TSURUGA, FUKUI PREF. - Kansai Electric Power Co. said Friday it has started loading nuclear fuel into a reactor on the Sea of Japan following a court decision to lift an injunction against the move, paving the way for its restart in late January, which would be the country’s third reactor to go online.
After the restart earlier this year of two reactors in southwestern Japan, while others remain offline in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, the No. 3 reactor at the utility’s Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture would be the first to run on uranium-plutonium mixed oxide, or MOX fuel, if it begins operations as scheduled.
The utility is scheduled to insert a total of 157 fuel rod assemblies by the next Tuesday, including 24 made from MOX fuel, according to Kepco.
The reactor along with the No. 4 unit at the same plant was allowed to resume operation by the Fukui District Court on Thursday.
The power company envisions reactivating the No. 3 unit sometime between Jan. 28 and 30 and having it start power generation and transmission around Feb. 1, followed by the restart of the No. 4 unit in late February.
“We will put top priority on the safety of the work” for the restart, Kansai Electric President Makoto Yagi said at a news conference Friday.
Japan returned to nuclear power generation when Kyushu Electric Power Co. brought two reactors at its Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture back online earlier this year.
The government seeks to make up at least 20 percent of the country’s electricity using nuclear power plants by 2030.
The restart of Takahama’s two reactors will be “a step forward” toward the goal, Motoo Hayashi, the industry minister in charge of the energy policy, said at a news conference Friday.
Prior to the court decision, both reactors gained approval for resumption from the state’s Nuclear Regulation Authority in February.
The injunction issued by the court in April, however, banned the utility from restarting the units until it was lifted on Thursday.
Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa on Tuesday gave the go-ahead for the company to restart the two units following approval by the local prefectural assembly and the mayor of Takahama.
The court’s presiding Judge Jun Hayashi said in Thursday’s decision that he recognizes the rationality of the post-Fukushima safety regulations set by the nuclear regulator.
Hideaki Higuchi, the presiding judge when the same court issued the injunction in April, said then the court could not see any credible evidence in the utility’s assumptions regarding earthquake risk and restarting the two reactors posed “imminent danger” to residents around the plant, which is about 380 km west of Tokyo.