At a regular press conference held late in the afternoon of May 10, Chairman YAMANAKA Shinsuke of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) talked about the “additional inspections” taken up as an agenda item and approved at a meeting of the NRA earlier that day.
“Additional inspections” will be required for nuclear power plants (NPPs) in Japan to remain in service beyond 60 years from their start of operation. “The outline has been firmed up for technical discussions from now on,” he said, indicating that points of contention had largely been cleared.
At present, the power supply bill incorporating such items as the development of regulations for operating periods of NPPs and the tightening of regulation of aging reactors is still under discussion at the Diet. As deliberations stand, when the operating lifetime of an NPP is extended by 20 years, the periods of suspension already recorded in the unit’s history due to reasons unforeseeable by the operator will not be counted in the calculations of its operated period (the Electricity Business Law).
Additionally, when an NPP is operated beyond 30 years, its operator will be required to obtain approval every ten years of its technological assessment of facility deterioration and of a deterioration management plan (the Act on the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors (Reactor Regulation Act)). Operation beyond 60 years may then possibly be approved.
Given the developments toward the revision of NPP operating lifetimes, the NRA has been addressing safety regulation for aging NPPs since last fall, and its expert team has reported on the state of its deliberations as needed. At the regular meeting on May 10, it approved in principle a framework requiring an operator to conduct “additional inspections” at the time of applying for operation beyond the 60th year of entry into service for the same items required under the current system for “special inspections” at the 40th year.
At the press conference, Chairman Yamanaka said that the NRA would “have to formulate regulations and guidelines,” referring to the huge volume of work that would be needed after the bill is enacted.
The NRA is also preparing easily understood materials explaining safety regulations for aging NPPs. Chairman Yamanaka emphasized again that the NRA is endeavoring to improve materials helpful for the public’s understanding, including what “deterioration” means and how it will be regulated.
In response to a question about the use of Chat GPT making use of AI, he said that nothing specific was being considered regarding its utilization. “This is the stage,” he said, “when staff members are still studying it.”