Three nuclear units will be the first in Japan to operate beyond the 40-year limit


In a significant move as Japan seeks to stick to nuclear power, three nuclear reactors on the Sea of ​​Japan coast will become the country’s first to operate beyond their 40-year limit after a local governor consented to their restart on Wednesday.

The restart of unit 3 of the Mihama power plant and of reactors 1 and 2 of the Takahama power plant, both in Fukui prefecture and inactive since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, will take place while the country seeks to achieve its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 with continued dependence on atomic energy.

But local communities remain concerned about the safety of restarting aging reactors operated by Kansai Electric Power Co. (Kepco) and the effectiveness of evacuation plans in the event of an accident. How to dispose of the highly radioactive used nuclear fuel produced by power plants is also an unresolved question.

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Due to tighter safety regulations and widespread public skepticism of nuclear power, only nine reactors have been restarted in Japan since a total of 50 units were shut down following the disaster in the No.1 Fukushima plant, the worst nuclear crisis since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

The Nuclear Regulatory Authority in 2016 cleared the three units to operate beyond the 40-year limit, granting extensions of up to 20 years, after reviewing Kepco’s stricter security measures for the units.

The Fukui Prefectural Assembly is holding an extraordinary session in Fukui on Friday regarding the operation of nuclear power plants beyond their 40-year limit. | KYODO

The 40-year maximum lifespan was in principle introduced after the Fukushima disaster, which was triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami, due to concerns that aging reactors would be prone to accidents.

Kepco is expected to unveil its plan to take over the three units soon and begin preparations such as loading nuclear fuel.

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Before the approval announced by the governor of Fukui, Tatsuji Sugimoto, the mayors of Mihama and Takahama, where the three units are located, gave their consent in February this year, followed by a nod from the assembly. prefectural Fukui Friday.

Even if all three units are restarted, units 1 and 2 at the Takahama plant will suspend operations at the beginning of June and reactor no.3 at the Mihama plant will do so at the end of October as they have to complete the operation. installation of infrastructure to prevent terrorism. attacks.

Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tokai Power Plant No.2 in Ibaraki Prefecture also cleared nuclear regulator safety check for an extension of operations up to 20 years, but the process of obtaining local consent is not yet finished.

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As demanded by the governor of Fukui, Kepco has promised to decide on a temporary site to store spent nuclear fuel from reactors outside the prefecture by the end of 2023.

After confirming the security measures taken at the three units, Sugimoto met with Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama on Tuesday and was briefed on government policies on nuclear generation and regional revitalization.

Mihama Unit No.3 began commercial operation in 1976. Takahama Reactor No.1 did so in 1974 and Reactor No.2 in 1975.

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