Photo/IllutrationThe No. 3 reactor, foreground, is under construction at the Shimane nuclear power plant in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, on May 14. Seen in the background are, from left, the No. 1 and the No. 2 reactors. (Satoru Ogawa)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Chugoku Electric Power Co. on May 22 took the first step toward the start of operations of the Shimane nuclear power plant’s new reactor, whose construction was halted following the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The utility, based in Hiroshima, asked the Shimane prefectural government and the Matsue city government for their consent on applying to the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) for safety screening of the No. 3 reactor.

It marked the second time that a utility began the procedures toward the start of a new reactor that was under construction at the time the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the Fukushima accident.

The first was an Oma nuclear power plant reactor in Aomori Prefecture, which is currently under construction by the Electric Power Development Co., known as J Power.

Construction of the Shimane nuclear power plant’s No. 3 reactor, with an output of 1.37 gigawatts, is nearing completion. If the series of procedures go smoothly, it could become the first new nuclear reactor in Japan that starts operation after the Fukushima disaster, which prompted toughened safety standards for nuclear plants.

The Shimane nuclear plant in Matsue is the only nuclear plant in Japan that is located in a prefectural capital. Its reactors are boiling water reactors, the same as those at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

In addition, the No. 3 reactor is an advanced boiling water reactor design.

On May 22, Chugoku Electric Power President Mareshige Shimizu visited the Matsue city government and submitted documents to Matsue Mayor Masataka Matsuura seeking the city's consent.

Shimizu said, “(Electric power to be generated at the No. 3 reactor) is a necessary power source to supply electricity in a stable manner, decrease carbon dioxide emissions and stabilize electricity charges.”

He also said, “We’re going to thoroughly implement safety measures and offer sufficient explanations.”

In response, Matsuura said, “We’re going to consider your request by hearing opinions of our assembly.”

Shimizu also visited the Shimane prefectural government to make a similar request to Shimane Governor Zenbee Mizoguchi.

Mizoguchi told Shimizu, “It is also important to make sufficient explanations to surrounding municipalities.”

The Shimane prefectural government and the Matsue city government plan to ask the prefectural and the city assemblies to discuss the request. After the discussions, they will reply to Chugoku Electric Power.

If they give their consent to the utility, it will apply to the NRA for safety screenings of the No. 3 reactor.