Earlier this month the curt revoked a lower court decision and ordered Shikoku Electric Power Company to suspend operation of the unit in Ehime Prefecture, southwest Japan, because the company’s preparations for a potential eruption of a nearby volcano, Mount Aso, are inadequate.
The utility had claimed the reactor is safe to run because operators would have enough advance warning of an eruption to take safety measures.
Ikata-3, an 846 MW pressurised water reactor unit that began commercial operation in 1994, is the only unit in commercial operation at the Ikata station. Two others have been permanently shut down.
It resumed commercial operation in 2018 under stricter safety regulations introduced after the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear crisis led to a nationwide shutdown of nuclear power plants.
Mr Takahashi also referred to recent approval by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend the licences of Turkey Point-3 and -4 in Florida for an additional 29 years, allowing them to operate for a total of 80 years.
He said this was evidence of the reactors’ ability to operate long-term and that experience from the life-extension programme would be looked at in Japan.
Japan has a total of 62 nuclear power units, but shut down all 42 reactors that were operating at the time after the Fukushima-Daiichi accident. Thirty-three units have a licence to operate although before units return to service they need to meet stricter safety standards introduced following Fukushima-Daiichi.
Only nine units have returned to service since the 2011 accident. They are Genkai-3 and -4, Ikata-3, Ohi-3 and -4, Sendai-1 and -2, and Takahama-3 and -4.