Tokyo Electric Power Co. has started discussions on setting up a division dedicated to decommissioning its stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in an apparent attempt to fend off pressure for spinning off such functions, which would effectively split up the utility.
The creation of the new division, which would also deal with the buildup of and leaking of radioactive water at the plant, is expected to be included in the company’s rehabilitation plan when it is revised at the end of the year, sources said.
TEPCO is expected to decide to decommission the No. 5 and No. 6 reactors at the plant, on top of the four damaged by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, in response to a demand from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Under the plan being considered, the division would oversee a new unit in charge of the Fukushima No. 1 plant, tentatively called the decommissioning center, independently from the company’s nuclear power division.
The new division would also draw experts in groundwater and storage tank management from other in-house divisions as well as veterans in overseas plant construction from outside the company, the sources said.
A proposal compiled by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s committee on post-quake reconstruction on Oct. 31 calls for a review of TEPCO’s setup for decommissioning the Fukushima plant and dealing with the radioactive water problem.
It cited three possibilities--creating an in-house unit independent from the nuclear power division; spinning off a decommissioning organization as a separate entity; and setting up an independent administrative agency.
TEPCO prefers setting up an in-house division, to avoid being split up, on the grounds that it would be difficult for a company dedicated to decommissioning, a process estimated to take 30 to 40 years, to continue to secure workers.
“Our employees know about the Fukushima No. 1 plant inside out,” TEPCO President Naomi Hirose told a news conference on Oct. 31. “All of us 37,000 will tackle the problems together.”
In addition, TEPCO apparently believes that creating the new division would accelerate the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety screenings for two reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture.
The company is desperately seeking to reactivate the reactors to turn around its finances, but the screenings, a precondition for the restarts, have not made any progress due to the radioactive water problem at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka called on Hirose to take comprehensive measures to deal with the escalating situation when he summoned the TEPCO president at the end of October.
TEPCO apparently hopes to convince the nuclear watchdog that it can better handle the problem through its new division.
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