Japan’s Shikoku Electric Power Co restarted unit 3 at the Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime Prefecture on 2 December. The reactor had been offline since December 2019 for regular checks and because of a subsequent court injunction. The restart came after the reversal in March of an injunction handed down by the Hiroshima High Court in January 2020 banning the reactor from operating over safety concerns.
The 2020 decision in was based on the court’s view that the rules and risk assessment of Shikoku Electric and the Nuclear Regulation Authority regarding a possible disastrous eruption of Mt Aso, some 130km away, were inadequate. However, the Hiroshima High Court reversed this decision March 2021 in response to an objection from Shikoku Electric, allowing it to restart the reactor.
Shikoku Electric was initially due to restart Ikata 3 in mid-October. However this was postpone after the operator revealed safety breaches at the plant due to a worker leaving the site without permission on five occasions between 2017 and 2019.
Shikoku Electric gained approval from Ehime Governor Tokihiro Nakamura in mid-November to restart the reactor after providing all its staff on night duty with smartphones featuring global positioning system functions in order to prevent the recurrence of such an incident.
Shikoku plans to restart commercial operations on 4 January. A regular inspection usually takes about three months. However, as the reactor was idle for much longer than that, the utility has dispatched extra personnel to support the resumption process. Shikoku says it will do all it can to ensure safety.