Governor asks for suspension of Japan’s Sendai NPP

30 August 2016

The governor of Japan’s Kagoshima prefecture, Satoshi Mitazono, has asked Kyushu Electric Power Co to immediately suspend operation of two reactors at its Sendai NPP. Mitazono was elected on an antinuclear platform in July. He made the request at a meeting with Kyushu Electric president Michiaki Uriu on 26 August. Uriu told the governor that Kyushu Electric "will carefully consider" the request.

Mitazono wants the utility to re-examine safety measures for the two reactors and investigate the possible danger of nearby active faults, given that smaller quakes were felt in Kagoshima Prefecture around the time of huge earthquakes last April that killed 50 people, damaged more than 100,000 residential buildings and at one point led to the evacuation of more than 180,000 people from Kumamoto Prefecture. However, Uriu told reporters that Sendai NPP has been already "confirmed to be safe" after the earthquakes in Kumamoto, adding that Kyushu will "continue to make every effort" to ensure the safety of the reactors.

An official of the Nuclear Regulation Authority said the nuclear regulator has no plan to take any action in response to the request at present. Kyushu Electric is expected to prepare its response to the request by early September. Governors have no legal power to suspend the operation of nuclear power plants. However, the two reactors are scheduled to be taken offline for regular checks on 6 October and 16 December.

All of Japan's 48 operational nuclear reactors were gradually taken off line following the March 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi, and by mid-2013 NRA had tightened requirements for NPP safety and utilities are required to meet the new standards before any reactor can be restarted. Unit 1 at Sendai NPP was the first to be restarted last August, followed by unit 2 in October, after Mitazono's predecessor, Yuichiro Ito, gave his approval in November 2014 for the units to resume operation.

In April, a high court rejected an appeal by local residents seeking a temporary injunction to stop operation the two Sendai units. A group of 12 citizens from Kagoshima and two neighbouring prefectures had claimed that the new safety regulations were too lax to protect the plant from earthquakes and volcanoes.  Japan’s regulations require reactors to be taken offline after 13 months of operation for maintenance. 

Unit 3 of Kansai Electric Power Company's Takahama NPP in Fukui prefecture resumed operation on 29 January. Takahama 4 was restarted on 26 February, but has remained offline since 29 February following an automatic shutdown of the reactor due to a "main transformer/generator internal failure". However, an injunction imposed by a district court on 9 March led to unit 3 being taken offline as well and both units have since remained idle. Shikoku Electric Power Company's Ikata 3 in Ehime prefecture was restarted on 12 August and has since reached full generating capacity.

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