Tue, Jun 21, 2016 - Page 6 News List

Aging nuclear reactors can stay online: Japan

AFP, TOKYO

Japanese regulators yesterday said that two ageing nuclear reactors can stay online for up to 20 more years — the first such exception under tighter safety rules imposed after the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant crisis in 2011.

Environmental group Greenpeace criticized the decision, saying earthquake risks were being ignored.

Japan shut down dozens of reactors after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake-generated tsunami on March 11, 2011, triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in the northeast, the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

The ensuing decrease in nuclear power generation forced resource-poor Japan to turn to pricey fossil fuels. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has declared that nuclear power is essential for the economy as he pushes to get reactors back in operation.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) said the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at Kansai Electric’s Takahama nuclear power plant can operate for up to 20 more years because they meet safety guidelines.

The utility had asked the nuclear watchdog to extend the operational period of the reactors. Both are more than 40 years old, normally the maximum period under NRA rules.

The reactors have been switched off since 2011.

The move comes after a district court in March issued an injunction ordering a temporary shutdown of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the same plant.

The Takahama facility is located about 350km west of Tokyo.

Yesterday’s decision was quickly denounced by Greenpeace, which said the move “goes far beyond regulatory failure.”

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