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Japan’s Kyushu Elec likely to delay nuclear plant restart due to Kobe Steel checks

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* Delay would be another hitch in reboot of Japan’s nuclear sector
* Kyushu spokesman says firm has not yet changed restart schedule
* Kobe steel has been reeling from data-falsification scandal
TOKYO, Nov 29 (Reuters) – Japan’s Kyushu Electric Power Co will likely delay the restart of a nuclear plant by several months as it makes checks related to the data-fabrication scandal that has engulfed Kobe Steel Ltd , the Nikkei newspaper reported on Wednesday.
A delay would be a further hitch in the protracted reboot of Japan’s nuclear sector, which was shut down in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in 2011. The government and industry want reactors restarted to cut electricity bills, but swathes of the public oppose returning to atomic energy.
Four reactors are operating out of 42 commercially viable units, and Kyushu Electric has been planning to restart two of its reactors at its Genkai plant in southern Japan by next March.
A Kyushu Electric spokesman on Wednesday told Reuters that the firm had not yet changed the schedule for the Genkai restart, but added that the utility had told the country’s atomic regulator in mid-November that checks on the use of Kobe Steel products would take about a month.
A delay would mark the first direct impact on reactor restarts from the Kobe Steel scandal, raising worries over similar delays in restarts at other nuclear plants, the Nikkei said. The paper cited a senior company official as the source for its information on the possible delay in the Kyushu restart.
Japan’s third-largest steelmaker, which supplies producers of cars, planes, trains and other products across the world, said in October that about 500 of its customers had received products with falsified specifications. The company is also a supplier to the nuclear industry, providing casings for uranium fuel rods and for spent fuel cooling units.
The No.3 and No.4 reactors at Genkai plant in southern Japan have met the regulator’s safety requirements imposed after the Fukushima disaster, and the company had been aiming to restart the No.3 reactor in January and No.4 unit in March.
Checks by nuclear operators have so far found that some Kobe Steel parts are used at their nuclear plants, but that there are no safety issues as the supplied products were not made at factories that engaged in fabrication.
Checks are continuing and utilities are prioritising operating units and those in final stages before restart.
Kansai Electric Power is planning to restart two units at its Ohi plant west of Tokyo by March and is making checks to see whether they have parts supplied by Kobe Steel that have falsified data.
Read also related:
Kobe Steel scandal: ‘look the other way’ culture of corporate Japan, faked data for over a decade

November 30, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

KEPCO has huge responsibility in restarting nuke plants

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The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has formally approved a screening report certifying that the No. 3 and 4 reactors at Oi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture operated by Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) meet the new regulatory standards.
KEPCO restarted the No. 4 reactor at its Takahama nuclear plant, also in Fukui Prefecture, earlier this month. The utility also intends to resume operations at the Takahama plant’s No. 3 reactor next month.
KEPCO’s four nuclear reactors will be up and running possibly by the end of this year provided that the company can gain consent from the local governments hosting these plants.
The Osaka-based power company intends to restart nine reactors in Fukui Prefecture, including three aging ones. Among major power companies, KEPCO is particularly enthusiastic about relying on nuclear power again despite the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011.
However, local governments hosting these nuclear plants have failed to work out adequate plans to evacuate residents in case of a serious nuclear accident.
The Oi and Takahama plants are only about 10 kilometers away from each other. Should serious accidents occur simultaneously at these power stations due to a natural disaster or other factors, it would be extremely difficult for the utility and local governments to respond to such a critical situation. The NRA has so far failed to seriously consider problems involving the concentration of nuclear plants in a small area. It is hardly acceptable that KEPCO has been pressing forward with reactivation of its nuclear power stations one after another despite such circumstances.
KEPCO reportedly insists that it would be able to lower its electricity charges if it reactivates nuclear reactors and slashes fuel costs at its thermal power plants, thereby improving its financial situation. However, serious questions remain as to whether the management of KEPCO, which depends heavily on atomic power stations, is sustainable.
Electricity generated by nuclear power accounted for about half of all electricity KEPCO generated before the outbreak of the nuclear crisis — the highest ratio of all power companies in the country. Following the nuclear accident, KEPCO’s fuel costs sharply rose because the utility was forced to generate more power at its thermal power stations to make up for power shortages following the suspension of operations at its nuclear plants, forcing the utility to raise its power charges twice and leading it to lose a considerable number of customers. KEPCO President Shigeki Iwane says, “Our biggest business strategy is reactivating nuclear plants.”
However, the costs of wind power and solar power have kept decreasing, and investments in energy throughout the world are now concentrated on renewable energy. Furthermore, nuclear power industries in developed countries have been declining.
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to reduce Japan’s reliance on atomic power in the long run. Measures to ensure the safety of aging reactors could cost power companies more than estimated. If a serious accident were to occur at a nuclear station, it could endanger the existence of the plant’s operator.
The creation of a management structure at KEPCO that will not be affected by nuclear power would eventually lead to the company’s long-term profits. The Osaka and Kyoto municipal governments have proposed at KEPCO’s shareholder meetings that the company decrease its dependence on atomic power on the grounds that such efforts would strengthen and stabilize the utility’s operations.
Attention will be focused on the procedure for gaining consent from the local governments for reactivation of the Oi plant. Considering the possible impact of a serious accident, KEPCO should gain consent from not only the local body hosting the plant but also those within a radius of 30 kilometers from the plant that are obligated to draw up evacuation plans.

May 29, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment