National

Kyushu Electric finishes loading fuel into nuclear reactor

Kyodo

Kyushu Electric Power Co. has completed loading nuclear fuel into a reactor at its Sendai Nuclear Power Station, a step toward rebooting the first atomic facility after meeting stringent safety standards the central government introduced after the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns.

The last rod assembly — the 157th — was embedded into the reactor at 12:12 a.m. on Friday, ending an operation that engaged some 50 workers around the clock since the loading process started Tuesday at the station in Kagoshima Prefecture, a company official said.

Subject to inspection clearance by the government’s Nuclear Regulation Authority in the coming days, Kyushu Electric is envisaging firing up the reactor around Aug. 10 to start trial power transmission three days later.

The reactor is expected to be geared up to full steam later in the month before starting commercial power transmission in September, a move that would likely bring relief to the company, which has been reeling from losses caused by hefty imported fossil fuel costs to run conventional power plants, with all six of its nuclear reactors idled.

If the nuclear authority finds any problem, however, Kyushu Electric will be required to address it and this may result in the restart being delayed.

The resumption of the reactor — one of the two at the Sendai plant — will mark the restart of nuclear power generation in Japan that has been at a standstill due to safety concerns following the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant caused by a massive earthquake and tsunami. No commercial reactor has been online in Japan for nearly two years.

The utility is aiming to load fuel into the second reactor at the Sendai plant in early September and reboot it in mid-October.