New reactors could yet go critical in no-nuclear pledge loophole

September 15, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

The government is to let construction work continue on three incomplete reactors even as the nation prepares to pull the plug on nuclear power, a point that critics could seize upon as evidence of a drifting deadline.

On Sept. 14, the Noda administration pledged to abandon nuclear power by the 2030s and to build no new reactors in that time, but industry minister Yukio Edano said Sept. 15 the government would authorize the completion of the three reactors currently being built.

"The industry ministry is not considering changing projects to install and build reactors that we have already approved," Edano said.

If those reactors under construction are allowed to operate throughout a planned 40-year lifetime, they would be decommissioned only in the 2050s.

Edano was speaking during talks in Aomori with the prefectural governor, Shingo Mimura. Two of the incomplete reactors are located in the northern prefecture.

He said the reactors would need to clear safety checks by the new nuclear regulatory commission before they could go live. The watchdog body is due to be formed Sept. 19.

The three units currently under construction are: the No. 3 reactor at the Shimane plant in Matsue, capital of Shimane Prefecture, which is operated by Chugoku Electric Power Co.; a reactor at the Oma plant in Oma, Aomori Prefecture, which is operated by Electric Power Development Co.; and the No. 1 reactor at the Higashidori plant in Higashidori, Aomori Prefecture, which is operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Construction at the Shimane plant is 93.6 percent complete, the Oma plant 37.6 percent and the Higashidori plant 9.7 percent.

But work at each plant has been suspended since the 2011 quake and tsunami.

Many in the administration advocated allowing the Shimane and Oma reactors to proceed.

As regards the Shimane reactor, “mainstream opinion backs operation, on the grounds that it is the most advanced and safest,” said Seiji Maehara, policy chief with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan. He was speaking to reporters on Sept. 6.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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