FUKUI – Kansai Electric Power Co. on Friday asked the government to approve its operation of an atomic reactor that is nearly 40 years old, after public confidence was lost in older reactors amid the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
Whether the government will accept the request is uncertain because of growing doubts about the advisability of operating old reactors and Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s recent call for phasing out nuclear power.
The reactor in question is the No. 2 unit at the utility’s Mihama plant in Fukui Prefecture. The reactor turns 39 years old on Monday.
Nuclear plant operators planning to have reactors remain in service beyond the age of 40 are required to submit safety assessment reports and requests for their continued operation to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency one year ahead of time.
If the agency approves the continued operation, reactors may be allowed to remain in service up to 10 more years.
Three of Japan’s 54 reactors are more than 40 years old, including reactor 1 at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, which was crippled by the March quake and tsunami.
Reactor 1 at the Fukushima plant suffered a meltdown, one of three at the facility, and leaked radioactive substances. The building that housed it suffered one of the hydrogen explosions.
Sixteen other reactors are more than 30 years old.
Two more reactors offline
Kansai Electric Power Co. halted a reactor in Fukui Prefecture for regular inspections early Friday, and was poised to suspend another later in the day.
That will leave only 16 of the nation’s 54 reactors running, adding to the power supply problems.
The two reactors are the No. 4 unit at its Takahama nuclear plant and the No. 4 reactor at its Oi plant.
Kansai Electric has been asking households and firms in its service area to cut power consumption by 15 percent since July 1.
Fears of a power supply crunch in the Kansai region heightened after Kansai Electric halted the Oi plant’s No. 1 reactor last Saturday when the pressure reading in its emergency core cooling system fell below the required level. The utility has yet to pinpoint how that occurred.