20 September 2013

Fukushima Units 5 and 6 to be Decommissioned

Fukushima Daiichi Units 5 and 6 to be Decommissioned

Bowing to the inevitable, Prime Minister Abe during a visit to the stricken Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear site called on TEPCO to decommission Fukushima-Daiichi reactor units 5 and 6, and devote its attention to managing the nuclear crisis. “In order for them to concentrate on this, I have asked them to decommission the No. 5 and No. 6 reactors that are now halted”, Abe told reporters and that Naomi Hirose, the TEPCO president, informed him that they would make a decision before the end of the year.

The 760 MWe Toshiba Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) Fukushima-Daiichi unit 5 began commercial operation in 1978, while the 1067 MWe General Electric/Toshiba unit 6 began operation in 1979. Both reactors had been shut down (January 2011 and August 2010 respectively) for refueling and maintenance prior to 11 March 2011. Four of the five emergency diesel generators on units 5 and 6 were inoperable after the tsunami. One air-cooled emergency diesel generator on Unit 6 continued to function and supplied electrical power to Unit 6, and later to Unit 5, to maintain cooling to reactor cores and spent fuel pools.

“Given that Fukushima decided to eliminate all nuclear power within the prefecture, it would be impossible to restart any of them,” a TEPCO spokesman said on 19 September 2013. The Prefectural Assembly voted accordingly in favor of a resolution in that sens in autumn 2011, six months after the nuclear disaster started unfolding.

The move to decommission units 5 and 6 would reduce Japan’s nuclear fleet to 48 from the current 50, and finally make official what appeared obvious to many since 2011—Fukushima-Daiichi won’t ever go into operation again. Given the position of the Prefectural Assembly and the Governor, the four reactors at Fukushima-Daiini are also likely never to operate again—the baseline scenario of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013—though TEPCO have yet to confirm this.

Japan shut down the only remaining operating reactor in the country on 15 September 2013 (see, http://www.worldnuclearreport.org/Japan-Nuclear-Free-Last-Operating.html).