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Not decided yet ?

April 11, 2012

Safety of Oi reactors 'confirmed' / Final decision to be made later this week



Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano said the safety of the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture has been basically confirmed by four ministers concerned, as the reactors meet the government's new reactor safety guidelines.

"They met the safety standards we decided on, and the safety of the reactors is generally confirmed," Edano told a press conference held after a meeting of the four ministers on Monday.

However, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Edano and two other ministers did not make a final decision Monday on whether the reactors should be restarted. They are expected to decide at their next meeting, to be held later this week.

Edano likely will visit Fukui Prefecture on the weekend to request the prefectural government approve the reactivation of the reactors.

At last Friday's meeting of the relevant ministers, the government revealed new safety guidelines for restarting idled nuclear power reactors. At the Monday meeting, they screened a road map of safety measures toward the reactivation of the Oi reactors that KEPCO submitted to Edano on the same day.

Edano said at the news conference, "We'll continue to discuss safety confirmation and the necessity [of reactivating the reactors] in consideration of power supply and demand [at the next meeting]."

The ministers will comprehensively review the safety measures for the reactors and "check whether there were oversights," Edano added.

The government's new guidelines consist of two stages:

-- Confirmation of preventive measures to avoid a worst-case scenario in which a reactor loses all power sources due to an earthquake or tsunami, as well as confirmation of emergency measures to maintain cooling functions to prevent a meltdown during a severe accident.

-- Require power utilities to submit medium- and long-term measures to improve nuclear reactor safety.

KEPCO's safety improvement timetable applies the 30 points of the nuclear reactor safety standards created by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency to 85 fields.

According to KEPCO, the power company has already completed emergency safety improvement measures in 52 of the 85 fields.

The firm has started implementing medium- and long-term measures in most of the remaining 33 fields, government sources said.

Through the road map, KEPCO has revealed its intention to swiftly implement the safety measures by moving up the schedule for conducting the medium- and long-term steps, the sources said.

Specifically, KEPCO brought forward by a year to fiscal 2015 the schedule for establishing a special "earthquake-resistant administration building."

Such a seismically isolated building played an important role as the command headquarters for the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Co.

KEPCO also set a target of fiscal 2015 for setting up filtered ventilation equipment for the reactors, which is designed to prevent the dispersal of radioactive substances when air or steam is released into the atmosphere to reduce the pressure within the reactor.


KEPCO to request power saving

KEPCO said Tuesday it will ask its customers to save electricity again this summer, irrespective of whether it resumes operation of the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant.

"Even if the reactors at the Oi plant are reactivated, we'll request customers to conserve," KEPCO Vice President Shigeki Iwane told reporters after a meeting of the joint energy strategy council of Osaka Prefecture and Osaka city.

According to government estimates, areas covered by KEPCO are likely to experience a power shortage of 19.6 percent this summer if the two reactors at the Oi plant do not resume operations, under possible power demand of 30.95 million kilowatts--the demand in the extremely hot summer of 2010.

Even if power demand is held down to last summer's level of 27.84 million kilowatts--when KEPCO requested its customers to cut power use by least 15 percent--it will face a shortage of 7.6 percent.

Regarding estimates that a serious power shortage is expected within the KEPCO coverage areas if the Oi reactors are not reactivated, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said at a press conference on Tuesday that planned power conservation should be implemented based on detailed predictions of power demand.

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