Japanese govt urges early decision on decommissioning aging reactors

Japanese govt urges early decision on decommissioning aging reactors
Makoto Yagi, chairman of the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, speaks to reporters after a meeting with Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yuko Obuchi on Friday.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yuko Obuchi has asked the chairman of a power industry group to decide soon whether seven nuclear reactors that will reach their 40th year of operation by July 2016 should be decommissioned.

As most of the aging reactors are only capable of generating relatively small volumes of power, the utilities are likely to opt for decommissioning them.

During a meeting on Friday with Makoto Yagi, chairman of the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, Obuchi said, "The government, for its part, intends to consider necessary measures in line with a policy to reduce the nation's dependence on nuclear power."

Yagi told reporters after the meeting, "We'd like to consider the matter to give a response as soon as possible."

The relevant companies must file a request with the Nuclear Regulation Authority by next July if they want to extend operations of the seven reactors.

Of them, five reactors with smaller output capacities of 340,000 kilowatts to 559,000 kilowatts are highly likely to be decommissioned. The five are the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Mihama plant in Fukui Prefecture; the No. 1 reactor at Japan Atomic Power Co.'s Tsuruga plant also in the prefecture; the No. 1 reactor at Chugoku Electric Power Co.'s Shimane plant in Shimane Prefecture; and the No. 1 reactor at Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture.

Compared with recent reactors capable of generating more than 1 million kilowatts, the seven reactors' profit efficiency is low, and the hefty costs needed to extend the period of their operation would be difficult to recoup.

Public attention is now expected to focus on the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors at Kansai Electric's Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture, as they have a greater output capacity of 826,000 kilowatts each.

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry is considering expanding special accounting measures to reduce the financial burden on the utilities concerned. The ministry plans to set up an expert panel to discuss the matter, as the companies might become reluctant to decommission their reactors if they could immediately incur massive losses, as a result.

Making arrangements with the local community will also be an issue.

If reactors are decommissioned, the host municipalities will lose government subsidies, causing a negative impact on local employment.

Jitaro Yamaguchi, mayor of Mihama, Fukui Prefecture, visited the ministry on Oct. 8."We have asked [the ministry] to continue offering the current subsidies even though the reactors are decommissioned, or to create a new support system," Yamaguchi said.Speech

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