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Shikoku Electric fires up Ehime plant MOX reactor amid protests



MATSUYAMA, EHIME PREF. – Japan restarted another nuclear reactor Friday, as Shikoku Electric Power Co. reactivated reactor 3 at its Ikata nuclear plant in Ehime Prefecture.

It will be the first time in some five years and three months for the reactor to be switched on, since it was suspended for a routine safety inspection in April 2011.

The Ikata reactor 3, which is powered by MOX fuel, is the fifth to go back online under the county’s new safety regulations, introduced in July 2013 after the March 2011 reactor meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.

The Ikata plant is now the second nuclear plant in operation in Japan, joining Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture.

On Thursday, local residents staged a protest over the restart.

Once you put a nuclear reactor back into operation, it’s hard to stop it,” said Shinichi Naide, a 51-year-old company employee.

Aki Hashimoto, 60, who joined the rally from Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, questioned what the country has learned from the Fukushima meltdowns. Nuclear authorities “must hear the voices of people who suffered from the Fukushima accident,” she said.

The reactivated reactor is slated to reach criticality, or a self-sustained nuclear fission chain reaction, early Saturday morning. On Monday, it will begin the generation and transmission of electricity, reaching full capacity on Aug. 22.

Shikoku Electric aims to start the plant’s commercial operations in early September.

The Ehime reactor 3 is the only restarted unit in Japan that runs on uranium-plutonium mixed oxide, or MOX, fuel, as a court ordered Kansai Electric Power Co. in March to suspend two reactors at its Takahama plant after they resumed operations earlier this year, citing safety concerns.

MOX fuel, created from plutonium and uranium extracted from spent fuel, is a key component of the nuclear fuel recycle program pursued by the nuclear power industry and the government.

The government aims to bring reactors back online after the Fukushima crisis led to a nationwide halt of nuclear plants, as it plans to have nuclear power account for 20 to 22 percent of the country’s total electricity supply in 2030 to cut greenhouse emissions and lower imported fuel costs.

The Ikata unit is expected to begin generating and transmitting electricity on Monday and resume commercial operation in early September in its first operation since it was halted in April 2011 for regular inspection.

The restart follows the reactivation of two reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture last year and the brief run of reactors 3 and 4 at the Takahama complex in Fukui Prefecture.

The mayor of Ikata and the governor of Ehime Prefecture have already given their consent to restart reactor 3 after regulators approved its restart in July last year.

In June, Shikoku Electric loaded nuclear fuel at the power plant, looking to reboot it on July 26. However, reactivation was postponed due to problems with the reactor’s cooling system.

A group of local residents filed a suit in May seeking an injunction to halt the restart arguing that a series of earthquakes that have hit nearby Kyushu in April could trigger quakes along the median tectonic line running close to the Ikata reactor.

The plant is about 170 km east of Kumamoto Prefecture, the epicenter of the quakes.

August 12, 2016 - Posted by | Japan | , , ,

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