Japan may decommission reactors at world's biggest nuclear plant

Plant operator Tepco says it may start decommissioning at least one reactor five years after restarting two others.

    In 2017, Tepco received regulatory approval to restart reactors No. 6 and No. 7. Kashiwazaki's Mayor Masahiro Sakurai demanded that the energy company also submit plans to shut at least one of its five other reactors. [File: Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images]
    In 2017, Tepco received regulatory approval to restart reactors No. 6 and No. 7. Kashiwazaki's Mayor Masahiro Sakurai demanded that the energy company also submit plans to shut at least one of its five other reactors. [File: Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images]

    Japan's Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) said on Monday it may start to decommission at least one nuclear reactor at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power plant, the world's biggest nuclear plant by capacity, within five years of restarting two of the reactors at the site.

    Tepco President Tomoaki Kobayakawa made the comments in a statement outlining its response to a request for plans on the station's future by the government of the city of Kashiwazaki in Niigata prefecture, where the plant is located.

    In 2017, Tepco received initial regulatory approval from the Japanese government to restart reactors 6 and 7 at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, each with a capacity of 1,356 megawatts (MW). The plant site has seven reactors with a total capacity of 8,212MW, equal to 20 percent of Japan's nuclear capacity.

    The facility is Tepco's last remaining nuclear plant after it announced plans to shut its Fukushima Daini station, near the Fukushima Daichi plant where a massive earthquake and tsunami caused the meltdown of three of the site's reactors in 2011.

    Kashiwazaki's Mayor Masahiro Sakurai demanded in 2017 that Tepco submit plans to shut at least one of reactors 1 to 5 in return for approval of the restart of reactors 6 and 7, a city official told the Reuters news agency by phone on Monday. The Kashiwazaki mayor will take about a month to evaluate Tepco's plan, the official said.

    Tepco said on Friday that Kobayakawa would brief local officials on Monday about its answers to the city's request.

    Tepco may take steps to decommission more than one of reactors 1 to 5 within five years after the restart of reactors 6 and 7 if it is confident it can secure enough non-fossil fuel energy sources, according to the statement.

    A Tepco official said on Monday the company is aiming to have renewable and nuclear power produce 44 percent of total output by 2030.

    Tepco has been trying to convince local authorities near Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, who have sign-off rights on nuclear restarts, that it has overcome operational failings revealed at Fukushima.

    Eight years ago, nearly 20,000 people died in an earthquake and tsunami that precipitated what became Japan's worst nuclear disaster. At least 160,000 people were forced to leave their contaminated homes.

    In April, Japan partially lifted an evacuation order in one of the two towns, Okuma, for the first time since the disaster, but many former residents are still reluctant to return. 

    The other town, Futaba, remains off-limits, as are several other towns nearby. 

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency