Japan's Sendai nuclear plant clears major hurdles for restart

The Nuclear Regulation Authority approved Wednesday operational safety programs for the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Sendai nuclear power plant, making the site in Kagoshima Prefecture the nation's first nuclear plant to have received all permissions and approvals necessary for resumption from the NRA.

If procedures, including facility inspections, go smoothly, the plant's No.1 reactor could restart in late July, and the No. 2 reactor in late September.

The operational safety programs stipulate such things as personnel allocations for ordinary operations and in the case of an emergency.

Nuclear power plants must obtain three approvals before resuming operations: a license documenting permission for changes in the reactor installation that explains basic safety measures and policy, approval of the plan for construction work that shows detailed designs of any additional facilities, and approval of operational safety programs.

The license documenting permission for changes in the reactor installation is considered to be the most important. The one for the Sendai plant was submitted by Kyushu Electric Power Co. in September last year, based on the screening certificate that proves that safety measures meet new safety standards.

Having undergone the three steps, the Sendai plant now needs to pass two procedures before restart: an inspection before start-up, in which the NRA inspectors examine facilities, and a safety inspection in which the inspectors check whether the plant's operation and management systems are compiled as operational safety programs stipulate.

The company plans to restart the No. 1 reactor in late July and to resume commercial operations in August. Concerning the No. 2 reactor, the firm is aiming for a restart in late September and to start commercial operations in October.

The inspection before resumption of operations of the No. 1 reactor began in March, and the NRA plans to start the safety inspection on the reactor in June.

However, only 20 per cent of about 220 items that need to be checked in the inspection prior to resumption have been covered so far, as Kyushu Electric was late in its preparations.