Photo/IllutrationFukushima Governor Masao Uchibori, standing center at right, during a meeting in Fukushima on July 24, where Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. formally announced its decision to decommission the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant (Shinichi Sekine)

  • Photo/Illustraion

FUKUSHIMA--Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. formally announced July 24 it will decommission the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant, an undertaking it estimates will take more than four decades to complete.

The utility estimated the cost of decommissioning the No. 2 plant at 280 billion yen ($2.59 billion).

The company president, Tomoaki Kobayakawa, conveyed the decision to Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori and other senior prefectural officials during a meeting at the prefectural government building here.

TEPCO’s decision followed repeated requests from the prefectural government to scrap the No. 2 plant in light of the triple meltdown at the No. 1 plant triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

Operations to decommission all six of the crippled reactors at the No. 1 facility are already under way.

Kobayakawa explained that the decision to decommission the No. 2 plant was difficult to make and took time because of the slew of factors involved.

“It is unprecedented to scrap all six reactors (at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant) as well as the four reactors (at the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant),” he said at the meeting. “Another consideration was that we need to simultaneously proceed with work to decommission the No. 1 nuclear plant in a safe and steady manner.”

In reply, Uchibori expressed appreciation for the company’s decision.

“It is a big step forward to achieve the prefectural government’s vision to abolish all nuclear reactors in the prefecture,” he said.

Fukushima Prefecture is home to 10 nuclear reactors, all of them operated by TEPCO.

The company projected that it will likely take 30 or so years to decommission each reactor and more than 40 years to achieve full decommissioning of all the reactors at the plant.

The four reactors at the Fukushima No. 2 plant, located about 10 kilometers south of the No. 1 plant, each have an output capacity of 1.1 gigawatts. The reactors went into service between 1982 and 1987.

The No. 2 plant was severely affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in 2011 when it temporarily lost the ability to cool nuclear fuels at three of the four reactors. But unlike the No. 1 plant, it managed to stave off a meltdown.

Operations at the plant have remained suspended ever since due to the extensive damage that resulted.

At the meeting, Kobayakawa also outlined a plan to build a dry storage facility within the plant so that 10,000 or so spent nuclear fuel rods stored in reactor pools can be transferred there as a provisional step.

He said the company intends to move all the spent fuel to be stored at the dry storage facility out of Fukushima Prefecture prior to completion of the decommissioning work.

He offered no possible sites for the storage, saying the company is still weighing its options.

The utility’s policy to scrap the No. 2 nuclear plant will be made official after the board gives its approval.

Pulling the plug on the No. 2 nuclear plant will leave TEPCO with only one operating nuclear plant, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture, which has seven reactors and is one of the world's largest in terms of output capacity.

Prior to the Fukushima disaster, there were 54 commercial reactors in Japan. The decommissioning of the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant will bring the number of reactors to be shut down to 21 as a result of the disaster.

(This article was written by Rintaro Sakurai and Hiroki Ito.)