Japan gives two new nuclear projects provisional OK

Governors of the Japanese prefectures of Hokkaido and Shimane have provisionally approved the construction of two new nuclear reactors. This marks the first time utilities have received the go-ahead for additional nuclear units to be constructed since the country's worst nuclear accident in Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture, in September last year.

Jul 18th, 2000


TOKYO�Governors of the Japanese prefectures of Hokkaido and Shimane have provisionally approved the construction of two new nuclear reactors. This marks the first time utilities have received the go-ahead for additional nuclear units to be constructed since the country's worst nuclear accident in Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture, in September last year.

In February, Chubu Electric Power Co. scrapped plans to construct a nuclear power plant in Mie Prefecture after the governor of the prefecture protested.

Speaking at a special budgetary committee meeting of the Hokkaido prefectural assembly, Hokkaido Gov. Tatsuya Hori said, because the prefecture needs a stable supply of electricity in the future, "We had no choice but to approve the plan" by Hokkaido Electric Power Co. to build a third nuclear power reactor at its plant in Tomarimura, western Hokkaido. The 900 Mw pressurized light-water reactor is scheduled for completion in 2008-09.

Hori will make a final decision about the new reactor plan after hearing the opinions of officials of Tomarimura and three other municipalities adjacent to the village.

Meanwhile, Shimane Gov. Nobuyoshi Sumita signaled his approval of a plan by Chugoku Electric Power Co. to construct a third nuclear power reactor in Kashimacho, Shimane Prefecture. The electric power company plans to start operating the Shimane No.3, 1,370 Mw advanced boiling-water reactor in 2010.

Three municipalities in the prefecture, including Kashimacho, have indicated consent for the plan. Their approval comes after the central government funded an economic stimulus plan for the prefecture and the three municipalities in return for accepting the plan. The stimulus package, passed in June, will provide about �110 billion.

The Economic Planning Agency is to submit plans for the construction of the reactor to the Electric Power Development Coordination Council, which is an advisory body to the prime minister.

There are 4 new nuclear power reactors currently under construction in Japan, with plans for the construction of an additional 16, 2 of which already have been approved by the council. Japan's 51 commercial nuclear reactors currently supply about one third of the country's electricity.

Emissions pledge
The Japanese government pledged in 1997 to trim emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide by an average of 6%/year between 2008-12 from 1990 levels. Up to now, Japan's electric power industry has advocated nuclear power as the best means of cutting carbon dioxide emissions.

But public opposition to new nuclear plants has escalated after a series of mishaps in recent years, including a chain reaction at a uranium processing plant in Tokaimura last September that killed two workers. Since then, the electric power industry unveiled a program that will allow customers to contribute to a wind and solar power promotion fund when they pay their electricity bills.

Similar schemes are already in operation in the US and Europe. Under the program, expected to be launched this autumn, electric utilities will match customers' contributions with equivalent donations of their own. The scheme is being spearheaded by the country's largest electric utility, Tokyo Electric Power Co., and is to be adopted by nine other power companies.

The fund will be used to subsidize wind and solar energy projects, considered an effective means of curbing carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.

Fueling the move is a growing preference for environment-friendly products among Japanese consumers. The extra energy fees, which are expected to be levied in units of �500, will be added to electric bills of industrial and nonindustrial users who agree to participate in the program.

The 10 companies estimate they will be able to collect about �350 million/year if just 0.1% of their customers make a �500/month contribution. Without these public donations, the companies say it will be difficult to achieve the widespread use of renewable energy, which is costly compared to other forms of power generation.

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