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ECONOMY

Nuclear power’s cost advantage diminishes as cost of antiterrorism measures rises

  • August 9, 2020
  • , Asahi , p. 1
  • JMH Translation

Data provided to the Asahi Shimbun revealed that 11 electric power utilities expect to spend a total of at least 5.2 trillion yen to ensure the safety of their nuclear power plants. Since new safety standards were put into effect seven years ago following the accident at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Power Plant, the estimated cost of security has continued to rise, especially for antiterrorism facilities. Considering that many power companies have not yet allocated funds for the safety measures, the final amount is expected to be even larger, shaking the government’s assumption that the nuclear-generated electric power is the least expensive energy source.

 

Starting in 2013, the Asahi Shimbun has asked power utilities that operate nuclear power plants for the most recent estimates of their spending on safety measures that became necessary following the Fukushima accidents. To date, 27 nuclear reactors have applied for the safety review required before they can resume operation. The nuclear plants’ safety costs include taking measures against earthquakes, tsunami, fire, and other severe accidents. As of July 2020, the total cost necessary to ensure the safety of those nuclear reactors is estimated at 5.2376 trillion yen, more than five times the amount reported in 2013.

 

The amount is approximately 160 billion yen more than the previous year and most of it is earmarked for building antiterrorism facilities mandated under the new safety standards. This year, Japan Atomic Energy Company disclosed for the first time that Tokai Daini Power Plant (Ibaraki Prefecture) will need to spend 61 billion yen on the safety measures. Kansai Electric Power Company added a total of 43 billion yen for three reactors at two plants in Fukui Prefecture. These additional costs are attributed to the revision of original plans and changes in construction procedures following review by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

 

Antiterrorism facilities are built to accommodate systems for remotely controlling nuclear reactors in the event of a terrorist attack in which an airplane is crashed into a reactor. The total cost of building such facilities for the eight plants whose estimates have been made available is expected to be as much as 1.21 trillion yen. Meanwhile, Sendai Power Plant’s No.1 and No. 2 reactors (Kagoshima Prefecture) of Kyushu Electric Company were unable to meet the deadline for building the facilities and consequently failed to meet the safety standards. They have been offline since March.

 

Five electric power companies—Hokkaido, Tohoku, Chubu, Hokuriku, and Chugoku—state that they have not included in the safety cost the construction expenses for the facilities. Some of them claim that the facilities are still in the planning phase so their construction cost cannot be determined at this time. (Abridged)

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