Government paid ¥2.7 billion in extra grants to communities hosting aged nuclear reactors

JIJI

The government had provided a total of ¥2.7 billion by fiscal 2016 in extra grants paid only to municipalities that host aged nuclear reactors more than 40 years old, Jiji Press learned Sunday.

Experts question the system that boosts annual grants to nuclear plant hosting municipalities by ¥100 million per reactor that has turned 40. The central government “is taking the opposite direction, even though it is supposed to promote decommissioning” of old reactors, one expert said.

Japan has eight reactors that have turned 40, including the No. 1 reactor at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant in the town of Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture.

Six are in Fukui Prefecture — the No. 1 reactor at Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tsuruga plant in the city of Tsuruga, the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Mihama plant in the town of Mihama, and the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at Kansai Electric’s plant in the town of Takahama.

The remaining one is the No. 1 reactor at Chugoku Electric Power Co.’s Shimane plant in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture.

All except the Mihama plant’s No. 3 reactor and the Takahama plant’s No. 1 and No. 2 reactors have been decommissioned.

For the decommissioned ones, the central government provided the extra annual grant of ¥100 million to each unit until their decommissioning was decided.

Okuma, with a decommissioned reactor, received a total of ¥200 million, Tsuruga with a decommissioned one ¥600 million, and Mihama with two decommissioned reactors and one reactor still in use ¥1.1 billion.

Takahama with two reactors still in use received ¥500 million and Matsue, which has one decommissioned reactor, got ¥300 million.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority has approved a 20-year extension to the lifetime of the Mihama plant’s No. 3 reactor and the Takahama plant’s Nos. 1 and No. 2 reactors. If the three reactors remain in use until their lifetime ends, their hosts communities will receive ¥6 billion.

Japan started providing the extra grants in fiscal 2010. In March 2011, the final month of that fiscal year, Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant experienced an unprecedented triple meltdown following a massive earthquake and tsunami.

That nuclear disaster led Japan to introduce stricter nuclear plant safety standards.

“We don’t know how the current (grant) system was formed,” a Natural Resources and Energy Agency official said.

“Nuclear reactors become dangerous as they grow old, but the government adds grants,” Kwansei Gakuin University professor Sunjun Paku said.

“The system should be remade into one that allows host municipalities to benefit from reactor decommissioning,” said Paku, who is well-versed in issues connected with relations between nuclear plants and local governments.