Chugoku Electric Power Co. applies for safety check of new Shimane reactor

Kyodo

Chugoku Electric Power Co. on Friday applied to the government for safety screening of a nuclear reactor it is building, opening up the possibility of it becoming the nation’s first new reactor to go into operation since the 2011 Fukushima crisis.

“With existing nuclear reactors currently restarting, we thought it was possible to file for checks of the No. 3 unit,” Tatsuo Kitano, managing executive officer of the utility based in Hiroshima Prefecture, told reporters.

Work on the No. 3 unit at the Shimane plant in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, is almost complete, and safety checks by nuclear regulators may proceed faster than for another reactor in Aomori Prefecture that is also under construction.

The No. 3 reactor will have a maximum output of 1,373 megawatts, making it one of the largest in the country. It is a boiling water reactor — the same type as those at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s disaster-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Chugoku Electric was initially aiming to activate the reactor in December 2011 after starting construction in 2006. But the plan was postponed following the Fukushima crisis, which was triggered by a massive quake and tsunami disaster that devastated parts of northeastern Japan.

The crisis led to the introduction of more stringent safety standards for nuclear power plants. Around 10 reactors have resumed operation after clearing safety hurdles, but no new reactors have been activated since the disaster.

The latest development came a day after Shimane Gov. Zembee Mizoguchi officially gave the green light for Chugoku Electric’s application for government screening.

But it remains unclear when the reactor will be put into service as the utility will not just have to clear the safety tests but will also need to seek local consent again before it can begin operations.

Chugoku Electric is spending around ¥500 billion ($4.5 billion) on safety measures for the No. 3 reactor, aiming to finish the work by September next year.

The other new reactor that is seeking to start operations is being built at Electricity Power Development Co.’s Oma nuclear power plant in Aomori Prefecture.

The company known as J-Power applied for government safety checks in 2014, but the process has been drawn out. The Oma reactor is expected to become the world’s first commercial reactor to run fully on plutonium-uranium mixed oxide fuel.