TOKYO -- The estimated cost of safety measures at nuclear power plants across Japan has increased fivefold over the past six years to just over 5.38 trillion yen, a Mainichi Shimbun survey has shown.
Eleven power producers spent the funds to implement stiffened safety standards at 15 nuclear power plants, including those currently under construction, according to the survey conducted from September to November this year. Atomic power station safety regulations were strengthened in July 2013 after the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear crisis and subsequent shutdown of all Japan's nuclear plants in 2011, and required upgrades at existing facilities before they could restart.
A 2013 survey conducted before the new regulations were implemented found that 10 power companies had allocated a combined 998.7 billion yen to safety measures. The outcome of the latest survey indicates the scale of the financial commitment power companies must make to meet the stricter safety regulations.
Tadahiro Katsuta, a nuclear power policy expert at Meiji University, commented, "Countermeasures against accidents being taken now should've been considered before the (2011 Fukushima Daiichi) nuclear accident. The sharp increase in costs is the result of the firms' failure to do what was necessary."
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) is estimated to have spent nearly 1.17 trillion yen on safety measures, the largest amount of all the 11 utilities. TEPCO explained that large outlays were required to reinforce piping at buildings housing the No. 1 to 7 reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Niigata Prefecture following the 2007 Chuetsu Offshore Earthquake as well as for countermeasures against liquefaction beneath the complex's No. 6 and 7 reactors. The figure is around 17 times the company's 2013 cost estimate of 70 billion yen.
TEPCO is followed by Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) based in the western Japan city of Osaka, at some 1.02 trillion yen, about 3.6 times the 2013 estimate. Implementing measures against terror attacks at its three nuclear power plants in Fukui Prefecture along the Sea of Japan coast -- the Takahama, Oi and Mihama complexes -- and other measures were particularly expensive.
Kyushu Electric Power Co. in southwestern Japan, which operates the Sendai and Genkai nuclear plants in Kagoshima and Saga prefectures, respectively, estimates its safety upgrade costs at 900 billion yen, 4.5 times the figure in 2013.
However, six other companies, including Chubu Electric Power Co. in central Japan, which is aiming to restart its Hamaoka plant in Shizuoka Prefecture, answered that the costs of construction for anti-terror measures were not yet determined. The measures are generally estimated to cost tens to hundreds of billions of yen.
Since countermeasures against volcanic ash need to be considered at some atomic power plants, the costs will likely mount further.
(Japanese original by Riki Iwama, Suzuko Araki and Yuka Saito, Science & Environment News Department)