In addition to the establishment of a new nuclear regulatory agency under the Environment Ministry, the government is aiming to legislate the lifespan of nuclear reactors, and require plant operators to outline specific measures against severe nuclear accidents.
Included in the latest bills are the designation of a 40-year lifespan for nuclear reactors and the implementation of “back-fit” measures that would hold existing reactors to the latest technological standards.
The regulations leave the possibility of extending a reactor’s operational life by up to another 20 years, but the wording in the bills has been clarified to make such an extension “extremely difficult” to achieve, according to ruling party members. Many still question whether or not the 40 year lifespan is little more than a quick ploy to keep the public at bay.
The government however claims that the combination of these two mandates would make it extremely difficult for reactors to continue running more than 60 years.
Environmental Minister Goshi Hosono said Tuesday it is “impossible” that the government will restart reactors older than 40 years even if they pass inspection.
If Hosono’s pledge is kept, it would mean that two reactors, both located in Fukui Prefecture, will be decommissioned even if they pass ongoing checkups.
They are reactor No. 1 at the Tsuruga nuclear power plant operated by Japan Atomic Power Co. and reactor No. 1 at the Mihama plant operated by KansaiElectric Power Co. They are the only active reactors in Japan older than 40 years.
Currently, 51 of the nation’s 54 reactors, including the two in question, have been halted for inspections after the meltdown crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
Source: Japan Times