The Kashiwasaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, the world’s largest, may get clearance to resume operations after six years of dormancy following the Fukushima disaster. The Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) granted the plant’s operator, Tepco, a qualified approval of its safety plan, and it could grant it effective approval as early as next week.
While the watchdog could issue a formal approval for Kashiwasaki-Kariwa’s restart later this fall, according to the Nikkei Asian Review, the actual resumption of the reactors is questionable: there is strong local community opposition to nuclear power as fears of another meltdown still linger.
Regulators have conducted technical safety evaluations of the plant, whose reactors are of the same kind as those that melted down in Fukushima, but there are still some reservations regarding Tepco’s safety efforts. The NRA has requested that Tepco’s proposed safety measures for Kashiwasaki-Kariwa be made more legally binding, and has set up a panel to devise ways to guarantee the utility keeps its word.
Even if the NRA approves the restart of the plant, however, the Niigata prefecture is unlikely to support it with an approval of its own. The governor, Ryuchi Yoneyama, is an outspoken opponent of nuclear power, and following the news of NRA’s pending approval said that the prefecture had "absolutely no intention of approving a restart" of the Kashiwasaki-Kariwa facility before an safety inspection of Fukushima was completed.
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Tepco first applied for approval to restart two of Kashiwasaki-Kariwa’s seven reactors back in 2013, and has since worked to fulfill all safety requirements that regulators imposed. The company’s shares, however, jumped 3 percent on the news of NRA’s approval despite the slim chance of Kashiwasaki-Kariwa actually returning to operation.
The Fukushima disaster, caused by a tsunami in 2011, displaced 160,000 people, many of them permanently, and led to the shut down of all 50 nuclear reactors in the country. The cost of the disaster is estimated at US$197 billion.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.