Shikoku Electric Power halts nuclear reactor for three-month checkup

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MATSUYAMA (Kyodo) — Shikoku Electric Power Co. halted the No.1 reactor at its Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime prefecture Sunday morning for a three-month scheduled checkup, making only 11 of Japan’s 54 commercial reactors are now in operation.

The suspension also means that only one of the utility’s three reactors serving the Shikoku Island in western Japan is now in operation.

The No. 1 reactor is expected to be reactivated on Nov. 16 for test operations and resume regular operation on Dec. 15 after conducting detailed equipment inspections, such as emergency diesel power generators and seawater pumps, in addition to ordinary checks, according to the utility.

But it remains uncertain when it can actually resume operation, given new safety assessment requirements introduced in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant crisis.

The No.3 reactor at the plant, halted in April also for regular checkup, remains suspended despite initial plans to restart its commercial operations in early August.

The scope of inspections was broadened after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant in March.

NISA Scandal

[quote]In 2006, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency asked a utility to manipulate public opinion in favor of nuclear power at a public forum, a fresh example of collusion between the nuclear watchdog and electric power companies.

The Shikoku Electric Power Co. admitted NISA asked it to mobilize residents to attend the June 2006 public hearing in Ikata, Ehime Prefecture, home to Shikoku Electric’s Ikata nuclear power plant, the industry ministry said July 29.

NISA wanted the utility to persuade people to speak up in favor of the utility’s planned use of MOX fuel (plutonium oxide mixed with uranium) at the plant.

The revelation came after NISA was found to have asked Chubu Electric Power Co. to plant pro-nuclear supporters in a public forum in Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, which hosts the utility’s Hamaoka nuclear plant, in August 2007.

Shikoku Electric reported it had asked 364 employees of the utility and its affiliates to attend the hearing after NISA asked it to “recruit many participants to raise questions and present opinions.”

The utility sought out 29 people, including local residents, to speak up in the government-sponsored session, providing them with “example opinions” beforehand.

About 300 people, roughly half those in attendance, were mobilized by Shikoku Electric.

One person said at the session: “I was somewhat relieved to learn that using fuel made from plutonium blended with uranium would not be very different from using uranium in terms of the gases generated.” The words were similar to the sample opinions.

Shikoku Electric said that it does not believe its actions amount to “faking support” for nuclear power.

“We did not force participants to say anything specific,” the utility’s spokesperson said.

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The Ikata Nuclear Power Plant (伊方発電所 Ikata hatsudensho?, Ikata NPP) is a nuclear power plant in the town of Ikata in the Nishiuwa District in Ehime PrefectureJapan. It is the only nuclear plant on the island of Shikoku. It is owned and operated by the Shikoku Electric Power Company.
Unit Reactor type Capacity First criticality Commissioned Type
Ikata – 1 PWR 566 MW February 17, 1977 September 30, 1977 Mitsubishi 2-loop plant
Ikata – 2 PWR 566 MW August 19, 1981 March 19, 1982 Mitsubishi 2-loop plant
Ikata – 3 PWR 890 MW March 29, 1994 December 15, 1994 Mitsubishi/Westinghouse 3-loop plant[3]

Important events

In 2002 the utility admitted it failed to report problems at it’s nuclear power plants and was forced to shut down 5 plants for a safety check.  When it was shut down, radioactive water leaked from the reactor.
Ikata – 1 Primary coolant pump shut down due to reactor containment sump water level increased alarm followed primary coolant pump shaft oscillation increased alarm during periodic inspection in 2002.
Ikata – 1 became the world’s first all-in-one extraction of the core internals in a PWR. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries did replacement work of the upper and lower internals in order to accommodate more control rods and allow for higher fuel burnup.
Ikata –  2 Containment vessel off-gasses monitoring system stopped due to filtration system being stuck.
Ikata – 3 Leak found at heat exchange tube of feedwater heater during periodic inspection. 2002
Ikata – 3 On March 3, 2004 there was a coolant leak in Unit 3.
Ikata – 3 loaded a partial MOX fuel core for the cycle beginning February 24, 2010.
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