Greenpeace calls out KEPCO’s reckless nuclear gamble

Greenpeace calls out KEPCO’s reckless nuclear gamble

28 June 2016, Kobe _ Today, calling out the Japanese nuclear village for gambling on nuclear safety with risky and expensive nuclear reactors, Greenpeace staged a grand dice game outside the Kansai Electric Power Company’s (KEPCO) Annual General Meeting. The two players, outgoing KEPCO CEO Makoto Yagi and Prime Minister Shinz_ Abe, rolled two gigantic dice to see which nuclear accident they might ‘win’, and what the consequences would be _ both radiological and financial.

“KEPCO, the NRA, and the Abe government are playing a very dangerous game in their desperate efforts to restart nuclear reactors in Japan. When the nuclear village plays with safety, the biggest potential losers are the communities that will be at risk from the next Fukushima Daiichi disaster. Even with a court order barring the operation of Takahama 3 & 4 due to major outstanding safety issues, KEPCO and the NRA are pushing forward with approval for restarting the even older Takahama 1&2 reactors. By KEPCO’s own admission, these reactors don’t meet post-Fukushima seismic standards under their design basis. Yet, the utility is trying to just tweak the numbers on paper to get approval for 20 more years. Unbelievably, the NRA gave it to them, rather than enforcing the law which would require them to shut down if they can’t show compliance by July 7th,” said Kendra Ulrich, Senior Global Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Japan.

The gamble on KEPCO’s reactors extends beyond the serious unresolved safety problems. The utility is the most indebted in Japan, carrying net debt at approximately 328% its equity.With electricity demand falling, renewable energy decreasing in cost and increasing in market share, and the recent market liberalization on 1 April intensifying competition, KEPCO’s borrowing significant sums of money at high interest to retrofit its aging reactors may not be in the best in the best interest of the company and its shareholders. Even if these reactors do get restart approval, they may then still be prevented from operation due to legal interventions or technical problems.

The latest estimate for retrofitting the two old Takahama reactors is JPY 200 billion, with hundreds of billions more required for Mihama-3 and other reactors in KEPCO’s fleet. The retrofits of Takahama 1&2, if they proceed, will take at least 3 years, with operation of the reactors not planned before late 2019. These reactors would only then potentially operate for 15 years 16 years, respectively.

“With KEPCO already staggering under the weight of enormous debt, taking out billions of yen in high interest loans in an attempt to bring their aging reactor fleet back online is a huge gamble for shareholders. We are seeing operators in liberalized markets in the United States and Europe losing staggering sums of money due to bad investments in large fossil and nuclear plants. Nuclear operators in these countries are increasingly opting to shut down their reactors because they cannot compete in current and future markets, often decades before the reactor’s operating license expires. KEPCO should look to its international colleagues before making a decision that would ultimately sink the company further in debt,” said Ulrich.

Globally, the average lifetime of a reactor at shutdown is 24.7 years. The oldest reactor on the planet is only 47. Most recently, the operator, PG&E, of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in California announced that it will be shut down in 2025 at the end of its operating license. In an agreement with environmental and labor groups, it will withdraw its license extension application for the two reactors at the site and replace them with renewable energy and energy efficiency. Explaining the decision to shut down, PG&E CEO Tony Earley stated, “It will be cheaper to shut down Diablo Canyon Power Plant’s nuclear reactors and find replacement power than it would be to run the plant after 2025.”

The closure of Diablo, following the 2013 early shutdown of the San Onofre reactors, will make the 6th largest economy on the planet, California, completely nuclear-free.

Media Contacts:
Kendra Ulrich, Senior Global Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace Japan: 090 6478 5408

Ai Kashiwagi, Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace Japan: 080 5416 6507

Ai Kashiwagi, Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace Japan: 080 5416 6507

Chisato Jono, Communications Officer, Greenpeace Japan: 080 6558 4446