The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Varied paths considered for longer N-plant life

- The Yomiuri Shimbun

e Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry presented several proposals to a panel of experts on Tuesday concerning the extension of the operationa­l life of nuclear power plants, currently set at 60 years.

Among the proposals is to not include time that a nuclear power plant is shut down, such as for inspection, or to eliminate the maximum operating period. e ministry plans to set the direction of nuclear energy policy, including adopting new rules, by the end of this year.

Under the Law on the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel

Material and Reactors, the operating period of a nuclear power plant is set at 40 years in principle, with a maximum of 60 years. When the 40th year of operation is reached, the Nuclear Regulation Authority can grant a one-time extension of up to 20 years following a detailed safety check of critical facilities such as the reactor vessel.

However, in response to a crunch in the electrical supply and the trend toward decarboniz­ation, the government is leaning toward a policy of maximizing the use of nuclear power, which entails considerin­g extending the operating period of existing nuclear power plants.

e government is looking into transferri­ng provisions regarding the operation period from the nuclear reactor regulation law to the Electricit­y Business Law, which comes under the jurisdicti­on of the industry ministry.

is would allow the industry minister to approve extensions for nuclear power plants once safety has been con rmed by the authority.

At the meeting of experts on Tuesday, the industry ministry presented three proposals: to maintain the current regulation­s; to not set an upper limit for the operating period; and to not count within the operating period any time, within a certain limit, that the nuclear power plant is shut down.

In addition to a safety inspection, nuclear plants can be closed by a court order or for other reasons. Under the third proposal, in one scenario a plant suspended for 10 years for a safety review could be kept in operation for a maximum of 70 years since its startup.

Nuclear power plants that have not restarted since the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 due to prolonged safety inspection­s could be allowed to operate for more than an additional 10 years.

At the meeting, several members of the panel supported the proposal to remove the cap. “To achieve a carbon-neutral society while limiting the burden on the public, it is essential to make use of existing nuclear power plants,” said one member. (Nov. 10)

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