Japan Aims to Restart Reactor for the First Time in Two Years
By admin March 19, 2015

kyushu plant

In the hopes of resuming commercial nuclear energy operations, Japan has received word from the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) that the No. 1 reactor at the NRA itself was formed only after the events that unfolded in the wake of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated Japan in 2011. Kyushu Electric Power Company’s Sendai plant has passed new safety regulations allowing the plan to restart. Because of this, Kyushu plans to restart the reactor sometime between June and August this summer, says an official from the utility company. All 48 of Japan’s reactors have been offline since the Fukushima disaster in 2011, and the Sendai No. 1 plant would be the first one to be restarted.

However, despite hopes for Japan’s nuclear program, Kyushu has decided to retire around five of their reactors, taking down the number from 48 to 43 usable plants. World Nuclear News noted that, “the older units officially declared for decommissioning are Shimane 1, owned by Chugoku Electric Power Company, and Genkai 1, owned by Kyushu Electric Power Company. These smaller units, of 439 MWe and 529 MWe respectively, started operation in the mid-1970s and enter retirement just one day after the same status was announced for three others of similar age – Tsuruga 1, along with Mihama 1 and 2.” By decommissioning smaller, older reactors, though cutting their production potential, Kyushu is also ensuring that the reactors they are trying to restart are up to par with the NRA’s new safety protocols.

Since 2011, Japan’s reactors have not been active, and restarting them this summer would mean ending the longest stretch Japan has experienced without nuclear power since its nuclear program’s inception. With the NRA’s new safety mechanisms and regulations in place, the world can only hope that a disaster like the one at Fukushima can be avoided.

However, not everyone is confident in Japan’s commercial nuclear energy sector. According to the International Business Times, “hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Tokyo last November after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe first announced his decision to restart the country’s nuclear reactors.” Just this past Saturday, around 5,000 protestors gathered in Tokyo’s Hibiya Park in the attempt to compel the government not to restart the nuclear program.

Protestor Masatoshi Harada said on Saturday that, “Japan is prone to earthquakes. We have to seriously think about whether nuclear power is a good idea for Japan. This is an opportunity for Japan to drop nuclear power.” However, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a strong advocate for a nuclear-powered Japan. He says that, in order to maintain Japan’s economic success (rising from devastation after World War II to become the world’s 3rd largest economy today), nuclear energy is a must. Junichi Okano, another protestor claimed that “nuclear plants have been closed, so you cannot say we cannot live without nuclear energy.” But, questions still arise regarding the sustainability of Japan’s switch to liquid fuels, and what kinds of long-term effects the nuclear shutdown will have on Japan’s economy. Yes, the country can survive without nuclear power, but the question is for how much longer, and at what cost.

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