Unit 3 at Shikoku Electric Power Company’s Ikata NPP in Ehime Prefecture, western Japan was restarted on 12 August for the first time in more than five years and achieved criticality the following day. It is the third plant to go online under new strict regulations issued by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. It is expected to begin commercial operation in early September. The restart met with protests from local residents.
Two reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co's Sendai NPP in Kagoshima Prefecture began operating last year, and two reactors at Kansai Electric's Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture were restarted earlier this year, but a court injunction has suspended their operation. Applications for restarting 21 other reactors at 14 NPPs are being processed by NRA.
Under the new regulations plant operators must apply to NRA for permission to make necessary changes to the reactor installation. Following NRA approval of plans to strengthen the plant and of the plant's operational safety programmes. Operators are required to add certain safety-enhancing equipment within five years. Shikoku submitted its plans for Ikata 3 to the NRA in July 2013 and these received final approval in April. NRA has since carried out final pre-operational safety inspections and fuel was loaded in late June. Ikata 3 is the first reactor to resume operation using uranium-plutonium mixed oxide (mox) fuel, although the suspended Takahama units also uses mox.