Sunset at Hamaoka. Photo: rigapowv
The nuclear power plant debate in Japan has suddenly reached a new level with the announcement that Chubu Electric will close its two oldest reactors at Hamaoka, in Shizuoka prefecture near Tokyo. These reactors have not been up and running for a long time due to fears about earthquakes in the region, and the electricity company also announced that instead, they will replace them with a new, bigger reactor at the same location. Local residents have tried to get all five reactors shut down permanently. To echo John's view about coal mines: the best nuclear power plant is a closed nuclear power plant. If things were only that simple.
(Map from Chubu Electric showing its grid in central Japan)
In Japan, many of the country's 50 or so nuclear power plants are getting old and replacing them will be very expensive. To replace the oldest reactors, Chubu Electric Power Co. will register special losses of about 155 billion yen for the business year ending March 2009, but the company has no clear plan for how to properly dismantle or tear down the old reactors. Decommissioning work on the reactors, which are currently not operating, would be completed around 2035, according to Mainichi.
That is more than 25 years from now...
Asahi notes in an editorial today that what is worrisome is that there are no firmly established procedures for shutting down an old reactor:
Decommissioning a 1.1-million-kilowatt reactor produces 500,000 to 550,000 tons of waste. While it contains no high-level radioactive waste, about 3 percent of the matter is polluted with radioactivity. Some sticky questions remain unsolved, such as where the waste materials from the reactor and its peripheral equipment should be buried.
It is vital to work out a viable plan for decommissioning reactors before the nuclear retirement era comes into full swing.
I like Chubu Electric's project to help local residents reduce their electricity consumption. They have been working with local governments and Japan's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) to promote high-efficiency water heaters that conserve energy and reduce CO2 emissions.
Families who install Eco Cute high-efficiency water heaters and "Sho-ene Navi" (energy saving navigation meters) in homes are being reimbursed for part of their costs, and tose receiving reimbursements will submit their energy savings data as part of the project.
(Flowchart from Chubu Electric showing its energy efficiency project for households)
Energy is not a simple question for any country, but Japan needs to do much more to convince people that its old nuclear reactors are safe, and to reduce electricity use.
More nuclear safety at Treehugger:
What Will You Do If Mt Fuji Erupts?
Turkish Government Says 'Evet' (Yes) to Nuclear Bid
How Do We Teach Our Kids About Nuclear Power?
"Near-Meltdown" in Swedish Nuclear Power Plant
UCS: Nuclear Safety Project
Written by Martin Frid at greenz.jp