The governor of Niigata Prefecture lashed out at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s decision to apply for the restarts of two nuclear reactors, stating that the utility, operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, cannot be trusted.
“There is no greater disregard for local people than this,” Governor Hirohiko Izumida told reporters on July 2 at the prefectural government office about TEPCO's intent to restart two reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture. "It is an act to completely destroy a relationship of trust."
Izumida criticized TEPCO for determining a course of action without providing an explanation to local governments and communities.
“Who could trust such a company?” the governor said.
At a July 2 board meeting, TEPCO decided to apply for permission to restart the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors as soon as possible after new safety requirements, approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, take effect on July 8.
TEPCO President Naomi Hirose plans to meet with Izumida and other local government leaders to gain their support in the near future, but Izumida said he has no intention of discussing the restarts of idle reactors.
TEPCO is legally allowed to apply to restart reactors, even if local governments disagree with the resumption, so at issue is whether the utility will submit applications despite opposition from local officials and residents.
Izumida has been a critic of TEPCO's handling of the accident at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, which was triggered by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
He has demanded before restarting reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant that TEPCO must “finish investigating the nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, as well as sum up the results of the investigation.”
Strong concerns from local residents about the restarts underlie the governor’s strong stance.
A telephone survey conducted by The Asahi Shimbun in October last year showed that 51 percent of residents in the prefecture oppose the resumption of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, compared with 27 percent in favor.
However, TEPCO said it is necessary to restart idle reactors as soon as possible to prevent a further increase in electricity rates.
“It will be impossible for our business to turn a profit (if we cannot restart the reactors),” Hirose said at a news conference on July 2.
He added the company will also make preparations to restart the No. 1 reactor at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, where all seven reactors have remained offline after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The reason why TEPCO plans to resume operations first at the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors is because both are relatively new advanced boiling water reactors.
The utility expects that the NRA will screen the applications for both reactors simultaneously, and it will be able to resume operations at the two reactors at the same time.
In addition, the output of the two reactors is 1.356 gigawatts each, compared to 1.1 gigawatts each for the five additional reactors at the plant.
Since the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, TEPCO has posted huge annual losses for two consecutive fiscal years.
Because creditor banks may stop providing loans if the utility reports a loss once again for this fiscal year, TEPCO plans to return to the black this fiscal year by restarting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.
According to its rehabilitation plan, TEPCO planned to resume operations at reactors at the plant in phases from April.
Hokkaido Electric Power Co., Kansai Electric Power Co., Shikoku Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co. also plan to submit applications for restarts for a total of 12 reactors as early as July 8.
Taking into account that the NRA needs about six months to screen an application, TEPCO decided to apply for permission now after concluding that it will not be able to restart the reactors for several years if it does not submit applications together with the four other utilities.
(This article was compiled from reports by Takashi Ebuchi, Soshi Katsumi, Takayuki Kakuno and Kohei Tomida.)
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