Tepco to work with local government on nuclear plant review

TOKYO (Reuters) - Tokyo Electric Power Co will work with local government to review the safety of its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, which could mean a later restart date than planned originally, the company’s incoming CEO said.

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The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, the world’s biggest nuclear power plant, has been completely offline since 2012 while its safety procedures are reviewed.

Ryuichi Yoneyama, the governor of Niigata prefecture in north west Japan where the plant is located, has said he will not discuss the restart until the review is completed. This includes a review of the plant’s safety, evacuation plans, plus the impact on health of the radiation released from Fukushima, which could take until 2020 at the earliest.

“We will cooperate with the review,” incoming CEO Tomoaki Kobayakawa, told reporters on Wednesday.

Tepco presented several options for restarting the plant in a business plan approved last month, including restarting two of its seven reactors by March 2020.

Kobayakawa said profits from restarting the plant would provide a big source of funds to fulfill Tepco’s responsibility for Fukushima and improve the company’s value.

Tepco’s restructuring plan is designed to cut costs and boost earnings to repay the bulk of the estimated 21.5 trillion yen bill from the Fukushima disaster. The plan last month was the third proposed in the last six years and depends on generating revenue by resuming output from Kashiwazaki-Kariwa.

Kobayakawa, who is president at Tepco’s retail energy business, will become the CEO of Tokyo Electric Power Co Holdings after the annual shareholders’ meeting on June 23.

He takes over at a difficult time for the company, whose share of the bill for the Fukushima nuclear disaster, has more than doubled to about 16 trillion yen ($145 billion).

Tepco is aiming to allocate 500 billion yen in annual profits in coming decades to pay for decommissioning and compensation.

Tepco also wants to reorganize and find domestic partners for its power transmission and nuclear power businesses within 10 years. But finding partners is expected to be difficult, as some utilities have ruled out any nuclear tie-ups with Tepco, which is controlled by the government.

Kobayakawa said the reorganization will not be possible without a finding a partner. “We would like to make proposals after carefully determining what kinds of new value or savings would be created.”

He also said Tepco hoped to expand overseas to offset declining domestic power demand. Kobayakawa said 1.6 billion people globally are estimated to have no electricity, half of them in Africa, which could be a big opportunity.

He said that he did not rule out the possibility of an initial public offering of fuel venture with Chubu Electric, JERA, in future to help to raise funds for further expansion.

Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori. Editing by Jane Merriman