Japan recommitting to nuclear energy with restart of third nuclear reactor
The Takahama 3 reactor started delivering electricity to the national grid last night; it’s the third reactor to be recommissioned in Japan after the shut-down of all nuclear plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Japanese authorities are gradually authorizing plants to come back on stream as the utility companies complete upgrades that make the reactors more resilient to earthquakes and tsunami-related flooding. The Takahama 3 reactor follows the restart of the Sendai 1 and 2 reactors in August and October, 2015. The Takahama 4 reactor is expected to restart next month and the Ikata 3 reactor shortly thereafter.
A view has been expressed that low natural gas prices could slow Japan’s return to nuclear electricity generation because it provides a relatively inexpensive alternative. This position overlooks the fact that Japanese utilities have already taken delivery of uranium fuel – it’s already paid for – whereas the gas, no matter how inexpensive it is at present, would have to be imported at additional cost. The most economically sensible way forward is to restart the reactors that meet Japan’s new stringent nuclear safety standards. An added benefit of nuclear energy is that the three reactors that have been started up, save about 10 million tonnes per year of greenhouse gases that would have been produced if gas-fired power stations had generated the equivalent amount of electricity. Nuclear energy is a key element to Japan’s goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 26% from 2013 levels by 2030. In fact, Japan plans to meet that greenhouse gas emissions reduction by generating 20-22% of its electricity from nuclear by 2030.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) started a three-step review process of the Takahama 3 and 4 reactors in July 2013. Enhanced safety upgrades made to the Takahama 3 reactor were approved by the NRA on August 4th, 2015, after which it entered a phase of pre-use inspections. A court injunction against the restart of the Takahama reactors was dissolved on December 24th, 2015. Refueling of the reactor started the next day and was completed on December 28, 2015.
Sources: The Mainichi, World Nuclear News & Cantor Fitzgerald
- January 29, 2016 – Japan restarts second nuclear complex under tighter post-Fukushima rules
- Excerpt from the World Nuclear News’ WNN Daily (January 4, 2016): “The loading of 157 fuel assemblies into unit 3 of the Takahama nuclear power plant in Japan’s Fukui prefecture began on 25 December and was completed three days later, Kansai Electric Power Company announced. The Fukui District Court dissolved a court injunction on 24 December that prohibited the operation of the plant. Takahama 3 is expected to be restarted by the end of this month.”
- October 9, 2015 – Takahama 3 & 4 Reactors scheduled for restart in late 2015
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