” Five aging nuclear reactors will be decommissioned in the near future, a move that government officials hope will increase public support for resuming operations at newer reactors.
Executives of four companies in the power generation field are now discussing decommissioning the five reactors that have reached or are nearing 40 years of operation.
Legal changes in the wake of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011 limited nuclear reactors to a 40-year operating life. Utilities will be given a one-time extension of up to 20 years if a reactor meets new tougher safety standards.
The Genkai No. 1 nuclear reactor in Saga Prefecture, operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co., will reach 40 years of operation in October 2015. Company officials have decided to decommission that reactor rather than carry out expensive work to meet the safety standards.
The other six reactors that are nearing or past the 40-year limit are operated by Kansai Electric Power Co., Chugoku Electric Power Co. and Japan Atomic Power Co.
All the companies are expected to make final decisions on decommissioning before the end of the current fiscal year in March.
Kansai Electric is expected to decommission the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at its Mihama plant, while Chugoku Electric plans to decommission the Shimane No. 1 reactor.
Japan Atomic Power had decided to decommission its Tsuruga No. 1 reactor in Fukui Prefecture even before the Fukushima nuclear accident. That reactor is now in its 44th year of operation. The reactor will stop operations sometime in 2016 and begin being decommissioned.
The seven reactors will all reach at least 40 years of operation in July 2016. If a utility is considering extending the life of such aging reactors for another 20 years, it faces a July 2015 deadline for applying for an extension. That deadline is forcing the four companies to decide if they want to extend operations at a reactor or decommission it.
Kyushu Electric officials are leaning toward decommissioning the Genkai No. 1 reactor because not only is its output relatively small at 559,000 kilowatts, but about 100 billion yen ($843 million) would be needed for additional safety measures to receive approval for extended operations.
Company officials will discuss decommissioning with Saga prefectural government and Genkai town government officials before a formal decision is made by Kyushu Electric’s board of directors before the end of the fiscal year.
Kansai Electric operates four of the seven reactors at the 40-year mark. The company is seeking to extend operations at its Takahama No. 1 and No. 2 reactors, which each have about the same output as the combined output of the two Mihama reactors.
Chugoku Electric is currently constructing the No. 3 reactor at its Shimane plant. Executives want to focus on starting up operations of that reactor, and that would mean decommissioning the No. 1 reactor.
Central government officials are considering various measures to encourage the decommissioning of old reactors to gain public understanding for resumption of operations at relatively newer reactors.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees the nuclear industry, is considering revising accounting rules to lighten the financial burden on electric power companies that decommission nuclear reactors. The changes are expected to take effect from March. ”