National

Fears grow as Takahama reactors near restart

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

As two aging reactors in the town of Takahama, Fukui Prefecture, move toward restart, safety concerns are growing in neighboring prefectures and municipalities within 30 km of the plant.

Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama No. 1 and 2 reactors are over 40 years old, but the utility has applied for a 20-year extension. On Wednesday, the Nuclear Regulation Authority officially gave the reactors the green light, signaling they meet the fundamental safety standards needed for reactivation.

Although additional tests and inspections are needed before the reactors can resume operation, the potential first-ever restart of two units that are more than four decades old has neighboring communities worried.

The Sea of Japan coastal city of Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture, parts of which lie 5 km from Takahama, would be on the front lines of any disaster response in the event of an accident, and Mayor Ryozo Tatami expressed specific concerns Wednesday.

“At present, has the safety of the plant been confirmed? We need scientific and technological explanations. The No. 1 and 2 reactors were envisioned and constructed to operate for 40 years,” Tatami said. “We also need documentation from when the plant was originally built that proves it’s possible to operate the reactor for 60 years, especially since the core cannot be replaced.”

Caution by Tatami in particular over restarting Takahama Nos. 1 and 2 could impact the stance of other Kansai leaders.

A small part of northern Shiga Prefecture lies within 30 km of Takahama, and Gov. Taizo Mikazuki expressed concern this week about running old reactors that could leak radiation into Lake Biwa, as well as the problem of storing additional nuclear waste generated by the reactors.

While gaining approval for restarts from heavily pro-nuclear Takahama and Fukui Prefecture is expected to be relatively easy, Kepco is certain to face calls from other Kansai-area prefectures to provide detailed explanations of why it needs to restart two aging reactors before permission for their restart is given.

It is also likely to face questions about whether the utility and NRA are cutting corners in order to make the July 7 deadline for formal permission to restart. If that deadline is missed, the reactors are supposed to be scrapped.

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