TOKYO Oct 30 A Japanese ruling-party panel will
recommend the break-up of Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco)
after shortcomings in the firm's handling of clean-up
operations at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, Japanese
media said on Wednesday.
The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) panel is proposing that
Tepco's divisions in charge of decommissioning four damaged
reactors and treating contaminated water at the plant should be
spun off, the Nikkei and Yomiuri newspapers reported.
Tepco has floundered for more than two and a half years in
attempting to clear up the site of the worst nuclear disaster
since Chernobyl in 1986.
An earthquake and tsunami knocked out power and cooling at
the plant in March 2011, leading to three reactor meltdowns and
explosions that sent a huge plume of radiation into the air and
sea, forcing 160,000 people to evacuate nearly townships.
Tepco has lost $27 billion since the disaster 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.
Proposals endorsed by senior LDP members this week include
complete financial separation of the Fukushima operations from
the utility, or transforming them into an independent
administrative agency, the Nikkei and Yomiuri said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has promised that the government
will take primary responsibility for containing contaminated
water at Fukushima, saying the situation is under control.
The clean-up process is expected to take at least 30 years
and cost more than $100 billion.
After months of denials, Tepco confirmed in July that
contaminated water from the coastal plant was flowing into the
Pacific Ocean. It has also found that 300 tonnes of highly
radioactive water leaked from one of hundreds of quickly built
storage tanks and reported numerous other problems.
The government effectively nationalised 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 that 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 financial first-half earnings on Thursday.