi 3 and 4 units would both resume operation by the end of 2013.

The company expects to report a loss in fiscal year 2014 for the fourth consecutive period. "If this situation of payments deficit continues any longer, damage to our company's financial position will become even more significant, and it may threaten the safe and stable supply of electricity," Kansai warned.

A 30-day public consultation period will now begin, the results of which the NRA will incorporate in its final decision. Kansai is also required to gain approval from local authorities before the reactors can be restarted. However, the federal government has final say on whether nuclear power plants operate.

The NRA's approval for the restart of Takahama units 3 and 4 - both 870 MWe pressurized water reactors - comes three days after pro-nuclear Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democrat Party was re-elected in a general election.

Kansai was one of four Japanese utilities to apply for NRA inspections of idled reactors on 8 July 2013 - the day that new safety regulations were announced following the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Units 3 and 4 of its Takahama plant in Fukui prefecture have remained offline since being shut for periodic inspections in February 2012 and July 2011, respectively.

So far, the NRA has only approved the restart of two other reactors. In September, it granted permission to Kyushu Electric Power Company to make changes to the reactor installations of units 1 and 2 of the Sendai nuclear power plant, moving those units one step closer to restarting.

Japan's entire fleet of 48 operable nuclear reactors has remained out of service following loss of confidence in Japan's nuclear safety arrangements after the Fukushima accident of 2011. Safety assessment applications for 17 other reactors remain at the review stage.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News