Japan pledges to reactivate up to nine nuclear reactors by winter

Japan’s central government plans to reactivate up to nine nuclear power plants over the next few months to meet an expected peak in electricity demand in the upcoming winter season, Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported Friday.

“We aim to bring as many nuclear reactors online as possible,” Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio told reporters at a July 14 news conference. “We will have up to nine reactors in operation this winter to guarantee enough power sources to cover around 10% of Japan’s overall electricity consumption.”

“Kishida said he also instructed government officials to prepare 10 other thermal power plants for operations to ensure stable power supply during peak periods,” the official said. Asahi Shimbun announced July 15.

The newspaper hinted that Tokyo is anticipating “possible power shortages” during the upcoming winter season, between December 2022 and March 2023.

Japan’s federal government has urged households and businesses in Tokyo to reduce electricity consumption from June 27-29 amid power shortages in the metropolitan area caused by “a spike in demand caused by high temperatures and infrastructure issues,” Kyodo News reported in June. 28.

“Apart from weather conditions, factors such as damage to power plants during a strong earthquake that struck in March, mainly in the northeast Tohoku region, also compromised available capacity,” noted the news agency at the time.

“[I]It is “important” that Japan restarts its nuclear power plants to ensure that it can meet energy needs,” Kyodo News quoted Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hagiuda Koichi as saying. during a press briefing on June 28.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu told reporters at the same briefing that Tokyo expects its electricity supply to increase from around June 29, citing “projected output from power plants that will finish undergo periodic maintenance and inspections”.

The nine nuclear reactors that the Japanese central government plans to operate for the next winter season’s energy needs “have been brought online at least once after passing the Nuclear Regulatory Authority’s screening for a restart. Four were in operation on 14 July, the Asahi Shimbun noted on July 15.

The newspaper referred to a tougher operating standard that the Japanese federal government began requiring of its nuclear power plants in 2013 in response to the 2011 collapse of three nuclear reactors in Japan’s Fukushima prefecture.

“The Fukushima disaster led to the shutdown of nuclear power plants across the country, with plant operators forced to meet new safety standards introduced in 2013 before restarting reactors,” Kyodo News recalled on June 17.

“Of the 54 nuclear reactors that were in operation before the disaster, only 10 have resumed operations under stricter rules, while 21 others are expected to be decommissioned,” according to the news agency.

A magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck the coast of Fukushima on March 11, 2011, followed by a related tsunami. The dual impact of the natural disaster knocked out the power supply and coolants for three nuclear power reactors in the prefecture, leading to subsequent site collapse. The combined natural and nuclear disaster in Fukushima in March 2011 caused severe damage to the environment and the local population, forcing over 100,000 people to evacuate their homes.

There were reportedly “no deaths or cases of radiation sickness from the nuclear accident”, according to a profile of the incident updated by the World Nuclear Association in May.

“Official figures show that there were 2,313 disaster-related deaths among evacuees from Fukushima prefecture. The disaster-related deaths are in addition to the estimated 19,500 deaths from the earthquake or tsunami,” noted then the association.

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