New rule could see N-plants operating for more than 60 years

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry building in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority approved Wednesday a draft of a new rule that would allow nuclear power to operate for more than 60 years.

Under the current rules, operating periods are limited to 40 years in principle, but can be extended to a maximum of 60 years.

The new rule would allow the operating period to be extended every 10 years when power plants reach 30 years of operation.

The NRA plans to submit a bill to the Diet next year to amend the relevant legislation after soliciting opinions from the general public and exchanging views with electric power companies.

On Dec. 16, the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry gave the green light for nuclear plants to operate for more than 60 years, excluding periods when operations are suspended for NRA inspections.

Under the current rules, when a nuclear plant has been operating for 40 years, the NRA can grant a one-off extension of up to 20 years if the plant passes an inspection.

The NRA has been implementing measures to combat the aging of facilities every 10 years at nuclear power plants that have been in operation for 30 years or more.

Under the new rules, the NRA would require power companies to prepare a long-term plan to manage the condition of their facilities, with operation extensions approved repeatedly if safety is confirmed.

Inspections would be conducted to confirm the implementation of the plans.

The NRA will solicit views from the public from Thursday through Jan. 20. The exchange of opinions between the NRA and the power companies will be open to the public.