TOKYO�Tokyo Electric Power Co Inc. (TEPCO) said it will build a next-generation nuclear power plant at a cost of $2.85 billion (�300 billion).
The plant will be modeled on its current advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR) which cost roughly the same amount to build but will be cheaper to operate. The new plant will have a generating cost of about �5/kw-hr compared with about �9/kw-hr now and will have a generating capacity of 25% more than the current model, a company spokesman said.
He added the construction date and site had not been decided but that TEPCO hopes to start commercial operations in 10-15 years.
TEPCO currently has two 1,356 Mw ABWRs at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, which has seven reactors and the world's largest generation capacity at 8,212 Mw.
Meanwhile, the country's largest utility has also admitted that it has been forced to shut down one of the reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant due to a water leak from a high-pressure turbine.
The company said an employees found two small pools of water on the floor under the turbine at the No. 2 reactor. The water was estimated to total about 100 cc and contain an "extremely small" amount of radioactivity, the company said, adding the incident will not affect the environment outside the reactor.
TEPCO shut down the No. 6 reactor at the same plant on May 28 due to unusually high levels of iodine in its cooling water.
The TEPCO decision to construct a new plant comes at a time when nuclear incidents have led to a decline in Japanese public support of nuclear power and a rethinking of the nation's energy policy after a serious accident at the Tokaimura nuclear power plant on Sep. 30, 1999. That accident changed the public's perception of power plants. After the incident, 52% of Japanese citizens polled said they felt "very uneasy" about nuclear power, up from 21% who felt that way prior to the accident.
At one time, Japan had ambitious plans to increase nuclear power generation but the series of incidents at nuclear plants has emboldened the antinuclear movement, experts say.
Prior to the accident, Japan had plans to build 20 more nuclear power plants and curb its dependency on oil imports. In response to public outcry, the government in March set up a committee to study how the future development of nuclear energy should proceed in the country. Construction plans for several proposed facilities has been either cancelled or postponed.