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TEPCO chief calls for realignment of nuclear power businesses

Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant is seen in this file photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun aircraft in Niigata Prefecture on Sept. 30, 2017. (Mainichi/Masaru Nishimoto)

TOKYO -- Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings, Inc. President Tomoaki Kobayakawa has urged major power companies and nuclear reactor manufacturers to drastically realign and integrate nuclear power businesses.

"The nuclear power sector is now divided into electric power companies that operate such businesses and manufacturers responsible for the construction and maintenance of power plants. It'd be more rational to merge them," he told a news conference at the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan in Tokyo on Jan. 18.

A call by the head of a major electric power company for such realignment is extremely rare and is expected to create a stir in the power industry.

Nuclear plant operators are facing financial difficulties as reactivation of such power stations has not progressed and the costs of safety measures are snowballing.

With regard to the advantages of realignment and integration, Kobayakawa said, "It's easier to reduce costs and improve the quality of such power generation through cooperation between power companies and makers rather than reducing prices through competition, considering that construction and replacement of nuclear plants are not being discussed (within the government)."

TEPCO Holdings has been having talks with Chubu Electric Power Co. based in the central Japan city of Nagoya, as well as Hitachi Ltd. and Toshiba Corp. that have built atomic power plants for the two utilities about a tie-up in nuclear power businesses since last summer.

At a news conference on Jan. 17, Hitachi President Toshiaki Higashihara underscored the need to hold talks with other manufacturers on human resource development in the nuclear power field in order to maintain the technology and personnel with expertise. Higashihara announced at the same news conference that Hitachi has frozen its plan to build a nuclear plant in Britain.

Moves toward cross-sectoral realignment and integration of nuclear power businesses are gaining momentum as it has become clear that neither utilities nor manufacturers alone can sustain their nuclear power businesses.

(Japanese original by Takayuki Hakamda, Business News Department)

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