Another Kyushu Electric reactor begins full commercial operation — Kyodo News

” Kyushu Electric Power Co. began full-scale commercial operation Tuesday of a nuclear reactor at its two-unit Sendai plant in southwestern Japan after clearing a final inspection by the nuclear regulator.

The plant’s No. 2 unit is the second reactor in the country to fully resume commercial operation under new safety regulations adopted after the 2011 nuclear disaster, following its No. 1 unit in September.

The two-day final inspection by the regulator began Monday.

The No. 2 reactor was reactivated on Oct. 15 and began power generation and transmission on Oct. 21. The reactor gradually raised its output until it reached full capacity on Nov. 1.

Before the Nos. 1 and 2 units were reactivated, Japan had no nuclear power supply for nearly two years, as all of the country’s commercial reactors were gradually taken offline amid safety concerns in the wake of the Fukushima meltdowns.

The government identifies nuclear power as a key electricity source and is promoting the restart of idled reactors across the country even though antinuclear sentiment remains strong among the Japanese public.

Besides the two-unit Sendai plant, Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at its Takahama plant and Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s No. 3 reactor at its Ikata plant have obtained safety clearance.

The No. 3 unit at the Ikata plant is expected to be reactivated next year as the local authority agreed to its restart last month.

Japan introduced stricter safety regulations for nuclear reactors after bringing them to a standstill in the wake of the huge earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, that triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant of Tokyo Electric Power Co., the worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. ”


Nearly 2,000 protest restart of 2nd nuclear reactor in Kyushu — The Asahi Shimbun

” KAGOSHIMA–About 1,800 people from around Kyushu converged here on Oct. 12 to protest the planned restart of another reactor at the Sendai nuclear plant, saying the operator has made a decision that is “suicidal.”

Waving placards stating, “Nuclear plant, no more,” and shouting slogans in unison, the protesters, who are members of anti-nuclear groups and other citizens in the Kyushu region, started the rally in front of JR Kagoshima-chuo Station.

Kyushu Electric Power Co. is pushing to bring online the No. 2 reactor at the plant in Satsuma-Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, as early as Oct. 15. In August, the No. 1 reactor at the plant resumed operations, the first in Japan under stricter safety standards implemented after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The protesters were particularly critical of what they described as Kyushu Electric’s “suicidal” decision to restart the No. 2 reactor without replacing a steam generator in the reactor building with more durable one. The utility had planned to replace the generator in 2009.

The rally kicked off with a special concert by the Seifuku Kojo Iinkai (Uniform improvement committee) idol group, known for its original songs containing progressive political messages.

In her address at the rally, Ryoko Torihara, chairwoman of a local residents group in Satsuma-Sendai demanding the nuclear plant’s closure, criticized others in the city for depending economically and psychologically on nuclear power.

“Three decades have passed since the plant started operations, and residents no longer seem to have creative minds to come up with alternative methods to sustain the city’s economy,” Torihara said. “We are still dependent on the nuclear plant through and through, and it has deprived us of incentives to change the status quo.”

During his speech, Wataru Ogawa, a member of an anti-nuclear citizens group in neighboring Miyazaki Prefecture, called for residents in Kyushu to stop buying electricity from Kyushu Electric to press the regional utility to abandon nuclear energy.

“To change Kyushu Electric’s attitude toward nuclear energy, we must purposefully refuse to buy electricity from the company once the electricity distribution becomes deregulated,” Ogawa said.

After the rally, the protesters marched through the center of the city. ”


Koizumi condemns Abe’s policy of continuing use of nuclear power — The Japan Times

” Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who has become a resolute anti-nuclear campaigner following the 2011 Fukushima No. 1 meltdowns, criticized on Thursday the government’s plan to continue using nuclear power, saying it is “in breach of the election pledge” to lower reliance on nuclear power generation.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who sees Koizumi as a political mentor, plans for nuclear power to account for 20 percent to 22 percent of Japan’s total electricity output in 2030, compared with around 30 percent before the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Speaking at a press conference in Kagoshima Prefecture, Koizumi said the prime minister is “moving against the direction of lowering reliance on nuclear power as much as possible” as pledged by Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party during campaigning for the lower house election last year.

“Has he already forgotten what he said during the election?” asked Koizumi.

The former prime minister also criticized the government’s plan to reactivate Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear plant located in Kagoshima as early as this summer. The complex is expected to become the first nuclear facility to be restarted under a new set of tighter safety regulations introduced after the Fukushima crisis started.

Koizumi said Japan could “go without nuclear power” if Abe made up his mind to do so, urging him to reconsider the resumption plan. It is one of the very rare occasions “when a prime minister can play a historic role,” Koizumi said.

Referring to the recent volcanic eruption on a small, remote island in Kagoshima that forced all of the residents to evacuate, Koizumi added Japan is a “country which should not have nuclear power” given Japan is prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes and eruptions. ”


Japan’s first reactor restart delayed to August: Kyushu Electric — Yahoo! News

” TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Kyushu Electric Power said on Tuesday it has delayed the restart of its Sendai nuclear plant in southwestern Japan, the first to be brought back into service under new rules introduced after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

The delay to mid-August from the previous target of late July follows a warning by Japan’s nuclear regulator in April that the utility’s schedule for a restart was too optimistic.

All 43 of Japan’s operable nuclear reactors are currently offline. A restart of Sendai’s 890-megawatt No. 1 unit following stringent safety checks would mark the first resumption of nuclear power generation in nearly two years.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said rebooting the country’s nuclear sector is needed to cut the cost of using fossil fuels for power generation, but he faces a deeply skeptical public after the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant north of Tokyo.

Kyushu has notified the nuclear regulator that operational checks of some facilities needed before it can start loading uranium fuel into the reactor are likely to end two weeks later than previously announced, a Kyushu spokesman said.

Delaying the restart would likely raise the consumption of fossil fuels in the peak summer demand season, the spokesman said, declining to give details.

The company made no changes to the planned restart of the 890-megawatt Sendai No. 2 reactor in late September. The No. 1 unit has been offline since May 2011 and the second unit since September that year.

Five of Japan’s reactors have received basic clearance and are at varying stages of the review process. ”


Seismologist and nuclear engineer address concerns over restarting the Sendai reactors (part 2) — Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan

Katsuhiko Ishibashi: seismologist, emeritus professor, Kobe University
Satoshi Sato: nuclear engineer, consultant and former GE engineer


NRA’s approval of Sendai nuclear plant ignores Nankai quake risk, seismologist warns — The Japan Times

” The nation’s new nuclear regulator ignored earthquake risk and its own rules in approving the safety of the Sendai nuclear plant, said Kobe University professor and seismologist Katsuhiko Ishibashi.

Ishibashi, well-known in Japan for books and papers on earthquake threats that later became reality, said he has filed a formal complaint to the Nuclear Regulation Authority challenging the legality of its decision.

The NRA’s approval in September of Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear plant in Kyushu opens the way to restart two reactors at the station, possibly this year. They are the first of Japan’s viable reactors to pass the new standards introduced since the Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011. All reactors in the country have been shut for safety checks for at least 18 months.

Ishibashi has seen his warnings of earthquake dangers come true in devastating fashion at least twice in a country that accounts for about 10 percent of the world’s quakes.

In a 1994 book “A Seismologist Warns,” he said building codes were putting Japan’s cities at risk. The following year, the Kobe earthquake buckled bridges, highways, and brought down buildings, killing more than 6,000 people.

Then in 1997, he wrote a report in Japan’s Science Journal where he coined the term “nuclear earthquake disaster.” The paper was written about 14 years before the Fukushima disaster, yet reads like a post-mortem of what happened: A major quake knocks out external power to the plant’s reactors and unleashes a tsunami that overruns its defenses, leading to loss of cooling and meltdowns.

Ishibashi says he does not want his forecasts to play out again.

“I don’t want to experience that again, warning about a disaster and then seeing it take place and causing so much damage,” Ishibashi said at a media briefing in Tokyo on Monday.

Amid pressure from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to process applications for reactor restarts to help the economy, the NRA is under pressure to give utilities a pass, Ishibashi said. That makes the watchdog less rigorous in examining the safety assessments of utilities’ reactors, he said.

“Professor Ishibashi has his own opinions,” but members of the NRA’s committee made their own judgment, NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said at a media briefing in Tokyo on Tuesday, according to a video of the briefing posted on the regulator’s website. The NRA recently lost a key member during a shuffle of top personnel.

A Kyushu Electric spokesman said the company does not have a comment regarding Ishibashi’s statements.

In the case of the Sendai plant, the NRA has allowed the operating company to ignore the risk of an earthquake in the tectonic slab underneath Kyushu, the seismologist said.

Kyushu Electric also did not factor in the risk from a Nankai Trough earthquake, Ishibashi said. The feared Nankai Trough quake is expected to originate in a swath of ocean south of Honshu running from the Boso Peninsula toward Shikoku. It’s considered a high-risk area and has recently been constantly monitored, and played up, by the government.

“Kyushu Electric was allowed to select their own criteria for quakes that could hit the plant and they ignored several as outliers — including a Nankai one,” Ishibashi said. “Taking the Nankai Trough earthquake into account is indispensable” in modeling the dangers facing the Sendai plant, he said.

In terms of impact, a Nankai Trough quake would cause tremors and ground motion that would last almost ten times as long as Kyushu Electric’s estimates when it applied for its Sendai plant assessment, Ishibashi said.

The government’s billing of the NRA, formed in the aftermath of the Fukushima meltdowns, as the world’s most stringent nuclear regulator is simply not true, Ishibashi said. The regulator feels beholden to government policy, which is pro-nuclear and supports restarts, he said.

“The NRA certainly seems to be feeling the pressure from the current administration,” Ishibashi said. ”