Japan to restart Takahama 3 with mox fuel

24 January 2016

Kansai Electric Power Co plans to restart unit 3 at its Takahama nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture on 29 January, according to Japanese media reports.

Refuelling of the plant was completed at the end of December. A total of 157 fuel assemblies were installed including 24 with mixed oxide (mox).

Takahama unit 3 will be the third reactor to be brought back online under Japan's new nuclear safety standards introduced in July 2013 following the March 2011 Fukushima accident. Units 1 and 2 at Kyushu Electric Power Co's Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture were restarted last year.

Refuelling of Takahama 3 began after the Fukui District Court reversed an earlier decision in April 2015 banning the restart of Takahama 3 and 4 (both 830MWe pressurised water reactors). Unit 4 is now expected to restart in February. The Fukui Prefectural Government and the municipal government of Takahama, have already given their consent to the restart.

Kansai Electric held an emergency drill at the Takahama plant ahead of the planned restart. The utility has equipped the plant with emergency devices and other equipment based on the new safety requirements and was also required to carry out a drill for a severe accident to show it can handle major emergencies.

The three-day drill was based on a loss of coolant scenario in which nuclear fuel has begun to melt. The employees connected cables to a power vehicle to send electricity to a newly equipped temporary pump. They also attached a hose to the pump to inject sea water into the containment vessel, while confirming that the correct procedures were observed. The drill was monitored by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA). Local residents filed an appeal with the Kanazawa branch of the Nagoya High Court on 6 January against lifting the injunction banning restart. Kansai Electric will continue to seek support for its view that the safety of the Takahama reactors has been secured, a company official said.

Meanwhile, Japan's utilities have abandoned or reconsidered original plans to equip emergency response facilities for 15 reactors at seven nuclear power plants with quake-absorbing devices and instead will simply make them quake-resistant, according to Japanese press reports. These seven reactors are among 26 at 16 plants for which operators have applied for safety screening by the NRA. Although quake-absorbing structures are being used in buildings and other structures, it is difficult to verify their safety for NPPs, the companies believe.

A total of five reactors at three nuclear plants have so far passed the NRA's safety screening to restart operations. These include Shikoku Electric Power Co's Ikata 3 in Ehime Prefecture, as well as Sendai 1 and 2 and Takahama 3 and 4. Takahama and Ikata nuclear plants passed NRA's safety screening after switching their original plans for building with quake absorbing structures to those with quake-resistant structures. NRA says both technologies are acceptable if they do not lose their functions.

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