Tokyo Electric Power Co. will equip its idled nuclear reactors with filtered venting systems it has developed on its own to hasten efforts to restart them, company sources said Thursday.
The nation’s regional utilities are trying to install the system because it’s one of the new safety requirements that will be imposed in July to deal with severe accidents.
But Tepco’s effort to develop its own filtered venting system is rare. The other utilities are outsourcing the job to heavy machinery makers.
How the new system will be tested and who that task will fall to also remains to be seen, given Tepco’s perpetual equipment troubles and scandal-tainted maintenance record.
The equipment was built with the massive Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture in mind. The reactors at the world’s biggest atomic plant are all offline until new nuclear safety standards can be implemented.
Tepco is hoping to shorten the manufacturing and installation period for the system to about six months, compared with the usual one to two years, and largely curtail the construction costs.
Cost-cutting is a key issue as the utility struggles to put its business back on track in the face of expanding outlays stemming from the core meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in March 2011.
Tepco may finish the venting system at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant’s boiling water reactor in the summer, which would make it the first reactor in Japan equipped with a filtered vent.
Filtered vents can reduce the amount of radioactive material ejected into the atmosphere when reactors must undergo emergency venting to reduce pressure. The Fukushima No. 1 plant’s venting systems lacked radiation-screening filters, allowing much of the prefecture to be tainted with radiation.
Tokyo Electric Power Services Co., a Tepco group company, designed the equipment, but it is uncertain whether the Nuclear Regulation Authority will allow Tepco to restart the idled reactors in fiscal 2013, because concerns linger over geologic faults running beneath the plant.
The utilities are expected to start applying for government permits to put their reactors back online after the new safety requirements take effect in mid-July.
Filtered venting will be an immediate requirement for boiling water reactors, but a five-year moratorium has been applied to pressurized water reactors because their containers are larger than BWRs.
The only two reactors currently operating in Japan are at the Oi plant run by Kansai Electric Power Co. Both are pressurized water reactors.