Fuel loading to start at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa unit

15 April 2024

Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) plans to begin loading fuel into unit 7 of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture following approval by Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority. It is not yet known when the reactor will be restarted.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant (Image: Tepco)

"We received approval for the test use of safety equipment to confirm the soundness of the equipment," the utility said. "From now on, we will carry out fuel loading and subsequent pre-use operator inspections to confirm the integrity of the equipment."

Tepco said it was starting the fuel loading process from around 16:00 (local time) on Monday, ahead of the unit's potential restart.

Additional regulatory inspections will still be required before Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 7 - which has been offline since August 2011 - can resume operation. In addition, consent must also be sought from the local governor. Although the central government has been seeking Niigata Governor Hideyo Hanazumi's approval for the restart, he has yet to announce whether he will give his consent.

Tepco applied for Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) approval of its design and construction plan for Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units 6 and 7 in September 2013. It submitted information on safety upgrades across the site and at those two units. These 1356 MWe Advanced Boiling Water Reactors began commercial operation in 1996 and 1997 and were the first Japanese boiling water reactors to be put forward for restart.

In 2017, Tepco received permission from the NRA to restart units 6 and 7.

However, in early 2021, Tepco notified the NRA of malfunctions in intruder detection equipment on the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa site. In addition, it reported the unauthorised use of an ID card. In April 2021, the NRA issued an administrative order to Tepco prohibiting it from moving nuclear fuel at the plant until improvements in security measures there have been confirmed by additional inspections. This order was lifted in December last year after inspections confirmed that measures had been enhanced at the site.

Although it has completed work at the other idled units at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, Tepco is concentrating its resources on units 6 and 7 while it deals with the clean-up at Fukushima Daiichi. Restarting those two units - which have been offline for periodic inspections since March 2012 and August 2011, respectively - would increase the company's earnings by an estimated JPY100 billion (USD706 million) per year.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News