OSAKA – The operator of the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture is considering scrapping two aging reactors at the complex as it may be too costly to make upgrades required to meet new post-Fukushima safety standards, a source said Tuesday. Kansai Electric Power Co. will make a final decision by the end of the year over the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors at the four-reactor plant located on the Sea of Japan coast, which in 2019 will have been in operation for 40 years, the source said. Under the new regulations set up following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster that triggered the Fukushima crisis, nuclear reactors are not allowed to operate beyond 40 years in principle. However, they may be allowed to continue operating for an additional period of up to 20 years if operators upgrade old equipment to enhance safety and pass Nuclear Regulation Authority screening. For the two Oi nuclear reactors to meet the requirements, an additional investment to the scale of ¥100 billion ($891 million) is needed, the source said.
A Dutch nuclear research institute has just fired up the first experiment on next-generation nuclear reactors based on thorium in nearly half a century. Thorium has long held promise for "safer" nuclear power. A slightly radioactive element, it converts to fissionable U-233 when hit by high-energy neutrons. But after use, U-233 has fewer long-lived waste products than conventional U-235 now used in nuclear power plants. But because nuclear power was traditionally tied up with nuclear weapons research, thorium was abandoned.
Japan must consider building new nuclear reactors to meet the government's lofty goal of going carbon-neutral by 2050, according to the nation's former economy and energy minister. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's net-zero emissions pledge announced Monday is "very ambitious" and presents a number of difficulties, said Hiroshige Seko, broadcaster NHK reported. Seko led Japan's influential Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry until 2019. "Nuclear power is a large source of energy that doesn't emit CO2," said Seko, who currently serves as Upper House secretary-general for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. "It is important to consider building new nuclear reactors on top of safely restarting the existing ones."
Are you intrigued by the possibility of using nuclear reactors to curb emissions, but worried about their water use and long-term safety? There might be an impending solution. LiveScience reports that China has outlined plans to build the first'clean' commercial nuclear reactor using liquid thorium and molten salt. The first prototype reactor should be ready in August, with the first tests due in September. A full-scale commercial reactor should be ready by 2030.
China is well on its way to becoming a world leader in nuclear power; its 37 reactors are already producing 32.4 gigawatts of electricity, and more than 20 more reactors are currently under construction. And now China wants to take the lead in building nuclear power plants in open waters. These floating plants could power oil rigs and islands off the coast, or travel to disaster-struck coasts to provide relief. Bobbing nuclear power plants are often mounted on a broad-beamed hull, and typically have 25 percent the capacity of their larger, land-based brethren. Those floating reactors can be positioned to coastal and offshore areas that quickly need power (such as areas devastated by tsunamis), or rented out to customers who urgently need a ready supply of electricity.