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TEPCO must fulfill its responsibilties to society

June 15, 2018



EDITORIAL: TEPCO needs to scrap Fukushima No. 2 as part of a new mission



Tokyo Electric Power Co. announced June 14 that it will move to decommission the currently offline Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant, located near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant.


Since the catastrophic accident seven years ago, the local governments and assemblies have been making repeated calls on the utility to decommission the facility, along with the stricken plant.


This is the company’s belated move to respond to the calls by making a decision that has long been clearly inevitable.


TEPCO’s equivocal attitude toward the issue, which left the situation ambiguous for far too long, has seriously hampered efforts to rebuild disaster-hit communities. The company should carry through this complicated and costly mission of dealing with another burdensome legacy of the Fukushima disaster with a renewed and keen awareness of its responsibility for the immeasurable damage the accident has caused.


First of all, TEPCO needs to make the formal decision to decommission the reactors at the plant and quickly work out specific action plans and timetables for the project.


What is crucial is securing safety. TEPCO will have to decommission reactors at two plants simultaneously. Fukushima No. 2 was spared a serious accident as the plant was shut down properly in the 2011 earthquake-tsunami disaster.


Even decommissioning an ordinary, functioning reactor is a treacherous business that involves the tricky task of dealing with a huge amount of radioactive waste.


At the Fukushima No. 1 plant, where the process to decommission the reactors has already started, the project is facing formidable challenges since it is still impossible to grasp the accurate situation within the reactors that have suffered meltdowns.


Many local residents are deeply concerned about whether the decades-long process of decommissioning the reactors can be safely executed.


TEPCO must make every possible effort to ensure that the work will be done safely.

Residents of areas around the Fukushima No. 1 plant were forced to live away from their homes as evacuees for long periods.


There are still many areas where the total destruction of infrastructure has made it almost impossible for local residents to return home.


TEPCO should also make an active contribution to rebuilding such areas by, for example, employing workers for its decommissioning projects and cooperating with the renewable energy projects the Fukushima prefectural government is promoting.


The dismantling of the Fukushima No. 2 plant will remove from service all the 10 reactors that used to operate in the prefecture before the disaster and leave the Tokyo-based electric utility with less than half the reactors it once had.


This prospect should prompt TEPCO to rethink its management strategy, which has been heavily dependent on nuclear power generation.


The utility, which is now effectively under state control, is under strong pressure to sharply increase its profits to cover the huge costs of dealing with the consequences of the accident.

To lift its bottom line, the firm is seeking to restart reactor operations at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture and complete the ongoing construction of a new nuclear plant in Higashidori, Aomori Prefecture. But the outlook of both projects remains uncertain.


Since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Japanese public has become markedly wary of nuclear power generation in general. To make matters worse for TEPCO, the costs of required safety measures have surged.


The utility should ask itself whether it would really be proper to continue devoting massive management resources to nuclear power generation.


Outside Japan, many energy companies are racing to make investments and conduct research and development projects in new business areas, particularly those related to renewable energy. Because of declining costs and a spurt of technological innovation, renewable power generation is widely seen as a new, promising growth area.


As a special business entity that has been kept alive with taxpayer money since the devastating accident, TEPCO should think afresh what is the best way to fulfill its responsibilities to society.




Editorial: TEPCO should quickly decommission Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant




Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has finally announced that it will decommission its Fukushima No. 2 Nuclear Power Plant, more than seven years after the outbreak of the ongoing crisis at its tsunami-ravaged Fukushima No. 1 plant. If realized, all 10 nuclear reactors in Fukushima Prefecture would be dismantled.

The presence of the No. 2 power station has offended Fukushima Prefecture residents, many of whom are still living as evacuees, and others who have suffered groundless rumors about radiation contamination. TEPCO needs to swiftly draw up a road map that will enable smooth decommissioning of the complex.


Like the No. 1 plant, the No. 2 complex was also hit by tsunami generated by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. However, some of its external power sources remained intact, averting meltdowns at the plant.


The No. 2 plant remains offline, but a massive amount of nuclear fuel remains in the complex. Since prefectural residents have deeply rooted concerns about the plant's safety and its possible reactivation in the future, the prefectural government has urged TEPCO and the national government, which effectively has the largest stake in the utility, to decommission the plant at an early date.


Reactivation of a nuclear plant requires consent from the local municipalities hosting the complex. Therefore, the resumption of operations at the No. 2 power station has always been a politically unfeasible option.


Moreover, more than 30 years have passed since operation of its four reactors began.

To operate the reactors beyond the 40-year limit set under new rules introduced after the outbreak of the nuclear crisis, it is necessary to invest a vast amount of money for additional safety measures. That means there were no merits to keeping the power station open in terms of the utility's finances.


Nevertheless, TEPCO had delayed the decision to decommission the complex.

Once a utility decides to decommission a nuclear reactor, the operator cannot regard the facility or the nuclear fuel inside it as part of the company's assets, weakening its financial base. It appears TEPCO may have waited to make the decision until the company had restored its financial strength.


However, even considering the financial strain that TEPCO experienced after the March 2011 disaster, it deserves criticism for its lack of sincerity, failing to provide a sufficient explanation to the public about its plans for the reactors.


TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa, who notified Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori of the decision, has admitted that the No. 2 plant "has hindered disaster recovery." If so, the utility should promptly begin preparations to decommission the complex.


The power company already faces the extremely difficult task of decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. In order to smoothly carry out the decommissioning of the No. 2 plant as well, the company must exercise wisdom in allocating its management resources, such as funds and personnel. We hope TEPCO will cooperate with the government in swiftly materializing its plan for decommissioning the No. 2 power station.


The decommissioning of the Fukushima No. 2 plant would leave the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Niigata Prefecture as TEPCO's sole atomic power station. This means that TEPCO may step up its efforts to persuade the local municipalities hosting that power plant to accept its reactivation. However, the company must keep in mind that the main priority is to ensure safety at the plant and to obtain the understanding and acceptance of local communities.



June 15, 2018


TEPCO told to hear local views for scrapping plant




Japan's economy and industry minister has told Tokyo Electric Power Company to take local opinion into account when drawing up a plan to scrap another nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

Hiroshige Seko gave the instruction to TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa on Friday.

The move came one day after Kobayakawa informed the Fukushima prefectural governor of TEPCO's intention to decommission the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant.

The plant has been offline since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that caused meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, also in the prefecture.

Seko said he appreciates that the utility accepted the current situation in the prefecture.

He told TEPCO to communicate with the local community to create a decommissioning plan from the standpoint of contributing to post-disaster reconstruction.

Kobayakawa told reporters after the meeting that his company will proceed with drafting the plan while trying to ensure that people in Fukushima can feel safe and contribute to reconstruction efforts.

He said details of the plan will be decided by taking into account the timetable and workforce allocation for scraping reactors of Fukushima Daiichi.


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