Japan two weeks from return to nuclear power

27 July 2015

Kyushu Electric Power Company plans to apply to regulators for the final 'applied safety inspection' of Sendai 1 on 3 August. This check is expected to take one week, making 10 August a potential start-up date.

The Sendai 1 nuclear power reactor is being readied for restart with fuel already loaded, and tests on main systems underway. Sendai 1 should become the first Japanese reactor to generate power in almost two years. The company's technical and operational plans and procedures have been approved by the Nuclear Regualtory Authority (NRA), which then checked that the technical upgrades had been implemented correctly.

Now Kyushu is the process of actually starting the 890 MWe pressurized water reactor and NRA is overseeing functional and safety checks of main systems including fuel assembly configuration, the leak-tightness of containment and the coolant loop, and the instrumentation and control systems. The utility is today conducting an emergency response drill to check the procedures and the readiness of staff to cope with events at the plant that could lead to severe accident conditions.

Japan's entire nuclear safety framework was reconsidered after a tsunami caused a major nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi in 2011. The new Nuclear Regulatory Authority was created, with more independence from both government and industry than its predecessor, and it wrote a new set of safety requirements for nuclear power plants. Meeting those requirements required extensive engineering work by power companies, as well as changes to their corporate and operational cultures. All this has been subject to lengthy public approval processes, which are now nearing completion for Sendai 1.

Another 20 reactors are behind Sendai in the restart process, which is expected to gradually speed up after the first few units are back in normal operation. The Japanese government envisages a return to using nuclear power for 20-22% of electricity by 2030 as part of a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 26% compared to fiscal year 2013.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News