National

Kansai Electric may scrap two aging nuclear reactors at Oi plant

Kyodo

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.

The units each have a capacity of 1,175,000 kilowatts, making them the largest to be decommissioned aside from those at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s disaster-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex.

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.

The utility has also taken into consideration a decline in demand for electricity after the full liberalization in 2016 of the nation’s electricity retail market, which brought an end to regional monopolies and increased competition in the power sector.

Reactor 1 at the plant began commercial operation in March 1979 and reactor 2 started up in December the same year.

The utility hopes to put reactors 3 and 4, which began operations in 1991 and 1993, respectively, back online sometime between January and March next year after gaining local consent.

The firm said Tuesday it is “studying from the technical and safety perspectives preparations” to apply to the Nuclear Regulation Authority for safety reviews of reactors 1 and 2 to resume their operations.

Of the 11 nuclear reactors Kansai Electric owns, two are currently in operation, seven are offline and two — reactors 1 and 2 at the Mihama nuclear complex — ceased operations in April 2015 and are set to be scrapped.

Aside from the two aging reactors at the Oi plant, the company plans to continue operating the remaining seven reactors by investing some ¥830 billion in new safety measures.

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