Japan's Fifth Re-Activated Reactor -- Takahama 3 -- Is Restarted

The Kansai Electric Power Company reactivated its No. 3 reactor at the Takahama nuclear power plant in Japan Tuesday, initiating control rod removal at 2:00 P.M. local time, media reports indicate.

Takahama NPPThe No. 3 Unit at Takahama is the fifth reactor switched on in Japan following the extended moratorium on nuclear power prompted by the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Generating Station northeast of Tokyo. The Takahama plant is located 215 miles west of Tokyo. It was switched on less than a month after the plant's No. 4 Unit was activated following removal of an Otsu District Court-issued injunction put into place in March 2016 that delayed the plant's return to commercial operations for a year and three months.

The reactor turned on Tuesday – Unit 3 – is expected to reach first criticality around 2:30 A.M. Wednesday and begin electricity generation on Friday. The unit is expected to begin commercial operations in late June or early July, just in time for the summer demand spike in Japan.

Activating the 32-year-old Takahama reactor marks a slow return to nuclear power following the Fukushima Daiichi accident, which occurred after a tsunami event knocked out back up power expected to keep the plant's cooling system running during an emergency. The tsunami was the result of the 9.0-magnitude Great East Japan Earthquake that struck March 11, 2011.

Four other reactors in Japan are now operating, including Takahama No. 4, Sendai Units 1 and 2, operated by the Kyushu Electric Power Company in Kagoshima Prefecture and the No. 3 reactor at the Ikata plant, operated by the Shikoku Electric Power Company in Ehime Prefecture.

Japan's electric generation mix has changed drastically and is targeted for continued change. At its peak, prior to March 2011, Japan operated more than 50 reactors that generated 30 percent of the country's electricity. Plans prior to March 2011 included nuclear power increasing to 40 percent of Japan's energy mix by 2017.

There are currently 21 additional reactors being readied for restarts. Japan now targets 20-22 percent of its electricity to be generated by domestic nuclear power plants by 2030. Much of the difference is expected to be made up by renewable power sources.

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