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1 trillion yen to meet new safety standards

Nuke plant operators put tab on new safety standards at 1 trillion yen



February 27, 2013


Japan’s 10 nuclear power plant operators said it will cost close to 1 trillion yen ($10.87 billion) to bring them in compliance with government-mandated safety standards on disaster preparedness, according to an Asahi Shimbun survey.

The final tab could increase further because the companies currently cannot accurately estimate the expenses that will be required to take measures against disasters.

The utilities cannot restart any idle reactors unless they meet the safety standards. Currently 48 of the nation's 50 nuclear reactors are offline.

The draft outline of the new standards, presented in late January by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, calls on operators to take broad measures against natural disasters and accidents. But some details of the new standards have yet to be determined, so plant operators have not finalized specifications of some safety measures.

The 10 companies estimated the costs at 998.7 billion yen for their 15 plants, excluding the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant and the nearby No. 2 plant, both operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

The costs mainly consist of expenses for emergency safety measures, such as the construction of levees to guard against tsunami. The measures also include the provision of emergency power supply vehicles, which were required by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, the predecessor of the NRA, immediately after the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Kansai Electric Power Co. projects it will have to spend 38 billion yen by the end of March and a total of 285.5 billion yen by the end of March 2018, the largest amount among the 10 operators.

Kansai Electric hosts 11 reactors at its three nuclear plants of Mihama, Oi and Takahama. Its degree of dependence on nuclear power generation was about 50 percent in fiscal 2010.

Because of this high dependency, early restarts of idle reactors are necessary for the company to improve its financial performance.

Chubu Electric Power Co. estimated the costs needed to take measures against tsunami at its Hamaoka plant at 150 billion yen. The Hamaoka plant is located in an area of a possible Tokai earthquake, which seismology experts expect to occur in the near future.

Chubu Electric is currently constructing a 1.6-kilometer-long levee at the Hamaoka plant. The utility originally planned to erect an 18-meter-tall levee, but the government’s predicted highest tsunami exceeded that height, making it necessary for Chubu Electric to spend an additional 10 billion yen to raise the levee by 4 meters.

Kyushu Electric Power Co. estimated it will need 200 billion yen to meet the new regulations.

The new safety standards are expected to go into effect in July.

The NRA plans to strictly uphold the regulations so that plant operators will take the necessary measures to guard against severe accidents, earthquakes and tsunami.

(This article was written by Jin Nishikawa and Ryuta Koike.)


New nuclear safety measures to cost power companies 1 trillion yen: Mainichi survey



Japan's 10 nuclear power plant operators estimate they will spend nearly 1 trillion yen on new safety measures stemming from the Fukushima nuclear disaster and new safety regulations, a Mainichi survey has found.

The Mainichi poll, conducted in February, asked the 10 companies to estimate their total spending on measures taken based on the Fukushima meltdowns as well as expected spending on measures mandated under new Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) rules set to go into effect in July this year. The latter mandates a number of new requirements, including the construction of facilities to deal with a major disaster, forcing up costs.

The survey found the firms' estimated new safety spending at a total of 998.7 billion yen, or about 22.7 billion yen per reactor. This number, however, did not include as yet unreleased estimates on the cost of protecting nuclear materials, and the actual total likely tops 1 trillion yen.

The largest safety expenses were for anti-tsunami sea wall construction, emergency generators, and pumper trucks that could supply coolant water to reactors in an emergency. The three companies set to spend the most were Kansai Electric Power Co. at 285.5 billion yen, Kyushu Electric Power Co. at a flat 200 billion yen, and Chubu Electric Power Co. at 150 billion yen.

The power companies have complained, however, that it is "difficult to estimate costs at this time" as the NRA has yet to reveal many details of the new regulations. However, a number of provisions the NRA has released -- including mandatory filters on reactor vents to prevent radioactive contamination of the atmosphere in an accident -- will certainly increase the companies' operations costs.

"The new anti-disaster measures alone will cost some tens of billions of yen more," Chubu Electric stated.

Meanwhile Chugoku Electric Power Co., which has estimated its new safety costs at 50 billion yen, wrote that "considerations regarding the vent installation will necessitate a reappraisal of total costs."


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