TEPCO must regain public trust to ensure Fukushima’s steady recovery — The Yomiuri Shimbun

” To ensure the steady recovery of Fukushima, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s revised business plan must not be allowed to end up as pie in the sky.

TEPCO has compiled a new business plan. The utility has strengthened its steps to improve profitability to raise funds for costs including decommissioning reactors and compensation related to the March 2011 accident at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. This is the second time the plan has been revised.

The total cost of cleaning up the nuclear accident has ballooned from ¥11 trillion to ¥21.5 trillion. TEPCO will shoulder ¥16 trillion of this amount over about 30 years. The ¥300 billion TEPCO spent in fiscal 2016 on compensation and reactor decommissioning costs will be increased to ¥500 billion annually.

TEPCO must boost its “earning power” to secure sufficient capital to meet those costs. Restarting reactors at TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture will be essential for this. Each reactor brought back online will raise TEPCO’s earnings by ¥40 billion to ¥90 billion per year.

TEPCO is working to gradually restart all seven reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant from fiscal 2019. However, as things stand, high hurdles remain in its way. This is because even if a reactor passes safety screenings conducted by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, local government authorities also must agree to the reactors’ restart.

The recent revelation that TEPCO did not disclose data about the insufficient earthquake-resistance of the main quake-resistant building at the plant has further heightened local distrust of the utility. Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama is not budging from his cautious stance because he believes safety measures at the plant are insufficient. “At the moment, I can’t agree to the restart” of the reactors, Yoneyama said.

An expert panel of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry also had some stinging criticism for TEPCO, saying it “has not earned enough trust from the public.”

Transparency vital

On June 23, TEPCO will switch to a new leadership lineup when Hitachi, Ltd. Honorary Chairman Takashi Kawamura becomes TEPCO’s chairman. Kawamura will need to work hard to regain trust in TEPCO so restarting its reactors can become a reality.

Strengthening cooperation with other electric utilities and launching new operations, such as gas retailing, also will be effective in solidifying TEPCO’s revenue base. Another issue that needs to be addressed is the overseas development of its thermal power business, in which TEPCO is pursuing integration with Chubu Electric Power Co.

The new plan stipulates TEPCO will “prepare a basic framework for cooperation with other companies” by around fiscal 2020, keeping in mind the Higashidori nuclear plant TEPCO is constructing in Aomori Prefecture.

TEPCO is considering working with Tohoku Electric Power Co., which has a nuclear power plant in that region. If this tie-up comes to fruition, it will be useful for establishing a stable supply of electricity. TEPCO’s intentions on this issue are understandable.

Other utilities that could become partners with TEPCO during a realignment in the industry hold deep-rooted concerns that cooperating with TEPCO could result in the costs of dealing with the nuclear accident being shunted on to them. TEPCO must lay the groundwork to dispel such concerns.

TEPCO and the government will, as soon as this autumn, establish a forum at which they can listen to the opinions of other electric utilities on steps to reorganize nuclear power and electricity transmission businesses.

Profits will be distributed based on the capital contribution ratio in a joint venture. Other companies should not be forced to shoulder the costs of the Fukushima nuclear accident. Highly transparent rules such as these will need to be drawn up. ”

by The Yomiuri Shimbun

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Utility to seek restart of reactor inundated with seawater in 2011 — The Asahi Shimbun

” NAGOYA–Chubu Electric Power Co. plans to restart a nuclear reactor west of Tokyo that was swamped with “an unprecedentedly” large amount of seawater in 2011 that caused problems to hundreds of parts.

The damaging seawater flowed into the No. 5 reactor of the Hamaoka nuclear power plant in Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, two months after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami destroyed coastal areas of northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011. The Nagoya-based utility believes that repairs and upgrades can make the reactor operational again.

“We will use designs to meet the new safety standards and apply (to the Nuclear Regulation Authority),” Chubu Electric Power President Satoru Katsuno said June 7. “We completed our checks and concluded that it is sufficiently possible to use the reactor if we change some parts and implement some repairs.”

The actual application to the NRA, the country’s nuclear watchdog, is expected in 2017 at the earliest.

The No. 5 reactor has an output of 1.38 gigawatts and was the newest among five reactors at the plant. It started operations in 2005.

In May 2011, then Prime Minister Naoto Kan asked Chubu Electric Power to suspend operations at the Hamaoka nuclear plant in light of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The utility complied.

At that time, pipes in the compound were broken, and about 400 tons of seawater entered the No. 5 reactor and other areas of the plant. Such incidents are rare at nuclear plants.

Rust and other problems were later found in 700 of the 8,700 items checked, including pipes, valves and devices in the No. 5 reactor.

However, Chubu Electric Power concluded that the safety of the reactor can be maintained if the control rods, valves and other items are replaced or fixed.

An NRA inspector expects many challenges with the utility’s application.

“An unprecedentedly large amount of seawater flowed into the No. 5 reactor. Will there be no influence (from the inflow) when the reactor is restarted? How will the utility continuously check after the restart?” the inspector said.

“It will be necessary to conduct safety screening from a viewpoint different from those used so far,” the inspector said. “Therefore, it will take considerable time for the evaluation.”

Chubu Electric Power has already applied to the NRA to restart the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the plant. The utility is also working to decommission the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors there.

The Hamaoka plant is considered particularly dangerous because it sits on the projected epicenter area of a long-predicted earthquake that could devastate the Tokai region in and around Nagoya. ”

by Hirobumi Ohinata

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