Japanese power firms have no plans to scrap more nuclear reactors: poll


Although tighter nuclear safety standards will be implemented Monday, none of the nation’s 10 atomic power plant operators is planning to retire any reactors other than those already destined for the scrap heap, a survey showed Saturday.

Due to the huge costs of meeting the new regulations drawn up in light of the Fukushima meltdowns in 2011, the operators had been expected to designate more aging reactors for decommissioning. But some of the operators are even planning to apply for permission to continue running reactors beyond the maximum 40-year limit, the Jiji Press survey found.

Japan’s 50 commercial reactors are operated by nine regional utilities and Japan Atomic Power Co. Of this total, seven units are in the process of being dismantled, including reactors 1 to 4 at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power station.

The operators’ reluctance to retire reactors is apparently due to the sky-high decommissioning costs, which are estimated at around ¥55 billion for a 1.1 million kw unit.

The operators would thus have to book huge impairment losses if they decided to scrap more reactors. The oldest reactor in the nation, unit 1 at Japan Atomic Power’s Tsuruga plant in Fukui Prefecture, would cost a projected ¥23 billion to dismantle.

“Generally, older reactors have higher risks,” said Hideyuki Ban, co-director of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center.

“If power firms put off decommissioning reactors to secure short-term profits and avoid (massive) losses, that could see the recurrence of a (major) nuclear accident,” he warned.

  • This decision was to be expected, and is the right decision. A 30-year life is simply a nominal value; its not an indication of design life. Most plants operate beyond their design life. The threat posed in Japan was always managerial. One suspects that they would now be on top of that.

    • Andrew Stuart Jonson Daniels

      I suspect many of these reactors could simply be refurbished instead of decommissioned. Reactors can double their lifespan this way. 40 years is not a “limit” in terms of reactor lifespan, unless Japan forces this type of closure by law. These reactors could run 80 years.

  • WUT?

    If only people wouldn’t be so reluctant to accept npp’s as the most environmental friendly and efficient power source things…

  • Rockne O’Bannon

    This is not surprising. Thought experiment: You own an asset, a presumably fully depreciated asset that you might be able to use again to earn 100 million dollars a year. But if you announce that you will never use it again, you have to give up even the chance of earning that, in addition to starting expenses to decommission the asset. I think I would call another committee meeting on the issue and wait another year to make a decision.

    The assertion that utilities are doing this in order to earn profits is not very realistic, though. Almost all are posting losses year after year from all the coal and oil they are forced to buy. Piling on more losses is really the least of their problems these days. Many might even post negative net worth eventually. Not likely, but possible. So what? If they can operate without nuclear plants now, they can operate later too. A few hundred million dollars a year for decommissioning? That is not impossible, especially if they don’t have to worry about it “until next year”.

    But what mystifies me is the consideration that these plants are actually functioning TODAY, and they could be contributing power to the grid. Instead, they are doing absolutely nothing but taking power from the grid. Why is Onagawa, near Sendai, deemed unsafe even when it made it through 311 with flying colors? And if we expect something worse than 311, then why are we trying to build up and repopulate Tohoku’s coastlines anyway? And if the problem is the Pacific coasts, then what is holding back the Sea of Japan reactors? Apparently we are supposed to balance all of the potential benefits against the tremendous loss of life that Fukushima caused… but wait… it didn’t kill anyone, did it?

    I suspect that the utilities are having to make rational decisions in an irrational environment. As a Tohoku resident, I hope for the eventual return of reason. Good luck to the utility managers. Japan should not be throwing away capital that can be used for the benefit of the Japanese people.

    • Andrew Stuart Jonson Daniels

      Remember that Fukushima did kill people — the irrational panic over the disaster caused deaths, not the radiation. The forced evacuation was irresponsible and dangerous. They moved patients out of hospitals, some of whom died in transit. A farmer committed suicide when media convinced him his farm would be forever contaminated (and it wasnt)

      • Rockne O’Bannon

        Sorry. No. You cite instances of people killing people. Big difference. Someone who was there can spot the difference very quickly.

        If evacuation had NOT been hastened, then I am sure someone else would have claimed it was reckless. Aside from the farmer, I am not sure that any of what you assert was documented. If it occurred, it happened in spite of very clear instructions by government, which were carried out very well by those involved. A few incidents during evacuation, if they happened, rather pale in light of events of that day, where thousands died for many reasons. But let’s blame what we can on humans and ignore the 50 foot tsunami and 9.0 earthquake, right?

        Irrational panic is, oddly enough, something we did not have in Sendai. I put the blame squarely on national and international media. What possible reason would Tokyo people have to mob stores and flee the country? The media. Stores weren’t mobbed or looted in Sendai. Why? We did not get crummy, lazy reporting.

        You mistakenly say “Fukushima killed people” by lumping in deaths from hysteria and worry in with the accident itself. Don’t do it. Lay those bodies at the feet of Greenpeace and the Union of Concerned Scientists, the US NRC, and their media mouthpiece.