Japan - Commercial Guide
Nuclear Decommissioning and Decontamination

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data

Last published date: 2019-10-13

In March 2011, when the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami triggered the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, Japan was operating 54 reactors. In 2010, prior to the accident, Japan’s nuclear energy was used to supply approximately 30% of the nation’s electricity; as of June 13th, 2019, only nine reactors have been brought back online, with no additional reactors slated to come online by the end of 2019. Currently, 37 operable civil nuclear reactors exist in Japan. The nation’s nuclear energy supply remains minuscule, and recovery is slow.

After the Fukushima accident in 2011, the newly-formed Nuclear Regulation Authority imposed what it called “the world’s most stringent requirements” for nuclear reactors to resume operation. Nevertheless, public support for restarting nuclear power reactors remains low, as indicated by the latest Mainichi Shimbun’s opinion poll in February 2018, that 48% were against and 32% were in favor of restarting the nuclear reactors.

Japanese utilities and government entities are under tremendous pressures and challenges, particularly given the country’s lack of domestic energy resources. These range from public opinion to the financial strain to make up for lost energy supply and to cover the huge cleanup costs from the accident, as well as the ambitious renewable and clean energy goals that Japan hopes to achieve by 2030. Nuclear operators are challenged to restart their older reactors, some over 40-years-old. In addition, the monopolies that regional electric utilities enjoyed since 1951 have crumbled with the liberalization of electricity and gas markets. For these reasons, many operators are making decisions to mothball their nuclear reactors.

Japan is quickly becoming the largest nuclear decommissioning and decontamination (D&D) market in the world behind the United States. While opportunities to participate in this sector should continue to grow, it has not proven to be a quick or easy market for U.S. companies to enter. U.S. industry’s involvement in clean-up work at Fukushima or other Japanese decommissioning sites is relatively low given its decommissioning expertise. Domestic firms have largely controlled the management of the cleanup process, turning to foreign firms only for specific technical solutions. Even then, U.S. firms typically accept smaller jobs until they learn how to work within the Japanese system. Within U.S. industry circles, it is widely believed that Japan could minimize decommissioning costs if they used U.S. project management expertise, an area where U.S. firms have decades of experience. 

Leading Sub-Sectors
Decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO) is struggling to decommission the four damaged reactors, and the Japanese government has doubled the cost estimates for the cleanup of the disaster-affected Fukushima area to $195 billion (22 trillion yen), $71 billion (8 trillion yen) of which is slated for decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi reactor alone. Contaminated water treatment, nuclear fuel removal, and waste management are three key elements of the Fukushima Dai-ichi D&D project. Of these, fuel removal promises to be the most challenging. TEPCO is currently conducting preparatory investigations and engineering efforts to effectively prepare for the removal of spent fuels in the pools and remaining fuel debris to prepare to complete this endeavor.

Decommissioning of other Commercial Reactors
At least 19 commercial reactors are planned to be decommissioned in 40 years. The Tokai Power Station owned by the Japan Atomic Power Company (JAPC) is currently being decommissioned; however, the process is slow and costly. The Japanese government is aware of such shortcomings and organized the first International Workshop on Decommissioning of Nuclear Power Plants in June 2017 to gain foreign perspective and expertise.

Decommissioning of Research Facilities
Japan is planning to decommission many of its nuclear research facilities, especially facilities under the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) purview. This includes the Monju fast reactor and the Tokai Reprocessing Plant, two facilities that promise to be more complex to decommission than a typical commercial reactor.

Opportunities and Events
In 2018, the U.S. Commercial Service Japan (CS Japan) hosted the U.S.-Japan Nuclear Decommissioning Workshop (April 11th) and co-hosted the U.S.-Japan Decommissioning Forum (August 7th) with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).  The two major events were geared towards decommissioning of ordinary reactors.

As for the damaged reactors and decontamination in Fukushima Prefecture, the U.S. Department of Commerce and DOE have organized a “Environmental Remediation Technologies Visit” in 2012 and Japan-U.S. forums on Fukushima recovery and decommissioning called the “Fukushima Forum” in 2014, 2015 and 2016.  
In addition to the D&D-focused events, CS Japan conducts an annual one-on-one matchmaking business event called the “NOA Conference” where international procurement managers from all of Japan’s regional Electric Power Companies (Hokkaido, Tohoku, Hokuriku, Chubu, TEPCO, Kansai, Shikoku, Chugoku, Kyushu, Okinawa EPCs, J-Power and JAPC) gather to meet with U.S. suppliers.  Apart from NOA, CS Japan also provides fee-based services for individual U.S. firms that wish to pursue opportunities in the Japan market.  

To support firms that wish to compete for D&D projects in Japan, CS Japan has been working closely with a number of Japanese government stakeholders such as the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE), which is part of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI); operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO); the state-backed organization Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation (NDF); Japanese regional Electric Power Companies that own nuclear plants  (Hokkaido, Tohoku, Hokuriku, Chubu, Kansai, Shikoku, Chugoku, Kyushu, J-Power, Japan Atomic Power Company); reactor vendors such as Toshiba, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Hitachi; as well as other Japanese companies and industry associations.

The 4th International Forum on the Decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station
August 4-5, 2019

Tomioka Town and Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture
Organizer: NDF
35th New Orleans Association (NOA) Conference)
May 2020
Organizer: U.S. Commercial Service Japan, U.S. Embassy Tokyo

Web Resources
Agency for Natural Resources and Energy
Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)
The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan
Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, Inc.
Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation (NDF)

CS Japan Contact
Mr. Takahiko Suzuki, Senior Commercial Specialist