JAPAN | Reactors kept on full test run; no formal nod

Posted on July 7, 2011

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JAPAN | JAPAN TIMES | Thursday, July 7, 2011

Kansai Electric Power Co. and Hokkaido Electric Power Co. are operating two nuclear reactors without formal approval, four months after the Fukushima disaster raised safety concerns about the atomic power industry.

A reactor at Kepco’s Ohi nuclear plant is operating at full capacity without the final go-ahead from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said Kazushige Maeda, a spokesman for the Osaka-based utility. The same applies for a reactor at Hokkaido Electric’s Tomari plant, spokesman Hisatoshi Kibayashi said.

Both units started test runs days before the March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out power and cooling systems at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant, causing three reactors to melt down. “It’s unusual the reactors are running for four months on a test run basis, but there is nothing illegal about it,” said Tomohiro Sawada, an assistant director at NISA’s nuclear power inspection division.

The approvals for the Ohi and Tomari reactors haven’t been granted because Kepco and Hokkaido Electric have yet to submit requests to NISA, Maeda said. They are waiting for the government and NISA to put local concerns about plant safety at rest before asking for approval, they said. Both reactors are supplying power to the electricity grid.

NISA checked the Ohi and Tomari reactors before the test runs began, Sawada said. Utilities need to have final inspections from NISA to check reactors are working as expected after a test run, he said.

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