JAEA: Closing 79 nuclear facilities will cost at least 1.9 trillion yen
At least 1.9 trillion yen ($17.12 billion) will be needed for the planned scrapping of 79 nuclear facilities, including the failed Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor, according to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA). However, the JAEA’s estimate, released on Dec. 26, does not include maintenance expenses for the facilities nor costs to deal with leftover uranium and plutonium, meaning the actual tally could increase by hundreds of billions of yen. State subsidies account for the bulk of the JAEA’s budget, so taxpayers will likely foot most of the bill. The agency plans to shut down 79 of its 89 nuclear facilities, including research reactors and test buildings, over 60 to 70 years due to aging and the huge costs needed for their continued operations under stricter safety standards. According to the JAEA’s estimate, the cost to decommission the Tokai spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Ibaraki Prefecture will be 770 billion yen. But the overall cost would reach nearly 1 trillion yen if expenses on dealing with highly radioactive liquid waste, which is left after plutonium is extracted from spent fuel rods at the plant, are included. The problem-plagued Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, cost taxpayers more than 1 trillion yen ($8.82 billion) despite running for only 250 days during its two-decade operation. The JAEA listed the decommissioning cost for Monju at 150 billion yen. But the decommissioning process is expected to take 30 years, and expenses needed to maintain the facility over that period would lift the overall cost to 375 billion yen. The JAEA’s annual budget is about 180 billion yen, but it has been shrinking, forcing the agency to find other sources of capital while continuing its research. According to the JAEA’s new budget plan, decommissioning work will start at 44 facilities by fiscal 2028 and proceed almost in parallel. But the JAEA currently has no plan on how to handle plutonium stored at the facilities. In addition, no decision has been made on what to do with radioactive waste from the 79 facilities that could fill more than 560,000 200-liter drums.
The attempt to close the fuel cycle with sodium-cooled, solid-fueled fast breeder reactors and plutonium-uranium-dioxide fuel is going to leave a massive hangover for many nations, including Japan.