No. 4 reactor at Oi nuclear plant restarted after nearly five years offline

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Oi nuclear power plant’s No. 4 reactor (far left) in Fukui Prefecture is seen on Wednesday before being restarted by Kansai Electric Power Co.
May 10, 2018
OI, FUKUI PREF. – Kansai Electric Power Co.’s No. 4 reactor at its Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture inched closer toward running at full capacity Thursday, four years and eight months after operations were suspended.
The reactor has reached criticality, its nuclear fission chain reaction having reached a self-sustaining state, and is set to begin power generation and transmission Friday. It is projected to reach full capacity early next week.
The reactor, which was halted in September 2013 for regular checkups, is the eighth to have been reactivated under the country’s new safety standards for nuclear plants. The new standards were introduced in the wake of the March 2011 triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s tsunami-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
Kansai Electric plans to put the No. 4 reactor into commercial mode in early June and cut its electricity prices this summer.
Commercial operations of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Oi plant are projected to help reduce the firm’s fuel costs by about ¥120 billion a year. The No. 3 unit was brought back online in March this year and entered commercial mode in April.
The utility lowered its electricity rates for households by 3.15 percent on average in August 2017, after it resumed commercial operations of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at its Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture.
As each of the two Oi reactors has a capacity of 1.18 million kilowatts — larger than the 870,000 kilowatt capacity of each of the Takahama reactors — the forthcoming rate cut may be more significant than the previous one and could bring the company’s electricity prices down to levels from before the Fukushima nuclear accident, industry observers said.
Kansai Electric owns 11 reactors — four each at the Oi and Takahama plants, and three at the Mihama plant, also in Fukui Prefecture.
Besides the four currently in operation, the Mihama No. 1 and No. 2 units and the Oi No. 1 and No. 2 units are set to be decommissioned. The Mihama No. 3 unit and the Takahama No. 1 and No. 2 units are undergoing work to allow them to continue to operate after reaching 40 years of service.
With the Oi and Takahama plants located as little as 13.5 kilometers from each other, the plant operator has been urged to draw up measures that should be taken in case accidents occur at the same time at the two facilities.
This summer the government plans to carry out a comprehensive anti-disaster drill assuming simultaneous accidents.
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Loading of fuel assemblies begins at Oi plant’s No. 4 reactor

The No. 4 reactor at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture is due to be restarted in mid-May.
Kansai Electric Power Co. has started work to load nuclear fuel into reactor 4 at its Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture.
The operation, which started Sunday, to place 193 uranium fuel assemblies in the reactor is to be completed by Wednesday. Kansai Electric aims to restart the reactor sometime in mid-May.
According to the company, the fuel-loading work started at 10 a.m. using a crane and containers. The operation will continue around the clock.
Reactors 3 and 4 at the Oi plant cleared Nuclear Regulation Authority screenings last year under strict new standards introduced after the March 2011 crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
Preparations have been underway to bring the Oi facility’s reactor 3, which was reactivated March 14, into commercial operations mode. Unless any problems are detected in an NRA inspection, the reactor will start commercial operations as early as Tuesday.

Coastal nuclear reactor resumes operations, joins 2 units nearby

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The No. 1 to No. 4 reactors (from top to bottom) at the Oi Nuclear Power Plant are seen from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter, in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, on March 14, 2018.
March 14, 2018
FUKUI, Japan (Kyodo) — Kansai Electric Power Co. restarted Wednesday a reactor at its Oi plant on the Sea of Japan coast, located close to two other units already online, amid lingering safety concerns following the Fukushima disaster.
 
It is the first time that multiple nuclear reactors within the same vicinity have been in operation since the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
 
The No. 3 reactor at the Oi plant is a mere 14 kilometers from the No. 3 and 4 units at the Takahama plant, all in the central Japan prefecture of Fukui.
 
Local residents are worried about the lack of an effective evacuation plan in the event accidents hit both the Takahama and Oi complexes at the same time.
 
The No. 3 Oi unit is the sixth reactor to resume operations in Japan after clearing stricter safety regulations implemented in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
 
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, seeing nuclear power as an “important base-load power source,” is promoting the restart of nuclear reactors considered safe by regulators.
 
Under the current national energy policy, the government plans to generate between 20 and 22 percent of total electricity using nuclear power in fiscal 2030.
 
Kansai Electric aims to start commercial operations of the No. 3 Oi reactor in early April. The No. 4 reactor at the Oi plant is also expected to restart in May, having cleared the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety review along with the No. 3 unit in May 2017.
 

No Fukui evac plan needed for simultaneous nuclear accidents: Cabinet documents

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Government officials see no need to draft a new evacuation plan for the possibility of simultaneous nuclear accidents taking place at the Takahama (above) and Oi nuclear power plants in Fukui Prefecture.
 
FUKUI – The central government and the Fukui Prefectural Government have determined there is no need to craft a new evacuation plan in case of a twin nuclear accident there, Cabinet Office documents show.
In a meeting last month, state and prefectural officials confirmed that a simultaneous accidents at the Takahama and Oi nuclear power plants can be dealt with under the plants’ existing evacuation plans, which were compiled separately by each plant, said the documents, which were obtained Sunday.
The meeting involved officials from the Cabinet Office, the Fukui, Shiga and Kyoto prefectural governments, and Kansai Electric Power Co., which runs the atomic plants.
The consensus at the meeting was that simultaneous nuclear accidents can be dealt with under the existing plans because the evacuation sites don’t overlap, a Fukui prefectural official said.
The two nuclear plants are about 13.5 km apart. About 160,000 to 180,000 people live within 30 km from each of the plants.

Kansai to start loading fuel at Ohi 3 ahead of restart

The loading of fuel assemblies into the core of unit 3 at the Ohi nuclear power plant in Japan’s Fukui Prefecture will begin tomorrow, Kansai Electric Power Company announced. The utility plans to return both units 3 and 4 at the plant to commercial operation by mid-2018.
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Ohi units 3 and 4
Following the shutdown of all of Japan’s reactors after the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, Ohi 3 and 4 were given permission to resume operation in August 2012. However, the two 1180 MWe pressurised water reactors (PWRs) were taken offline again for Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) inspections in September 2013.
 
Under Japan’s reactor restart process, plant operators are required to apply to the NRA for: permission to make changes to the reactor installation; approval of its construction plan to strengthen the plant; and, final safety inspections to ensure the unit meets new safety requirements. Operators are required to add certain safety-enhancing equipment within five years of receiving the NRA’s approval of a reactor engineering work programme.
 
Kansai submitted its construction plan application for Ohi 3 and 4 in July 2013. The NRA approved the plan for strengthening the units in August last year.
 
Following pre-operation inspections of the units to confirm that the safety countermeasure equipment complies with the approved construction plan at the plant, Kansai is now set to start loading fuel into unit 3 ahead of its restart. In November, the utility said it expected to restart the reactor around mid-March, with commercial operation scheduled from early-April.
 
The governor of Japan’s Fukui Prefecture approved the restart of Ohi units 3 and 4 in November. Unit 4 is also expected to be restarted in the coming months. Kansai earlier said it expects to refuel the reactor in mid-April, restart it around mid-May, with commercial operation expected to resume in early June.
 
In December, Kansai announced that it will not seek permission to restart Ohi units 1 and 2, which have been offline since July 2011 and December 2011, respectively. The company will now apply to decommission the two 1175 MWe PWRs, which are approaching 40 years old.
 
Of Japan’s 42 operable reactors, five have so far cleared inspections confirming they meet the new regulatory safety standards and have resumed operation. These are: Kyushu’s Sendai units 1 and 2; Shikoku’s Ikata unit 3; and Kansai’s Takahama units 3 and 4. Another 19 reactors have applied to restart.

Fukui weighs new wave of reactors to protect status as Japan’s ‘nuclear capital’

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Fukui Prefecture’s days as the center of Japan’s nuclear power industry might be fading with five reactors scheduled for decommissioning. These include the No. 1 (front) and No. 2 units at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi plant in Fukui, shown in this January 2017 photo.
OSAKA – With 13 commercial nuclear reactors — more than any other prefecture — Fukui has long been Japan’s nuclear power capital. Prior to the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, Fukui’s plants provided up to half of Kansai’s electricity.
As only two commercial reactors run by Kansai Electric Power Co. are in operation and a total of five Fukui reactors are scheduled to be decommissioned by midcentury, the prefecture’s days as a nuclear power center might appear to be ending. But despite the growing use of renewables, entrenched public opposition to atomic power, and unanswered questions about its future costs and economic competitiveness, Fukui’s nuclear-friendly utility executives and corporate leaders, as well as local politicians, have not given up on the idea of building even more reactors.
Earlier this month, Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa met with Kepco President Shigeki Iwane and Mamoru Muramatsu, the president of Japan Atomic Power Co., which runs two reactors at the Tsuruga plant in Fukui — including one scheduled for decommissioning.
They discussed building new reactors at Tsuruga — which have long been planned — and replacing Kepco’s decommissioned reactors with new ones. The meeting took place amid a review of the nation’s energy mix.
“What needs to be done by midcentury? We need to make this clear in the nation’s energy plans as we look to 2050,” Iwane said at a news conference afterward.
A couple of weeks later, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko told reporters that even without building new reactors or replacing old ones, Japan could meet its national goal of having atomic power provide between 20 and 22 percent of all electricity by 2030.
Nishikawa, traditionally a staunch supporter of nuclear power plants and the subsidies his prefecture receives for hosting them, has so far avoided coming out directly in favor of building new reactors.
He told reporters at the end of 2017 that he wasn’t going to wade into the debate of whether it was a good or bad idea. Instead, he said he was waiting for the central government’s view.
“The government needs to make clear what its stance is on new reactors. The main problem is gaining social trust for the use of nuclear power,” Nishikawa said.
That could be difficult. A survey by the Fukui Shimbun in October showed that 49.8 percent of respondents favored slowly exiting from nuclear power. Gaining national and local approval to build new reactors could take years.
Yet even if construction of new Tsuruga reactors goes ahead, it will likely be years, possibly decades, before they are completed at an unknown cost. In the interim, the use of renewables is expected to expand even more. Furthermore, as Japan’s population declines and uses more innovative energy-efficient products, predicting electricity needs in 10 — let alone 30 or so — years from now is problematic at best.
Adding reactors in Fukui will certainly increase the electricity supply for Kansai. But what pro-nuclear politicians and businesses in Fukui want now is assurances from Tokyo that they will still financially benefit from new reactors even if their output may not be needed or wanted by consumers.

KEPCO studying moving spent nuclear fuel from Fukui to Aomori

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Kansai Electric Power Co. is considering transferring spent nuclear fuel stored in its three nuclear plants in Fukui Prefecture to an intermediate storage facility in Aomori Prefecture, sources said on Jan. 6.
KEPCO had promised to move the fuel outside the prefecture when the Fukui prefectural government allowed the utility to restart two reactors at its Oi nuclear power plant.
KEPCO President Shigeki Iwane has said that a facility will be secured by the end of 2018 to accept the fuel.
According to the sources, KEPCO is also considering other locations. However, the intermediate storage facility, located in Mutsu in northern Aomori Prefecture, is a promising candidate because it has already been constructed.
However, since consent from local governments is required, KEPCO could face difficulties in transferring the fuel to the facility.
At present, KEPCO is storing spent nuclear fuel, which is produced in its Takahama, Oi and Mihama nuclear power plants in Fukui Prefecture, in pools in their compounds. However, about 70 percent of the capacity of those pools have been filled.
If the restarts of the reactors in the plants proceed as expected, the remaining 30 percent will also be filled in about seven years. Therefore, KEPCO is trying to secure an intermediate storage facility to temporarily store the fuel by putting it in metal containers.
The intermediate storage facility in Mutsu was jointly constructed by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. and Japan Atomic Power Co. at a cost of about 100 billion yen ($884.6 million) to store spent nuclear fuel produced by their nuclear plants.
However, acceptance of the fuel from those plants has yet to start because the facility is currently undergoing screenings to see if it is in compliance with new safety standards introduced after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The intermediate storage facility has a capacity of accepting a total of 5,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel.
KEPCO is considering securing storage space there by purchasing part of the shares of a company that will operate the facility.