Westinghouse boss sees Japan restarting nuclear fleet

PRAGUE Tue Jan 29, 2013 10:43am EST

PRAGUE Jan 29 (Reuters) - Toshiba's U.S. unit Westinghouse expects Japan to start gradually begin putting much of its nuclear power plant fleet back into operation after dealing with safety issues following the Fukushima disaster.

Speaking to reporters in Prague, Westinghouse Chief Executive Danny Roderick said he had met with members of Japan's new government and with customers and believed that sentiment had changed.

"I'm pretty optimistic that the Japanese nuclear fleet is going to restart, not maybe all the units, but I think a large portion," he said.

All but two of Japan's 50 reactors remain switched off after an earthquake and tsunami caused meltdowns and explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi station in northeastern Japan in March 2011.

No more reactors are expected to be restarted until at least July, when a new nuclear regulator is due to compile safety requirements in line with international norms and tougher than those in force before the Fukushima disaster.

Roderick said the restart could include maybe two units this year, with the amount of units put back into operation gradually growing in following years.

"If you look... across Japan, you will find they are ready. They have installed numerous safety modification enhancements, they have installed tsunami protection."

Japan's new government said in December it hoped to stick to a three-year deadline to decide whether to restart all nuclear reactors after safety checks.

"It is still going to take a period of time," Roderick said. "But I can tell you the sentiment has changed pretty significantly because the facts about Fukushima are now out."