The safety debate at the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture appeared to shift toward reactivation late Monday as trade minister Yukio Edano said it has already fulfilled enough of last week’s hastily drafted extra safety steps to prevent meltdowns from happening during power outages.
Emerging from a Cabinet meeting on nuclear safety Monday night, Edano said the government now believes Oi’s reactors can survive a station blackout like the one that doomed the Fukushima No. 1 power plant in Fukushima Prefecture last March.
“We have confirmed safety measures have been taken to prevent escalation of an accident,” Edano said.
Four other ministers involved in the issue, however, will continue meeting to discuss whether potential safety problems have been overlooked, although they already believe the reactors in question at Oi, Nos. 3 and 4, are now secure, Edano said.
Earlier the day, Kansai Electric Power Co. President Makoto Yagi presented Edano with a medium- to long-term timetable for taking other safety measures deemed necessary to restart the idled reactors at Oi.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Edano and two ministers have been consulting constantly about whether to approve the restarts before May 5, when the nation’s last remaining active reactor is scheduled to go offline for routine checks.
Since the nuclear crisis started at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Co., no reactors have resumed operation following shutdowns for mandatory periodic checkups. The units at the Oi plant are the first being considered for reactivation.
In the timetable, Kepco revealed a plan to set up venting systems with filters at the Oi plant to reduce the risk of radioactive substances entering the atmosphere in a severe accident, as well as quake-proof accident management facilities, both by fiscal 2015.
“Our company positions the continuous improvement of nuclear power as its most important management policy and intends to achieve the world’s best safety by utilizing all of our business resources,” Yagi told Edano.
Noda, Edano, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura and nuclear disaster minister Goshi Hosono will assess the timetable, the submission of which is a prerequisite for resuming the two Oi reactors, to determine if their safety will be ensured by the measures.
They will also examine projections for electricity supply and demand this summer in Osaka and other parts of west Japan the utility serves, before determining whether they should seek residents’ permission to fire them up.
Asked whether Kansai Electric can ensure stable power this summer without using Oi’s reactors, Yagi said: “If we see demand matching last year’s level, and if we have no nuclear power, the (electricity) demand and supply balance will be very severe.”
Kansai Electric’s timetable clarifies time limits for achieving 30 safety steps spelled out by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency in light of the Fukushima disaster.
Kansai Electric, which had said it would set up the venting system in a few years, clarified the system’s timing for the first time and front-loaded the plan for the accident management facility by a year. It also mentioned a plan to introduce permanent electricity generation systems for emergencies by fiscal 2015.
Edano told Yagi to explore the utility’s chances of hastening the plans. Yagi said the company would try its best.