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.
Saga Assembly OKs Restart of 2 Genkai N-Plant Reactors
Saga, April 13 (Jiji Press)–The Saga prefectural assembly on Thursday voted to accept the restart of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai nuclear power station in the southwestern Japan prefecture.
Following the decision by majority vote, Saga Governor Yoshinori Yamaguchi said he will make his final judgment as early as this month on whether his prefecture should approve the restart.
The mayor and the town assembly of Genkai, the host municipality of the power plant, have already given the green light. Local government procedures needed for reactivating the reactors will finish if the governor approves.
The resolution to accept the Genkai reactor restart was introduced mainly by members of the Liberal Democratic Party, which holds a majority in the assembly.
Two other assembly groups, including members of the Japanese Communist Party, submitted a resolution to call on Yamaguchi not to jump to a hasty decision.
One year after Kyushu quake, and 2,000 active faults beneath us
Novelist Michiko Ishimure, 90, was in Kumamoto when a megaquake jolted the southwestern region exactly one year ago.
“It felt as if my legs had been ripped off from the knees and I was being dragged over a grassy field. The excruciating pain was something I’d never experienced before,” she wrote for the Seibu edition of The Asahi Shimbun for the Kyushu region.
Ishimure blacked out while trying to make an escape after grabbing some food and a ream of writing paper.
Her injury was minor. But when the “main shock” of the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake struck more than 24 hours after the initial jolt, she was taken to a hospital.
Upon discharge, she returned to the nursing home for the elderly where she was a resident. But her sense of alienation deepened.
“I’d never felt I really belonged there, to begin with,” she explained. “I think this feeling intensified–along with a sense of emptiness–after being shunted around because of the quakes.”
April 14 marks the first anniversary of the massive Kumamoto Earthquake. Many citizens are still unable to return to their prequake lives and are experiencing inconveniences of all sorts. More than 40,000 people are still living in emergency shelters and temporary housing.
A poem by Jun Tsukamoto depicts the plight of survivors fearing aftershocks and sleeping in their cars: “Unable to sleep and wide awake/ Night after night/ Parked cars cover the ground.”
Last summer, “Gendai Tanka” (Contemporary “tanka” poetry) magazine featured verse about the Kumamoto disaster. The pieces reveal the hardships of evacuees, as does this one by Rika Hamana: “My father starts shuffling his feet along a street at night/ The lavatory he is headed to is far away in the driving rain.”
The Kumamoto Earthquake claimed 50 lives. Another 170 died later and their deaths were ruled to have been quake related.
Even after the jolts subsided, survivors were still fighting in the midst of a long battle. How difficult it is to continue providing them the care they need to ensure they don’t feel alone and helpless.
About 2,000 active faults run beneath the Japanese archipelago. I try to imagine what it will be like to have my life completely disrupted and changed, even tomorrow. And I think about what I should do to ensure my own survival.
The Genkai Nuclear Power Plant is seen from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter in Genkai, Saga Prefecture
SAGA, Japan (Kyodo) — A mayor in southwestern Japan approved a plan Tuesday to restart two nuclear reactors in his town, a step toward the resumption of a third atomic power plant in Japan since the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
“While taking the assembly’s approval seriously, I decided to accept the government’s policy,” Hideo Kishimoto, the mayor of Genkai in Saga Prefecture, told a press conference.
Now the restart of the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at the Genkai plant operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co. depends on consent by seven other municipalities within a 30-kilometer radius of the plant amid lingering safety concerns about nuclear power plants.
The Japanese government is pushing for reactors to be restarted as nuclear power is regarded as a key energy source even after the March 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in the days after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan.
The Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at the Genkai plant passed in January tougher safety requirements introduced in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. A majority of the town assembly members voted in favor of the restart on Feb. 24.
Kishimoto told Saga Gov. Yoshinori Yamaguchi and Kyushu Electric Power President Michiaki Uriu of his approval Tuesday by phone.
The Saga governor will make a judgment on the matter after hearing from all mayors in the prefecture at a meeting March 18.
All four reactors at the Genkai plant had halted operations by December 2011 in the wake of the Fukushima catastrophe. Kyushu Electric decided to decommission the aging No. 1 reactor.
Of Japan’s 45 commercial reactors nationwide as of Tuesday, only three are now operating — the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors at Kyushu Electric’s Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, and the No. 3 reactor at Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture, western Japan, according to the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy.
The Nos. 3 and 4 reactors of the Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture were given a green light for restart on Wednesday.
Japan’s nuclear regulator cleared another pair of reactors on the southernmost island of Kyushu for restart despite a growing chorus of opponents who object to any resumption of nuclear operations.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority approved a preliminary report on Wednesday that says Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai Nos. 3 and 4 reactors in Saga Prefecture meet post-Fukushima safety rules, one of the biggest hurdles an operator must clear. A 30-day comment period must be held before any final approval.
Genkai’s approval is another small step for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has backed a policy of restarting the nation’s reactors to lower electricity rates, shore up the economy and boost global competitiveness. However, the looming threat of legal action and local opposition has put the fate of the entire restart process in doubt. Japan aims to have nuclear power account for as much as 22 percent of its energy mix by 2030, compared with more than a quarter before Fukushima and a little more than 1 percent now.
“This news will provide a boost for Japan’s nuclear industry, but progress to restart reactors still lags behind the initial hopes of incumbent utilities,” James Taverner, an energy analyst at IHS Markit Ltd., said by email. “Japan’s policymakers and regulators continue to have a challenge to carefully balance industry needs and public safety concerns.”
Last year, Kyushu Electric restarted the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors at its Sendai station, becoming the first utility to bring a reactor back online since new safety rules were brought in following the Fukushima disaster.
Almost 51 percent of the citizens of Saga Prefecture, where the Genkai plant is located, oppose its restart, while 39.3 percent approve, according to a regional newspaper poll conducted between Sept. 30 and Oct. 2. The same poll last year showed that 45.3 percent of respondents were against the restart, while 46.8 percent approved.
Restarting both units would boost net income by ¥12 billion ($117 million) a month, Naoko Iguchi, Tokyo-based spokeswoman for the utility, said by phone. The Sendai Nos. 1 and 2 reactors provided a ¥33 billion boost to net income for the six months ended Sept. 30, Masakatsu Tanaka, an official in Kyushu Electric’s Tokyo office, said last month.
The Genkai reactors, with a combined capacity of 2.36 gigawatts, are expected to restart in the fiscal year ending March 2018, the Nikkei reported last month, citing President Michiaki Uriu. The company would consider lowering power rates once four units are online, Tokyo-based Kenji Kawabata, the company’s deputy regional director, said last year.
Almost all the country’s reactors remain shut because of the new safety regulations and public opposition following the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Only two of Japan’s 42 operable reactors are producing power commercially as of Oct. 6, when Kyushu Electric shut its Sendai No. 1 unit for maintenance.
Sendai’s return to service may be delayed due to the recent election of a new governor in Kagoshima who strongly opposes its operation. Local government approval — including endorsement from the governor — is traditionally sought by Japanese utilities before returning plants to service.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. fell the most in almost four months on Oct. 17 after Ryuichi Yoneyama was elected governor of Niigata the previous day. Yoneyama opposes Tokyo Electric’s plan to restart its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear facility located in his prefecture.