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Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Wednesday asked Kashiwazaki Mayor Masazumi Saikawa for permission to restart a nuclear reactor now that the utility has finished repairing cracks in its coolant pipes.

The No. 4 reactor of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture is the first reactor that Tepco is ready to restart that actually had defects. Tepco shut down all of its reactors following revelations that it falsified nuclear safety reports to cover up faults in some.

The No. 4 reactor was shut down for safety checks in January. Cracks were found in six places in the recirculation pipes. Tepco says it removed the cracked segments and replaced them with new pipes.

It earlier reactivated the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the seven-reactor plant because it did not detect any fractures in them. But it has not completed repairing the remaining four, which have cracks in their core shrouds.

Tepco hopes to obtain local approval to restart the No. 4 reactor as soon as possible so it can meet the soaring summer demand for electricity, the officials said.

But Niigata Gov. Ikuo Hirayama has said he will decide whether to give the go-ahead after the local assembly session ends July 11, and on condition that Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Takeo Hiranuma guarantees the reactor’s safety.

Tepco has 17 nuclear reactors, seven in Niigata Prefecture and 10 in Fukushima Prefecture.

Hokkaido reactor OK’d

Hokkaido Electric Power Co. received government approval Wednesday to construct an additional nuclear reactor in the village of Tomari, western Hokkaido.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which is supervised by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, gave the green light to construct the No. 3 pressurized-water reactor.

It is the first time the government has approved construction of a commercial reactor since giving the go-ahead to the No. 2 reactor at Hokuriku Electric Power Co.’s Shiga nuclear power plant in April 1999, the agency said.

It is also the first approval granted to a pressurized-water reactor since the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Oi nuclear power station operated by Kansai Electric Power Co. in 1987.

There are two similar reactors at the Tomari nuclear power station.

Approval for the latest reactor was granted after the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan and the Atomic Energy Commission, both government panels under the Cabinet Office, submitted to the METI minister reports in late June saying the reactor will be safe.

Hokkaido Electric Power will begin construction in November. , with an eye to starting operations in December 2009. The reactor is expected to produce up to 912,000 kilowatts of electricity.

Joyo reactor restarted

MITO, Ibaraki Pref. (Kyodo) The Joyo experimental fast-breeder reactor in Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture, was reactivated and attained criticality Wednesday, the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute said.

The reactor was deactivated in June 2000, and renovations began in October that year. Renovations on the reactor began three years ago. It is now capable of generating 160,000 kilowatts of power, up from 100,000 kw before it was shut down, it said.

The institute said it will resume full operations in April.

The renovations were undertaken to develop fast-breeder technologies.

Joyo, built in 1977, was Japan’s first fast-breeder reactor under the government’s policy to recycle spent nuclear fuel to maximize energy production.

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