Rule amendment to allow extended operation of Japanese reactors

21 December 2022

Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has approved a draft of a new rule that would allow the country's nuclear power reactors to be operated for more than the current limit of 60 years. The amendment will require parliamentary approval.

Last month, Kansai Electric Power announced it will apply for regulatory approval to extend the operating life of Takahama units 3 and 4 by a further 20 years (Image: Kansai)

Under regulations which came into force in July 2013, Japanese reactors have a nominal operating period of 40 years. One extension to this - limited to a maximum of 20 years - may be granted, requiring amongst other things a special inspection to verify the integrity of reactor pressure vessels and containment vessels after 35 years of operation.

At a 21 December meeting, the NRA outlined a new rule under which it will evaluate the deterioration level and safety of nuclear reactors in service for 30 years or more, starting in the 30th year of operation and continuing once per decade or less thereafter. The NRA will then approve or deny continued operation for a further ten years.

The NRA will require reactor operators to submit a long-term plan to manage the condition of their facilities togther with details of measures needed to control equipment deterioration.

The regulator said it will conduct inspections to confirm the implementation of those plans.

The NRA will rereview nuclear plants currently operating beyond 30 years before the new system goes into operation, as previous approvals will be invalidated by its introduction, The Mainichi reported. However, it said the regulator will not require utilities to submit new data.

The NRA plans to submit a bill to the Diet, the national legislature, next year to amend the relevant legislation after soliciting opinions from the general public and exchanging views with electric power companies.

The Japan Atomic Industrial Forum noted that, at a 16 December meeting, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's Agency for Natural Resources and Energy said of the new rule: "Similar to the current system, the operating period will be 40 years, and the extension period will be 20 years. It excludes the period of suspension associated with the review of compliance with regulatory standards, and allows additional extensions."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News