More delays for Japanese reactor restarts

6 December 2017

Japan’s utilities, Kansai Electric Power Company and Kyushu Electric Power Company, have requested two-month delays in pre-operation inspections of reactors by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) Kyodo reported on 30 November.

The delay in restarting the units had resulted from checks needed to see if they had been supplied parts by Kobe Steel Ltd that have fabricated quality inspection data.

Kansai said completion of inspections at Ohi 3&4 in Fukui prefecture have been put back to March and May, respectively, and Kyushu said inspections at Genkai 3&4 in Saga prefecture will now be completed in April and June.

NRA said Kobe Steel products had been used in the four reactors. However, both Kansai and Kyushu Electric said at the time they were not products affected by the data fabrication. Although Kansai Electric has so far ruled out any safety concerns, the company is pushing back the schedule for restarting Ohi 3&4 to inspect their peripheral equipment, its officials said.

Two days earlier, Fukui governor Issei Nishikawa gave the final local consent needed to restart the two reactors, which had cleared the more stringent safety requirements introduced after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident. Nishikawa's approval came after Kansai Electric President Shigeki Iwane said the company would decide by the end of 2018 on a site for a used fuel storage facility.  Nishikawa said he had decided after "comprehensively considering opinions of our town and prefectural assemblies as well as responses of the government and the plant operator to an idea of setting up an interim storage facility outside our prefecture."

Kyushu Electric had previously planned to restart Genkai 3&4 in January and March next year. The company revised plans after it found that the reactor containment vessels used reinforcing bars supplied by Kobe Steel, although the products were made at factories that were not involved in data fabrication, according to the utility.

Restarting the four units at Ohi and Genkai will bring the number of operating reactors to nine. Five units have resumed commercial operation after meeting revised regulatory standards. They are Kyushu's Sendai 1&2; Shikoku's Electric’s Ikata 3; and Kansai's Takahama 3&4. Another 19 reactors have applied to restart.

Japan currently has 42 operable commercial reactors, all of which were closed after Fukushima. Bringing them back online has so far proved to be a slow and complex process in the face of safety concerns among the public. The Kobe Steel scandal has exacerbated the problem.

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