Japan’s reactor restarts plot uneven course

go fasrterThe Japanese government wants to accelerate restart of the two dozen reactors it expects regulators to deem safe. Local opposition related to the nation’s largest power station is a stumbling block. Five of seven older units are likely to be decommissioned once financial arrangements are worked out between utilities and the government.

Japan’s PM Abe’s administration, fresh off winning a snap election based largely on economic issues, is earmarking $13 million in a draft budget to pay for agency work to accelerate restart of idled nuclear reactors. The budget also includes another $78 million for a local government grant program to pay for radiation monitoring and outreach efforts.

The money will be used in regions where the reactors are expected to be restarted and will be spent by local governments to address baseless fears and rumors about the safety of the units once they have been cleared for restart by the national Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA).

Restart of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa in doubt

hirohiko IzumidaNot everyone is buying the government’s line or taking its money. The governor of Niigata province, Hirohiko Izumida, (right) is hard over in his opposition to TEPCO’s plans to restart the seven reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, which is the world’s largest nuclear power station. TEPCO wants to restart the two newest units, Units 6 & 7.

Izumida is still outraged by TEPCO’s alleged negligence related to the Fukushima disaster and wants company officials held accountable. However, government prosecutors have refused to bring charges against TEPCO executives, reaffirming their decision in December, making the governor’s protest a strictly local affair. Unfortunately for TEPCO, local officials like Izumida have great power to influence the decision to restart the reactors. For the moment, he’s holding firm.

For its part, TEPCO, which was nationalized following the Fukushima disaster, has offered the recalcitrant governor a personal tour of the facility, as well as grant money, but he turned down the offers.  Isumida was a trade ministry (METI) official in the late 1980s and was elected to his current post in 2004, so he’s no stranger to national politics.

Once TEPCO wins approval of new safety measures and enhancements to Units 6 & 7 from the NRA, it’s going to be much harder for Izumida to tilt at windmills or nuclear reactors.

Four Japanese utilities to decommission five older reactors

Four of Japan’s leading nuclear electric utilities say they will announce next month plans to decommission five older reactors which are too small, and too expensive, to upgrade to new safety standards.  The government will offer the utilities tax and other financial incentives to close the plants, which are all older than 40 years.

The combined losses from closing the reactors are estimated by the utilities to be $179 million. They have asked the government for permission to spread the losses over future tax returns to avoid a huge hit on their financial statements in a single year.

The utilities are Kansai Electric, Chugoku Electric, Kyushu Electric, and Japan Atomic Power. The reactors to be closed are Kansai’s Mihama 1 & 2 in Fukui province, Japan Atomic Power’s Tsuruga 1 also in Fukui province; Chugoku’s Shimane reactor, and Kyushu’s Unit 1 at Genkai in Saga province. See table below for power ratings and date of startup.

All of the utilities will submit preliminary decommissioning plans to METI minister Yoichi Miyazawa for a decision in April.

Kansai Electric has decided to make a fight of keeping open and restarting Takahama Units 1 & 2 in Fukui province. Both units are 826 MW PWRs built in 1975. Takahama Units 3 & 4  are 870 MW PWRs built in 1985 and are on their way to clearance by the NRA for safety review and expected approval for restart.

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