Hamaoka nuclear plant successfully closed

Kyodo

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The Hamaoka nuclear plant in Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, was completely shut down Saturday following an unprecedented request by the government due to fears of a large earthquake hitting the area.

Chubu Electric Power Co. said it hopes to fire the plant back up soon after strengthening its tsunami defenses, but Gov. Heita Kawakatsu remains cautious about the idea. The central government said the suspension will last two to three years.

Chubu Electric finished work at 10:15 a.m. to stop atomic fission at the last active reactor, the No. 5 unit.

The utility began putting control rods into the reactor’s core earlier in the day.

The No. 4 reactor, the other unit that was operating, was suspended Friday. The No. 1 and No. 2 reactors were already shut down for decommissioning, while the No. 3 unit was suspended for regular checkups.

The operator said it would bring the No. 5 reactor to a stable cold shutdown Sunday morning. The No. 4 unit entered a stable condition Friday night.

Chubu Electric, based in Nagoya, will lose more than 10 percent of its capacity with the shutdown of the 3.6 million kw Hamaoka plant, its only atomic facility. The company said it will reboot its suspended thermal power station to meet the summer peak demand and ask its users to save electricity.

The Hamaoka complex stands in an area where a magnitude 8 earthquake is projected. The so-called Tokai Earthquake is the only one for which authorities compile top-level prevention measures on the assumption they will be able to predict it.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan asked Chubu Electric to halt the Hamaoka plant in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear facility.

Following the plant’s shutdown, local residents expressed mixed feelings. Some said they were relieved that they didn’t have to worry about radiation anymore. Others said they were worried about how the plant’s closure would affect their jobs.

“I’m happy the entire plant has been brought to a halt,” said resident Minoru Ito, 69, a long-time opponent of the plant.

But local restaurant manager Tadao Koka, 69, said he was worried about the future.

“I can’t imagine life without the plant,” he said. “Local businesses here totally depend on it.”