BWR In Japan Approved For Restart

Media reports indicate that the governor of the mountainous Shimane Prefecture in western Japan has approved of the restart of unit 2 at the Chugoku Electric Power Company’s Shimane nuclear power plant.

Shimane NPPThe approval is noteworthy, as the unit is a 789 MWe boiling water reactor (BWR). As such, it is the first BWR in the country to be granted restart approval since the March 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant where three BWR units suffered extensive damage after an earthquake-triggered tsunami wiped out the plants back up power system, forcing cooling systems to shut down.

Gov. Tatsuya Maruyama announced his approval in a prefectural assembly session, where he said a failure to restart would be a “huge” blow to the local economy.

“I understand that (nuclear power) plays a certain role,” in Japan’s energy policy, Nikkei Asia reported the governor as saying. “I thought that restarting was unavoidable at present, so I decided to accept it.”

To date, only pressurized water reactors in Japan have been given approval for restarts after a country-wide moratorium on nuclear power was put in place following the Fukushima event.

The Chugoku power company received regulatory approval for a restart in 2021, but will take until February 2023 to complete installation of new safety protocols.

Chugoku Electric's plans cleared national safety standards in September 2021 for restarting the reactor. The utility is scheduled to complete its safety measures next February.

The plant has been shut down since January 2012 and the company filed for restart approval in 2013, according to a World Nuclear Association report.

Safety improvements required by revised post-Fukushima standards include steps to avoid catastrophic damage from natural disasters and safety measures to minimize damage should a catastrophe occur. Chugoku Electric has built a 15-feet high seawall to prevent tsunami damage and has taken steps to avoid damage should a nearby Mount Sanbe volcano become active. Further reinforcements to mitigate the effects of earth tremors or an earthquake are under way and should be completed by late February 2023.

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