Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the disaster-stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant, plans to permanently shut down two reactors at the facility that avoided meltdowns after the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami struck in March 2011, this according to company sources on Wednesday. The embattled operator decided on this following a request by Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who said in September that the utility should scrap the Nos. 5 and 6 reactors to focus more on the plant’s decommissioning and clean-up efforts.
According to TEPCO, the two reactors will not actually be dismantled, but instead will be used as a research facility to develop technologies for achieving the unprecedented task of removing melted fuel from the Nos. 1 to 3 crippled reactors as part of the decades-long decommissioning process. Accepting Abe’s request seems to be a way for the cash-strapped company to win further state support over the decontamination costs outside the plant, which one estimate has shown could reach 5 trillion yen. TEPCO will be explaining its plan to local governments possibly later this month and, if approved, will finalize the decision as soon as possible.
Industry experts have said that TEPCO is probably looking at some 2 trillion yen in costs for the Fukushima plant’s decommissioning alone. The magnitude 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami that hit the plant on March 11, 2011 caused the Fukushima nuclear complex to lose nearly all its power sources and consequently the ability to cool the reactors and spent fuel pools at the Nos. 1 to 4 units. But the Nos. 5 and 6 reactors, which were also under maintenance at the time of the earthquake, achieved cold shutdowns, helped by an emergency diesel generator that was not affected by the tsunami.