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KEPCO's Ohi Nuclear Plant Aims to Operate for More than 60 Years under New Law

The Kansai-based electric utility is awaiting approval from the Nuclear Regulation Authority to operate Ohi plant's Units 3 and 4 for more than 60 years.



Kansai Electric Power Company's Ohi Nuclear Power Station in Ohi, Fukui Prefecture. (Provided by KEPCO)

Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) granted press access to Unit 3 of the Ohi Nuclear Power Station on February 29. Located in Ohi (also known as Oi), Fukui Prefecture, the plant is currently undergoing routine inspections. 

KEPCO was the first company in Japan to seek approval to use the government's new system that allows nuclear reactors to be operated beyond the 60-year limit. 

In December 2023, it applied to operate Units 3 and 4 of the Ohi Nuclear Power Station for over 60 years. 

Utilizing existing nuclear power plants is crucial for advancing towards a decarbonized society. According to KEPCO, there will be no technical issues with operating the units for over 60 years. Nevertheless, it is closely monitoring the review process by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA).

The containment vessel of Unit 4 of the Ohi Nuclear Power Station operated by Kansai Electric Power Company. It is said to be the same design as Unit 3. Ohi, Fukui Prefecture. (Provided by TEPCO).

Restarting Unit 3 in April

"Stay safe," workers exchanged as they moved briskly around Unit 3's containment vessel on February 29. Regular inspections of Unit 3 began on February 10. Work is underway to restart the reactor in early April and resume commercial operations in early May. 

Unit 3 appeared well-maintained, with no apparent signs of aging in its internal components. Director Yoshinori Kondo noted, "We regularly replace parts and ensure everything is well organized and functioning properly to maintain the safety of the [nuclear power] plant."

The Ohi power station's Unit 3 has been in operation for over 32 years, while Unit 4 has exceeded 31 years. Under Japan's new system, once a nuclear power plant has been in operation for 30 years, electric utilities must develop plans detailing inspection methods and responses to deterioration every 10 years. These plans must be approved by the NRA.

Spent fuel pool of Unit 3 of the Ohi Nuclear Power Station operated by Kansai Electric Power Company. (Provided by TEPCO)

Rising Electricity Demand

The new system is scheduled to launch in June 2025. However, early applications for review are being accepted to facilitate a smooth transition. KEPCO was the first to apply. 

A senior official at KEPCO emphasized, "We have evaluated the situation carefully, even considering the conditions [of the units] after 60 years of operation, and determined that there would be no issues." 


Decarbonization efforts and the proliferation of artificial intelligence are leading to a surge in data processing, which is expected to further drive up electricity demand. The Japanese government is advocating for the construction of new nuclear plants and the replacement of old ones. It is also exploring the introduction of next-generation reactors. However, an expert in the electric power sector says that "leveraging existing nuclear facilities remains the most pragmatic solution for the immediate future."


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: Tomotaka Nakamura

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