Kepco faces decision on aging Fukui reactors

by

Staff Writer

Kansai Electric Power Co. says it will soon decide the fate of 11 aging reactors, while Japan Atomic Power Co. maintains that the nation’s oldest reactor will not operate beyond 2016 and is likely to be decommissioned.

The two utilities conveyed the messages to the Fukui government this week, as concerns grow in Kansai for the safety implications of firing up reactors once more and the costs to consumers if they are decommissioned.

Kepco President Makoto Yagi told Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa on Tuesday that the utility would soon announce what it plans to do with all 11 reactors it operates in the prefecture.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority has already given the green light for restarts of Kepco’s No. 3 and 4 reactors at Takahama, which turn 30 years old this year. Although he stressed the need for disaster response plans, Nishikawa is not expected to oppose restarts.

However, prefectures adjacent to Fukui are demanding that they, too, be included in consultations about safety measures. About 397,000 people live within 30 km of the Takahama reactors, including about 277,500 in Kyoto Prefecture, which wants to be consulted on issues related to the restarts.

Yagi indicated that he was willing to discuss the issue. However, Fukui Prefecture has said restart permission should only be sought from local governments that host power plants.

Meanwhile, Japan Atomic Power Co. President Yasuo Hamada, who also spoke with Nishikawa on Tuesday, said he is waiting on a report from an expert panel at the NRA. The panel is investigating fault lines underneath the Tsuruga No. 2 reactor.

But he told reporters there were no discussions about operating the 44-year-old Tsuruga No. 1 unit, currently Japan’s oldest commercial reactor, past 2016, meaning decommission is all but guaranteed.

By the end of 2015, seven of Japan’s 48 idled commercial reactors will be at least 40 years old, including four of Kepco’s 11 units.

Another three Kepco reactors will be at least 35 years old and face a decision soon on whether they will remain in use or be scrapped.