An emergency drill to contain a severe accident like the Fukushima nuclear disaster started at the Sendai nuclear power plant on July 27, a final hurdle the operator must clear before a planned restart next month.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority, the nation’s nuclear watchdog, inspected the site to see if plant workers followed Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s revamped procedures for responding to a crisis. The steps were approved by the NRA in May.
The No. 1 reactor of the plant in Satsumasendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, is expected to be the nation’s first to go back online under the new regulations set by the NRA for nuclear power plants after the 2011 Fukushima accident.
Kyushu Electric plans to restart the reactor as early as Aug. 10.
On the first day of the four-day drill, the exercise began at 10 a.m. under a scenario that the plant lost the ability to cool its No. 1 reactor due to the loss of power, just like the 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.
The scenario also envisages that the nuclear fuel rods begin melting 19 minutes after the water level in the reactor began dropping.
During the drill, Kyushu Electric employees are expected to confirm steps to prevent a rupture of the reactor’s containment vessel to avert the release of a huge amount of radioactive materials into the atmosphere.
At the central control room, utility employees worked to secure power from large-scale, mobile power generators via remote control.
The backup devices were installed on the plant’s premises in line with the new regulations.
The employees also simulated the operation of equipment that lowers the concentration of hydrogen in the containment vessel to reduce the possibility of a hydrogen explosion.
As part of efforts to bolster its ability to deal with a serious accident, Kyushu Electric increased the number of night staff on duty at the plant to 52 from 12 prior to the Fukushima disaster.
Source: Asahi Shimbun