The seven-unit Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power station in western Japan. Tokyo Electric Power Company said today it may decommission one or more reactors at its Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power station in Niigata Prefecture, western Japan, within five years, after reactivating two idled reactors at the same facility.

Tepco president Tomoaki Kobayakawa mentioned for the first time the possibility of decommissioning some or all of Units 1 to 5 at Kashiwazaki Kariwa, the world’s biggest commercial nuclear station by capacity.

Media reports in Japan said Kashiwazaki city mayor Masahiro Sakurai had originally asked Tepco to shut all of the older units at Kashiwazaki Kariwa – Units 1 to 5 – in return for endorsing the restart of the two newer reactors, Units 6 and 7.

Units 1 to 5, all 1,067 boiling water reactor units, began commercial operation between 1985 and 1990. Units 6 and 7 are 1,315 MW advanced boiling water reactor units that began commercial operation in 1996 and 1997.

But today the company appeared to change the proposals, saying it would “explore closing one of the units” after it restarted Units 6 and 7.

The mayor reacted by calling it the “the best possible proposal,” according to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper and broadcaster NHK.

“Tepco has given me the best reply it could think of now,” said Mr Sakurai. He said he was satisfied with the response despite the company not specifying how many reactors it might decommission or giving a firm pledge to do so.

In 2017, Tepco received initial regulatory approval to restart Units 6 and 7 at Kashiwazaki Kariwa. The station has seven reactors with a total capacity of 7,965 MW, equal to about 20% of Japan’s total installed nuclear capacity.

Kashiwazaki Kariwa is Tepco’s last remaining nuclear station after it announced plans to shut Fukushima-Daini and Fukushima-Daichi, where an earthquake and tsunami caused the meltdown of three of the site’s units in 2011.

Tepco is aiming to have renewable and nuclear power produce 44% of its total power generation by 2030, an official at the company said today, in line with a government target.

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

Japan shut down all 42 commercial nuclear reactors after the Fukushima-Daiichi accident.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the country’s nuclear share in 2017 was about 3.6%. Before Fukushima, Japan generated about 30% of its electricity from nuclear and planned to increase that to 40%.

A recent energy white paper adopted by the Cabinet called for further efforts to cut carbon emissions by keeping to a nuclear generation target of 20% to 22%.

Nine units in Japan’s reactor fleet are now in commercial operation. They are Ohi-3 and -4, Genkai-3 and -4, Sendai-1 and -2, Takahama-3 and -4, and Ikata-3.

Date: Tuesday, 27 August 2019
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