Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) says it will reconvene its plans to build a nuclear power plant in the northern Japan prefecture of Aomori just a month after the controversial power company announced the possible decommissioning of its Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant, which neighbours the No. 1 plant that was at the centre of the March 2011 nuclear disaster.
TEPCO’s proposed Higashidori nuclear plant, which will initially consist of two boiling water reactors — the same type found in the two Fukushima plants — providing a total output of 2.77 gigawatts, had been put on hold since the 2011 disaster as Japan’s 50-plus reactors were put through lengthy safety tests.
With six of those reactors now back online, TEPCO announced it will undertake geological surveys at the Higashidori starting later this year through 2020.
TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa said at a news conference that the surveys will enable the facility “to build a safer and more technologically advanced plant.”
Ironically, construction of the first reactor there started in January 2011, two months before the devastating earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan that triggered multiple meltdowns and explosions at the Fukushima No. 1 plant. It was unclear if the geological surveys announced were supplementary to ones already carried out prior to the building of that reactor.
Nonetheless, construction there came to a standstill following the 2011 disasters.
Kobayakawa is part of TEPCO’s reshuffled leadership that announced in May it will mull the decommissioning of the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant, while restating efforts to restart its controversial Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture, which is believed to stand on an active geological fault and was badly affected by another earthquake in 2007.
The damage there, however, less devastating than at its sister plant in Fukushima four years later.
The 2011 Fukushima disaster caused the evacuation of 160,000 residents living near the plant, many of whom remain displaced or have moved on to pastures new.
The proposed plant in Aomori will neighbour a separate plant already completed by another utility, Tohoku Electric Power Co., though that plant too has been offline since 2011.
Efforts by Tohoku Power to restart the reactors there have been thwarted by protestors and experts who believe that that plant too is located directly above an active fault.
Higashidori is viewed as as a central plant in a plan to reform and integrate the nuclear power generation business in Japan.
TEPCO reportedly has its eyes on a new company operated jointly by several other existing power utilities and nuclear plant manufacturers.
Those companies, however, are wary of such a plan, which is believed to be a result of TEPCO’s shocking safety record, which dates back decades, as well as its economic viability. The costs for building nuclear plants and upgrading older ones under new safety guidelines has risen considerably amid a background of falling demand for electricity, news sources report.
Source: NHK, Asahi Shimbun, Japan Times