Kyushu Electric President Michiaki Uriu, left, hands over the company’s response to Kagoshima Governor Satoshi Mitazono on Sept. 5.
Kyushu Electric nixes governor’s request to halt nuclear plant
KAGOSHIMA–Kyushu Electric Power Co. on Sept. 5 knocked back a request by Kagoshima Governor Satoshi Mitazono to immediately shut down its Sendai nuclear power plant in light of recent earthquakes in the region.
Mitazono, who was elected in July on a campaign pledge to suspend the reactor operations for a safety review, submitted his request to Kyushu Electric on Aug. 26, citing concerns about active faults around the facility.
Michiaki Uriu, president of Kyushu Electric, delivered the company’s response to Mitazono in person at the Kagoshima prefectural government office.
He said the two reactors at the Sendai nuclear plant would continue to generate electricity until mandatory safety inspections are carried out later this year.
The utility did, however, promise to give stronger backing to the prefectural government’s review of evacuation plans and provide more information about the plant to local residents in the event of a natural disaster or nuclear accident.
Uriu told Mitazono, “We understand your concerns in all seriousness and plan to take steps to reduce the anxiety felt by Kagoshima residents.”
Mitazono expressed dismay at Kyushu Electric’s decision and indicated he may submit another request to shut down the plant “if the need arises.”
“I strongly requested that in the wake of the earthquakes in Kumamoto the nuclear plant should be stopped for another inspection,” Mitazono said. “I wish you could abandon the mind-set that nuclear plants are infallibly safe.”
In his August request, Mitazono called for an immediate suspension of the nuclear plant operations and a further safety examination on grounds that residents of Kagoshima had become more concerned after a series of earthquakes from April hit Kumamoto Prefecture bordering Kagoshima to the north.
Kyushu Electric argued that the prefectural governor does not have the legal authority to suspend nuclear plant operations, which the utility said were vital for stable corporate performance.
The company also feared that if it went along with the request it could jeopardize operations at other nuclear plants around Japan.
The Sendai plant’s No. 1 reactor will undergo a periodic safety inspection from Oct. 6, and the No. 2 reactor from Dec. 16.
Kyushu Electric said the inspections will incorporate seven factors asked for by Mitazono, including the reactor pressure vessel.
The utility also said it will undertake special additional inspections covering aspects not included in the governor’s request, such as whether bolts on equipment had loosened.
The company pledged to provide additional vehicles to the 16 that elderly residents can use to evacuate in the event of an accident at the plant. The offer represents the company’s commitment to providing support for the planned revision of evacuation plans.
But it rejected Mitazono’s request for a study of active faults in the vicinity of the Sendai plant on the grounds that a considerable number of such studies had already been conducted.
The No. 1 and No. 2 reactors are seen at the Sendai nuclear power plant in Satsumasendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, in this photo taken from a Mainichi helicopter.
Kyushu Electric rejects governor’s call to suspend nuclear reactors
KAGOSHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) — Kyushu Electric Power Co. on Monday rejected a request by the governor of Kagoshima Prefecture in southwestern Japan to immediately suspend operations of two reactors at its Sendai nuclear plant there.
In a meeting at the prefectural government office, the utility’s president, Michiaki Uriu, handed Gov. Satoshi Mitazono a written rejection, seeking to gain understanding about its claim that the safety of the facility will be proved through a regular checkup scheduled to be held as early as October.
Mitazono will scrutinize the paper and consider his government’s response. Although a governor has no legal power to suspend the operation of reactors, he could still repeat his request by issuing a statement if he finds the utility’s response unsatisfactory.
In the checkup, Kyushu Electric plans to examine its reactor vessels and a facility for keeping spent nuclear fuel as sought by the prefecture.
The company does not plan to hold any new probe into possible active faults near the plant, saying it has already thoroughly checked them and is ready to explain the survey results to the governor.
In late August, Mitazono demanded that Kyushu Electric immediately suspend the plant’s Nos. 1 and 2 reactors to verify their safety, the first such move by the head of a prefecture since the 2011 nuclear crisis at the Fukushima plant.
Mitazono, who was elected on an antinuclear platform in July, cited growing local worries about the plant’s safety after powerful earthquakes devastated nearby Kumamoto Prefecture and its vicinity in April.
In September 2014, the Sendai plant passed tougher safety standards for nuclear plants in Japan introduced in the wake of the Fukushima crisis, leading to the restart of Nos. 1 and 2 reactors in August and October last year, respectively.
The No. 1 reactor will suspend operations from Oct. 6 and the No. 2 reactor from Dec. 16 for the regular checks that will take about two months to complete.
Currently, the two Sendai reactors and another reactor at Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata plant in western Japan are operating in Japan after passing the post-Fukushima safety checks.