Nuclear, Plant Optimization, Reactors

Japan to restart idled nuclear plants later this year

Speaking to Parliament Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the country would begin restarting its nuclear plants that have sat idle since the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, The New York Times reports.

Abe ensured that plants that return to service will have to pass the tough new guidelines expected from Japan’s new Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) as early as July this year. Some of the new safety regulations already released by the newly formed NRA include higher sea walls for protection from tsunamis, more backup cooling systems and earthquake-proof command centers, the Times said. According to the prominent Japanese newspaper Asahi Shumbun, not one of the country’s 16 undamaged commercial nuclear plants would meet those standards today, and making the necessary upgrades would cost operators up to $11 billion.

Abe’s announcement will be interpreted as a boost to nuclear power in Japan, after an election in which leaders from the previous government vowed to phase out nuclear power in favor of solar and wind energy. Abe said the country will continue to invest in energy alternatives but that the need for stable and affordable electricity made a return to nuclear power an economic necessity, according to the Times.

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