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New gov’t bill would make TEPCO reserve funds for Fukushima plant decommissioning




The government on Feb. 7 submitted a legal revision bill to the Diet to stabilize funding for the decommissioning of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The subject of the revisions is the law establishing the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. (NDF), which manages the flow of funds to nuclear accident victims and the long process of dismantling the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 plant.

The revisions will require plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to set aside funds secured through corporate restructuring with the NDF. The revisions will also give the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry the right to perform spot inspections of TEPCO offices to make sure the utility is making appropriate deposits.

Furthermore, the revision bill states that TEPCO must submit a reactor decommissioning plan and a financing scheme to fund that plan to the industry ministry every fiscal year. The NDF and the industry ministry will examine the utility’s decommissioning project structure, and judge if it is being properly implemented.

The government is looking to have the revisions enter force within the year, with TEPCO capital transfers to the NDF to commence as early as next fiscal year, which starts on April 1, 2017.

Last year, the industry ministry increased the total estimated cost for Fukushima No. 1 plant decommissioning from 2 trillion yen to 8 trillion yen, in preparation for the difficult work of removing the melted fuel from three of the power station’s reactors.

TEPCO’s annual revenues currently stand at about 400 billion yen, while reactor decommissioning alone is expected to cost some 300 billion yen per year. Nevertheless, the industry ministry believes the utility should be able to cover its obligations if it can improve its earning power through management restructuring and the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Niigata Prefecture.

However, the governor of Niigata Prefecture has been reluctant to green-light the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors, and there is no projected schedule to bring the plant back on line. In addition, it is possible that the cost of decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 plant reactors will continue to swell.

February 9, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

10 nuclear facilities lagging on waterproofing




Japan’s regulator says 10 of the country’s nuclear power plants and other facilities have yet to complete work to prevent massive inflows of rainwater into buildings in the event of torrential rain.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority has called on operators to finish the work within a year.
The NRA urged them to take the steps after rainwater got into the Shika nuclear plant in central Japan and short-circuited a distribution switchboard last September.
At a meeting on Wednesday, NRA officials said 10 plants and facilities have yet to finish waterproofing areas of buildings where pipes enter from the outside.
New regulations established after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident require operators to protect plants’ power sources and reactor-cooling systems from inflows of rainwater and tsunami.
Some of the 10 plants and facilities are equipped with a drainage system for rainwater. But the regulator is urging the additional measures for greater safety.
Work has yet to be completed at: the Onagawa plant in Miyagi Prefecture, the Fukushima Daini plant in Fukushima Prefecture, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture, the Hamaoka plant in Shizuoka Prefecture, the Shika plant in Ishikawa Prefecture, the Tsuruga plant in Fukui Prefecture and the Shimane plant in Shimane Prefecture.
Others are nuclear fuel reprocessing plants in Aomori and Ibaraki prefectures, and the Monju fast-breeder reactor in Fukui.
Officials say such measures are already in place at the restarted plants in Kagoshima and Ehime prefectures.

February 9, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Energy Reform in Mexico takes another step forward

Despite the heightened tensions between Mexico and the U.S. on account of President Trump’s threats to shut down the movement of goods, people, and investment between the two countries and the effect that the resulting uncertainty has already had on Mexico’s economy, there is good news to report from the energy front. The projects awarded in the two renewable energy auctions carried out in 2016 are moving forward, with one generator signing a PPA with a private consumer, the first under the new rules set forth by the energy reform. It is an indication that the electric energy market is beginning to function outside the sphere of the CFE (Federal Electricity Commission), with long-term contracts that help set reference prices, and more importantly, that provide a predictable payment stream on which projects can be financed. It is worth noting too, that renewable energy is taking the lead and making long-term commitments to increase its share of the market.

 Largest solar plant in Mexico

The PPA signed with an unnamed major Mexican industrial group will add 112MW to the 250 MW of solar power already in the works. The group composed of Acciona Energy, who will carry out the EPC, and Tuto Energy, a subsidiary of Biofields Group, was adjudicated the first phase of the project in the second energy auction held by the CFE last September. The plant is located in the State of Sonora and is expected to come online in 2019.

The role of PPAs

The PPA signed by Tuto Energy Trading with private industrial consumers comes at an interesting juncture. CFE has announced yet another electricity price increases for February in the 6.4-8.4% range on top of the 22-35% increase doled out during 2016, and the government recently removed gas subsidies which resulted in a 20% prices hike at the pump. In addition to that, the rapidly falling peso and the lingering uncertainty caused by the Trump administration make pricing difficult, with some costs being priced in dollars while revenues are received in pesos.

It is fair to assume that the PPA recently signed was in the works for some time and is not a direct reaction to recent events, such as the removal of gas subsidies. But it is reasonable to think that industrial users are resorting to long-term contracts to reduce uncertainty in the pricing of their inputs and that renewable energy producers, such as Acciona-Tuto Energy, are offering competitive prices. They are also offering the seal of approval that comes with clean energy, and which many companies are looking to add to their corporate profiles.

Up until now, large consumers had been reluctant to enter long-term PPAs in Mexico. Immediately after the reform the international price of oil collapsed and system prices went down, and given that Mexico has a large reserve margin in the hands of CFE, the advantages of signing on with new generators were not obvious.  The circumstances have changed and the promises of the energy reform may be starting to materialize, at least in the electricity sector, in the form of cheaper, cleaner energy for industrial users.

February 9, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment