Genkai Nuclear Power Plant

The Genkai Nuclear Power Plant (玄海原子力発電所, Genkai genshiryoku hatsudensho, Genkai NPP) is a nuclear power plant located in the town of Genkai in the Higashimatsuura District in the Saga Prefecture. It is owned and operated by the Kyūshū Electric Power Company.

Unit 3 has been selected as a special Plutonium fuel test case. The plant is on a site with a total of 0.87 square kilometers.

Reactors on Site

All reactors at the Genkai plant use low enriched (3-4%) Uranium dioxide fuel.


Saga does not lie on a fault line and receives the fewest earthquakes in Japan. The 2005 Fukuoka earthquake was felt at the plant, but there was no equipment damage.

  • July 17, 1998 there was a leakage in the Condenser of Unit 1 while operating at full power. The problem caused the plant to be run at a lower power for some time.
  • January 20, 1998 In Unit 3 during a routine test, leakage of one fuel assembly was discovered.
  • March 31, 1999 There was a problem in Unit 2 with damage to pressure tubes of the Steam generator.
2011 restart crisis

In early 2011, Units 2 and 3 were suspended for routine maintenance. Following the Tohoku earthquake, Kyushu Electric voluntarily sought reapproval with the town of Genkai and Saga prefecture to make sure that there would be no objection to turning the reactors back on. Negotiations extended several months past the normal restart time. Because Units 2 and 3 were not restarted for the summer, Kyushu is expected to have an electricity shortage and only be able to meet 85% of normal summer needs.

After the mayor of Genkai extended his approval, the larger consensus of Saga prefecture was sought. A meeting was organized to inform the people in the district and to get permission to restart the reactors. The meeting was broadcast live on TV and the internet, and viewers were invited to submit their opinions by e-mail or fax. However it became known, that the board of the Kyushu Electric Power Company had specifically instructed employees of the plant to sent emails to this meeting with positive mails for the restart. Later was admitted that not only employees of the utility but the workers of 4 affiliated firms too—more than 1,500 people in total—were involved in this. A big scandal broke out in Japanese media, because the whole meeting appeared to be manipulated.

At the same time as this crisis broke, Prime Minister Naoto Kan unexpectedly requested more stress tests of the reactor. This seemed to imply, despite the earlier assurances of the national government, that the routine maintenance and additional post-earthquake tests had not been sufficient to clear the reactors for restart, and that the mayor of Genkai had therefore approved the restart without complete information about the reactors' safety. As a result, the mayor rescinded his approval. The governor of Saga, who had not yet given his approval, also expressed surprise. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano flew to Saga prefecture immediately to apologize to the governor in person. On July 9, Kan also apologized.

On July 12, actor Taro Yamamoto, a Tokyo native who had flown into Saga to protest the potential restart, broke into the offices of Saga prefecture trying to force the governor to come out. He was unsuccessful but proclaimed that he was glad he had come to protest.

On July 20, Shingo Matsuo chairman of Kyushu Electric Power Company announced that Toshio Manabe the president of the firm will resign to take responsibility for problems related to the utility's attempts to win local approval for restarting two nuclear reactors, and the way in which the results were manipulated. The board of directors' planned a meeting on July 27 to decide about the punishments for the executives and other officials involved, and the date of the resignation. On July 22 industry minister Banri Kaieda made a comment, "that it is natural for a top official to take the blame". But Shingo Matsuo denied that the minister had put pressure on Manabe to resign.

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