TEPCO president keen to restart 2 more nuclear reactors in Niigata
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Tokyo Electric Power Co. President Naomi Hirose expressed a desire Saturday to make preparations for restarting two more nuclear reactors at a power plant it operates in Niigata Prefecture.
A day after TEPCO filed for state safety assessments for the idled Nos. 6 and 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, Hirose said in an interview with Kyodo News that he would also like to start the process toward restarting the Nos. 1 and 5 reactors as well.
"The case (of the Nos. 6 and 7 units) will set the example," Hirose said, adding, "The general rule is to abide by the agreement we made with the local community regarding safety."
All of Japan's 50 commercial reactors are currently offline and have to be checked by the Nuclear Regulation Authority to determine whether they satisfy a set of new safety requirements before they can be restarted.
Hirose also said TEPCO can now expect to swing back to a pretax profit for the current financial year through March 2014, even without a further electricity rate hike.
TEPCO, which is struggling due to heavy costs stemming from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, has set a target to become profitable this year because that is a condition for continuing to receive bank loans.
Despite uncertainty over when the Nos. 6 and 7 reactors will be restarted, Hirose said the goal of posting a pretax profit this year "can be achieved" by implementing more cost-cutting measures and recording certain facility maintenance expenses in fiscal 2014 or later.
Based on an estimate the utility presented in August to its lenders, it would be necessary to raise electricity rates again if no reactors were restarted within fiscal 2013.
TEPCO raised electricity rates last year and increasing rates further is feared to spark a public backlash.
Hirose said a further rate hike would be "the last resort" if the safety checks required before a reactor can be restarted take two to three years to complete.
When asked when he thought the Nos. 6 and 7 reactors can be restarted, Hirose said he did not see it happening in "January or February" and pointed to March or later as more likely.
Once the two reactors resume operating, TEPCO's fuel costs for non-nuclear thermal power generation -- now running at 240 to 330 billion yen annually -- can be reduced, according to the company.
Hirose said the application for safety assessments has increased the likelihood that the Nos. 6 and 7 units will restart within fiscal 2014 starting next April, a move that would improve TEPCO's business situation.
September 29, 2013(Mainichi Japan)