Amid protests, Kyushu Electric restarts Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima


SATSUMA-SENDAI, Kagoshima Prefecture–Kyushu Electric Power Co. activated the No. 1 reactor of the Sendai nuclear power plant here on Aug. 11, the first to be restarted in Japan under new safety regulations instituted after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The reactor is the first of 43 across the nation to be brought back online, ending a period with no nuclear power, which lasted for a year and 11 months.
As anti-nuclear protesters rallied around the Sendai plant, located in Satsuma-Sendai city, work to restart the No. 1 reactor began in the central control room at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 11.
Kyushu Electric workers pulled a lever to remove the control rods that had curbed nuclear fission in the reactor.
The 32 control rods began to withdraw, reactivating the reactor.
The reactor is expected to reach criticality, in which nuclear fission is self-sustaining, at around 11 p.m. on Aug. 11. Steam produced from the heat generated by the nuclear fission will drive a turbine to produce electricity.
The generation and transmission of electricity is expected to begin on Aug. 14. The output will be raised gradually, reaching full power generation in late August and shifting to a commercial operation in early September.
In a statement, Kyushu Electric Power President Michiaki Uriu said, “The activation of the nuclear reactor is one of the important steps in the process for restart. We will continue to deal sincerely with the government’s inspections and proceed with the subsequent process by putting a top priority on safety.”
In September 2014, the Sendai nuclear power plant passed the new safety regulations for the first time in the nation. In March this year, the Nuclear Regulation Authority started the inspection process that is required before a nuclear reactor can be reactivated. In July, nuclear fuel was brought into the reactor.
As operations of the reactor had been suspended for about four years, Kyushu Electric proceeded cautiously with the preparations.
All nuclear reactors in Japan were taken offline soon after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered three meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Though Kansai Electric Power Co. temporarily operated the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors of its Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture to deal with an electricity shortage, it suspended operations again in September 2013.
The electric power industry is pushing for the restart of idled nuclear reactors. The Abe administration also regards nuclear power as vital to the nation’s power needs.
Kyushu Electric plans to restart the No. 2 reactor at its Sendai nuclear power plant in mid-October. Preparations for a restart are progressing at the No. 3 and the No. 4 reactors of Kansai Electric’s Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture and the No. 3 reactor of Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime Prefecture.
One stumbling block for the Takahama plant is a temporary injunction the Fukui District Court issued in April this year to prohibit the restart.
Meanwhile, anxieties remain among residents living near nuclear power plants over insufficient emergency measures in the event of a nuclear accident. For example, the formulation of evacuation plans has been delayed for some medical and welfare facilities that house many elderly people.
In the Kyushu region where the Sendai nuclear power plant is situated, volcanic activity poses a threat. Therefore, some opponents argue that it is necessary for nuclear power plants to take safety measures against major eruptions.
The spread of summer power-saving campaigns and solar power generation have reduced concerns over electricity shortages even when no nuclear reactors are operating. A stable electricity supply is continuing across the nation even amid a serious heat wave.
Opposition to the restart of nuclear plants remains strong among the public.
Source: Asahi Shimbun
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201508110066

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