Japan wants to extend the life of the country’s nuclear power plants
The agency responsible for safety wants to introduce ten-year checks with upward limit to a plant’s operating life. Only a few nuclear power plants in operation before the Fukushima disaster are still running but Japan’s energy crisis is putting pressure for more to restart.
Tokyo (AsiaNews) – Japan is ready to extend the life of its nuclear power plants.
On Wednesday, the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA)[*], the industry’s watchdog, proposed that if reactors operating for 30 years must pass inspections, they ought to continue to run.
According to proposed new standards, some reactors could theoretically operate beyond the current 60-year limit.
Under regulations introduced after 2011, Japanese nuclear reactions must be closed after 40 years of service, but could now be extended by up to 20 years if the NRA finds that safety standards are respected.
"The (proposed) regulations will be much stricter than the current system," said NRA chairman Shinsuke Yamanaka. "It is our responsibility to regulate properly."
At the press conference presenting the agency’s proposed changes, Yamanaka alluded to the possibility that older plants may have to meet more criteria to ensure their operational safety.
In the coming weeks, the NRA will continue to discuss what practices should be adopted for these ten-year checks.
Power companies will be heard and then later this year the NRA will present a final plan on how to change national regulations on nuclear power plant safety.
This is in line with the current government’s outlook. Last August, Premier Kishida instructed the Ministry of Economy to revive nuclear energy production as a way to reduce CO2 emissions and secure a stable and secure energy supply for Japan.
To date, only a few nuclear power plants in operation before the Fukushima disaster are running after they were shut down by the authorities in 2011.
Japan’s future energy prospects appear very uncertain as it depends heavily on imported hydrocarbons.
In recent months (especially during the spring) the risk of blackouts, due to high demand against modest production, has been a major concern for the government.
The structural conditions for this imbalance, however, have not yet been completely resolved, so much so that this week the government urged people and businesses to cut back on use as much as possible during the coming winter.
Hence, turning to nuclear power has become a priority for Japanese authorities.
On one point, however, the NRA has expressed the need to distance itself from the government's position.
The years of post-Fukushima closure will not be subtracted from the age count of nuclear power plants because even during that period their reactors have aged and so their safety must also be assessed.
[*] A government agency set up after the 2011 Fukushima disaster to ensure nuclear power plants' safety.