14 August 2015

32‑Year‑Old Reactor First to Generate Power in Japan in Nearly Two Years

32-Year-Old Reactor First to Generate Power in Japan in Nearly Two Years

14 August 2015

The first Japanese nuclear reactor to generate power in nearly two years was connected to the grid on 14 August 2015. The Sendai-1 reactor, owned by Kyushu Electric Power Company and located in Kagoshima prefecture in southern Japan, was shutdown in May 2011 following the Fukushima Daiichi accident. Kyushu Electric connected the reactor to the grid and is expected progressively raising the power output to 100% of its 890 MW capacity within ten days. Full commercial operation is scheduled for September 2015.

The Sendai nuclear reactor unit 1, in its last full year of operation in 2010, generated 4.9TWh of electricity, the equivalent of 0.49% of total electricity production in Japan in 2014. Kyushu Electric plans to restartunit 2 from October 2015, which would potentially mean the supply of around 1% of Japan’s electricity during the coming year.

The restart of Sendai Unit 1 leaves 24 reactors under review by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) (see Japanese Nuclear Reactor Status).

While the NRA has reviewed and approved restart of the Sendai reactor, local citizens are currently in an appeal process against the decision. In April 2015 the Kagoshima District court dismissed an injunction request brought by Kagoshima citizens, which included evidence of inadequate seismic assessments. The other major issues at the plant include vulnerability to volcanic eruptions and lack of effective emergency preparedness including evacuation plans.

On 5 August 2015, the NRA approved revisions to the operational safety program for the Sendai Unit 1 which had to be submitted to comply with regulations for reactors operating beyond 30 years. The reactor was connected to the grid in September 1983. Criticism that the NRA had fast tracked the process were compounded when it was confirmed that Kyushu Electric would be given one year to complete its assessment of all plant equipment to meet seismic standards.

The prestigious daily Asahi Shimbun commented on the reactor restart in an editorial: “We cannot accept this decision that not only leaves all these unresolved questions and doubts, but also goes against the will of the people. And we are adamantly opposed to the government’s use of the Sendai No. 1 reactor as a model case of decision-making in favor of reactivation and piecemeal revival of the nation’s reliance on nuclear power generation.”