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Japan Government Authorizes Restart of Two Reactors

Industry/Regulatory/Political

  • Japan’s government has approved restarting two reactors at the Ohi nuclear power plant in the Fukui prefecture in central Japan. The government decision came after the governor of Fukui told Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda that he approved the restart. All 50 of Japan’s reactors have been idled for inspections, the last going off line in May, and the central government has warned of power shortages during the summer. Kansai Electric Power Co., Ohi’s operator, has begun work to restart reactor 3, which the company said should be at full power by July 8. Reactor 4 will be in full operation by July 24. The government is urging people and companies to continue conserving power in the Kansai area, especially if the rainy season ends early. Meanwhile, some major steel and paper companies are planning to build their own power generation facilities and to sell the surplus electricity to utility companies.
  • Japan’s lower house passed legislation last week to reorganize the country’s nuclear regulatory system. The bill creates a new, independent five-member Nuclear Regulatory Commission to replace the present Nuclear Safety Commission. The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency becomes the Nuclear Regulations Agency and will operate under the new commission. Both agencies will be part of the Ministry of the Environment. The bill also needs the approval of the upper house.
  • The U.S. nuclear energy industry continues to implement lessons learned from the Fukushima accident, based on the recommendations of the NRC’s Japan task force. Industry has begun to train staff to conduct seismic inspections at nuclear energy facilities, using Kewaunee Power Station as a lead plant for the inspections. Meanwhile, the industry last week sent the NRC a letter on vent filtering strategies, and this week will transmit comments on the agency’s proposed rulemaking on severe accident management guidelines.

Media Highlights

  • NHK World reported on a 2006 study by Tokyo Electric Power Co. that predicted all power would be lost if Fukushima Daiichi reactor 5 were struck by a tsunami higher than 19 feet. TEPCO says the study, conducted in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, was intended as a training exercise for junior employees and not as a recommendation for making major changes to the facility.
  • Reuters reported that the reorganization of Japan’s nuclear regulatory agencies should be complete by September.

New Products

  • NEI’s Safety First website reprints an article from Nuclear Energy Overview on the industry’s comment letter asking the NRC to remain focused on implementing the high-priority recommendations from the agency’s Fukushima task force.
  • The Safety First website also profiles Kristine Madden, a young reactor engineer at Entergy’s Palisades nuclear energy facility in Michigan.

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