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Tokai No. 2 nuke plant passes tighter safety checks introduced after 2011 quake

This July 17, 2018 file photo shows the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant, front, in the village of Tokai in Ibaraki Prefecture. (Mainichi/Tatsuya Fujii)

TOKYO -- The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) officially determined on Sept. 26 that the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant north of Tokyo meets new, more stringent safety standards introduced after the March 2011 triple core meltdown and massive radiation leaks at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Tokai plant operator Japan Atomic Power Co. intends to restart the reactor and operate it 20 years beyond its original 40-year lifespan.

The only nuclear power station in the greater Tokyo area became the first nuclear power station to pass the NRA screening among those affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, which triggered the nuclear disaster at TEPCO's Fukushima No.1 plant in northeastern Japan.

Restarting the 1.1-million-kilowatt Tokai No. 2 plant in the village of Tokai in Ibaraki Prefecture, about 160 kilometers northwest of central Tokyo, is no easy task, however. Japan Atomic needs to obtain approval from neighboring municipalities to resume reactor operations. Devising an evacuation plan in case of an accident for the some 960,000 residents living within a 30-kilometer radius of the plant is also a major challenge.

To get permission for the 20-year reactor life extension, Japan Atomic must also obtain government approval for relevant construction and extension plans before Nov. 27 this year, when the reactor will turn 40. The construction plan and the operational extension screening is almost finished, and both will be approved before the deadline.

Japan Atomic plans to complete safety enhancement work by March 2021 and then restart the plant at a later date. The work will cost some 174 billion yen, and Japan Atomic is depending on financial support from TEPCO and Tohoku Electric Power Co. to cover the outlay.

Tokai No. 2 became the eighth nuclear power station, and the 15th reactor, to pass the NRA safety screening. It is the second boiling water reactor after TEPCO's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power station certified as meeting the new safety standards. The reactors are a similar type to the ones at the Fukushima No. 1 plant that suffered core meltdowns.

(Japanese original by Riki Iwama, Science & Environment News Department)

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