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New governor’s Sendai plant shutdown pledge alarms utility


Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear power plant in Satsuma-Sendai in Kagoshima Prefecture

Concern is growing among Kyushu Electric Power Co. and the central government over the new Kagoshima governor’s pledge to request a reassessment of the Sendai nuclear plant’s safety in light of the recent Kumamoto quakes.

Satoshi Mitazono, a former political reporter with TV Asahi Corp., was elected on his campaign pledge to build a “society without nuclear energy” in the July 10 gubernatorial race, defeating incumbent Yuichiro Ito.

Mitazono, 58, wants to suspend operations at the plant for a review of its emergency evacuation plan and to re-examine its safety features.

A top Kyushu Electric executive expressed bewilderment over Mitazono’s proposal.

A governor has no legal authority to order a halt,” the official said. “On what legal basis can the plant be shut down?”

But Mitazono’s calls reflect local residents’ mounting concerns over the Sendai plant in Satsuma-Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, after a series of strong tremors rocked neighboring Kumamoto Prefecture starting in mid-April.

The company allows prefectural officials to inspect the nuclear plant site, and request for it to take corrective measures based on their findings under an agreement with the prefectural and Satsuma-Sendai city governments over safety issues.

Kyushu Electric, based in Fukuoka, would likely be forced to respond in one way or another when the governor asks for the suspension of the plant, regardless of legal authority.

With two reactors in operation, Sendai is the only nuclear power station back online in the nation after it cleared the new safely regulations implemented after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

After Mitazono emerged as the winner on July 10, Kyushu Electric’s closing stock price dropped more than 7 percent, compared to July 8, reflecting the company’s potentially gloomy prospects.

The two reactors at the Sendai plant are scheduled to be shut down in October or later for a regular check.

An official with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees the nuclear industry, said it would take a prolonged period before the plant could be restarted if a review of the evacuation plan or other demands were made.

A senior Kyushu Electric official concurred that it would not be easy to go back online on a regular time schedule if such demands were made.

It would be difficult to reactivate the reactors amid the opposition of the local government hosting the plant,” the official said.

July 12, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | 2 Comments

Court issues surprise injunction to halt Takahama nuclear


jlmm.jpgOTSU, SHIGA PREF. – In a surprise ruling that is likely to delay efforts to restart nuclear power generation nationwide, the Otsu District Court on Wednesday issued a provisional injunction ordering Kansai Electric Power Co. to shut down its No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at its Takahama facility in Fukui Prefecture.

While Kepco is expected to appeal the ruling, company officials said at a news conference that was hastily called after the decision that they would begin operations to shut down the No. 3 reactor on Thursday morning, and expected to complete the process by the evening.

The No. 3 reactor was restarted in January, and the No. 4, which had been scheduled to restart last month, was delayed due to technical problems.

“There are doubts remaining about both the tsunami response and the evacuation plan,” the ruling said.

The Otsu ruling comes just two days before the fifth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the resulting tsunami and triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.

The jubilant plaintiffs expressed surprise and relief following the ruling, which emphasized technical problems regarding the two reactors, including issues concerning an outside power supply source in the event of an emergency. The ruling also raised concerns over the emergency protocol.

“This is a huge victory for the safety of children, people with disabilities, and the society and economy of not only the Fukui-Kansai region of Japan but the entire country,” said Aileen Mioko Smith of Kyoto-based Green Action, an anti-nuclear group. Smith was not a plaintiff in the case.

The lawsuit that sought the injunction was filed by Shiga residents who are fearful that an accident at the Takahama plant, which lies less than 30 kilometers from the northern part of Shiga Prefecture, would impact Lake Biwa, the nation’s largest freshwater body and the source of water for about 14 million people in the Kansai region, including Kyoto and Osaka.

The judgment — the first of its kind affecting reactors that were fired up under strengthened safety regulations following the March 2011 disaster — is a blow to the government’s renewed push for atomic power. The ruling could also cast doubt on the stringency of the new safety regulations.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, however, told reporters following the ruling the government would not change its basic stance of promoting restarts.

In a separate case concerning the two reactors, the Fukui District Court issued an injunction last April banning Kansai Electric from restarting the units, citing safety concerns.

But the same court later lifted the injunction in December, allowing the utility to resume operations at both reactors. Plaintiffs appealed the court decision to the Kanazawa branch of the Nagoya High Court, where the case is pending.

Under the revamped safety regulations, which took effect in 2013, utilities are for the first time obliged to put in place specific countermeasures in the event of severe accidents such as reactor core meltdowns and huge tsunami — which was the initial cause of the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Court orders Takahama reactor shut down, 2nd offline

A court has issued an unprecedented order for a nuclear reactor in western Japan to stop operating and ordered a second one to stay offline.

The Otsu District Court in Shiga Prefecture, which issued the injunction, said the emergency response plans and equipment designs at the two reactors have not been sufficiently upgraded despite the 2011 Fukushima crisis.

Wednesday’s order requires Kansai Electric Power Co. to shut down the No. 3 reactor immediately and keep the No. 4 offline at the Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture, home to about a dozen reactors.

The two reactors restarted this year after a high court in December reversed an earlier injunction by another court.

The decision reflects Japan’s divisive views on nuclear safety and leaves only two of the country’s 43 reactors in operation.

March 10, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment