Kagoshima governor requests Sendai suspension

26 August 2016

The recently-elected governor of Japan's Kagoshima prefecture has today requested Kyushu Electric Power Company temporarily suspends operation of units 1 and 2 of its Sendai nuclear power plant. Only one other power reactor is currently in operation in the country.

Sendai 460 (Kyushu)
The two Sendai units were the first Japanese reactors to be restarted (Image: Kyushu)

Satoshi Mitazono was elected as the prefectural governor last month. He pledged during the election campaign that he would call for Kyushu to suspend operation of the two Sendai units while their safety and evacuation plans are re-examined. However, as governor, he has no legal power to halt operation of the reactors.

"As an operator of nuclear power plants, the company has a duty to sincerely listen and respond to the concerns of local residents. The company should temporarily suspend the nuclear plant and re-examine safety," Mitazono was reported by Reuters as saying in his written request to Kyushu.

In a statement, Kyushu president and CEO Michiaki Uryu acknowledged receipt of the request adding, "We will give the request serious consideration."

All of Japan's 48 operational nuclear reactors were gradually taken off line following the March 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi. A new regulatory regime has since been created and by mid-2013 the Nuclear Regulation Authority had rewritten the country's requirements for nuclear power plant safety. Power companies then submitted applications for reactor restarts, which have progressed slowly.

Sendai 1 was the first to be restarted last August, followed by Sendai 2 in October. Mitazono's predecessor, Yuichiro Ito, gave his approval in November 2014 for the units to resume operation.

In April, a high court rejected an appeal by local residents seeking a temporary injunction against the operation of the two Sendai units. A group of 12 citizens from Kagoshima and two neighbouring prefectures had claimed that the new safety regulations were too lax to protect the plant from earthquakes and volcanoes.

Under Japanese regulations, reactors are required to be taken offline after 13 months of operation for maintenance. Therefore, Sendai 1 and 2 are scheduled for routine outages starting in October and December, respectively.

Unit 3 of Kansai Electric Power Company's Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui prefecture resumed operation on 29 January. Takahama 4 was restarted on 26 February, but has remained offline since 29 February following an automatic shutdown of the reactor due to a "main transformer/generator internal failure". However, an injunction imposed by a district court on 9 March led to unit 3 being taken offline as well and both units have since remained idle.

Shikoku Electric Power Company's Ikata 3 in Ehime prefecture was restarted on 12 August and reached full generating capacity earlier this week.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News