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Japan effort to restart nuclear plants delayed until after summer via Financial Times

Moves by Japan’s government and electric utilities to restart nuclear power plants idled after the 2011 Fukushima accident are facing further delays and appear unlikely to succeed before the summer peak, prolonging an economically burdensome rise in energy imports.

Until as recently as last month, it had been widely assumed that the first reactors would come back on line in May or June, before the heat of the Japanese summer prompts a surge in air conditioner use that pushes electricity consumption higher.

But that outcome appears increasingly improbable, analysts said, due to the slower than expected pace of safety reviews for the dozen-odd reactors whose owners have applied for permission to resume operations.

In the latest development, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, the government agency conducting the reviews, told Kyushu Electric Power on Friday that a list of planned and completed safety upgrades for a pair of reactors, contained in a 7,200 page application that it submitted this week, was insufficient.

[...]

“Officially, I’ve been saying Sendai would be restarted in August,” said Shusuke Nishikawa, an electricity analyst at Daiwa Securities. “But that’s looking difficult – the very best case scenario among best case scenarios.”

With the troubled clean-up and decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant still in its early stages, and tens of thousands still unable to return to their homes, many Japanese oppose the idea of restarting any of the country’s 50 still usable reactors.

But Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, supports the restart effort as do business groups and many local governments in areas that host – and are economically dependent on – the plants.

[...]

“Normally you have set standards and the question is whether they’ve been met, but there’s still a lot of academic discussion going on,” Mr Nishikawa said. “They’re still debating what the regulations should be.”

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