In an unprecedented move, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today (Jan. 16) retroactively re-categorized 47 Japanese nuclear reactors from "in operation" to "long-term shutdown" in its Power Reactor Information System. Thus, the global number of nuclear reactors listed as "in operation" drops from 437 to 390, a number not seen since Chernobyl-year 1986, when 391 operating units were on the list. Without a doubt, the step is a unique revision of world operational nuclear data -- not to mention a solid recognition of the industrial reality in Japan.
However, numerous questions remain. Though the agency officially defines its reactor-status categories, the actual specifics related to the handling of these categories remain unclear. Units can remain in the long-term shutdown category for many years, without any apparent limit. With today's change, Japan now has a total of 48 units listed under this category -- the Monju Nuclear Power Plant, a fast breeder reactor that has not been generating electricity since a sodium fire severely damaged the plant in 1995, was the only unit that the agency qualified for long-term shutdown before today's reshuffling.
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On second thought: IAEA re-categorizes the operational status for 47 of Japan's nuclear reactors