On October 12, the Kyushu Electric Power Co. filed applications with the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) of Japan for its Sendai-1 and -2 (PWRs, 890MW each), seeking permission to operate them beyond 40 years. The Sendai-1 and -2 will mark 40 years of operation in July 2024 and November 2025, respectively, the limit under the Law for the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors (the Reactor Regulation Law).
The company carried out special inspections of both reactors, required in order to apply for extensions of their operating lifetimes, and confirmed that there would be no problems in operating them for 60 years from their respective starts of commercial operation, after which it filed the applications. It then released a comment saying that it would respond to examinations by the government sincerely and thoroughly, while actively aiming to release information allowing the residents of the region to feel secure and confident.
The two Sendai units are the fifth and sixth commercial reactors in Japan for which applications have been filed for operation beyond 40 years. The others are the Takahama-1 and -2 and the Mihama-3 (restarted in summer 2021), all owned and operated by the Kansai Electric Power Co. (Kansai EP); and the Tokai-2 of the Japan Atomic Power Company.
At a press conference on October 14, Governor SHIOTA Koichi of Kagoshima Prefecture, home to the Sendai Nuclear Power Plants, said—when asked for the local government’s response to the filings by Kyushu Electric Power—that there was no obligation either by law or agreement to obtain the prefecture’s consent, thus indicating that he accepted the current situation. He went on to say that he would express an opinion at the appropriate time based on technological verifications by an expert panel to be established by the prefecture.
A move is currently underway in Japan to revise the regulation of operating lifetimes so as to make the maximum use of existing reactors. When representatives of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE) and the NRA met recently to exchange views, they confirmed that they would address the matters of policy on utilization, as well as measures under the legal system for aging management.
Regarding that, Minister NISHIMURA Yasutoshi, head of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), at a press conference after a Cabinet meeting (also on October 14), expressed his apprehension about the severe energy supply-and-demand outlook for the coming winter, saying, “In order to reach specific conclusions by the year-end, the government will listen to opinions from experts and specialists and deepen its discussions toward developing an appropriate utilization policy.”