Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant set for Sept. Restart; First in Eastern Japan to Resume Operations since 2011 Quake

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Onagawa nuclear power plant, with the No. 2 reactor in the foreground, is seen in this aerial photo taken in 2020.

Tohoku Electric Power Co. is set to restart the No. 2 reactor at its Onagawa nuclear power plant in or around September, the power company said on Monday.

Reactivation of the reactor has been put off due to delays to fire safety improvements at the plant, which straddles Onagawa and Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture. Tohoku Electric decided to restart the reactor because all the such works are expected to be completed in June. If the plan goes ahead, it will be the first reactor in eastern Japan to be restarted since the nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011.

Originally, Tohoku Electric scheduled the reactivation to take place this month, but the plan was postponed twice. The amount of work required to thermally insulate the electric cables in the nuclear reactor buildings to protect them in the event of a fire was greater than expected. The company said there will be no more delays after conducting a thorough examination of the amount of outstanding work.

“The work is in its final stage,” said Sadao Kanazawa, the head of the company’s nuclear power division at a press conference on Monday. “We’ll continue with the work while putting top priority on safety, and we’ll aim to restart the reactor while gaining the understanding of local communities.”

According to the company, restarting the No. 2 reactor can alleviate the company’s dependence on liquid natural gas and coal-fired thermal power as the source of more than half of the electric power it generates. The company also said it will improve the electricity reserve margin, so the company is able to support stable power supplies, even in periods of high demand.

The monthly reduction in fuel cost from the reactivation is estimated at ¥10 billion, and the company can expect to save ¥80 billion annually, even taking the shutdown periods for regular examinations into consideration. Therefore, there is a possibility that the company may be able to bring down electric rates in the future.

The No. 2 reactor passed the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety screening in February 2020. Miyagi Gov. Yoshihiro Murai approved the restart of the reactor — a boiling-water reactor (BWR) — in November that year. The reactors involved in the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima plant were also BWRs. The Chugoku Electric Power Co., Inc. is also planning to restart the No. 2 reactor, another BWR, of its Shimane nuclear power plant in Matsue in August.