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Governor of Fukui Prefecture to approve restart of aging nuclear reactors, but local community is opposed.

Governor to approve restart of 40-plus-year-old nuclear reactors in Japan first

April 28, 2021 (Mainichi Japan)   FUKUI — The governor of central Japan’s Fukui Prefecture announced on April 28 his intention to approve the reactivation of 40-plus-year-old nuclear reactors following an online meeting with the economy minister. If the move goes ahead, it would be the first time in Japan for such aging reactors to be restarted.

Fukui Gov. Tatsuji Sugimoto spoke with Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama online on April 27 and confirmed the central government’s nuclear power policy, including plans to reboot the No. 3 reactor at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Mihama Nuclear Power Station in the prefectural town of Mihama and the No. 1 and 2 reactors at the Takahama station in the prefectural town of Takahama — both of which are over 40 years old since they were put online.

Following the March 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, Japan decided to set the operating period of a nuclear rector at 40 years as a general rule. That period can be extended for up to 20 years as a one-time only exception if the Nuclear Regulation Authority approves…….

As a rule, consensus from host municipalities and prefectures is needed to restart a reactor. The Mihama and Takahama municipal governments, as well as their respective town assemblies have already agreed to restart the aging reactors. The Fukui prefectural nuclear safety commission tasked with checking the safety of nuclear plants has compiled a report on the assessment of Kansai Electric’s safety measures and submitted it to Gov. Sugimoto on April 22………..

The prefectural government had indicated that, as a condition for approving the restart of aging reactors, Kansai Electric present candidate locations outside Fukui Prefecture for interim storage sites for spent nuclear fuel. In February this year, Gov. Sugimoto expressed his appreciation over the utility’s proposal to secure a location “by the end of 2023,” including the shared use of a storage site in the Aomori Prefecture city of Mutsu in northern Japan.

The governor then practically shelved resolving the issue of interim storage sites and requested that the prefectural assembly debate the potential restart of the aging reactors. The central government had presented additional aid programs on April 6, including the provision of up to 2.5 billion yen (about $23 million) per nuclear station which is older than 40 years — in the cases of Mihama and Takahama stations, the subsidy will total 5 billion yen (roughly $46 million). With this, Fukui Prefecture entered the final stage of building local consensus for rebooting the idled reactors.

Meanwhile, local residents have voiced concerns over the safety of long-running reactors and evacuation routes in the event of an accident, among other issues……..

Kansai Electric will begin full-fledged preparations as soon as local consensus is built. However, as the construction of a specialized anti-terrorism facility, which became mandatory to reboot reactors under the new safety regulations, has been delayed, the timing of actually restarting the reactors remains undecided.

The Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tokai No. 2 Power Station in the Ibaraki Prefecture village of Tokai in east Japan, which is also more than 40 years old, has been given the green light by the national government for an extension, but the utility has not been able to get consensus from the local community.

(Japanese original by Riki Iwama, Fukui Bureau)

April 29, 2021 - Posted by | Japan, politics

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