United States nuclear generation up in July and Japan will begin reactor restarts just before the year ends

1. For the first time in four months, U.S. nuclear generation in 2011 exceeded the monthly generation in 2010. Nuclear generation in July 2011 was 0.6 percent higher than the same month in 2010. For the first seven months in 2011, U.S. nuclear stations generated 452.3 billion kWh, 3.1 percent lower than 2010. The July capacity factor was 96.2 percent compared to 95.7 percent in 2010 and 97.3 percent in 2009.

2. Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda said he expects the reactivation of nuclear reactors whose operations were suspended for scheduled checkups to begin this year.

According to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, reactor operations at 25 of the nation’s 54 commercial nuclear power plants are under suspension due to periodic checkups.

For their operations to restart, nuclear reactors need to clear the first stage of stress tests that check the safety of the reactors. In this stage, plant operators assess the safety of the nuclear reactors on the premise that they have been hit by a major earthquake or tsunami.

The results will be first assessed by the the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which is part of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, and then checked again by the Cabinet Office’s Nuclear Safety Commission.

In the final stage, the prime minister and three cabinet ministers related to nuclear power plants will decide whether to restart the nuclear reactors based on those assessments.

At Saturday’s press conference, Kaieda said electric power companies are expected to submit the results of their first-stage stress tests to the agency in September, and it will take two to three months for the agency and the commission to assess the findings.

As a result, Kaieda said he expects the restart of the suspended nuclear power plants to begin “just before the year ends.”

The agency has said it will take “several months” for it and the commission to finish assessing the results of the stress tests, and declined to comment whether the suspended nuclear reactors will be restarted this year.

Among the 25 nuclear reactors under suspension due to periodic checkups, stress tests have begun at the Shika nuclear power plant’s No. 2 reactor in Ishikawa Prefecture; the Nos. 2 and 3 reactors at Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture; and the No. 1 reactor at the Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture. The other nuclear reactors undergoing stress tests have not been officially announced, but the results of first-stage stress tests on the Tomari nuclear power plant’s No. 1 reactor in Hokkaido are expected to be submitted to the agency in September.

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