The GOJ and five major power companies, including Tokyo Electric Power Company, plan to establish a panel to discuss the joint construction and operation of the Higashidori nuclear power plant (Aomori), sources said on March 15. The construction of Tokyo Electric’s Higashidori nuclear power plant has been suspended since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident in 2011. The aim of the initiative is to share technologies and expertise in plant construction and operation and to divide up the expenses of safety measures, which have ballooned with the introduction of new regulatory requirements concerning nuclear power plant safety.
Also aiming to reorganize nuclear power business
If the plan is realized, it would be the first case of joint construction and operation of a nuclear power plant.
The panel will include representatives from Tokyo Electric, Tohoku Electric, Kansai Electric, Chubu Electric, and from the Japan Atomic Power Company, which is a wholesaler of electricity generated exclusively by nuclear power. The panel will be launched as early as this month. Tokyo Electric wants to set up a consortium with the participating electric companies in fiscal 2020, and the panel will work out how to divide expenses.
Two reactors were planned for construction in Tokyo Electric’s Higashidori nuclear power plant. Construction of reactor no. 1 was commenced in January 2011 but then halted after the occurrence of the Great East Japan Earthquake in March that same year. The site continues even now to be a vacant lot. Like the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, advanced boiling water reactors (ABWRs) will be constructed. Combined, the two reactors will produce 2.77 million kW, making it a large plant.
Obtaining the understanding of the local municipal governments will be indispensable to recommence the construction. It has become difficult for Tokyo Electric to cover the construction costs alone. Costs have ballooned as seawalls to protect against tsunami are now required under the new regulatory requirements introduced after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident.
Having placed Tokyo Electric effectively under state ownership, the government aims to gain experience in the joint operation of nuclear power plants and to later reorganize and integrate the individual company’s nuclear power business.
The participating electric power companies (other than Tokyo Electric) are taking a forward-looking approach to joint construction and operation because it is hard for them to move forward with nuclear plant restarts and new plant construction due to the challenges of maintaining expertise in the construction and operation of nuclear power plants as well as retaining appropriate personnel.
Tohoku Electric owns a nuclear power plant with the same name in the plot adjoining the Tokyo Electric plant. Operation of the plant is currently suspended as the safety screening by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has been prolonged. The company anticipates being able to cut costs through joint procurement of the fuel and materials that will be needed after the plant is restarted. Chubu Electric would like to maintain personnel and technologies in the field of nuclear power even though it is not sure when its Hamaoka nuclear power plant (Shizuoka Prefecture) will be restarted. Kansai Electric is considering reconstructing the superannuated Mihama nuclear power plant (Fukui Prefecture) and aims to gain the expertise needed for the construction.
Tokyo Electric, however, is saddled with the massive expense of cleaning up the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident, and the other companies participating are concerned that Tokyo Electric may use the collaboration to ask them to bear some of the burden of the cleanup.