In Japan, nuclear reactors found to meet new post-Fukushima safety standards set by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, can be restarted. The problem is that no reactor has met the new safety standards, which has kept all of the nation’s nuclear reactors offline.
This week, officials from the NRA confirmed that they will resume safety screenings at the Tomari nuclear power plant. Hokkaido Electric Power Company, the operator of the Tomari plant, submitted a revised application to the NRA after the regulator suspended safety screenings of the Unit 1 and Unit 2 reactors in July 2012.
In 2012, Hokkaido Electric applied for safety checks at the Unit 1, Unit 2, and Unit 3 reactors at the Tomari plant.
When assessing the effectiveness of operations designed to prevent a meltdown, Hokkaido Electric Power Company used computer data from the Unit 3 reactor to support restart requests at Unit 1 and Unit 2.
When the NRA found this out, they criticized the operator and abruptly halted the screening process.
The Unit 3 reactor is no longer on the same restart schedule as the Unit 1 and Unit 2 reactors, as it does not meet new nuclear safety regulations. Hokkaido Electric has agreed to upgrade the sprinkler system in the containment vessel of the Unit 3 reactor, but as there is no timetable on when the work will be finished – the utility postponed its restart for the foreseeable future.
The utility also is required to reassess tsunami assumptions, potential impacts from volcanic eruptions, and the ground underneath the Unit 3 reactor.
Since the Tomari plant has been shutdown, Hokkaido Electric has already hiked electricity rates by 7.73% for households and 11% for corporate users once and submitted a second application for a second rate hike in February.