(Adds paragraph 7 on Kyushu Electric)
TOKYO, Sept 5 Japan will push nuclear operators
to draft plans to deal with older reactors, including the
option of scrapping those that are too old or too costly to
refurbish to new standards imposed after the Fukushima disaster,
the Nikkei reported on Friday.
The proposal affects a quarter of Japan's 48 reactors and
the government is betting that by forcing the closure of older
units, considered more vulnerable to disaster, it may gain
public support to restart newer units, the newspaper said.
All Japan's reactors have been shut after the 2011 nuclear
crisis at Fukushima caused by a major earthquake and tsunami.
Public opinion turned against nuclear power after the
disaster, but the government wants to restart units deemed safe
by a new, more independent regulator and cut Japan's reliance on
expensive imports of fossil fuels.
Kansai Electric Power Co is likely to be the first
to bite the bullet and consider scrapping two of its ageing
nuclear reactors, the Nikkei reported.
Kansai Electric denied the report, saying it was still
considering how to respond ahead of a looming application
deadline to extend the operations of two ageing plants beyond a
Kyushu Electric Power Co will also consider
scrapping its 38-year-old 559-megawatt Genkai No.1 reactor, the
Nikkei reported later on Friday.
The company is weighing the extension of operations, rather
than decommissioning, a spokesman said, when contacted by
Japanese trade minister Yuko Obuchi said on Friday that
operators should decide on their own whether to scrap the
reactors, but the government would help with the smooth
decommissioning of older units, besides trying to restart
nuclear plants that clear the nation's new safety standards.
Nuclear safety rules make it tougher to upgrade and run
older reactors, and as many as two-thirds of Japan's 48 idled
nuclear units may not return to operation because of the high
costs, local opposition or seismic risks, a Reuters analysis
showed this year.
The more stringent safety checks on nuclear facilities
adopted in July 2013 limit a reactor's operating life to 40
years in principle. But by clearing tough inspections, they
could get a one-time maximum extension of 20 years.
Two reactors in southwest Japan have won initial clearance
to restart under the new safety regime, but hurdles remain.
A dozen reactors will reach the 40-year limit within five
years and the government is asking operators to evolve plans to
decommission older units by the end of the year, the paper said.
Kansai Electric is considering decommissioning the
340-megawatt No. 1 and 500-megawatt No.2 reactors at its Mihama
nuclear facility in western Fukui prefecture, the paper said.
Both Mihama units are more than 40 years old and have
relatively small capacity, so restarting them would bring only a
limited profit boost and cost several hundred billion yen for
inspections and safety measures, the paper said.
If the company decides to scrap the reactors within the
business year that ends in March 2015, it will probably be
forced to book up to 30 billion yen ($285 million) in
extraordinary losses in impairment charges, the Nikkei added.
Accounting rules were changed in 2013 to allow nuclear
operators to book losses from decommissioning costs over several
years rather than in a single year.
The company booked steep losses in its three previous
business years, after the world's worst nuclear disaster in 25
years led to a gradual shutdown of Japan's nuclear industry.
($1=105.4500 Japanese yen)
(Reporting by James Topham, Kentaro Hamada and Osamu Tsukimori;
Editing by Aaron Sheldrick, Michael Perry and Clarence