TOKYO -- Japan Atomic Power will join forces with Hitachi to build and operate several nuclear reactors in the U.K., marking the first time a Japanese power company takes part in running overseas nuclear plants.
Hitachi's British subsidiary Horizon Nuclear Power plans to start up four to six local reactors in sequence beginning in the first half of the 2020s. Although the Japanese parent has supplied reactors through its joint venture with General Electric, it has no experience in running nuclear facilities, so it asked Japan Atomic Power to jump on the project.
Hitachi and Japan Atomic Power have entered final stages of discussion, with the latter to start by taking part in obtaining permits to construct the reactors. Japan Atomic Power will also cooperate with cost estimates and personnel training while receiving compensation. The company is mulling purchasing a future stake in Horizon Nuclear Power.
Japan Atomic Power's earnings have suffered because all of its domestic reactors remain offline due to tougher safety rules introduced after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011. The company has been looking to restart the reactor at the Tokai No. 2 power station in Ibaraki Prefecture and the No. 2 reactor at the Tsuruga station in Fukui Prefecture, but the time frame is still up in the air. Japan Atomic Power, which is jointly owned by Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings and other major Japanese utilities, is pursuing new sources of earnings overseas.
Japan's nuclear power industry exported equipment up to now, so the involvement of plant operators will mark the start of a new era. If the joining of Japan Atomic Power helps Hitachi's U.K. project go smoothly, this would give a boost to Japan's exports of nuclear power equipment.