Kyushu Electric Plans to Restart Reactor After Repairing Fault

Kyushu Electric Power Co. said it plans to restart a reactor at its Genkai nuclear plant in southwestern Japan that was shut due to a malfunction in early October.

Should the reactor be brought online it will be the first to do so since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami wrecked the Fukushima nuclear plant, causing the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.

Kyushu Electric aims to restart the 1,180-megawatt No. 4 reactor in “several” days, Yuki Hirano, spokesman at the Fukuoka, Japan-based company, said by phone today. He declined to comment further on the plan.

Kyushu Electric is at the center of a controversy involving attempts by Japan’s power companies to influence public opinion in favor of nuclear energy after the Fukushima nuclear disaster undermined public confidence in the industry. The company needs to get the agreement of local residents and authorities before it can restart the reactor.

“Kyushu Electric needs to ascertain whether it can obtain the understanding of local residents,” Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano said today, the Asahi newspaper reported.

Genkai town mayor Hideo Kishimoto said he was “to some extent” satisfied with an explanation given by Vice President Haruyoshi Yamamoto during a meeting today, Kyodo News reported.

Yasushi Furukawa, the governor of Saga prefecture where the plant is located, said he wants to consult with the central government on whether the reactor can restart, the Mainichi newspaper said today.

Influencing Opinion

Kyushu Electric asked affiliates to send e-mails to a public forum in June to influence opinion in attempts to support the restart of other reactors at Genkai idled for maintenance. Edano called into question the utility’s report into the matter that was submitted last month.

No nuclear reactor idled for regular maintenance since the Fukushima disaster has been brought back online after the March 11 quake and tsunami caused three meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant. Japan will have no nuclear plants operating by April unless idled reactors are restarted.

The Genkai No. 4 reactor automatically shut down because of a malfunction in a vacuum condenser on Oct. 4 caused by human error. Kyushu Electric submitted a report on the incident to Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency on Oct. 21. The nuclear safety watchdog said yesterday the report is “mostly appropriate.”

“The shutdown was caused by procedural mistakes and there is no need to carry out large-scale inspections,” Hiroyuki Terui, an official in the Nuclear Emergency Preparedness Division at NISA, said today.

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