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Nuclear power should be 'baseload power source': Hitachi president

Toshiaki Higashihara (Mainichi)

Hitachi Ltd. President Toshiaki Higashihara underscored the significance of nuclear power as Japan's baseload power source despite the sector's sluggish business performance in the wake of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster.

    During an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun and other media outlets on Dec. 18, Higashihara said, "We need to consider issues such as the environment, stable energy supply and securing manpower for reactor decommissioning all in a comprehensive manner. Nuclear power should be the country's baseload power source."

    Hitachi acquired Britain's Horizon Nuclear Power in 2012 and is promoting a plan to build two nuclear reactors in the country for possible operation in the early 2020s. The Japanese electronics giant is set to make a final decision on the plan in fiscal 2019, though the manner of raising necessary funds for the project has yet to be decided.

    "We will create an environment to make the project profitable while receiving support from the governments (of Japan and Britain)," Higashihara said.

    At a press conference in October 2016, Higashihara had suggested potential realignment in the nuclear power business in the future alongside Toshiba Corp. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. However, he expressed reservations about the move during the Dec. 18 interview, saying, "It's not something that one single manufacturer should think about. It requires discussion as the issue concerns global energy policy."

    With regard to the move to integrate domestic nuclear fuel businesses among the three companies, the Hitachi president said the talks "have not progressed well."

    Higashihara unveiled his company's goal of raising the ratio of operating profit to sales to 10 percent or more under the next medium-term management plan for the three-year period up to fiscal 2021.

    The company had earlier set out a goal of raising its operating profit ratio to 8 percent by fiscal 2018 from the 6.9 percent posted in the midterm consolidated settlement for the business term ended September 2017.

    "(Achieving that goal) is a pass point. We should further compare ourselves with global companies," he said. As part of efforts to bolster its marketing efforts overseas, Hitachi is aiming for mergers and acquisitions and business alignment with other companies, according to Higashihara. "There are a great deal of negotiations that are under way behind the scenes," the president said about his firm's acquisition strategy.

    In reference to the recent data falsification scandals involving Kobe Steel Ltd. and Mitsubishi Materials Corp., Higashihara pointed out, "Various problems arise when companies attach weight to cost-cutting measures. The heads of companies must keep telling their staff that it is more important to discern right and wrong than pursuing profits."

    He testified that Hitachi is free of any quality data falsifications, revealing that an in-house survey found no violation of ethics.


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