The Onagawa nuclear plant north of Fukushima Daiichi has been given permission to restart by Japan’s nuclear regulator. The plant’s unit 2 reactor has restart permission. Onagawa was hit by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami but suffered less damage than Fukushima Daiichi due to the height of the land the reactors were built on.
At Fukushima Daiichi the land was cut down before the reactors were built. This saved money on the size of intake pumps used. Larger pumps would have been needed to lift water up to the higher elevation. At Onagawa, when the plant was constructed, a similar debate took place. Safety won and the plant was built on the existing higher land. The Onagawa reactors are the same BWR design as the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi.
Onagawa was closer to the epicenter of the 2011 earthquake than other nearby nuclear plants. Inspections found the unit 2 reactor building suffered 1130 cracks in the structural concrete. The third floor of the reactor building lost 70% of its structural integrity. The first floor lost 25%. There were plans in 2017 to reinforce the damaged portions of the reactor building.
The operator of the Onagawa plant will still be required to gain local permission before the reactor could be restarted.
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