TOKYO (AP) — The operator of the nuclear plant wrecked by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami said Wednesday that it will decommission four more reactors in northeastern Japan in addition to those already being scrapped.
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings said a final decision on dismantling the four reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ni plant will be formally approved at a board meeting, expected later this month.
Nearby Fukushima Dai-ichi had meltdowns in three reactors and structural damage in a fourth during the disaster. All six reactors, including four that are currently being decommissioned, will be dismantled in a process that will take decades.
TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa told Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori that it will take about 40 years to finish decommissioning all four reactors at Fukushima Dai-ni. Kobayakawa told the governor that the company also plans to build a new facility at the Dai-ni complex to move spent fuel from cooling pools to dry casks — a safer long-term storage option recommended by experts.
The plan means all 10 of TEPCO's reactors in Fukushima will be dismantled. Kobayakawa, however, said the additional decommissioning won't affect the ongoing work at Fukushima Dai-ichi, which is already a challenge.
The plan still needs approval by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. Its acting chairman, Satoru Tanaka, told reporters that the committee will carefully study TEPCO's Fukushima Dai-ni decommissioning plan. "Obviously, TEPCO must carry out a plan without affecting" the ongoing cleanup work, he said.
Fukushima officials and residents have demanded the decommissioning, saying the uncertainty hampers reconstruction in the region.
Uchibori welcomed TEPCO's plan to decommission additional reactors "as an important step toward achieving decommissioning of all reactors in the prefecture." The governor said he will consult officials from the plant's two host towns, Naraha and Tomioka, about the proposed spent fuel storage plan.
Last year, TEPCO said it will decide on the timeline and other details before formally announcing the dismantling of four reactors at the Fukushima No. 2 plant.
The company has said the decommissioning will cost about 280 billion yen ($2.5 billion) in addition to the estimated 22 trillion yen ($200 billion) needed for the ongoing cleanup at the wrecked Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.
TEPCO would be left with only the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata, in northern Japan, to produce nuclear power. Local restart approvals for two of its seven reactors are pending more than eight years after the Fukushima disaster.
Other nuclear plant operators have also opted to decommission aging reactors due to hefty spending to meet new safety standards put in place after the disaster, making nuclear power far more expensive than it used to be.
Of the 54 workable commercial reactors that used to operate in Japan before the Fukushima accident, 24 of them, including 10 of TEPCO's, are designated for scrapping. Only nine have since restarted, while restart approval for 12 others is still pending.
Still, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's pro-business government says nuclear energy is indispensable and should account for 20-22 percent of Japan's energy mix by fiscal 2030, according to an energy plan criticized by experts as unrealistic and delaying growth of renewable energy.