SATSUMA-SENDAI, Kagoshima Prefecture–Marking the end of 23 months of a nuclear power-free Japan, the Sendai nuclear power plant began generating and transmitting electricity on Aug. 14.
Kyushu Electric Power Co. activated the No. 1 reactor at the Sendai plant on Aug. 11, to become the first nuclear reactor brought back online under new safety regulations instituted by the Nuclear Regulation Authority after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. The nation had been without nuclear power since September 2013.
At 9 a.m. on Aug. 14, utility workers connected an electrical generator with power cables from the plant’s central control room. The workers applauded when it was confirmed that the reactor began power generation and transmission for the first time in more than four years.
In a statement released the same day, Yoichi Miyazawa, the minister of trade and industry, said the start of generating and transmitting power at the plant “represents an important step forward to achieving a well-balanced energy mix and a more stable supply of electricity.”
The output from the reactor was expected to reach 30 percent of its full capacity of 890,000 kilowatts on Aug. 14, and will be raised gradually to reach full power generation in about 10 days.
The reactor is expected to begin commercial operations in early September unless the NRA detects safety problems during its final inspection.
Michiaki Uriu, Kyushu Electric Power president, said in a statement that the company will continue its efforts to improve safety at the plant with “determination to prevent an accident similar to the one at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant from occurring.”
“We will gradually increase the output while closely monitoring the condition of the plant,” he said.
Kyushu Electric officials said the utility will proceed cautiously with operation of the No. 1 reactor as its operations had been suspended for a periodic inspection in May 2011.
It will be the first time that electricity generated at a nuclear plant will be supplied to households and businesses since the No. 4 reactor at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture went offline in September 2013.
Kyushu Electric, which relied on nuclear energy for about 40 percent of its power supply before the Fukushima disaster unfurled, plans to restart the No. 2 reactor at the Sendai plant in mid-October.
It has also applied for NRA safety screening to resume operations of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at its Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture.
Preparations for restarts are progressing at the No. 3 and 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.
The restart of the Sendai plant is likely to give momentum to efforts by the electric power industry and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to restart idle nuclear reactors nationwide.
But municipalities located near nuclear power plants have yet to map out effective evacuation plans for people in local medical and welfare facilities in the event of nuclear accidents.
A shortage of buses and other transportation modes to evacuate residents remains unsolved, while it also is unclear if utility companies can effectively shut down reactors when a Fukushima-level accident takes place at a nuclear plant.
Opinion polls have shown that more Japanese are opposed to the reactor restarts than those who support them.
Source: Asahi Shimbun