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Japanese utilities, firms mull alliance on nuclear power operations

Photo taken from a Kyodo News helicopter on Feb. 21, 2018 shows the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Major Japanese utilities and power plant manufacturers are considering an alliance on nuclear power operations, sources close to the matter said Wednesday, as the industry grapples with rising decommissioning and safety costs.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. and Chubu Electric Power Co. are discussing with Hitachi Ltd. and Toshiba Corp. to possibly launch a joint company that would handle reactor maintenance, and considering as well to jointly decommission obsolete reactors, the sources said.

Decommissioning and safety-related costs have been rising for power providers following meltdowns at Tepco's Fukushima Daiichi power plants stricken by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster. Tougher safety rules have been introduced in the wake of the Fukushima crisis.

Currently, various utilities and power plant makers are coordinating reactor maintenance work. The four-way partnership aims to consolidate personnel and technology and streamline costs and operations for better efficiency, the sources said.

The four firms are also expected to share knowledge on work related to their boiling-water reactors, the same type as those at Tepco plants.

Struggling under huge compensation payments over the Fukushima nuclear crisis and plant decommissioning costs, Tepco aims to rebuild itself by realigning its nuclear business.

Through the tie-up, Tepco is also looking into cooperating with other major utilities to resume the planned construction of a nuclear plant in Aomori Prefecture, northeastern Japan.

Chubu Electric, for its part, aims to cut safety costs due to the difficulty in restarting its Hamaoka plant in Shizuoka Prefecture.

The two utilities have already agreed to merge their fossil-fuel operations next spring.

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