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Friday, June 29, 2012

Tepco: Restart Niigata reactors

New chief pegs turnaround on reactivation

Kyodo

New Tokyo Electric Power Co. Chairman Kazuhiko Shimokobe on Thursday called for reactivation of the utility's idled reactors in Niigata Prefecture from next April as a "building block" in the firm's turnaround plan that resulted from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster.

A board member brought in from outside to lead the utility, which will be placed under state control in July, Shimokobe, in his first press conference as chairman, said restarting the reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant could not happen without local approval, but added there would be severe consequences if reactivation did not proceed as planned.

New Tepco President Naomi Hirose, who attended the press conference with Shimokobe, also said the utility will remain engaged in projects to export nuclear power technology to other countries "to the extent it can," while there are constraints because many people are busy dealing with the accident-stricken plant.

The need to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors was stipulated in a 10-year comprehensive special business plan for the utility, which is financially struggling to compensate disaster victims and pay increasing fuel costs for thermal power generation while its reactors remain idled.

But the issue is sensitive. People nationwide have become highly concerned about the safety of nuclear power, and Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida opposes any restart.

Hirose said Tepco will study last year's Fukushima nuclear crisis, as requested by Izumida, so it can take appropriate safety measures for the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors.

In fact, the plant — the world's largest in terms of output capacity — has a bad record in terms of public disclosure of safety information.

In one of the most serious cases, Tepco covered up a defect that emerged in 1992 in an emergency pump designed to cool a reactor core during accidents at the plant. It falsified data to make it look like the pump functioned properly so the plant would pass regular inspection.

Asked whether Tepco would seek to become a company that would no longer rely on nuclear power, Shimokobe said he could not imagine such an outcome in the next five to 10 years.

Shimokobe and Hirose officially became chairman and president, respectively, at the board of directors meeting Wednesday, held after the annual shareholders' meeting.

Upon receiving a ¥1 trillion injection of public funds, Tepco will carry out various reforms, such as accepting a majority of directors from outside to increase management transparency. Hirose was promoted internally from managing director.



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