In a move to cut carbon emissions and ensure stable electricity supplies, Japan’s parliament has enacted legislation to allow nuclear reactors in the country to continue operating beyond the current limit of 60 years.
The new bill passed last week allows nuclear plants to operate for longer than 60 years if approved by the country’s Industry Minister and is subject to regular inspections by the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority.
After the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant accident caused by the tsunami, Japan introduced stricter safety protocols that limit the operating life of nuclear reactors to 40 years in principle, which can be extended to up to 60 years.
Under the new legislation, nuclear reactors may be granted additional operating years in effect as their offline periods will not be counted against their total service time, provided the periods are due to reasons beyond a utility’s control, such as safety reviews needed for a restart and court-ordered suspensions
Under the amended nuclear reactor regulation law, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority will check the condition of reactors and related facilities at least every 10 years after 30 years of operating to ensure the safety of old facilities.
The Japanese government announced in August last year that it would support the development of next-generation nuclear power facilities, marking a dramatic reversal of its earlier policy of a freeze on new nuclear plant construction following the Fukushima accident.