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How much will it cost to restart?

July 31, 2016

Extra safety precautions balloon costs to restart reactors



Eleven operators of nuclear power plants expect to spend more than 3 trillion yen ($32 billion) to safeguard their facilities, revealing the continuing skyrocketing costs, an Asahi Shimbun survey has found.

The overall costs will likely grow even further in the coming years as many of the plants applying for a restart did not include expenses to build centers to deal with a terrorist attack, required under the new regulations set after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

The latest survey, conducted in June, found the combined spending on safety precautions totaled 3.32 trillion yen, up about 935 billion yen from a similar survey a year ago.

The estimate was partly updated to implement measures to continue to operate reactors past the 40 years of their lifespan.

Some companies had to bolster their plants to withstand an earthquake more powerful than the one previously forecast to hit the sites, in line with the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s recommendation.

The survey covered 10 regional utilities operating nuclear power plants and Electric Power Development Co., known as J-Power, which is building a nuclear plant in Oma, Aomori Prefecture.

The first of the series of cost studies was conducted in January 2013, followed by one done annually.

The results of the studies showed that the cost to update safety precautions soared between 600 billion yen and 900 billion yen annually to meet the new regulations, which took effect in 2013.

Kansai Electric Power Co.’ spending grew by 2.5-fold to 730 billion yen from last year’s 285 billion yen, the most of all surveyed.

The surge resulted from the company’s plan to operate three reactors at two of its nuclear plants beyond their 40-year lifespans.

As for the construction of anti-terrorism facilities, only five of 16 plants that have filed their applications to restart with the NRA include figures for such facilities in their estimate.

A terrorism response center is expected to cost tens of billions of yen per plant, likely pushing up the overall costs into the hundreds of billions of yen.

Although companies believe that they can recoup their investments once their plants go back online after the NRA’s examination, it is unclear whether events will transpire as envisioned.

Kansai Electric has been ordered to suspend the operation of reactors at its Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture following a court injunction in March.

Unforeseen problems could force operators to shut down their reactors for a prolonged period, experts say.

(This article was written by Takashi Sugimoto and Masanobu Higashiyama.)

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