Tepco shouldn't be in charge of Fukushima shutdown: Japan panel

TOKYO Wed Oct 30, 2013 4:30am EDT

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (2nd R), wearing protective suit and mask, is briefed about tanks containing radioactive water by Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant chief Akira Ono (2nd L), as they stand near a tank (C, with railings painted red and blue) which is being dismantled after leaking contaminated water, during his inspection tour to the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, September 19, 2013. REUTERS/Pool

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (2nd R), wearing protective suit and mask, is briefed about tanks containing radioactive water by Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant chief Akira Ono (2nd L), as they stand near a tank (C, with railings painted red and blue) which is being dismantled after leaking contaminated water, during his inspection tour to the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, September 19, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Pool

TOKYO (Reuters) - Tokyo Electric Power Co should be stripped of the responsibility for shutting down its crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, according to a draft proposal by a panel of Japan's ruling party.

Tokyo Electric, or Tepco, has been widely criticized for repeated missteps, poor planning and a lack of disclosure in its efforts to clear up the site of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

A task force formed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) suggests that responsibility for the massive work of decommissioning the Fukushima plant be stripped from the giant utility in its current form - either by creating a separate unit within Tepco, breaking the unit off as a separate company or hiving it off as a government-affiliated, but independent, administrative agency.

A person familiar with the LDP panel's deliberations said it favors the option of creating a separate organization within Tepco to handle decommissioning - a job that could take decades as massive amounts of toxic water and spent fuel are removed and stored elsewhere.

The policy recommendations will be presented to Abe as soon as next week.

"We need to have a prompt conclusion to create a clear and realistic organization," said the draft proposal, reviewed by Reuters.

"SLOW RECOVERY"

An earthquake and tsunami knocked out power and cooling at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in March 2011, leading to three reactor meltdowns and explosions that sent a huge plume of radiation into the air and sea, forcing some 150,000 people to evacuate.

Tepco has since lost $27 billion at the plant north of Tokyo and faces massive liabilities as it decommissions the facility, compensates evacuees and pays for decontamination of an area nearly the size of Connecticut.

The report drafted by LDP policymakers notes that more than two and a half years after the Fukushima disaster "recovery from and rebuilding after the nuclear disaster remains slow."

Ideas for reorganizing Tepco have circulated for months as it prepares to begin removing spent fuel rods from one of the crippled Fukushima reactors. Regulators on Wednesday gave the company the go-ahead for that operation, expected to start by mid-November.

Abe has vowed the government will take a more prominent role in addressing the Fukushima clean-up. The government aims to compile new policy measures within weeks.

The government effectively nationalized Tepco last year with a taxpayer-funded rescue. But there has been heated debate over direct government involvement in the company and over whether to spin off the Fukushima clean-up and let the remainder of Tepco focus on generating electricity for the Tokyo area.

Tepco has said it is not in a position to comment on its future structure. It is revising a business turnaround plan after falling behind on its financial targets. The company reports its first-half results on Thursday.

Tepco shares fell 1.3 percent to 525 yen on Wednesday. The stock was trading at around 2,150 yen before the march 2011 disaster.

(Reporting by Kentaro Hamada, Aaron Sheldrick and Osamu Tsukimori; Additional reporting by Yoshifumi Takemoto; Writing by William Mallard and Kevin Krolciki; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)

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Comments (5)
EngSciEtc wrote:
“An existing special tax for reconstruction from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that wrecked the Fukushima facility will not be enough to cover the expected increase in costs for cleanup and contamination, the government source said. Some in the government want to increase the public burden, but the Finance Ministry is insisting that further spending should come from higher electricity rates.”

The only known and proven way to pay for the costs without tax increases is by restarting plants that have completed inspections and upgrades. There are currently two dozen reactors ready to go back online (pending approval) that could offset over a trillion yen a year in costs. Simply pooling a small portion of the profits from electrical companies after they restart reactors would pay for Fukushima and also pay back grants (which do not need to be paid) while still leaving the companies with positive profit margins.

Oct 30, 2013 2:00am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Jocomus wrote:
Knowing no other sources of producing energy except the nuclear, the Fukushima plant was a very bad location choice for TEPCO to start with. Instead of facing the Pacific headwinds, these plants should be located along the side of Japan sea.

Break up or wind up, the residents have given up hope of confidence in TEPCO’s assurance and the company is unable to hire enough volunteer workers to serve at plant. Worse still, radiation aftermath takes decades to know and materialize. No company may still profit from such poor reputation.

Oct 30, 2013 4:31am EDT  --  Report as abuse
wannmann wrote:
Japan gov’t fails Fukushima children
30 October 2013 Voice of Russia
The damage inflicted by the Fukushima disaster could be far more severe than the Japanese authorities would like people to believe. The Japanese government raised the radiation limits for exposure at schools near the Fukushima plant to 20 millisieverts. A senior nuclear adviser to the government at the time abruptly resigned in protest saying the level was 20 times too high.
Mayor of the city of Matsumoto located on the Japanese island of Honshu, has been calling for children’s relocation from the areas. Living in an area contaminated by radiation weakens children’s immune system and severely harms their health.
Japan’s now defunct Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency originally hid important radiation data from the general public, to avoid causing panic. Radioactive materials continue leaking into the groundwater from the plant even though Fukushima’s operator.

Oct 30, 2013 2:04pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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