After the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the operational life of nuclear reactors was set at up to 40 years in principle. But power companies can continue to operate their facilities for an additional 20 years if their reactors pass the NRA screening.
So far, all requests to the NRA to extend the operating life of old reactors have been approved.
The reactor at the Tokai No. 2 plant is the fourth to clear the NRA for extended operations since the Fukushima disaster. It is located about 120 kilometers from the heart of Tokyo.
The 1.1-gigawatt boiling water reactor is the only unit at the Tokai No. 2 plant and is of the same design as the crippled reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The Tokai No. 2 plant was also affected by the tsunami generated by the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011.
It is the first time for a reactor affected by the tsunami to be approved for an operational extension. It is also the first boiling water reactor to gain such approval.
The NRA examined the reactor’s pressure vessel and other equipment, and concluded that the unit could operate safely until November 2038.
But it remains unclear if Japan Atomic Power can restart the plant under its earliest time frame of 2021, due to local opposition.
In October, Mayor Toru Umino of Naka, one of the six municipalities around the plant, announced his opposition to the extension. The city assembly of Mito, another municipality, adopted a resolution against the extension in June.
About 960,000 people live within a 30-km radius of the plant, making it the most densely populated site among the nation’s nuclear facilities.
After the Fukushima disaster, municipalities in close proximity to a nuclear plant were required to craft an evacuation plan to respond to a nuclear emergency.
But only three of the 14 municipalities around the Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant within that range have done so due to the difficulty of arranging transportation for such a large number of people.
Bringing the reactor back online is expected to cost Japan Atomic Power at least 174 billion yen ($1.54 billion), a sum that includes construction of a seawall and other safeguard measures.