Japan’s nuclear watchdog Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) said on Wednesday that they are fast-tracking the restart of some of the reactors in order to lessen the cost of importing fossil fuel for the country’s electricity needs. Japan has been mostly without nuclear energy since March 2011, in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident, the worst in the world since Chernobyl in the 80s.
The agency said they are making a priority list to see which of the country’s 48 nuclear reactors can be restarted as soon as possible. The approval process has been painstakingly slow due to the long list of safety checks and paperwork in light of the new regulations being implemented by the agency which started July of last year. Since then they have received applications from eight utilities but the slow pace has frustrated both the nuclear operators and The nuclear industry has been hoping for the restarts to begin by the middle of 2014 and the announcement of the fast-tracking of the process may give them hope yet.
The NRA said that as early as next month, they will be able to shortlist those plants that can meet their earthquake and tsunami safety criteria in order to expedite the six water pressurised reactors that are run by Kansai Electric Power Co, Kyushu Electric Power, Hokkaido Electric Power and Shikoku Electric Power. Once they have finalized the list of priority plants, the report will be made available for public comment for four weeks. They will also be holding townhall meetings where the plants are located in order to answer the communities’ questions about the possible restarts.
NRA chair Shunichi Tanaka said that the decision to fasttrack the process has nothing to do with pressure from the government, particularly because of statements made by trade and industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi. He said earlier this week that the NRA should already give an “outlook” so that plant operators can start planning their businesses around it. Tanaka said there is “no chance” that pressure like this, as well as Hokkaido Electric’s announcement it is considering rate hikes, will get them to be swayed from the due process.
[ via Reuters ]