Japan Government Struggling With Fukushima No. 2 Nuclear Plant

TOKYO, Jan 4 (Bernama) -- The Japanese government is struggling to decide the future of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc's Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant, which has been suspended since the March 2011 disaster, Japan's Jiji Press reported.

There have been increasing calls for decommissioning the nuclear plant in the northeastern prefecture of Fukushima.

But the government has been finding it difficult to reach a clear conclusion on the plant's fate, as it has been busy dealing with TEPCO's Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, which suffered the triple meltdown in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

On Dec 21, the Fukushima prefectural assembly unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the central government to realise early decommissioning of the No. 2 plant, claiming that the plant is an obstacle to an early recovery from the disaster.

A temporary problem at the No. 2 plant caused by an earthquake in November rekindle fears experienced by Fukushima residents over five years ago.

In 2011, the prefectural assembly adopted a petition calling for decommissioning all nuclear reactors in the prefecture.

The assembly also adopted a series of written opinions demanding the decommissioning of the No. 2 plant, which is located in the towns of Naraha and Tomioka.

Demands from local communities "have been ignored by the central government," one person said.

The central government's official position is that a decision on whether to decommission the No. 2 plant is up to Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).

As the government has already lifted the state of emergency for the No. 2 plant, it has no authority to decide the decommissioning under current regulations.

If an exception were made, the central government could receive a barrage of requests for decommissioning from across the country, sources familiar with the situation said.

"Such a situation would destroy Japan's whole nuclear policy," a senior official of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said.

Some people have called for creating a special law on the decommissioning of the No. 2 plant, but others have raised concerns that such a step may infringe on TEPCO's property rights, sources familiar with the situation said.

Some people in the Japanese government have said that no one believes that the No. 2 plant can continue to exist.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and related ministers have left room for taking a political decision on No. 2 plant decommissioning, saying that the plant cannot be treated in the same way as other nuclear plants in the country, due to fears among Fukushima people of a nuclear accident.

Since the Japanese government effectively holds a stake of over 50 per cent in TEPCO, it can influence TEPCO's policy as a major shareholder.

But TEPCO now needs to focus on dealing with the No. 1 plant. A senior company official said that it "cannot afford to decide on decommissioning, which would require a huge workforce."

The main opposition Democratic Party plans to pursue a suprapartisan law that would urge TEPCO to make a decision early to decommission the No. 2 plant.

"While understanding calls for early decommissioning, we have no choice but to wait for the No. 2 plant's four reactors to reach the end of their 40-year lifetimes," a lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said.

The four reactors launched operations between April 1982 and August 1987.