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Thousands work daily at Japan nuclear plant selling no power via Chicago Tribune

More than 6,000 workers cycle through the world’s biggest nuclear plant every day to operate and maintain a facility that hasn’t sold a kilowatt of electricity in more than four years.

The buzz at Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant plays out daily across Japan, where utilities employ thousands of workers and spend billions of dollars awaiting the green light to restart commercial operations. With only three of the country’s 42 operable reactors running, they’re betting a national government committed to nuclear power will win over local officials and a wary public who don’t believe enough has been done to guarantee safety since the worst meltdown since Chernobyl.

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About three-fourths of the Tepco employees and contract workers at the plant are from the prefecture housing the facility, making it one of the area’s biggest economic drivers.

The reactor is an economic windfall for the region, employing thousands of local workers and supporting restaurants, shops and even taxi companies, according to Kariwa village official Masayoshi Oota. “If the reactor were to disappear, then so would the economic benefit,” he said.

Japan’s nuclear energy industry employs more than 80,000 engineers, construction workers and operators, according to a report published by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry last year.

To boost confidence in its facility’s safety, Tokyo-based Tepco has spent 470 billion yen on flood barriers, a 15-meter seawall and a reservoir the size of 30 Olympic-sized swimming pools to supply water in the event a reactor pump fails.

Kansai Electric Power Co. may spend 1.26 trillion yen on construction costs related to nuclear safety measures, while Chubu Electric Power Co. is estimated to spend 640 billion yen, according to a Sept. 14 report by Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities Co.

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