7 February 2014

Two Reactor Closures at Fukushima Officialized / Spanish Garoña in “Long‑term Shutdown”

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) updated its Power Reactor Information System (PRIS) on 6 February 2014 when it amended its listing of reactor operations in Japan and Spain. But it still has a long way to go before its database reflects actual reality.

More than 13 months after the shutdown of the Spanish reactor Santa Maria de Garoña, the IAEA has now listed the unit as being in “long term shutdown”. The IAEA defines the category as leaving open the option of restart at some unspecified date. A combination of Spain’s rapid renewable expansion—wind turbines alone generated more power in 2013 than nuclear plants—and the costs of safety modifications mean that in reality there are no credible prospects for restart of the 43 year old reactor. In December 2012, as reported here, Nuclenor, acting on behalf of its owners Iberdrola and Endesa, closed the General Electric boiling water reactor to avoid having to pay a higher energy tax rate which it argued threatened bankruptcy. A further financial burden was an additional €120 million investment required to make mandatory safety upgrades, which had been imposed by Spain’s Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) in 2009, when it concluded that, in principle, the reactor could operate until 2019. In July 2012 Nuclenor was notified by the government that it had reversed the previous government’s decision to restrict its license to July 2013, but that the operator would have to apply for an extension by September 2012. No such submission was made. Although Nuclenor stated in July 2013 that it has not waived its right to apply for a license at some future date, it would mean restart of a reactor of the same design and vintage as unit 1 at Fukushima Daiichi. Safety, economics and the wider energy market in Spain discount this possibility.

Further catching up on developments, the IAEA has reflected the decision made by the Board of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), on 18 December 2013, that Fukushima Daiichi units 5 and 6 are “defunct” and to be classified as shutdown as of end of January 2014. As reported, the Fukushima Prefectural Assembly had passed a resolution in 2011 demanding the definitive closure of all of the reactors. Prime Minister Abe eventually informed TEPCO in September 2013 that closure of units 5 and 6 was required.

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013 has already considered as “shut down” the three reactors discussed above.