Hokkaido unit only faces part two of stress test: Kaieda
SAPPORO — Hokkaido Gov. Harumi Takahashi was expected to announce Tuesday night her approval for resuming commercial operations of the Tomari nuclear plant’s reactor 3, which has been running full tilt since March 7 but technically only in test mode.
The move would clear the way for the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to issue a certificate for the completion of the reactor’s regular inspection, which has continued for an unusually long period of five months amid the nuclear crisis in Fukushima. Tomari’s reactor 3 would be the first to resume commercial operations since the crisis erupted.
Reactor 3 is already generating at full capacity under what is known as an “adjustment operation” in the final phase of the check, so there will be effectively no difference in terms of electricity output when it shifts to commercial operations.
As for the government-mandated stress tests to be carried out on all reactors nationwide, the unit will only have to undergo the second part — a computer simulation.
The Hokkaido government has taken a cautious stance about giving the go-ahead to commercial operations, apparently because no other reactors in the country have restarted since the Fukushima plant’s triple meltdowns after March 11, heightening public concerns about the safety of nuclear power.
The Tomari reactor 3 began undergoing a regular inspection in January and started the adjustment operation on March 7.
The checks were supposed to end early April, but Hokkaido Electric Power Co. only applied for the final test of the inspection process recently because it had to enhance its safety measures in response to the nuclear crisis.
The final test ended last Wednesday, with the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which is under the wing of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, confirming that there are no problems with the reactor.
But METI chief Banri Kaieda, prompted by complaints from Takahashi to consider local sentiment, delayed issuing the certificate for the completion of the regular inspection until she consulted with local governments.
The Fukushima meltdown crisis prompted the government to require that all reactors undergo the two-stage computer simulation stress tests to gauge their ability to survive a severe accident.
But the government said Tomari’s reactor 3 only needs the second part of the test.
Utilities must ensure that reactors that have been halted for regular checks pass the first-stage of the stress test. The second-stage test will be later conducted on all reactors, including those now in operation.
Kaieda told Takahashi on Aug. 9 that reactor 3 only needed the second test.
Tepco output goal
Tokyo Electric Power Co. is close to attaining its goal set for the end of August of increasing supply capacity to 56.10 million kw by boosting thermal power generation to make up for shortages amid its nuclear crisis, officials said Tuesday.
But the utility, which serves the Kanto region, where power demand reached its highest level this summer at 48.91 million kw on Aug. 10, is keeping an eye out for any unexpected trouble in light of the turbine failure that caused Kansai Electric Power Co.’s 400,000-kw thermal plant to shut down Sunday, they said.
Tepco, which must cope without its two nuclear plants in Fukushima Prefecture, has meanwhile managed to restore its tsunami-crippled thermal plant in the same prefecture.
It has also installed two of five extra high-output gas turbine generators it plans to run by the end of August, and has reactivated two generators at a plant due to be decommissioned in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.