More restarts sought

Kyodo

Kyushu Electric Power Co. filed Friday for government safety assessments on two reactors, raising to 12 the number of units for which restarts are being sought in the wake of the introduction earlier this week of new safety requirements.

Power utilities are rushing to file for the safety reviews by the Nuclear Regulation Authority because they want to restart their reactors so they can stop buying expensive fuel for their thermal power plants.

The nuclear reactors are idle due to safety concerns in light of the catastrophe at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 complex.

Kyushu Electric filed applications Friday for reactors 3 and 4 at its Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture. It has already taken the same procedures for reactors 1 and 2 at its Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture.

All 12 reactors for which restarts are being sought are of the pressurized-water type, which are different from the three that experienced core meltdowns at Fukushima No. 1.

Under the new safety regulations, reactors must have a venting system with filters that can reduce the amount of radioactive substances when pressure needs to be released from reactor containers during emergencies.

Installing the system involves a major construction effort by utilities.

But pressurized-water reactors have been given a five-year moratorium to meet the requirement, enabling utilities to file for their restart now.

Of the 50 commercial reactors in Japan, all but two are currently offline.

To be restarted, reactors will have to be checked by the NRA to see whether they satisfy the new safety criteria.

The new requirements for the first time oblige utilities to put in place specific countermeasures against possible severe crises, particularly reactor core meltdowns, as well as against huge tsunami — the direct cause of the Fukushima crisis.