Kyushu Electric Power Co. aims to bring the No. 4 unit (left) at its Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture back online in early March.
SAGA – Kyushu Electric Power Co. on Friday has asked the Nuclear Regulation Authority to perform pre-operation inspections for the No. 4 reactor at the Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture, telling the regulator it aims to put the reactor back online in early March.
Pre-use checks are the last procedure on the list for restarting a nuclear reactor.
Kyushu Electric plans to load 193 fuel assemblies into the reactor in February. After reactivating it in early March, the utility plans to start commercial operations in April.
If things work out as planned, the No. 4 reactor will be active for the first time since December 2011, when it was halted it for routine checkups.
In January this year, the NRA concluded that the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the plant in the town of Genkai meet the tougher safety standards introduced in July 2013 after the triple core meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 plant in Fukushima Prefecture in March 2011.
The two reactors have passed all screenings required for reactivation. The Saga prefectural and Genkai municipal governments have already approved the restarts.
The No. 3 reactor is currently undergoing pre-use inspections and is expected to go back online in early January.
People stage a protest rally in front of Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s office in the city of Saga on Tuesday after a district court rejected an injunction request to halt the restart of two reactors at the utility’s Genkai power plant.
SAGA – A district court on Tuesday dismissed a request from about 230 local residents for an injunction to stop the restart of two reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture over safety concerns.
The Saga District Court handed down the ruling concerning reactors 3 and 4 at the complex as the utility prepares for their restart this summer or later, having secured the necessary consent of the governor of Saga and the mayor of Genkai. The town hosts the four-reactor power station.
Reactors 3 and 4 have cleared Nuclear Regulation Authority screenings that were based on safety standards revamped after the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
In Tuesday’s decision, presiding Judge Takeshi Tachikawa said the new safety standards are “reasonable.” The court has found no issues with earthquake resistance or steps taken against serious accidents and does not see any specific danger of radiation exposure at the plant, he added.
The focus of the lawsuit, filed by the residents in July 2011, was whether the operator has adequate measures in place against earthquakes. The plaintiffs argued that serious accidents could occur due to degradation in piping.
“The court is supposed to help the weak, but the ruling is based on economics and politics,” said Hatsumi Ishimaru, 65, who leads the group of residents. “We will continue to fight until we stop the nuclear plant.”
The plaintiffs said they will immediately appeal the decision to the Fukuoka High Court.
Kyushu Electric said in a statement it considers the latest decision “appropriate” and will continue to try to ensure safety at the plant.
The ruling may inject momentum into the government’s policy to restart nuclear plants that have fulfilled the new safety standards.
While declining to comment on the court decision itself, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government respects the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s judgment that the reactors meet the new safety standards.
Tuesday’s ruling followed a series of court decisions rejecting similar suits seeking to halt the operations of nuclear power plants.
In March, the Osaka High Court overturned a lower court order to halt two nuclear reactors at the Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture, while in the same month the Hiroshima District Court dismissed a request by local residents to order the halt of a nuclear reactor that was restarted last year at the Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture.
Of the more than 40 commercial reactors nationwide, five are currently in operation. At the Genkai plant, the No. 1 unit is set to be decommissioned due to aging.
Mothers who fled to the Itoshima, Fukuoka Prefecture, to escape radiation spewed by the March 2011 core meltdowns in Fukushima Prefecture say they are concerned about the safety of the Genkai nuclear plant in neighboring Saga Prefecture.
SAGA – A group of mothers who evacuated from the Kanto region to Fukuoka Prefecture after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis is ramping up protests against efforts to restart the Genkai nuclear plant in neighboring Saga.
After meeting with Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko on Saturday, Saga Gov. Yoshinori Yamaguchi is expected to approve the restart of two reactors in the town of Genkai as early as Monday.
Earlier this month, four of the moms gathered for a meeting in Itoshima in Fukuoka and discussed plans to send the city a document and an inquiry conveying their opposition.
As they racked their brains to deliver effective expressions, the meeting lasted for around six hours until their children returned home from school.
Three of the moms moved to Itoshima after becoming worried their children would be adversely affected by exposure to the fallout spewed by the triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in Fukushima Prefecture in March 2011. The plant is run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.
“I wanted to go far away for the sake of my unborn child,” said 39-year-old Fumiyo Endo, the leader of the group.
But the place she relocated to was within 30 km of the Genkai plant run by Kyushu Electric Power Co.
In March, she attended a meeting of residents to get explanations about the restart but was concerned whether safety would be ensured by sheltering indoors as instructed should an accident occur.
She also felt angry after hearing a utility official say that restarting the plant is necessary “for a stable supply of power.” She said it sounded as if the utility did not care about human lives.
But she did not decide to leave Itoshima because she wanted to keep living there, to stay close to the sea and mountains.
Another member of the group said it was important to keep resisting.
“It is significant to protest against nuclear plants near the plant sites,” said photographer Nonoko Kameyama, 40.
Kameyama, a mother of three, has published a photo book of mothers hoping to bring about a society without nuclear power plants.
A day after attending the residents’ meeting, Endo and other members called the Saga Prefectural Government to urge it to reject the restart.
When asked by a prefectural official during the call what the name of their group was, they came up with an impromptu title: “Mothers Who Want to Save Children’s Lives.” Dozens of people have recently joined in response to its Facebook post.
The group has submitted petitions to Saga Gov. Yamaguchi and Itoshima Mayor Yuji Tsukigata.
“Resuming operations only makes residents feel unsettled and we cannot see a bright future,” said Endo. “We want our leaders to understand such feelings.”
Yamaguchi is expected to approve the Genkai restart as early as Monday, after meeting with METI chief Seko on Saturday.
“The central government has shown a strong determination to work on nuclear energy policy in a responsible manner,” Yamaguchi said Saturday, adding he wants to convey his decision “as early as possible.”
The government is pushing for reactor restarts despite the triple core meltdown at Fukushima No. 1, saying nuclear energy is Japan’s key energy source.
In January, reactor Nos. 3 and 4 at the Genkai plant passed the tougher safety requirements introduced in the wake of the Fukushima crisis. On Feb. 24, a majority of the Genkai Municipal Assembly voted in favor of restarting the plant.