The NRA is in the process of extending approval for aging reactors that have been in operation for more than 40 years, including the No 3 reactor at Kansai Electric Power Company's Mihama plant located in Fukui Prefecture:
EDITORIAL: Extending life of Mihama nuclear reactor raises doubts on safety. The Asahi Shimbun, August 8, 2016 at 13:20 JST http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201608080025.html
The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has endorsed the draft inspection report for the No. 3 reactor at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Mihama nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture. The reactor will have been in service for 40 years at the end of November.
Two more NRA approvals will pave the way for an extension of the reactor’s commercial operations by up to 20 years.
The law stipulates that nuclear reactors that have been operating for four decades or longer should be shut down in principle to prevent unpredictable accidents. Extended operations of reactors beyond the legal 40-year life span are supposed to be exceptions...
The No. 3 reactor at the Mihama plant also has some unique problems that reinforce the case against extending its service. First of all, the reactor is located close to a fault. This has led the NRA to raise the assumed standard intensity of shaking caused by an earthquake by 30 percent from the original estimate made by the utility.The article notes that in June the NRA authorized extension of operations of reactors 1 and 2 at Kansai Electric's Takahama nuclear plant located in Fukui prefecture, both of which have operated over 40 years.
Meanwhile, Shikoku Electric Power Company's Ikata Nuclear Power Plant in Ehime Prefecture is slated to reach criticality Friday morning:
Ikata nuclear reactor to restart on Friday morning. JIJI Aug 10, 2016 http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/08/10/national/ikata-nuclear-reactor-to-restart-on-friday-morning/#.V6s276KYK5oAs reported in the Japanese and American media, citizens in Japan have used the court systems to try and halt reactor re-starts through injunctions.
Shikoku Electric Power Co. said Wednesday it will reactivate the No. 3 reactor at its Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime Prefecture around 9 a.m. on Friday.
It will be the first time in some five years and three months for the reactor to be switched on, since it was suspended for a routine safety inspection in April 2011.
The Ikata No. 3 reactor will be the fifth to go back online under the county’s new safety regulations, introduced in July 2013 after the March 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.
The Ikata plant will be the second nuclear plant in operation in Japan, joining Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture.
However, the courts have been happy to over-rule citizen concerns, with judges consciously and explicitly deciding upon the acceptable "level of risk":
Court rejects appeal to halt operations of Sendai reactors April 6, 2016 THE ASAHI SHIMBUN http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201604060045.html
MIYAZAKI--A high court here rejected an appeal by Kyushu residents seeking to shut down the only two nuclear reactors operating in Japan, ruling that it is impossible to secure absolute safety with nuclear energy. Presiding Judge Tomoichiro Nishikawa of the Miyazaki branch of the Fukuoka High Court said April 6 that current science and technology standards cannot reach a level of safety in which no radioactive materials are emitted regardless of the severity of the accident at a nuclear plant.
“A judgment has to be made based on the standard of what level of danger a society would be willing to live with,” Nishikawa said.
It is my belief that the headline below explains the driving force for re-starting reactors
Rhiannon Hoyle and Mayumi Negishi Japan Nuclear-Power Jitters Weigh on Global Uranium Market . The Wall Street Journal, July 31, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/japan-nuclear-power-jitters-weigh-on-global-uranium-market-1469990663Falling uranium prices are bad news for producers and investors, such as Cameco and Goldman Sachs, as well as for monopolistic utilities.
Falling uranium prices and the welfare of powerful utilities are prioritized over public safety.
Re-starting reactors is a process fraught with risks, even under the best conditions. Conditions in Japan are far from "the best" given faults under or near reactors and ongoing heightened geological activity in the region.
The Nuclear complexes’ revolving door relationships and the close connections between nuclear weapons and energy security together reinforce the complex’s immunity and mitigate against realistic assessments of the myriad risks posed by the uranium supply chain, including the health and environmental risks of uranium mining, refining, fissioning, and spent waste management.
Accidents such as Fukushima were believed to be low probability events, but recent statistical analyses of past nuclear disasters points to the fallacy of low-probability formulations. Research by Lelieveld, Kunkel, and Lawrence published in the journal, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, predicts a severe nuclear accident every ten to twenty years.
Another study by Wheatley, Sovacool, and Sornette predicted a 50 percent chance for another Fukushima-scale accident or larger in the next 50 years, a Chernobyl-scale event in the next 27 years, and a Three Mile Island scale event in the next ten years.
Yet, in the wake of these studies the Japanese government planned to cut the formal risk probability of a major nuclear accident in half, as reported in The Asahi Shimbun in April of 2015: “The industry ministry intends to cut the risk probability of a major nuclear accident occurring to once in 80 years, half that of the once-in-40-years rate contrived just after the Fukushima disaster in 2011.” The article explains that by revising the probability downward, to once in 80 years, the “proposed costs for dealing with nuclear disasters will be reduced.”
The Sendai nuclear power plant in Satsuma-Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture that resumed operations in 2015 benefitted from the revision, reducing energy costs for businesses and consumers, but leaving the nation vulnerable to another nuclear disaster.
Fukushima Daiichi August 11, 2016