” Kansai Electric Power Co. said Friday that it has started loading nuclear fuel into a reactor on the Sea of Japan following a court decision to lift an injunction against the move, paving the way for its restart in late January as the country’s third reactor to operate.
After the restart earlier this year of two reactors in southwestern Japan, while others remain offline in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, the No. 3 reactor at the utility’s Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture would be the first to run on uranium-plutonium mixed oxide, or MOX fuel, if it begins operations as scheduled.
The utility is scheduled to insert a total of 157 fuel rod assemblies by next Tuesday, including 24 of MOX fuel, according to Kansai Electric.
The reactor along with the No. 4 at the same plant was allowed to resume operation by the Fukui District Court on Thursday.
The power company envisions reactivating the No. 3 unit sometime between January 28 and 30 and having it start power generation and transmission around Feb. 1, followed by the restart of the No. 4 unit in late February.
“We will put top priority on the safety of the work” for the restart, Kansai Electric President Makoto Yagi said at a press conference Friday.
Japan returned to nuclear power generation when Kyushu Electric Power Co. brought the two reactors at its Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture back online in August and October respectively.
The government is seeking to make up at least 20 percent of the country’s electricity using nuclear power plants by 2030.
The restart of Takahama’s two reactors will be “a step forward” toward the goal, Motoo Hayashi, the industry minister who is in charge of the energy policy, said at a separate press conference the same day.
Prior to the court decision, both reactors gained approval for resumption in February from the state’s Nuclear Regulation Authority under new safety regulations introduced after the nuclear meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant.
The injunction issued by the court in April, however, banned the utility from restarting the units until it was lifted Thursday.
The Fukui governor on Tuesday gave the go-ahead for the company to restart the two units following approval by the local prefectural assembly and the mayor of Takahama.
The court’s Presiding Judge Jun Hayashi said in Thursday’s decision that he recognizes the rationality of the post-Fukushima safety regulations set by the nuclear regulator.
Hideaki Higuchi, presiding judge when the same court issued the injunction in April, said then the court could not see any credible evidence in the utility’s assumptions regarding earthquake risk and restarting the two reactors posed “imminent danger” to residents around the plant, about 380 kilometers west of Tokyo.