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Kansai Electric gets Takahama reactor life extension, but enormous costs remain

The Nuclear Regulation Authority may have approved a 20-year operational life extension for the No. 1 and 2 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Takahama Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture, but the utility's efforts to make nuclear energy its core business still faces many challenges.

For example, upgrading safety measures for the aging reactors is projected to take more than three years and cost upwards of 200 billion yen, even if the price of improvements shared by the entire plant is subtracted. Meanwhile, there is a growing possibility that the units will be halted again by litigation.

Construction of a quake-resistant emergency services building to house a disaster response team and the plant's emergency response office has already begun. Among the projects yet to get started are giant reinforced concrete domes that would cover the reactor containment vessels to prevent radiation from escaping in case of an accident. Also on the construction list is replacing seawater pipes now running through earth to the No. 2 reactor with pipes running through bedrock.

However, the construction costs do not end there. Among counter-terrorism measures, Kansai Electric still needs to build a control room that will allow staff to manage cooling and decompression at a safe distance from the reactors. Among the nine reactors the utility is looking to restart, the total cost for implementing safety measures for just seven is estimated at 730 billion yen. The costs will certainly increase further.

Meanwhile, the Otsu District Court has already ordered provisional injunctions suspending the Takahama plant's No. 3 and 4 reactors, which are significantly younger than units 1 and 2. This has made litigation against operation of the aging reactors all the more likely. Residents of 14 prefectures, including Fukui and Aichi, in mid-April filed suit with the Nagoya District Court, demanding a halt to the operational life extension for the No. 1 and 2 reactors.

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