Restart of Japan’s nuclear reactors gains momentum

  • momentumIn a major turning point, local and regional Japanese officials have approved the restart of the two nuclear reactors at Kyushu Electric’s Sendai plant.
  • Kansai Electric is pursuing keeping two 40 year old reactors at the Takahama power station in Fukui province on the grid despite pressure from the government to close them. It is likely the utility will be successful.
  • Construction work is expected to resume on Japan’s first all MOX fuel plant at Ohma-1 in the Aomori province. Completion is expected in 2020.
  • Major producing uranium miners in Canada believe Japan will restart at least half of the nation’s remaining 48 reactors by the end of 2015. The cumulative effect on demand will prevent Japanese nuclear utilities from dumping their inventories of uranium on the open market and depressing prices.

Sendai Restarts

NucNet reports that the governor of Kagoshima Prefecture approved the restart of the Sendai-1 and Sendai-2 nuclear reactors. The units are PWRs built in the mid-1980s and represent a combined total of just over 1700 MW. Revenue service is expected to start in early 2015.

The two units have become the first nuclear reactors in Japan to meet new safety standards promulgated by the now independent  Nuclear Regulation Authority. The new safety standards cover design basis, severe accident measures, and recovery after earthquakes and tsunami events.

Takahama life extension

Kansai Electric Power Oc. (KEPCO) says it has no plans to decommission two reactors at the Takahama power station despite the fact the two PWRs in question, at 780 MW each, were built in the mid-1970s. The Japanese government is trying to permanently shut down reactors which are more than 40 years old or nearly so. However, it allows nuclear utilities to make special safety checks, which if passed by July 2016, will allow the utility to keep the reactor in revenue service.

Units 3 & 4 at Takahama, which are 830 MW PWRs completed in 1985, have already passed their safety checks. Because all four reactors share some common balance of plant infrastructure, KEPCO believes that some of the safety steps for earthquake and tsunami will apply to units 1 & 2.

Ohma-1 MOX fueled reactor construction progress

The Japan Electric Power Development Corp (J-Power) is moving ahead with construction activities for the Ohma-1 reactor, 1383 MW 100% MOX fueled  Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) in Japan’s Aomori Prefecture. The plant was 40% complete in March 2011. Construction restarted in mid-2012.

J-Power announced this week it has completed design of new safety measures required by the NRA. The additional construction activities related to earthquake and tsunami will be added to work scope in 2015 at a cost of $1.1 billion. The overall plant is expected to complete construction by 2020. No date has been set to start revenue service.

The plant is the first of a kind for Japan which has long sought to exit competition for fossil fuels on the world market by implementing a “pluthermal” policy.  According to a Nov 16 report by World Nuclear News, the plant will use 25% of all MOX fuel produced in Japan and raise self-sufficiency in energy from 4% to 18%.

Uranium miners see increased demand

Uranium miners see half of Japan’s 48 reactors authorized for restart by the end of 2015  based on the strong political support of Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe. As a result the miners see the spot price of uranium going up.

Last week the Bloomberg wire service reported the spot price for U3O8 rose over 4% to $39.50/lb. Bloomberg also reported that the Solactive Global Uranium Total Index, which tracks 21 firms in the uranium mining industry, rose by over 5% the same week.

Bloomberg quoted David Sadowski, a Vancouver, BC, analyst at Raymond James, who said the cumulative effect on demand of planned reactor restarts will prevent Japanese nuclear utilities from dumping their inventories of uranium on the open market and depressing prices.

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