Japan’s NRA has begun the process to establish new rules (or guidelines) for reactor restarts. The rules are open for commentary for the next 30 days.
Some of the things being considered are a process to give exceptions to allow reactors to run beyond their 40 year designed lifespan. Filtered vents will also be required before a restart could be considered, something the US has failed to due over industry pressure. Higher standards to determine if a reactor is over an active fault will be used and no reactor will be allowed to operate if it sits over an active fault. There are also countermeasures to deal with volcanic eruption but details of this were not made clear to the public.
Local governments are also involved in the process and will be required to draw up response plans and pre-distribute iodine tablets so people near nuclear plants have them on hand. The list of requirements from NRA also includes more earthquake and tsunami protection, upgrading reactor wiring to fire resistant types and having more response equipment on hand. The remote location control rooms have been given a 5 year grace period. Plants will also have to be able to withstand an airliner or ship strike.
All of these changes may mean that Japan will not see any reactor restart operations for years. The filtered vents for boiling water reactors are expected to take years. TEPCO did manage to install one at a single unit at their Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant in a few months. Additional tsunami levees are expected to take years at some plants as the work involves some significant engineering and construction. 14 plants do not have fire resistant wiring, Fukushima Daiichi proved the need for this upgrade after wiring in the units were found to have failed insulation. Completely rewiring reactors may prove to be an impossible task or too expensive to justify on these old units. 5 units in Japan may sit over active faults, preventing them from restarting.
Some units in Japan are more likely to restart based on their reactor design, age and fault locations. It remains to be seen if or when any will be able to actually restart. Meanwhile Bloomberg is reporting that Japan does not face a power shortage this summer.
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