More seek slice of Japan's $27bn reactor shutdown efforts
Fuji Electric to tap UK tech; Mitsubishi Electric to use monitoring expertise
TOKYO -- As Japan moves toward the expensive process of shutting down nuclear power plants, reactor makers are joined by electric equipment manufacturers and others to claim a piece of the action and keep their relevant technologies from gathering dust.
Since the 2011 meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings' Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, prospects for new reactors in Japan have evaporated, and the terms of operation for plants have been capped at 40 years as a rule. So far 15 reactors are slated for shutdown. The country's economy ministry says that decommissioning these reactors likely will cost around 3 trillion yen ($27 billion), even excluding the four Daiichi reactors whose fate was sealed early on due to the damage in the accident .
Fuji Electric has struck a deal for the exclusive use of U.K. engineer Amec Foster Wheeler's Sial decommissioning technology, which solidifies a reactor's low-level radioactive waste such as sludge. Unlike cement, commonly used for that purpose, Sial's materials do not require heating, and the hardened waste produced by the company's process is difficult to dissolve in water.
Fuji Electric sees the agreement with Amec creating synergy with its own operations, which include making the equipment to carry the hardened waste from the power plant.
Mitsubishi Electric aims to apply its in-house radiation-monitoring technology to decommissioning. This begins with providing devices to measure radiation levels for staff and vehicles involved in shutdown efforts, as well as monitoring facilities for surrounding regions. The company, which already deals in equipment for observing operations and inspecting radiation at power plants, is positioning the decommissioning business as a new profit source.
Heavy machinery maker IHI last year set up its first test facilities in Japan for a system to decontaminate piping and tanks by spraying them with high-pressure liquid nitrogen. Tests are being conducted in Japan and the U.S. The company also is deepening its partnership with American company NitroCision, a nuclear facility cleanup equipment maker it acquired in 2013.
French reactor maker Areva, which has worked in taking apart U.S. and European nuclear plants, also is expanding operations in the field. It contracted in 2015 with state-backed utility Electricite de France to disassemble structures inside the vessel of the country's Superphenix breeder reactor. Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is an investor in the Areva group.