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20 January, 2017

Genkai-3 and -4 NPPs Clear Safety Examinations

On January 18, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) officially finalized review reports confirming that the Genkai-3 and -4 Nuclear Power Plants (PWRs, 1180MWe each) in Saga Prefecture, owned and operated by the Kyushu Electric Power Co., are compatible with the new regulatory standards.

Genkai NPPs

The NRA issued report drafts on November 9, 2016, and, after referring them to the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) for their opinions, opened the drafts for public comments. Seeking early restarts of the two units, Kyushu Electric Power had filed applications with the NRA for compatibility examinations of the two units on July 12, 2013, soon after the new regulatory standards came into effect. It then took the power utility three and a half years to obtain permission to make changes to the reactor installations (basic design approvals).

The number of NPPs in Japan that have been determined to meet the new regulatory standards has now reached ten. Among them, Genkai-3 and -4 have the highest outputs, 1,180 MWe each, and Genkai-4, commercial operation of which began in July 1997, is the newest.

Although Kyushu Electric Power hopes to complete work on safety measures, including seismic reinforcements, by the end of March, it is quite uncertain how the process of obtaining local consents will proceed, given that the surrounding municipalities, including Imari City, Saga Prefecture, object to restarting the reactors. The adequacy of emergency evacuation plans for residents of numerous small islands within a 30km radius of the nuclear site is another issue.

Additionally, when operation of the two units is eventually resumed, their spent fuel pools are expected to become full within several more years. NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka has asked the power utility to introduce dry storage in metal casks.

Together with approvals already granted for the Sendai-1 and -2 NPPs in Kagoshima Prefecture, all NPPs that Kyushu Electric Power had put forward for resumed operation have now cleared the NRA’s examinations. Said Chairman Tanaka: “Kyushu Electric Power had become quite used to these procedures.”

On the matter, JAIF Pres. Akio Takahashi also released a comment. He noted that there will be further steps in the process – approvals of construction work plans, pre-service inspections, and revisions to operational safety programs. He said that while he was confident that the power company would complete such procedures smoothly, he expected it to implement all work and inspections with top priority on safety and to thoroughly prepare itself to restart the reactors. He also wants the company to continue giving clear, complete explanations to local residents.

Pres. Takahashi said he hoped examinations of other NPPs would proceed smoothly hereafter.

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