Tokyo Electric said Thursday it will seek an industry peer to become its partner in the nuclear power business and draw up a basic framework for the tie-up around fiscal 2020. The tie-up will cover the Higashidori nuclear power station in Aomori Prefecture, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. said in a new turnaround program. The plan comes as Tepco, as the utility is known, works to raise a massive funds to cover the March 2011 triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The costs include expenses for decommissioning the reactor and compensating those affected by the disaster. The company aims to set up joint ventures for nuclear power and power grid operations to streamline its business and bolster earnings.
TOYAMA – More than six years after the March 11, 2011, Tohoku quake, tsunami, and triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Japan is accelerating efforts to restart as many reactors as it possibly can. Four have been revived so far, and Kansai Electric Power Co. plans to restart the Takahama No. 3 unit soon. But the rush to restart them has only highlighted the fact that Japan still has no final repository for its high-level radioactive waste. Original plans to first reprocess spent fuel at the Rokkasho facility in Aomori Prefecture before final disposal somewhere else have long been stalled. After 17 years asking prefectures and municipalities around the country to host such a site, no takers have been found.
Almost a decade before the March 2011 quake and tsunami triggered the triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, Koichiro Fujii knew the government could not effectively communicate the risks of nuclear technology. He should know -- back then, Fujii was a government bureaucrat in the then-Science and Technology Agency whose job was to design nuclear technology policy. This included liability legislation for the fatal 1999 criticality accident at a uranium-processing plant in the village of Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture -- the site of Japan's first nuclear accident resulting in deaths by radiation exposure. Even before Tokai, the government was up to its neck in nuclear technology issues: It was under attack for lack of transparency and an attempted cover-up after a sodium leak caused a fire at the Monju fast-breeder prototype reactor in Fukui Prefecture, and having a rough time persuading Aomori residents to host an experimental fuel-reprocessing plant in the village of Rokkasho. While these issues were brewing, the fatal chain reaction debacle at Tokai struck, escalating public distrust of Japan's atomic safety mantra.
If the checks go smoothly, Shikoku Electric plans to load nuclear fuel into the reactor in late June ahead of its reboot in late July. Under new nuclear safety standards, introduced after the March 2011 nuclear catastrophe at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 plant, the Ikata No. 3 reactor is the fifth to go through the NRA's inspections before being allowed to restart. The four others are the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, and the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture. According to Shikoku Electric, there are 50 items on the checklist for the Ikata No. 3 reactor, including confirming whether safety instruments work properly. The inspections, including final checks, will last about 4½ months and include examining how the utility would respond to possible accidents.
FUKUOKA – Kyushu Electric Power Co. said Thursday it will halt two reactors next year due to a delay in implementing anti-terrorism measures required by regulators, in the first such suspension under stricter rules set after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis. The power company said it will shut down the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors at the Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture in March and May and plans to restart them in December and January 2021 respectively after the installation of necessary facilities. Under tighter requirements introduced in 2013 by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, nuclear plant operators are required to build facilities that are able to maintain the cooling of nuclear reactors via remote control and prevent the massive release of radioactive materials, even if the units come under attack, such as planes being flown into them. In April the regulator had refused the company's request to postpone the deadlines for the completion of the facilities' construction -- March 17 for reactor No. 1 and May 21 for No. 2. The two units will be temporarily closed the day before the deadline. Kyushu Electric estimates the suspension of the two reactors will raise costs by ¥8 billion ($74.71 million) a month, since the company would need to offset the resulting shortage of power generation with gas-fired power plants.