April 17, 2018 / 12:53 AM / 6 days ago

UPDATE 2-Tepco shares surge after Niigata governor says may resign

* Local governor tells broadcaster he may resign

* Governor has been holding up restart of Tepco reactors

* Tepco shares earlier rose by more than 4 pct (Adds comment from governor, updates shares)

April 17 (Reuters) - Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc (Tepco) shares rose more than 4 percent on the expectation that Tepco could restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata prefecture after Japanese media reported that the region’s governor, who has opposed the restart, may resign.

Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama said on national broadcaster NHK on Tuesday that he was considering resigning, but had yet to decide. When asked why, Yoneyama said it was because of a “woman problem,” without elaborating. He was responding to numerous media reports, including from Kyodo News, that he would resign.

Kashiwazaki-Kariwa is the world’s largest nuclear power plant and restarting the site’s seven reactors is crucial to Tepco’s recovery plans in the wake of the meltdowns at its Fukushima plant in 2011. Yoneyama told Reuters last year a better understanding of the Fukushima disaster was needed before he would sign off on a restart at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa.

Tepco shares closed 0.7 percent higher after gaining as much as 4.4 percent earlier. The broader market rose slightly.

Kashiwazaki-Kariwa’s reactors can generate 8,212 megawatts of electricity, or about 20 percent of Japan’s nuclear capacity.

Yoneyama told Reuters last year that he planned to review the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and examine evacuation drills in Niigata.

The health impacts of the radiation release during the Fukushima disaster, the world’s worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl in 1986, should also be analysed, he said, adding that it may take three years to complete the review.

Tepco has approval from regulators to start two reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, but the company needs to carry out further work before the restarts. While not a legal requirement, the sign off of the governor is also required. (Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick and Chris Gallagher Editing by Joseph Radford and Christian Schmollinger)

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