Japan Sendai Nuclear Units Inch Even Closer to Restart

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has approved Kyushu Electric Power’s application to make changes to its Sendai reactors, putting them a step closer to resuming operations. 

The regulatory agency this July said in a 400-page draft report that Kyushu’s No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at its Sendai plant in southern Japan’s Kagoshima prefecture passed safety checks. On Sept. 10, it granted the company permission for “the basic design of nuclear reactors and related facilities applied from the operator. The applied design and safety features of Sendai NPS Units 1 and 2 were deemed to meet the NRA’s new regulatory requirements.”

The NRA is now expected to review the detailed design and construction of the Sendai reactors as well as its operational safety programs, including organization systems and procedures for accident responses. Once those stages are complete, the NRA will issue final approval for the operation of the two reactors.

Japan’s cabinet in April adopted the first Basic Energy Plan since the Fukushima disaster, a document that recognizes Japan’s precarious reliance on imported fossil fuels, which almost doubled in the two years from 2010 to 2012. It calls instead for a “stable, low-cost, and balanced” power supply mix that includes hydropower, nuclear, and coal as baseload sources.

But since the March 2011 Fukushima disaster, all 48 of Japan’s existing reactors have been shut down. With Sendai No. 1 and No. 2 proceeding to the final stage, applications for restarts are pending before the NRA for 18 reactors, and there is no consensus on how long the approval process could take.

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)