National

Reactor at Ikata plant in Shikoku close to clearing NRA safety check

Kyodo

An idled reactor run by Shikoku Electric Power Co. is expected take a big step next week toward resuming operation, bolstering the government’s drive to revive atomic power in the wake of the Fukushima meltdowns, sources said Friday.

The No. 3 unit at the three-reactor Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture is close to following four of Japan’s 43 commercial reactors in clearing the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s post-Fukushima safety tests so it can go back online.

The reactor, however, is not expected to resume operation before winter because Shikoku Electric still needs to obtain local consent and complete other procedures.

The NRA’s decision-making panel is expected to approve a draft report clearing the Ikata unit as early as Wednesday. It will then grant it official safety approval after soliciting technical comments from the public for a month.

The No. 1 unit at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture is seen as the one closest to restarting since it received safety clearance last September. But it will not be reactivated before late July as some pre-operational checks still need to be carried out.

The world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986 shattered Japan’s nuclear safety myth, resulting in the shutdown of all commercial reactors by the end of September 2013. The government of Prime Minsiter Shinzo Abe wants to restart any reactors clear the new safety requirements as soon as possible.

But the prospects for doing so remain unclear because the safety screenings, political and geological hurdles will likely take more time than expected to resolve.

Shikoku Electric requested a safety screening for the Ikata unit in July 2013. A total of 24 reactors at 15 nuclear plants are currently being inspected by the NRA.