New reactors still in Chugoku's plans

09 October 2012

Chugoku Electric Power Co requested an extension to its licence for carrying out groundwork at the site of its planned Kaminoseki nuclear power plant in Yamaguchi prefecture. Although rejected, the move suggests the company still hopes to move forward with the project, despite the Japanese government recently saying that no new nuclear power plant construction projects would be approved.

Chugoku submitted an application to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in December 2009 for the construction of two 1373 MWe Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWRs) at Kaminoseki on Nagashima Island. Plans called for construction of unit 1 to begin in June 2012, with commercial operation set for March 2018, while work on unit 2 would begin in 2018, with start-up scheduled for 2022. However, the application was still under review at the time of the Fukushima nuclear accident in March 2011 and that review has been on hold since then.

The utility received a licence from the Yamaguchi prefectural government in October 2008 to conduct earthworks at the site - some 40% of which would be located on reclaimed land. Those preparatory works began a year later, but were suspended following the Fukushima accident. The groundwork licence expired on 6 October 2012.

In response to the accident, the Japanese government unveiled a new energy policy on 14 September 2012 that calls for ending nuclear power generation in the 2030s and specifying that new nuclear power plants will not be built in the country. It did not state whether new reactors already under construction would be completed. However, just a few days later, prime minister Yoshihiko Noda suggested that the policy would not be rigid, saying that it would be flexible enough to cope with 'a variety of uncertainties.'

Chugoku filed an application on 5 October with the Yamaguchi prefectural government for a three-year extension to its licence for land reclamation works for Kaminoseki units 1 and 2. At the same time, Chugoku said that it has changed the site design so that the main plant buildings will sit 15 metres above sea level, rather than the previously planned 10 metres, in order to improve tsunami protection.

The company said that, as it has not yet received confirmation from the government that it will not be able to proceed with construction of the Kaminoseki plant, it will seek to continue with site preparations. Should the government later rule that the plant's construction cannot proceed, Chugoku would suspend the preparatory works.

Extension rejected

Yamaguchi governor Shigetaro Yamamoto, however, promptly rejected Chugoku's licence extension request. Citing the government's policy of not allowing the construction of new reactors, he said: "We cannot grant permission that this moment. The decision has been made not to grant the licence."

Commenting on Chugoku's application, industry minister Yukio Edano underlined that plans for the Kaminoseki plant are "subject to the principle of not constructing new reactors."

"We need the Kaminoseki plant," Chugoku's Tetsuo Yoshimoto, who is in charge of site preparation work at the site, told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. "We are not going to push for the work for now, given the central government's policy, but we want to maintain the status quo."

In late September, the Japan Electric Power Development Corp (J-Power) announced that it planned to resume construction of the Ohma nuclear power plant in Aomori prefecture. It will be the first Japanese nuclear construction project to restart since all such projects were suspended following the Fukushima accident. Work to build the 1383 MWe ABWR is 40% complete.

In addition to the Ohma plant, construction was also suspended of unit 3 of Chugoku Electric Power Co's Shimane plant, while the start of construction of unit 1 of Tepco's Higashidori plant has been deferred from the original April 2011 date.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News