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Tepco mulling decommissioning Fukushima Daini nuclear plant: chief

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. President Tomoaki Kobayakawa (Mainichi)

FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) -- The president of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. said Thursday the utility is considering decommissioning the Fukushima Daini nuclear plant located near the disaster-stricken Daiichi complex in northeastern Japan.

    In a meeting with Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori, Tepco President Tomoaki Kobayakawa said that the company is leaning toward scrapping all four nuclear reactors at the plant, located around 12 kilometers south of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, crippled by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

    "If (the status of the Daini complex) is left uncertain, it would hamper reconstruction (of the disaster-hit area)," said Kobayakawa.

    The Fukushima Daini complex was also hit by tsunami waves in the 2011 disaster and temporarily lost reactor cooling functions. But unlike the Fukushima Daiichi plant, it escaped meltdowns. The reactors have been offline since the disaster.

    Kobayakawa said he hopes to help ease the concerns of local people by decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini plants together.

    The Fukushima governor said, "Decommissioning is strongly desired by Fukushima residents."

    As the scrapping of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which suffered core meltdowns at three of its six reactors, has already been decided, shuttering Daini would result in the decommissioning of all 10 nuclear reactors in Fukushima Prefecture.

    With little prospect of gaining local approval to restart the reactors at the Daini plant, its decommissioning was effectively the only choice left for the company, according to experts.

    But Tepco had refrained from clearly indicating its stance as the decision could affect its business.

    Masako Sawai, the secretary general of a citizens group probing the cause of the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, said, "It was inconceivable that Tepco, which caused the accident, would resume nuclear plant operations in Fukushima Prefecture. The company should have made the decision earlier."

    Keiji Miyazaki, a professor emeritus at Osaka University, said abandoning the Fukushima Daini plant would not make sense from an economic viewpoint.

    "Unlike the Daiichi plant, the Daini plant did not suffer a critical accident. It can technically be restarted if safety measures are bolstered" to clear the stricter safety regulations introduced following the 2011 nuclear crisis, he said.

    Uchibori, who is expected to seek a second term in the gubernatorial election later this year, has been seeking to scrap all nuclear reactors in the prefecture.

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