Japanese company TEPCO to decommission Fukushima nuclear plant, plans on dismantling all 10 reactors

Tokyo: The utility responsible for meltdowns at a nuclear power plant in northeast Japan seven years ago said for the first time publicly it might decommission another plant in Fukushima that narrowly escaped the crisis.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings said on Thursday that it was considering dismantling four reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ni, or No. 2, plant.

The Fukushima Dai-ichi, or No. 1, plant was heavily damaged in the 11 March, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Three reactors had meltdowns and a fourth had structural damage. Decommissioning of those reactors has started and the two others will be scrapped eventually.

File image of Fukushima Dai-ni. AP

File image of Fukushima Dai-ni. AP

The decommissioning under consideration would mean all 10 of TEPCO's reactors in Fukushima will be dismantled eventually.

Fukushima officials and residents have demanded TEPCO decommission its remaining reactors, saying uncertainty has hampered reconstruction.

TEPCO president Tomoaki Kobayakawa, who met Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori at the governor’s office, announced the plan. “We plan to start making concrete plans toward decommissioning all reactors,” he said, adding that the governor’s renewed request to scrap Fukushima No. 2 encouraged his announcement.

“We thought prolonging the ambiguity would hamper local reconstruction,” Kobayakawa said.

If Fukushima No. 2 were to be scrapped, the number of workable reactors in Japan would fall to 35, down from 54 before the disaster.

Nuclear energy now accounts for less than 2 percent of Japan’s energy mix since most reactors were idled after the 2011 disaster. Only five reactors have since restarted.

While the government of pro-business Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing to start up as many reactors as possible, restarts are coming slowly as anti-nuclear sentiment remains strong and regulators have stepped up screening process.

Japanese utilities have been opting to scrap aging reactors nearing their 40-year lifespan rather than take advantage of an exemption that would allow them to extend their operation for up to 20 more years. Meeting new safety standards put in place after the Fukushima disaster costs more, making nuclear power more expensive than it used to be.

Updated Date: Jun 14, 2018 15:54 PM

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