Kyushu Electric eyes Tuesday restart for Sendai reactor


Kyushu Electric Power Co. is planning to restart the No. 1 reactor at its Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture as early as Tuesday, sources said Friday.

That would make it the first reactor to be brought back online since the country’s new safety standards were introduced more than two years ago.

The last nuclear power reactor in operation in Japan was shuttered in September 2013. The new nuclear safety standards, introduced in July of that year, were compiled following the triple-meltdown crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, which was damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

On Monday, Kyushu Electric will conduct a safety check of control rods that will be placed into the Sendai No. 1 reactor.

If no problems are found with the control rods, the utility, which serves Kyushu’s southwestern region, will reactivate the reactor, the sources said.

The company had informed the Nuclear Regulation Authority it planned to restart the reactor on Monday or later.

The Sendai No. 1 reactor was shut down in May 2011, shortly after the quake and tsunami that devastated the Tohoku region.

Kyushu Electric filed for the NRA’s safety screening of the reactor in July 2013 following the introduction of the new regulatory standards.

The No. 1 unit passed the screening in September 2014, becoming the first to receive the NRA’s safety approval among reactors for which checks were sought.

Before the March 2011 disaster, nuclear energy accounted for 39 percent of all power generation at Kyushu Electric. The firm has two nuclear power plants — the Sendai plant and the Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture.

Following the suspension of the plants, Kyushu Electric, like other utilities, increased its thermal power generation.

But the company’s fuel costs for thermal power generation ballooned, reaching �678.4 billion in fiscal 2014, which ended in March this year. That is up 2.4-fold from fiscal 2010’s level. The huge costs have heavily weighed on its earnings.

The company is aiming to shore up its earnings by reactivating idled nuclear power reactors. Kyushu Electric expects that the restart of the Sendai No. 1 reactor will save the company about �7.5 billion a month.