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TEPCO’s new coal power plants in Fukushima set to be built, CO2 emissions not considered in impact statement

TEPCO released its environmental impact statement on May 16th, 2014 for 2 new coal-fired power plants in Fukushima set to start operations from 2020. TEPCO will take comments concerning this statement for 1 month until June 16th. One of these is set to be built on the premises of Nakoso Power Plant (500MW) of the Joban Joint Power Company in Iwaki city and the other on the premises of the Hirono Power Plant (500MW) in Futaba district. It has been reported that both of these high-tech power plants will use IGCC (integrated gasified combined cycle). Joban Joint Power Company’s Nakoso Power Station No. 10 unit (250MW) was the first IGCC power plant to start operations in Japan when it opened in April, 2013. However, because these 2 new power plants are the first in the 500MW class, they are considered “experimental” and no bidding will take place. In addition, they are supported through the Fukushima reconstruction budget.

When you take a look through each plant’s “Planning Phase Environmental Impact Statement for Reconstruction of Fukushima: Demonstration plan for large scale coal based integrated gasification combined cycle”, it is surprising to see that CO2 is hardly mentioned. The reason is that because state of the art IGCC will be used and “CO2 emissions will be reduced by approximately 15% for each unit of power generated compared to conventional technology (steam) thereby enabling them to avoid or reduce their harmful effects”. As a result, CO2 was not chosen as one of the pollutants to consider in the statement (Table 4.1-3 (2)). In other words, it seems that the CO2 impacts for these power plants that are set to emit CO2 for 30-40 years during their lifetime from 2020 will not be assessed.

While it may be true that utilizing IGCC results in better thermal efficiency (48%) than current coal power plants (even with USC) which have a rate of 42%, CO2 emissions are said to be approximately 700g-CO2/kWh which is incredibly high compared to other fuel sources. For example, TEPCO’s Kawasaki LNG thermal power plant No. 1 series which started operations from 2009 had a thermal efficiency of 58.6% and CO2 emissions are as much as (approximately) 350g/kWh. No matter how efficient the technology, the CO2 emissions from coal power are so great that it is impossible to make comparisons. And of course because these plants are “new” constructions, these are additional emissions. The fact that TEPCO don’t consider its impact in the statement is clearly a problem.

For TEPCO, an increase in CO2 emissions due to the shutdown of nuclear power plants are emphasized greatly. However, it is also true that Hitachinaka coal-fired power plant No. 1 (1000MW) and Hirono coal-fired power plant No. 5 (600MW), which started operations in December, 2003 and July, 2004 respectively, have contributed greatly to this increase in CO2 emissions. TEPCO appears to only be considering the economic short-terms benefits of coal in that it is “cheap” thereby continuing their use of the fuel source with no intention of lowering CO2 emissions. But this cannot solve the problem of the plants’ impact on the climate. During the environmental assessment process, it is imperative that the effects of CO2 emissions be assessed properly.

Sources:

Reconstruction of Fukushima: Demonstration plan for large scale coal based integrated gasification combined cycle (Hirono), May 15th, 2014 (Japanese)
http://www.tepco.co.jp/csr/hirono/assessment/index-j.html

Reconstruction of Fukushima: Demonstration plan for large scale coal based integrated gasification combined cycle (Nakoso), May 16th, 2014 (Japanese)
http://www.tepco.co.jp/csr/nakoso/index-j.html

Press Release: Submission of the Planning Phase Environmental Impact Statement for Reconstruction of Fukushima: Demonstration Planning for Large Scale Coal Based Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle and Its Public Inspection, May 15th, 2014
http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2014/1236529_5892.html