Chief optimistic Tepco earnings can cover Fukushima plant clean-up — FT

” Tokyo Electric Power will earn enough to clean up the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant despite the start of competition in Japan’s electricity market, the company’s chief executive has vowed.

Naomi Hirose, who now leads the generator, said Tepco would stave off price competition while seeking to expand outside the Tokyo region.

His comments highlight the tension between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s goals of making Tepco pay for the Fukushima clean-up following one of the world’s worst nuclear accidents and boosting Japan’s competitiveness by opening up the electricity market.

“We have to preserve that earning power,” said Mr Hirose in an interview. “Victory for us means having the money to meet our responsibilities in Fukushima. If we can’t, that’s failure.”

Three of the six reactors at Fukushima Daiichi melted down in March 2011 after a massive tsunami knocked out the power supply needed to cool them.

Despite being heavily criticised in the wake of the disaster, Tepco remains the largest player in Japan’s electricity market and has responsibility for the nuclear clean-up. Capital injections by Japan’s government have given it a roughly 55 per cent stake.

The Japanese market will open to full retail competition on April 1. New entrants are set to target Tepco’s monopoly in the attractive Tokyo market but Mr Hirose said the company would resist price competition, for example by offering to help consumers save energy.

“Of course we don’t expect to be able to keep our share at 100 per cent,” he said. “But we’ll also be moving into other markets, like the Kansai region, and from next year there’s [competition in] the gas market as well.”

Mr Hirose insisted Tepco’s for-profit structure would not interfere with its decisions on Fukushima. He rejected the idea it might cut corners or go slowly on decommissioning in order to save money. …”

by Robin Harding

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