Japanese news outlet Kyodo reports that three reactors in the country now have gubernatorial approval for restarts beyond the post-Fukushima practice of retiring nuclear plants after 40 years of operation.
Kyodo notes the 40-year limit was set “in principle,” which allows that it was not a hard and fast rule. The Nuclear Regulation Authority, meanwhile, granted approval for Mihama Unit 3 and Takahama Units 1 and 2 restarts in 2016. As the timeline suggests, regulatory approval and public approval are separate situations and both take persistence in order to succeed in the post-Fukushima era.
The government, meanwhile, has increased its climate change goals, aiming for a 46 percent decline in harmful gas emissions by 2030 on the way to meeting a net-zero emissions target by 2050. The previous goal for 2030 was a 26 percent reduction.
To support that goal, the government is providing municipalities with financial assistance for each aging reactor restart. The current subsidy is $22 million per restart for any reactors seeking to operate past the 40-year benchmark.
Mihama Unit 3 began commercial operations in 1976. Slightly older, the Takahama reactors 1 and 2 began commercial operations in 1974 and 1975.
All of these reactors, owned by Kansai Electric, are in the Fukui Prefecture. The prefecture’s governor Tatsuji Sugimoto said at a press conference that he “decided to agree to the restarts after reviewing the matter fully.”
Kyodo called the approval a significant step in Japan’s recovery from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, which occurred in 2011. Since the triple meltdown there, Japan has allowed nine reactors to restart after closing down all 50 of its nuclear plants in the wake of the accident.
The government is currently aiming for 22 to 24 percent of its electricity to come from renewable sources, 56 percent from fossil fuels, and 20 to 22 percent from nuclear power by fiscal 2030.
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