New TEPCO leaders to push restarts of reactors in Niigata

June 29, 2012

By KENTARO UECHI/ Staff Writer

The new management leaders of Tokyo Electric Power Co. showed a bit of apprehension but still plan to restart reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture.

TEPCO Chairman Kazuhiko Shimokobe, 64, and President Naomi Hirose, 59, told reporters on June 28 that they will not take the restarts for granted and will continue to seek approval of local governments that host the plant as a precondition.

TEPCO’s business reconstruction plan drawn up in May says the utility will have the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors back online from April 2013.

But both Shimokobe and Hirose emphasized that they did not view the restarts as a foregone conclusion.

"Things will go nowhere without the understanding of local governments hosting the plant, including Niigata Prefecture," Shimokobe said.

Hirose said TEPCO, which on June 27 decided to go under effective state control, understands that local governments and society are concerned about a company responsible for a nuclear disaster attempting to reactivate other nuclear reactors.

"(The restarts) will be impossible without a thorough investigation into the disaster at our Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant," Hirose said.

Despite those reservations, TEPCO's new leaders said they have not given up on the restarts.

"It is an objective fact that a major delay in the restarts would have a negative impact (on management)," Shimokobe said.

Hirose said he wants to have the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors online at an early date after providing a full explanation about the safety measures being taken.

Shimokobe, who is a lawyer, also called for reform of the company’s corporate culture.

He said his predecessor, Tsunehisa Katsumata, who effectively led TEPCO for the past 10 years, "will not have influence over TEPCO from now on. He shouldn't be allowed to."

Shimokobe said he will abolish the title of "corporate friend" given to former TEPCO chairmen and have them cut all ties with the utility.

He also criticized the practice of outgoing TEPCO directors and executive officers becoming presidents and directors at TEPCO affiliates and group companies.

"From TEPCO's current standpoint, I would say that they could have thought twice about the offers (and declined them) even if they did get those offers," Shimokobe said.

In addition, he said communication was not a strong point in TEPCO's corporate culture.

"It's a gigantic, monopolistic apparatus industry," he said. "It lacks the skills to communicate (with its customers and society)."

Hirose pledged to try to overcome that weakness.

"We will embrace a strong sense of crisis and tension, and make sure that we perceive the needs of society and our customers and reflect them in our operations," he said.

Hirose said he wanted to help improve internal communication by increasing personnel exchanges between TEPCO's head office and its power generation and sales outposts.

By KENTARO UECHI/ Staff Writer
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Tokyo Electric Power Co. Chairman Kazuhiko Shimokobe, left, and President Naomi Hirose hold a news conference at TEPCO's head office in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on June 28. (Eijiro Morii)

Tokyo Electric Power Co. Chairman Kazuhiko Shimokobe, left, and President Naomi Hirose hold a news conference at TEPCO's head office in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on June 28. (Eijiro Morii)

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  • Tokyo Electric Power Co. Chairman Kazuhiko Shimokobe, left, and President Naomi Hirose hold a news conference at TEPCO's head office in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on June 28. (Eijiro Morii)

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