National

Tepco may consider scrapping one or more reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant

Kyodo, Reuters

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. said Monday it may decommission one or more reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture within five years, after reactivating two idled reactors at the same plant.

Tepco President Tomoaki Kobayakawa mentioned for the first time the possibility of decommissioning some or all of the Nos. 1 to 5 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, the world’s biggest nuclear plant by capacity.

The host city’s Mayor Masahiro Sakurai has made such decommissioning a condition for approving the restarts of its Nos. 6 and 7 reactors.

During a meeting with Sakurai, Kobayakawa noted the necessity of maintaining Nos. 1 to 5 reactors for now but said the company would consider decommissioning one or more of them once it deems it can secure enough power from nonfossil sources with limited greenhouse gas emissions.

“Tepco has given me the best reply it could think of now,” said Sakurai, expressing his satisfaction with the response despite the company not specifying how many reactors it might decommission or giving a firm pledge to do so.

In June 2017, Sakurai said he would demand the utility submit a plan for scrapping reactors within two years and asked for specifics, including how many and which reactors would be decommissioned and by when.

A plan without such details “cannot be called a plan,” he said at the time.

Tepco has been hit by the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, which was triggered by the massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11, in 2011, as well as huge compensation payments for those affected by it.

So the company has been seeking to restart the Nos. 6 and 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, and had also hoped to keep the Nos. 1 to 5 reactors, in order to rebuild its business. All seven reactors are currently offline.

But Sakurai called for scrapping some of them based on concerns that all seven reactors are located in one area, and that an accident affecting one could easily spread to the others.

In December 2017, the Nos. 6 and 7 reactors secured the necessary approval from the Nuclear Regulation Authority to be restarted, and Tepco has carried out construction work to enhance their safety. But it has yet to gain local consent for their restart.

The utility initially sought to respond to Sakurai in July, but the plan was put on hold after the utility angered the mayor by misinforming his city about an abnormality at the plant due to a major earthquake that hit Niigata Prefecture on June 18.

Each of the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa has a capacity of 1,356 megawatts. The plant site includes seven reactors with a total capacity of 8,212 MW, equal to 20 percent of Japan’s nuclear capacity.

Tepco is aiming to have renewable and nuclear power produce 44 percent of its total power generation by 2030, an official at the firm said Monday, in line with a government target.

The company has been trying to convince local authorities near the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, who have sign-off rights on nuclear restarts, that it has overcome the operational failings revealed at its plant in Fukushima.