Kepco files bid to extend life of aging Mihama reactor


Staff Writer

Kansai Electric Power Co. formally submitted an application to the Nuclear Regulation Authority on Thursday for permission to extend the life of its aging Mihama No. 3 reactor for up to another two decades.

The reactor will turn 40 years old in December 2016. Under new rules established by the NRA, an operator may apply for a one-time extension to continue operating a 40-year-old reactor for 20 years, assuming it passes additional safety inspections. Kepco has already applied to extend its Takahama No. 1 and 2 reactors, both of which are now over 40 years old.

Kepco president Makoto Yagi said Thursday the decision was taken after the utility decided it would be better to restart the unit than to scrap it, despite the additional costs involved in meeting new earthquake and disaster safety standards.

“We decided there was economic merit to extending the reactor’s operations after taking into account its output and expected revenue,” Yagi told reporters.

How much it will cost to meet the new safety standards is uncertain. Kepco originally estimated it would be around ¥130 billion. That figure could climb if further problems are found during inspections.

Kepco’s decision was also taken partially to ensure Mihama would continue to have one reactor in operation.

Earlier this year, the utility said it would decommission two reactors at the site, the 45-year-old No. 1 and 43-year-old No. 2 units.

At a shareholders meeting earlier this year, Kepco officials indicated that the company might one day build new nuclear power plants to replace Mihama and noted that it wanted to maintain good relations with the town.

Thursday’s decision comes a day after Kepco announced the restart of its Takahama No. 3 and 4 reactors would be delayed by one month each. They were originally slated for restart in December and January, respectively.

Although the NRA has approved a restart, both reactors had a temporary injunction slapped on them earlier this year, which Kepco is seeking to have lifted.

Despite safety concerns among local residents, especially in neighboring Kyoto and Shiga prefectures, Fukui Prefecture and local leaders in Takahama are anxious to have both reactors online again as soon as possible, given the funds they bring in the form of government subsidies and local service industry revenue.

Earlier this week, Mihama town head Yutaka Nose met with Ryozo Tatami, mayor of Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture, to discuss safety cooperation. Parts of Maizuru, a major port city on the Sea of Japan with a Maritime Self-Defense Force base, lie within 5 kilometers of the Takahama plant.