7 May 2009 – Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) won approval on Thursday to restart the world’s biggest nuclear plant nearly two years after it was damaged in an earthquake.
The governor of Japan’s Niigata prefecture approved trials to restart the 1356 MW No.7 reactor at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, despite a string of small fires there since the July 2007 quake.
The restart, which could come as early as Friday, could cut TEPCO’s annual fuel purchases by more than 70bn yen ($713m) and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 5m tonnes, according to company and Reuters calculations.
But the governor kept up the pressure on TEPCO, saying the prefecture could order it to shut down the No.7 reactor again if any unexpected problems arose during the restart process.
“If there were problems, I would withdraw consent for the resumption of operations,” he told reporters after announcing his approval at the prefectural assembly.
A TEPCO spokesman said no concrete plan for the restart process had been set. But prefectural officials said the company could restart No.7 within a day.
It is still unclear when the remaining six reactors at the 8212 MW plant will resume operations.
All seven generators at the plant have been shut down after a powerful quake hit the region on 16 July 2007, and the newest and least damaged No.7 unit will be the first to be restarted.
After trial restarts, TEPCO plans to conduct final tests including boosting electricity output in stages to 100 per cent of capacity.
Market sources say it will probably take about 40 to 50 days for TEPCO to conduct tests and pass a final government inspection before starting commercial operations at the No.7 generator.