Nukewatch Quarterly Fall 2015
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been pushing hard to restart Japan’s 42 mothballed nuclear reactors, all shuttered since the March 2011 Fukushima catastrophe, but plans for gearing up as many as 14 were recently cut in half.
A report by Reuters published September 1 shows that, in the words of Mycle Schneide, an energy consultant in Paris, neither the Japanese government, nor its utilities or its regulatory agencies, have “succeeded in overcoming complete planning insecurity for investors. The outlook for restarts is as cloudy as ever.”
Reuters said its report’s “findings are based on reactor inspection data from the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), court rulings and interviews with local authorities, utilities and energy experts. They also show that nine reactors are unlikely ever to restart, and that the fate of the remaining 26 looks uncertain.”
“Legal challenges from local residents have hit all atomic plants, with the country’s most nuclear-reliant utility—Kansai Electric Power Co.—issued with court rulings preventing the restart of four reactors despite two of them already receiving NRA approval,” Reuters reported.
Every one of 25 reactor sites has applied to restart their units, but they have been stymied by public opposition, law suits and the shaky Aug. 11 restart of the Sendai No. 1 reactor in Kagoshima Prefecture.
The Kyushu Electric Power Co. was forced to slow its ramp-up of Sendai I’s reactor output because of breakdowns in its pumping equipment.
Sue Prent of Fairewinds Energy Education reports that Greenpeace has been among hundreds of NGOs citing multiple reasons for concern and raising an outcry over the restart:
The NRA has failed to apply robust safety measures to the Sendai reactor… the NRA approved an assessment by Kyushu Electric Power, which excluded major seismic risks at the Sendai plant and violated the NRA’s own post-Fukushima safety guidelines. An analysis commissioned by Greenpeace Japan in February showed that the NRA also accepted a flawed volcano risk analysis from Kyushu Electric Power [regarding] the active volcano Mt. Sakurajima, located only [31 miles] from the reactor site.
As if to validate citizen and environmental concerns, Sakurajima appears poised for an imminent and possibly major eruption. —JL
—Reuters, Sept. 1; BBC Aug. 11, 2015