Japanese utility seeks to start up new reactor

22 May 2018

Chugoku Electric Power Company has today requested permission from local governments to apply for pre-startup inspections of unit 3 at the Shimane nuclear power plant in Japan's Shimane prefecture. Construction of the 1373 MWe advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR) is nearing completion.

Shimane 3 - 460 (Hitachi-GE)
Shimane 3 (Image: Hitachi-GE)

Construction of Shimane 3 started in December 2005 and the unit had been scheduled to begin commercial operation in December 2011. However, in February 2011 - a month before the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant - Chugoku announced that fuelling and start-up of the reactor had been delayed by three months due to a fault with the control rod drive mechanism. Like Japan's other operable reactors, Shimane 3 remained idle following the accident.

Under Japan's revised nuclear regulations, plant operators are required to apply to the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) for: permission to make changes to the reactor installation; approval of its construction plan to strengthen the plant; and, final safety inspections to ensure the unit meets new safety requirements. Operators are required to add certain safety-enhancing equipment within five years of receiving the NRA's approval of a reactor engineering work program.

Chugoku announced today that it has asked the Shimane prefectural government and the Matsue city government for permission to apply for NRA safety inspections at Shimane 3.

Chugoku President Mareshige Shimizu visited the Matsue city government and submitted documents to Mayor Masataka Matsuura. He also delivered a consent request to Shimane Governor Zembee Mizoguchi. Shimizu told Mizoguchi the reactor is essential for establishing a stable power supply, reducing carbon dioxide emissions and stabilising electricity prices, the NKK news agency reported.

Both the prefectural and city governments plan to ask their respective assemblies to discuss the request, according to the Asahi Shimbun.

Chugoku would become the second Japanese utility to apply to the NRA for pre-operation safety inspections for a new nuclear power reactor since the Fukushima Daiichi accident. The first was Japan Electric Power Development Corp (J-Power), which applied in December 2014 for inspections of unit one at its Ohma nuclear power plant, also an ABWR, being built in Aomori prefecture. However, with construction of Shimane 3 more advanced than Ohma 1, Shimane 3 is likely to be the first new reactor to begin operating in Japan.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News