The cost of Japan’s decommissioning plans

2 January 2019

At least JPY1900 billion ($17.12 billion) will be needed for the planned decommissioning of 79 Japanese nuclear facilities, including the failed Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor, Asahi Shimbun reported on 27 December, citing the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA).

However, the JAEA’s estimate does not include maintenance expenses for the facilities nor costs to deal with stocks of uranium and plutonium, the paper said, noting that this could increase to overall cost by hundreds of billions of yen.  

JAEA plans to shut down 79 of its 89 nuclear facilities, including research reactors and test buildings, over the coming 60-70 years because of ageing and the costs needed for their continued operations under the stricter post-Fukushima safety standards. JAEA’s estimates that the cost to decommission the Tokai used nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Ibaraki Prefecture will be JPY770 billion. However, the final cost would reach nearly JPY1000 billion if expenses for dealing with highly radioactive liquid waste are included.

The Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, cost taxpayers more than JPY1000 billion although it only operated for 250 days during two decades because of multiple technical problems. The JAEA listed the decommissioning cost for Monju at JPY150 billion. However, the decommissioning process is expected to take 30 years expenses needed to maintain the facility over that period would increase the overall cost to JPY375 billion, the paper said.

According to the JAEA’s new budget plan, decommissioning work will start at 44 facilities by fiscal 2028 and proceed in parallel. However,  JAEA currently has no plans for managing the plutonium stored at its facilities. Also, no decision has been made on what to do with radioactive waste from the 79 facilities that could fill more than 560,000 200-litre drums, the paper added.

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