14 Août 2015
August 14, 2015
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
SATSUMA-SENDAI, Kagoshima Prefecture--Marking the end of 23 months of a nuclear power-free Japan, the Sendai nuclear power plant began generating and transmitting electricity on Aug. 14.
Kyushu Electric Power Co. activated the No. 1 reactor at the Sendai plant on Aug. 11, to become the first nuclear reactor brought back online under new safety regulations instituted by the Nuclear Regulation Authority after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. The nation had been without nuclear power since September 2013.
At 9 a.m. on Aug. 14, utility workers connected an electrical generator with power cables from the plant’s central control room. The workers applauded when it was confirmed that the reactor began power generation and transmission for the first time in more than four years.
In a statement released the same day, Yoichi Miyazawa, the minister of trade and industry, said the start of generating and transmitting power at the plant “represents an important step forward to achieving a well-balanced energy mix and a more stable supply of electricity.”
The output from the reactor was expected to reach 30 percent of its full capacity of 890,000 kilowatts on Aug. 14, and will be raised gradually to reach full power generation in about 10 days.
The reactor is expected to begin commercial operations in early September unless the NRA detects safety problems during its final inspection.
Michiaki Uriu, Kyushu Electric Power president, said in a statement that the company will continue its efforts to improve safety at the plant with “determination to prevent an accident similar to the one at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant from occurring.”
“We will gradually increase the output while closely monitoring the condition of the plant,” he said.
Kyushu Electric officials said the utility will proceed cautiously with operation of the No. 1 reactor as its operations had been suspended for a periodic inspection in May 2011.
It will be the first time that electricity generated at a nuclear plant will be supplied to households and businesses since the No. 4 reactor at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture went offline in September 2013.
Kyushu Electric, which relied on nuclear energy for about 40 percent of its power supply before the Fukushima disaster unfurled, plans to restart the No. 2 reactor at the Sendai plant in mid-October.
It has also applied for NRA safety screening to resume operations of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at its Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture.
Preparations for restarts are progressing at the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors of Kansai Electric’s Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture and the No. 3 reactor of Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime Prefecture.
The restart of the Sendai plant is likely to give momentum to efforts by the electric power industry and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to restart idle nuclear reactors nationwide.
But municipalities located near nuclear power plants have yet to map out effective evacuation plans for people in local medical and welfare facilities in the event of nuclear accidents.
A shortage of buses and other transportation modes to evacuate residents remains unsolved, while it also is unclear if utility companies can effectively shut down reactors when a Fukushima-level accident takes place at a nuclear plant.
Opinion polls have shown that more Japanese are opposed to the reactor restarts than those who support them.
(This article was written by Junichiro Nagasaki and Masahiro Yuchi.)
KAGOSHIMA – Japan resumed using electricity generated by nuclear power Friday after a two-year hiatus, following the reactivation earlier this week of a reactor upgraded under tough new safety regulations.
The No. 1 reactor at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture began generating and delivering electricity in the utility’s service area, despite persistent public concern over the use of nuclear power following the Fukushima disaster triggered by a huge earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
The reactor, which came back online Tuesday for the first time since May 2011, will gradually increase output and is expected to run at full capacity in late August, according to the utility. The No. 1 reactor, which reached criticality, a self-sustained nuclear fission chain reaction, late Tuesday night, has an output capacity of 890,000 kilowatts and can meet the electricity demand from some 300,000 average households.
The resumption of nuclear electricity generation is “an important step forward” in securing more stable power supply, Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yoichi Miyazawa said in a statement.
The nuclear crisis, the worst since the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe, eventually resulted in the shutdown of all of Japan’s commercial reactors by September 2013, cutting off the country’s nuclear power supply. All 43 reactors apart from the Sendai unit remain offline.
The government is seeking to restart the remaining idled nuclear plants that have met what it claims are “the world’s toughest safety standards,” citing the necessity of stable power supply and lower electricity bills that have surged since the Fukushima nuclear crisis began.
With the majority of people opposing nuclear power, however, critics question the government’s rush to restart. So far, power shortages have been avoided thanks to fossil fuel-based power generation and energy-saving efforts.
Still, Kyushu Electric said the Sendai reactor’s reactivation will enable the company to supply electricity without power procurement from other utilities.
The utility expects its business, which has been hurt by the high cost of importing fuel, to improve drastically with the reactivation and return its balance sheet to the black for the first time in five years in the fiscal year to March 2016.
Last September, the two-reactor Sendai complex became the first nuclear facility to pass the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety screening based on the new regulations, a prerequisite for being allowed back online.
Kyushu Electric plans to restart the Sendai plant’s No. 2 reactor as early as October.
Separately, three reactors at two plants have also obtained the regulator’s safety clearance.
A reactor at Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata plant could come back online this winter at the earliest after obtaining local approval.
The outlook is uncertain for two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama plant after a court in April banned the utility from restarting the units, citing safety concerns.