The governor of Japan’s Ibaraki prefecture, Masaru Hashimoto, said on17 August that he will not consent to restarting the single reactor at Japan Atomic Power Co’s Tokai II NPP, which went offline in March 2011 after the accident in neighbouring Fukushima prefecture. “I will not approve a restart,” Hashimoto said at an event marking the launch of his official campaign for governor’s election. “I will steer in the direction of not accepting nuclear power.” In July, Hashimoto set conditions for a reactor restart, saying, “We will not give consent to restarting unless the safety of the plant and its evacuation plan are shown to be viable.”

Meanwhile, the expected restart of units 3 and 4 at Kyushu Electric Power's Genkai NPP two nuclear reactors in Saga prefecture is to be postponed from autumn to winter, or even to next year. The units, also closed after the Fukushima disaster, were expected to come online in autumn, after passing the Nuclear Regulation Authority's safety tests in January. Safety screening for reactor designs has taken longer than expected, delaying approval from July to around September. This was largely due to additional tests in areas such as seismic standards of pipes, which Kyushu Electric incorporated in its amended outline for the regulators submitted recently. Four months are typically required for subsequent procedures of this kind which means operations may not resume until winter at the earliest.

By restarting the reactors, Kyushu Electric hoped to reduce its monthly fuel costs by JPY9bn ($81.4m). But the cost savings will probably be half of this now, taking into account write-offs for added equipment for earthquake resistance among other items, said Kyushu President Michiaki Uriu. The delay is expected to cut into Kyushu Electric's earnings by several billion yen, according to the Nikkei.

The prospects are no better for Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), which said in May that it hoped to restart units 6 and 7 at its Kashiwazaki Kariwa NPP by March 2020. Restart of the two 1,315MWe advanced boiling water reactors was to be the first step towards putting all seven units back online by March 2026. Units 1, 6 and 7 were shut since shortly after the March 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi accident, while units 2, 3 and 4 had been closed since an earlier earthquake in July 2007.

However, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Operational Safety Review Team (Osart) expert mission, which visited the plant  from 31 July to 4 August said many of the recommendations and suggestions made in an earlier 2015 review had been addressed, but more work was needed. Team Leader Peter Tarren, Head of the IAEA’s Operational Safety Section, said: “Though there has been progress, work is still needed to address some recommendations in order to strengthen the plant’s operational safety.”

The team recommended continued work in several areas, including:

  • Implementation of an integrated system to manage all operating experience information and to ensure that elements related to reporting, screening, analysis, corrective actions, trending and effectiveness reviews are fully developed and put into action;
  • Formalising the design authority function and establishing a procedure to ensure the availability of complete and reliable plant design data, including long term storage and safekeeping of detailed design documentation throughout the plant’s lifetime; and
  • Enhancing arrangements for the on-shift fire brigade to ensure an effective response to fire alarms.

The final report will be submitted to the Japanese government within about three months.