A Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) executive on June 14 said the utility is prepared to decommission the four idle units at its Fukushima Daini nuclear plant in Japan. The comments come as TEPCO continues to struggle with large compensation payments and cleanup costs associated with the March 2011 accident at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa’s remarks today are the first public statements from the company regarding the Daini plant, known as Fukushima No. 2, which escaped damage in 2011 but which is among dozens of Japanese nuclear plants that have remained offline for more than seven years in the wake of the Daiichi disaster. Kobayakawa at a news conference in Fukushima said local opposition to restarting the Daini units is partly behind his company’s decision to permanently close the plant.
The Daini plant is about 7 miles south of Daiichi. Some of its reactors lost cooling functions during the 2011 incident but none of the four units experienced a critical situation. Each of the reactors has generation capacity of 1.1 GW. The first unit came online in 1982, with the others beginning commercial operation over the next five years.
Kobayakawa told Fukushima Prefecture Gov. Masao Uchibori it’s important to decide the fate of the reactors to help the region rebuild. “We want to start concrete discussions toward decommissioning [the No. 2 plant],” Kobayakawa said. “If [the status of the Daini complex] is left uncertain, it would hamper reconstruction [of the area].”
Kobayakawa said: “I explained at a meeting of [TEPCO’s] board of directors about our policy to decommission all reactors [of both Fukushima plants] and I obtained their consent.”
Uchibori at the news conference said “decommissioning is strongly desired by Fukushima residents.” He is expected to seek re-election later this year and has said his goal is to close all the reactors in the prefecture. The Fukushima prefectural assembly and the assemblies of all 59 municipalities in the prefecture have asked TEPCO to decommission all reactors at its two plants.
Japan’s government ordered all nuclear plants to go offline after Daiichi, the Fukushima No. 1 plant that was heavily damaged by the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Three reactors had meltdowns and a fourth was damaged. TEPCO is decommissioning those reactors and also plans to scrap two other units at the site.
Operators of nuclear plants in Japan must upgrade their facilities to meet tougher regulatory standards in the wake of the Daiichi disaster. Those costs—and the need for approval from local governments before any units are restarted—have led several operators to announce permanent closures and decommissioning plans. TEPCO has estimated the cost of restarting the Daini reactors at 140 billion yen ($1.3 billion), which does not include the cost of upgrades needed to meet the new government safety regulations.
Officials say decommissioning the Daini plant would bring the number of operable reactors in Japan to 35, down from more than 50 prior to the Daiichi accident. Eight reactors have passed safety inspections and restarted: Kyushu’s Sendai Units 1 and 2, and Genkai Unit 3; Shikoku’s Ikata Unit 3; and Kansai’s Takahama Units 3 and 4, and Ohi Units 3 and 4. Another 18 reactors have applied to restart.
Kobayakawa did not discuss details of any decommissioning timeline but said, “I will think about a detailed schedule for decommissioning from now on.” TEPCO has estimated the cost of dismantling the Daini reactors at 280 billion yen ($2.5 billion). Estimates of the cost of the Daiichi disaster to the company have reached 16 trillion yen ($145 billion).
TEPCO has said it would still like to restart its one remaining nuclear plant in Japan. The seven-unit Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture is among the world’s largest nuclear facilities with total generation capacity of 8,200 MW. The plant on the coast of the Sea of Japan passed its government safety checks in December 2017. However, Niigata Gov. Hideyo Hanazumi, who was elected earlier this month, has said he does not favor restarting the reactors.
—Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).