Fukushima's operator says spin-off an option only for the future

TOKYO Sat Jan 18, 2014 6:32am EST

1 of 3. Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) President Naomi Hirose speaks during an interview with Reuters at the company's headquarters in Tokyo January 18, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Toru Hanai

TOKYO (Reuters) - Spinning off the clean-up project at Japan's wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant from the rest of operator Tokyo Electric Power's business could be an option in the future if the decommissioning runs smoothly, the company's president said.

Nearly three years after a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit the plant, Tokyo Electric (Tepco) is still struggling to contain radioactive water at the site and turn around its battered finances.

"Paying compensation (to evacuees), decontamination, and the work at the Fukushima plant; there is a lot of work to be done ... We have to continue doing this, while maintaining the workers' safety, their sense of responsibility, duty and keeping up their morale," said Naomi Hirose in an interview with Reuters on Saturday.

Hirose said if working conditions improve significantly at Fukushima and worker shortages become no longer a problem, the utility could consider hiving off the Fukushima decommissioning from the rest of the business, a suggestion that had been made by policymakers since the disaster. But for now, Hirose said he remained opposed to such a scheme.

Japan this week approved a plan by Tepco, Asia's largest utility, which aims to make savings in costs of $46 billion over 10 years, upgrade fossil fuel power plants and join alliances with other firms to procure liquefied natural gas (LNG) more cheaply.

But central to Tepco's revival plan is the restart of the reactors at Kashiwazaki Kariwa, the world's biggest nuclear power plant, as early as July, which faces staunch opposition from a local governor who has repeatedly called for the company's liquidation.

Governor Hirohiko Izumida of Niigata, home to the Kashiwazaki plant some 300 kilometers (180 miles) northwest of Tokyo, said this week Tepco's plan does not hold shareholders and banks accountable. He has also said that Tepco must not be allowed to consider restarting its other nuclear facilities before a comprehensive review of the Fukushima disaster.

Tepco also said in its latest revival plan that it may have to raise electricity prices by as much as 10 percent if Kashiwazaki restarts are further delayed.

FUKUSHIMA WORKERS

The unprecedented, 30-year decommissioning plan for Fukushima relies heavily on technological breakthroughs and on Tepco managing to get enough staff to work there.

Tepco doubled pay for contract workers at the plant to around $200 a day last year after criticism over its handling of their pay.

Previously a Reuters investigation had found that the pay of some workers was being skimmed off by sub-contractors, some had been hired under false pretences, and some contractors had links to organized crime gangs.

Hirose said Tepco does not permit workers' pay to be skimmed by the various companies in the chain of contractors operating at Fukushima, but admitted that verifying whether laborers' wages had actually been docked or not was complex.

"We did not increase (wages) to give out more money to those (firms) in the middle. Raising wages from 10,000 yen ($100) to 20,000 yen was difficult for us ... of course we want the money to reach the correct place," he said.

($1=104.27 Japanese yen)

(Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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Comments (6)
OnAnIsland wrote:
Sporadic reports indicate that the first of the radiation may be contaminating the sea water off of San Francisco. Contamination that will effect the Pacific ocean from San Diego to Anchorage for the next seven years according to French and Chinese computer studies. Initial reports are that the radiation is arriving faster and hotter than predicted. Interesting that NOAA and the US government have totally cooperated with Tepco and the Japanese government in hiding these effects and the impact on the entire west coast of the US.

Jan 18, 2014 8:16am EST  --  Report as abuse
Oma wrote:
Coal, oil and natural gas are 20th century energy technologies. They are also non-renewable resources. We are now more than ten years into the 21st century and should be building the foundation for our children and grandchildren’s energy future.

Remember the dinosaurs? They became extinct because they could not adapt. We are smarter than that.

Jan 18, 2014 12:42pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Wireless.Phil wrote:
No more Miso soup for you!

Californian Kelp Watch Targets Fukushima Contamination Researchers from California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have…

Maritime Executive emailed this today.

And this from:
KEYT – Santa Barbara News Channel 3, Jan. 15, 2014

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -

A Santa Barbara chef is taking extreme measures to keep his customers safe from what said is dangerous seafood.

Robert Perez has been a chef for more than three decades, but it was the nuclear disaster in Japan that changed the way he cooks.

Even though scientists have said that the radiation in the ocean is now low, Perez isn’t buying it.

The menu at Seagrass changed slightly two years ago when the restaurant stopped using Japanese seafood. Around a year ago, Hawaiian fish was taken off the menu. Now, all seafood from the San Diego border to Alaska is gone.

The change has forced Perez to get his fish from Mexico, the Atlantic or even farther.

Jan 18, 2014 1:22pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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