By Will Davis
Recently, the Nuclear Regulation Authority of Japan announced that Shikoku Electric Power Company’s Ikata Unit 3 had cleared the new, three-step process required to restart nuclear plants in Japan. This latest announcement also came with the closely coupled announcement that Shikoku would permanently close and decommission another nuclear unit, more or less in trade.
Ikata Unit 3 is a relatively modern Mitsubishi 3 loop PWR that went into operation as late as 1994. As of now, all of the units approved by the NRA to restart are the PWR type; none of the BWR’s has been approved for restart yet.
Shikoku Electric has made it very clear in statements that restarting Ikata NPP is of the utmost priority as, according to Shikoku President Hayato Saeki, the plant “is our core power source” and must be restarted “at the earliest date possible.”
However, the cost to implement equipment and construction changes at the site which are now required under the new safety regime has been so enormous that it cannot be justified for the oldest unit at the site; therefore, in March, the company announced that it would decommission this unit. The company reports that its age and low output make it unprofitable to upgrade and return to service – especially considering that it would need a lifetime extension beyond the presently legally binding 40 year life. The fate of Unit 2 at the site is much less clear and will probably wait to be determined until Unit 3 is in service and making money for the company.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority began the final pre-service inspection, the absolute last regulatory step prior to restart permission being given, on April 5. According to the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, Shikoku Electric is planning to load fuel in June, startup in July and have Unit 3 on the grid in August.
For more information: NEI’s Japan Nuclear Update.
Will Davis is Communications Director and board member for the N/S Savannah Association, Inc. He is a consultant to the Global America Business Institute, a contributing author for Fuel Cycle Week, and he writes his own popular blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is also a consultant and writer for the American Nuclear Society, and serves on the ANS Communications Committee and will serve on the Book Publishing Committee beginning in June. He is a former US Navy reactor operator.