OTSU, SHIGA PREF. – The Shiga Prefectural Government signed an agreement Monday with Kansai Electric Power Co. on safety issues concerning the Takahama nuclear plant in adjacent Fukui Prefecture, which is scheduled to be restarted Friday.
The plant will be the second nuclear power station in Japan to resume electricity generation under new safety regulations introduced after the 2011 Fukushima crisis.
The safety accord requires Kansai Electric to immediately report emergency situations at the plant and compensate for damage caused by accidents. But it stops short of acquiescing to Shiga Prefecture’s demand for a say over the plant’s reactivation — a right usually awarded to host municipalities.
The Fukushima disaster led the central government to expand the evacuation preparation areas around nuclear plants to a radius of 30 km instead of 10 km. Local governments that do not host nuclear plants but could be adversely affected by an accident have called for a greater say in safety.
Shiga, a small part of which falls within the Takahama plant’s 30-km buffer zone, has sought a role in the local consent process for approving the restart of the four-reactor Takahama complex, only to be rebuffed by Kansai Electric.
Only Fukui Prefecture and the town of Takahama, which hosts the plant, were involved in the process.
Shiga Gov. Taizo Mikazuki said Monday the signing of the accord marked “progress” in terms of fulfilling the prefecture’s responsibility to ensure public safety.
But Mikazuki later told reporters that he told Kansai Electric President Makoto Yagi, who attended the signing ceremony together with the governor, that he was reluctant to accept the plant’s reactivation and asked that Shiga be treated the same way as the host areas.
Under the accord, Kansai Electric will also report its plans to transport nuclear fuel and radioactive waste in advance, while cooperating on the prefecture’s disaster mitigation measures.
The utility will promise in a separate document to provide explanations in advance on important changes at the plant, such as the construction of new reactors.
Kansai Electric on Monday reported to the Nuclear Regulation Authority that it will reboot the plant’s No. 3 reactor on Friday evening.
It will be the first reactor to run on uranium-plutonium mixed oxide fuel, or MOX, under new safety regulations imposed in 2013.
The No. 4 reactor is scheduled to resume operation in late February, with its fuel to be loaded Sunday.