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Restart Oi nuclear plant?

April 6, 2012

Govt to check Oi procedures / Results of 30-point safety plan will affect possible resumption date



The government will use a 13-point set of emergency criteria to evaluate the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear power plant in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, as the first part of a two-stage inspection under new safety criteria for nuclear reactors, according to government sources.

To restart the reactors as soon as possible, the government will conduct the two-stage inspections based on safety criteria consisting of 30 points, compiled by the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency at the instruction of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

The first stage covers 13 points and is designed to prevent a serious crisis like the one at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

After approval of the safety criteria by the Cabinet ministers concerned, Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano will visit Fukui Prefecture to ask for the consent of the local government to reactivate the reactors as early as Sunday.

The government presented the 30-point safety criteria at a meeting of the ministers concerned Thursday.

The new guidelines were designed to further improve nuclear power plants' ability to withstand large earthquakes and tsunami.

Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa had demanded the government devise new safety standards as a prerequisite for consent on restarting the Oi reactors.

The 30-point safety criteria are divided into five categories:

-- External power supply.

-- Electrical equipment in buildings housing reactors.

-- Cooling functions of reactors.

-- Measures to prevent hydrogen explosions.

-- Accident responses.

The 13 points included in the first stage of the inspection are regarded as emergency measures, most of which were implemented in the wake of the Fukushima accident.

The government believes facilities that pass the first stage are able to prevent accidents, including meltdowns, resulting from a tsunami-triggered loss of all electrical power.

Key pillars of the first-stage accident-prevention measures include:

-- Deployment of power-supply vehicles to cover a loss of emergency power.

-- Measures to prevent buildings from flooding.

-- Deployment of fire pump vehicles to prepare for a loss of reactor cooling functions.

-- Measures to prevent hydrogen explosions.

-- Measures to facilitate the discharge of steam from a reactor's containment vessel, to lower internal pressure and prevent a hydrogen explosion, even during blackouts.

Apart from the emergency measures, the 30-point safety criteria include increasing external power supply networks, installing ventilation devices equipped with filters to catch radioactive substances and securing telecommunication lines in the event of an accident.

After the 13 emergency measures have been fully implemented, the government plans to improve reactors based on the remaining points while keeping them in operation.

The government intends to ensure the enhanced safety of nuclear power plants by requiring they meet the 30-point safety criteria in addition to regular inspections and stress tests, to dispel a sense of distrust among affected local governments, according to officials. The same procedures would be followed for the reactivation of other reactors in the country.

The government is expected to seek the Fukui prefectural government's consent in a meeting with the ministers concerned with nuclear safety. The final decision will take the opinions of local entities concerned into account.

In June last year, then Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda asked Kyushu Electric Power Co. to resume operations at its Genkai nuclear power plant's Nos. 2 and 3 reactors in Genkai, Saga Prefecture. However, then Prime Minister Naoto Kan overturned the decision.

In light of this, the government will first clarify its stance and present relevant material to persuade the Fukui prefectural government and other local entities to restart their reactors.

The concerned entities' responses are expected to have a significant impact on the government's electricity supply-and-demand plan for this summer, to be compiled before the Golden Week holidays.


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