NRA approves use of Japanese reactors beyond 60 years

14 February 2023

Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has approved draft legislation to extend the operating life of the country's nuclear power reactors beyond 60 years. It also approved an amendment to the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law to remove the rule specifying the operational periods of reactors.

NRA Chairman Shinsuke Yamanaka announced the regulator's decision at a press conference following the extraordinary meeting (Image: NRA)

Under revised regulations that came into force in July 2013, Japanese reactors have a nominal operating period of 40 years. Extensions may be granted once only and are limited to a maximum of 20 years, contingent on exacting safety requirements.

At an extraordinary meeting on 13 February, a majority of the NRA commissioners voted to adopt a new system in which additional operating extensions can be granted every 10 years after 30 years of operation. No maximum limit is specified.

The NRA also approved a draft revision to the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law that removes the rule on nuclear reactors' operational periods, paving the way for them to operate beyond 60 years by excluding periods when they are offline, such as for safety inspections.

Last week, Japan's Cabinet approved a plan to allow new nuclear power reactors to be constructed and the operation of existing reactors to be extended from 40 to 60 years.

Under the plan - which describes nuclear as "a power source that contributes to energy security and has a high decarbonisation effect" - Japan will maximise the use of existing reactors by restarting as many of them as possible and prolonging the operating life of aging ones beyond the current 60-year limit. The government also said the country will develop advanced reactors to replace those that are decommissioned.

Bills to implement the new policy will be submitted to parliament during the current session.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News