• Kyodo


The head of the nuclear regulatory body Wednesday urged Kansai Electric Power Co. to understand the seriousness of a recent incident at one of its reactors, as the case had “a large impact on society” and diminished public trust in the safety of nuclear power operations.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority approved Kansai Electric’s report on the cause of the incident and preventive steps to be taken during a regular meeting, but Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the body, said the utility should reflect on the incident seriously.

The No. 4 unit at the company’s Takahama nuclear plant, on the Sea of Japan coast about 380 kilometers west of Tokyo, has been kept offline since it shut down automatically Feb. 29 after problems with a generator and a transformer triggered alarms.

The emergency shutdown occurred just three days after the reactor’s restart following the NRA’s approval of resumption of operations. The regulator gave the go-ahead for restart last year based on tougher safety regulations adopted after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

In the report, the power company said alarms were triggered after a monitoring device detected an electrical current exceeding a preset permissible level. The company said the level had been set lower than usual.

Kansai Electric, which chiefly serves western Japan, still cannot reboot the No. 4 reactor as well as the No. 3 unit at the same plant in Fukui Prefecture unless a court order banning the utility from running the two units is overturned.

The Otsu District Court ruled last month that the two units be suspended, citing safety concerns. It was the first ruling of its kind affecting operating reactors. The utility has filed an objection to the court decision.

The Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at the Takahama plant came back online on Jan. 29 and Feb. 26, respectively, following the restart of two reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai plant last year.

A day after the court order, Kansai Electric halted the No. 3 reactor.

Japan started bringing reactors back online last year after the nuclear crisis led to a nationwide shutdown of nuclear plants. The government seeks to derive 20 to 22 percent of the country’s electricity from nuclear power by 2030.

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