Unit 3 at Kansai Electric Power Company’s Mihama NPP and units 1&2 at the Takahama NPP, both in Japan’s Fukui Prefecture and idle since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, on 28 April were approved for restart by Fukui Governor Tatsuji Sugimoto.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) in 2016 gave approval for the three units to operate beyond the 40-year limit, granting extensions of up to 20 years, after screening Kansai Electric's stricter safety upgrades. Kansai Electric is expected to soon start fuel loading. In February, the mayors of both Mihama and Takahama, where the three units are located, gave their consent and this was followed by approval from the Fukui prefectural assembly earlier in April.
"I decided to agree to the restarts (of the reactors) after considering the matter fully," Sugimoto told a press conference at the prefectural government office. He noted that the central government has signalled its policy of continuing the use of nuclear power offering up to JPY2.5 billion ($22 million) in subsidies to revitalise the local economy for any nuclear plant that is more than 40 years old.
After confirming safety measures taken at the three units, Sugimoto had met industry minister Hiroshi Kajiyama and was briefed on the government's policies on nuclear generation and regional revitalisation. Mihama 3 began commercial operation in 1976, Takahama 1 reactor in 1974 and Takahama 2 in 1975.
Kansai Electric President Takashi Morimoto expressed gratitude for the governor's decision in a statement. The company will work to restart the three units "by giving top priority to ensuring safety" and under the "strong intention and resolution to endlessly enhance the safety of nuclear power generation," he said.
However, even if the three units restart, Takahama 1&2 will have to suspend operations in early June and Mihama 3 in late October as they still need to complete installation of infrastructure to prevent terrorist attacks.
Japan Atomic Power Co's Tokai 2 NPP in Ibaraki Prefecture has also cleared NRA screening for extension of operations by up to 20 years but has yet to obtain local consent.