Oi reactors get OK to stay on till September

Kyodo

Finding no serious problems with the nation’s only two reactors currently online, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said Wednesday it will allow them to continue operations after new safety rules for atomic plants are introduced next Monday.

While all 50 of the nation’s commercial reactors will be obliged to meet the new nuclear standards from next week in order to be restarted, reactors 3 and 4 at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi plant will continue operations until sometime in September, when they will be taken offline for mandatory routine checks.

The operators of other reactors are expected to begin applying for their restarts once the new regulations come into force. Tokyo Electric Power Co. has already said it will seek the restart of two of its reactors in Niigata Prefecture by immediately applying for the state safety assessment.

Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida has been critical of restarting the plant, and expressed his frustration soon after the Tepco announcement Tuesday. “We have not heard any explanations. There is no greater disregard of local people than this,” he said.

On Wednesday, NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka told a meeting of other members that safety at the Oi reactors has improved because the plant operator has taken emergency measures based on requests by regulators.

But he added, “I want the operator to make further efforts to improve safety so that the reactors can (fully) satisfy the new regulation standards.”

Other NRA members also supported the conclusion of the report, but one commissioner, Kayoko Nakamura, criticized it, saying she felt the utility’s behavior and awareness of safety issues had “not received a passing grade.”

After the September routine checks, the NRA will determine if the two reactors can resume operations by assessing more strictly whether they meet the new requirements, including the absence of active faults under the plant.

Kepco said Monday its latest trench study did not change its view that a fault, called F-6 and believed to run under an emergency water intake channel for reactors 3 and 4, is not active.