Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) and Chubu Electric Power Company on 28 August signed a basic agreement with Hitachi and Toshiba to discuss potential collaboration on boiling water reactors (BWRs). 

"The four companies have so far exchanged opinions and information on topics such as improving nuclear power operation and maintenance, and bolstering manufacturing and engineering capabilities, with the aim of improving safety and economic viability, and enhancing their business structures," a joint statement said. "The basic agreement was signed, as a result of these exchanges of opinions, etc., based on a consensus with regard to a general direction for advancing discussions for cooperation between the four companies, with the aim of creating sustainable business operations for safe and economical operation of the BWR business, and constructing and operating nuclear power plants."

Another potential area for collaboration will be building a sustainable business framework for maintaining and developing human resources, technologies and supply chains. Discussions will focus on consolidating technologies and know-how developed by each manufacturer and electric power company to "create a framework for safe and efficient construction, operation, maintenance and eventual decommissioning of nuclear power plants". Other areas for discussion include centralising research and technology development for designing safe new reactors, etc., which will "contribute to long-term stable energy supply", and the effective use of assets and human resources.

"The four companies include some of the world's top manufacturers with manufacturing and engineering capabilities relating to the BWR business, and electric power companies with many years of knowledge and experience in operating and maintaining nuclear power plants," the statement said. The companies say they can "maximise synergies and complementary effects" by working together.

Tepco and Chubu both own and operate BWRs, including Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWRs). Chubu owns the Hamaoka nuclear power plant in Shizuoka prefecture, while Tepco owns the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata prefecture. The ABWR design was developed jointly by GE, Hitachi and Toshiba, prior to the merger of GE and Hitachi, and is derived from GE's BWR concept. Four units – Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units 6 and 7, Hamaoka 5 and Shika 2 – have been built and operated commercially in Japan. Another two are under construction in Japan, while the construction of two ABWRs at Taiwan's Lungmen site has been suspended. ABWRs are now offered in slightly different versions by GE-Hitachi, Hitachi-GE and Toshiba.