TSURUGA, FUKUI PREF. – The Nuclear Regulation Authority began a regular safety inspection Monday of the troubled Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor after its operator was found to have carried out sloppy equipment checks.
The NRA will mainly seek to verify during the quarterly inspection through March 22 if the Japan Atomic Energy Agency has taken measures to correct its failure to check a raft of equipment last year, officials said.
The authority will also investigate whether the operator of the plant in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, has been appropriately managing its fuel replacement unit inside the reactor that was repaired last August following an accident in 2010.
JAEA was found to have failed to conduct periodic checks on a quarter of its nearly 40,000 items of equipment before the deadline.
Its subsequent report handed in response to an NRA order was flawed, leading the authority to conduct an on-site inspection in February.
Restarts in 2013 unlikely
Nuclear power stations are unlikely to resume operations by the end of the year because of the time it will take to complete safety checks under the new regulatory framework, a survey of the plants’ operators indicated.
Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi nuclear power station in Fukui Prefecture, which currently boasts the only two operational reactors in the country, is scheduled to be idled for an inspection in September, regardless of the new safety guidelines to be unveiled by the Nuclear Regulation Authority in July, according to the Sunday poll.
The survey, which canvassed nine regional utilities and Japan Atomic Power Co., also found that their financial burden is growing as they reinforce safety measures in response to the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
Power firms expect the cost of implementing the new standards to total at least ¥1.1 trillion, while Kepco alone said it will require ¥285.5 billion in the medium- to long-term, the survey found.
But Kyushu Electric Power Co. was more upbeat, saying it could restart two reactors in July, providing the NRA swiftly completes the necessary safety inspections. All of the other nine companies polled declined to provide specific dates for restarting their reactors.
Although Shikoku Electric Power Co. said it aims to fire up its reactors at the earliest possible time, it has applied for government approval to hike household electricity rates based on the assumption that it will be able to restart its nuclear plant in Ikata, Ehime Prefecture, in July.