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Japan brings more nuclear plants online

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Japan is slowly but tentatively resuming nuclear power operations. Shikoku Electric Power recently restarted the Ikata-3 nuclear power station in Ehime Prefecture, south-west Japan, bringing the number of commercial nuclear power reactors in operation in the country to eight out of a possible 33.

Before the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, Japan’s nuclear power plants generated about 30% of the country’s electricity. According to the International Atomic Agency this figure fell to 5.1% in 2020. However, Japan has adopted a new energy policy that promotes nuclear and renewables as sources of clean energy in a bid to achieve the country’s pledge to meet net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The target for nuclear power remains unchanged at 20–22% despite vocal opposition by environmental groups, with nuclear power still seen as key to meeting emission targets.

In fact, a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in March 2021 called on Japan to speed up nuclear reactor restarts as a way to achieve its national climate commitments, following the Paris Agreement.

The 846 MW Ikata-3 pressurised water reactor (PWR) was offline since December 2019 for scheduled maintenance. Power supply is expected to begin in December 2021 and resume full commercial operation on 4 January 2022.

The Japan Atomic Industrial Forum now has eight plants in operation: Genkai-3 and 4, Ikata-3, Ohi-4, Sendai-2, Takahama-3 and 4. Nine regional power utilities and a wholesaler, Japan Atomic Power Company, have 33 reactors available for commercial use. However, the companies had 54 reactors in operation before the Fukushima disaster.

The 750 MW Mihama-3 nuclear power plant was shut down for scheduled maintenance until October 2022 , including upgrades to meet stricter anti-terrorism rules after Fukushima.

The build-up of nuclear plants has been rather tentative. Last June, Miama-3 became the 10th commercial nuclear plant to return to service in Japan since Fukushima, but three of those plants have since been taken offline again.

Periodic inspection began last October on Sendai-1. But Shikoku Electric Power Company had to postpone restart of Ikata-3 while seeking consent from local authorities after claimed violation of security regulations. Apparently, a former employee had left the facility without permission during night or weekend shifts several times between 2017 and 2019, in violation of safety regulations.

Indeed, the original decision to restart Ikata-3 only came after the Hiroshima high court overturned a lower court injunction that had kept the PWR unit shut-down for more than a year, due to concern about volcano and earthquake risks.

The Fukushima nuclear power plant before it was damaged
Photo: Tepco

News Item details

Journal title: Energy World

Countries: Japan -

Organisation: Tokyo Electric Power Co Inc

Subjects: Electricity Power stations Nuclear

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