by Noriyuki Morimoto
The Japan Atomic Power Company (JAPC) is the entity that started the first commercial nuclear power generation in Japan with Tokai Power Station in 1966. This station ended its operation in 1998 and is now in the process of decommissioning. JAPC’s Tsuruga Power Station Unit 1 also stopped operation last year and is due to be decommissioned as well.
Currently, JAPC still operates the Tokai No.2 Power Station and Tsuruga Power Station Unit 2. But as the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) identified an active fault line beneath Tsuruga Power Station Unit 2, it is virtually inevitable for it to be decommissioned. If JAPC could operate just one nuclear reactor (if it can be restarted) while having to decommission three, it may be too much pressure for the company even to survive.
For Japan’s nuclear power industry, whether the business is to keep going or not, decommissioning technology is going to be vitally important going forward. In that sense, JAPC’s history as pioneer of both starting and ending nuclear power generation is a valuable one. Therefore, the company’s experience and skills as a group of technical experts have to be maintained.
Even if the Japanese people choose to phase out nuclear power generation, it would take an extremely long time to complete the process. In order to phase out safely and to rationalize costs, a high level of nuclear technology has to be maintained and developed as a political agenda.
Moreover, in theory, the government’s nuclear power policies should have settled with keeping nuclear power generation: the NRA, a government agency, is very active in enhancing safety of nuclear power generation and the healthy development of the nuclear power industry.
Such activities would be an unacceptable waste in the direction of nuclear phase-out. Under the new regulatory standards of NRA, there will be a huge amount of additional cost including major refurbishing expenses. Such additional costs would ultimately be funded by the citizens, in form of utility fees or tax. If Japan was to phase out nuclear power after such a burden, it would be a tremendous waste.
It the policy is to go toward nuclear phase-out, the NRA would have to focus its purpose strictly on safe decommissioning measures. And even in that case, the agenda of maintaining and developing advanced nuclear technology cannot be crossed out.
Chief Executive Officer, HC Asset Management Co.,Ltd. Noriyuki Morimoto founded HC Asset Management in November 2002. As a pioneer investment consultant in Japan, he established the investment consulting business of Watson Wyatt K.K. (now Willis Towers Watson) in 1990.