21 March 2015

Japanese Utilities Confirm Closure of Five Reactors

Japanese Utilities Confirm Closure of Five Reactors

March 21, 2015

On 19 March 2015, four of Japan’s nuclear power companies submitted to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) their plans for the permanent closure of five nuclear reactors. Officially, this reduces to 43 the number of remaining commercial nuclear reactors in Japan.
In the years prior to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in 2011 (3/11), utilities and METI were proposing operation of nuclear reactors beyond 60 years. The announcement of the reactor closures (see Table 1) highlights the aging issues confronting Japan’s nuclear power utilities.

Prior to the March 2011 nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi, Japan had 54 commercial nuclear reactors. As a result of the accident, all six reactor units at Fukushima Daiichi are to be decommissioned over the coming decades. The decision by Kansai Electric, JAPCO, Chugoku Electric and Kyushu Electric to decommission five reactors reduces the total number of reactors to 43. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) have yet to announce the permanent closure of their four Fukushima Daini reactors, located 12 km south of the Fukushima Daiichi site inside the exclusion zone. However, given the devastation of the accident to Fukushima prefecture, and resultant opposition to TEPCO and nuclear power in the prefecture and wider Japan, there is no prospect that these reactors will ever restart. Consequently, WNISR2014 considered the Daini reactors permanently closed and 43 other Japanese units—including the five reactors now official to be decommissioned—in Long-Term Outage (LTO, see here for details).

On 13 March 2015, METI’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE) revised the accounting provisions in the Electricity Business Act, whereby the electric power companies can now calculate decommissioning costs in installments of up to ten years, instead of one-time as previously.

The five reactors to be decommissioned range in age from 40 years to 46 years, with a total installed generating capacity of 2.2 GW, equal to 4.6% of Japan’s nuclear capacity as of March 2011. Together with the 10 Fukushima reactors, this brings to 15 the number of commercial reactors to be permanently closed since the 3/11. In total, 10.9 GW of nuclear capacity has thus been removed from future operations as a consequence of the Fukushima Daiichi accident, equal to a reduction of 22.9 percent of Japan’s installed nuclear electric generating capacity prior to 3/11.

KEPCO on 17 March 2015 submitted applications to the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) for the review of Mihama-3 and Takahama units 1&2. The 780 MW Mihama-3 PWR is 39 years old, while Takahama-1&2 are 41 and 42 years old respectively. This brings to 24 the number of reactors under NRA review, including the Ohma Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR), officially under construction (not counted by WNISR2014).