TEPCO renews pledge to restart reactors to improve its business

Japan Economic Newswire |

Tokyo Electric Power Co. told an annual shareholders' meeting Thursday it will seek to reactivate halted nuclear reactors as the utility attempts to improve its business amid continued work to contain the nuclear accident at its Fukushima Daiichi plant hit by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

TEPCO renewed its commitment to nuclear power generation despite antinuclear shareholders urging the company to scrap reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear complex in Niigata Prefecture.

The utility is seeking to restart the reactors in its new business turnaround plan approved by the government in January.

"Nuclear power is characterized as an important base-load power source in the nation's basic energy plan, and we see the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant as an important facility to secure a stable electricity supply," Executive Vice President Hiroshi Yamaguchi told the meeting.

The utility applied last September for the Nuclear Regulation Authority's safety reviews of the Nos. 6 and 7 reactors at the complex in Niigata.

But the feasibility of TEPCO's plan to bring the reactors back online this summer has already been in question given that the nuclear watchdog's safety assessment will take more time and local municipalities remain reluctant about a restart.

Yamaguchi said the company currently cannot specify the timing of the resumption, which would reduce the expense of importing fossil fuels for thermal power generation to make up for the halt in nuclear reactor operations following the Fukushima crisis.

In the business year ended in March, TEPCO moved into the black for the first time since the triple disaster and coming under effective state control, but the utility's struggle to put its business back on track is likely to continue given the unclear prospect for restarting nuclear power generation.

TEPCO President Naomi Hirose said the company will continue efforts to strengthen its business in light of a shake-up of the country's power industry featuring measures such as freeing up the household electricity market, while steadily proceeding with decommissioning of the Fukushima plant.

None of Japan's 48 commercial reactors has passed the review needed to restart operations in the wake of the Fukushima accident, and they all remain offline.

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