Extension of nuclear reactor operation approved

Extension of nuclear reactor operation approved

Japan's nuclear regulator has given permission for the power plant closest to Tokyo to extend operations of its reactor for up to 20 years.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority unanimously decided on Wednesday to allow Japan Atomic Power Company to extend operations at the Tokai No.2 plant in Ibaraki Prefecture, located about 110 kilometers north of central Tokyo.

About 960,000 people live within a 30 kilometer radius of the facility, the highest population density among all nuclear plant vicinities across Japan.

Regulators say the Tokai No.2 plant meets government requirements introduced after the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Meeting the requirements is a precondition for reactors to go back online.

At Wednesday's meeting, the Nuclear Regulation Authority members were briefed on estimates that wear and tear involving the reactor, pipes and other equipment will pose no problems 20 years from now, which will mark 60 years since going online.

The reactor at the Tokai No.2 plant will be allowed to operate until November 2038 at a maximum.

The reactor is the 4th in Japan to be allowed to run beyond the 40-year limit and the first at a plant damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Regulators have already approved extensions for 2 reactors at the Takahama nuclear power plant and the No.3 reactor at the Mihama plant, both in Fukui Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast.

The operator of the Tokai No.2 plant will still need more than 2 years of construction work for enhanced safety measures before it restarts the reactor. This includes building a tsunami breakwater.

It must also obtain prior consent from 6 municipalities in the area including the village of Tokai where the plant is located.