Kyushu Electric Edges Closer to Nuclear Restart

Kyushu Electric Edges Closer to  Nuclear RestartKyushu Electric Edges Closer to  Nuclear Restart

Kyushu Electric Power Company, which provides power to seven prefectures, and recently to some parts of Hiroshima Prefecture, will begin refueling one of its reactors at its Sendai nuclear plant in southern Japan ahead of a resumption of operations scheduled for August.

A pre-service inspection has been completed ahead of fuel loading on Tuesday, Bloomberg cited the utility as saying in a statement on Monday. The refueling process, usually done a month before a reactor restarts, is the next milestone as Japan moves toward returning as a nuclear-powered nation. Japan has been without commercial nuclear energy since the last reactor was turned off in September 2013 in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

The process involves transporting nuclear fuel rods from a nearby storage pool to the reactor. Over four days, 157 fuel rod bundles will be loaded one by one into the reactor.

Japan’s watchdog, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, will perform a series of tests at the end of July to ensure the fuel was loaded safely and the reactor is able to restart safely.

Japan’s fleet of operable reactors remain offline after the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear station owned by Tokyo Electric Power Company Kyushu Electric’s two reactors at Sendai are the first and only to pass the nuclear regulator’s safety requirements and clear local courts.

Nevertheless, the reloading does not guarantee that Kyushu will meet its goal of restarting the unit by August as fuel can sit in a reactor vessel for years, according to Michael Golay, a professor of nuclear engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

“Loading the fuel does not mean that restart should be expected with high confidence,” Golay said. Kyushu Electric aims to restart Sendai’s No. 2 reactor in October. The company has not announced a refueling date for the unit.