(Adds detail from policy document, quote, shares)
By Takaya Yamaguchi and Kentaro Hamada
TOKYO Oct 30 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
favours 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
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
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
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 reorganising 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
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 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 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
(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)