Japan OKs extension of nuke plant operation near Tokyo

TOKYO, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority on Wednesday gave approval for the extension of operations at an aging nuclear plant in the vicinity of Tokyo beyond the 40-year limit.

The decision paves the way for Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tokai No. 2 plant in Ibaraki Prefecture, about 110 km northeast of Tokyo, to resume operation. The facilities have been idled since the 2011 earthquake-tsunami disaster.

The authority unanimously decided the extension of operations by up to 20 years beyond the 40-year cap after the plant passed three inspections. The Tokai No. 2 plant is the first nuclear facility which extension is allowed among those damaged by the 2011 disaster.

The plant, with an output capacity of 1.1 million kilowatts, was hit by a 5.4-meter tsunami at that time, losing an external power source. But to restart the reactors, the operator still needs to obtain the consent of local communities and over two years of construction work to enhance safety measures. Some 960,000 residents live within a 30-kilometer radius of the plant.

The government adopted new safety guidelines in 2013 in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant crisis.

Under the new rules, nuclear power plant operators are for the first time obliged to take concrete steps to prepare for radiation leaks in case of severe accidents, such as huge tsunami and reactor core meltdowns. The power companies are also required to install an emergency control center to guard against acts of terrorism and natural disasters.

The Fukushima plant, located 230 km north of Tokyo, was crippled in March 2011 by the magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami that caused explosions, meltdowns and massive leaks of radioactive material as the world’s worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe.

Source: Kuwait News Agency