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Reorganising TEPCO's nuclear power business

October 26, 2016

Spinoff eyed for TEPCO's nuclear power business to secure profits




The industry ministry has proposed starting a subsidiary to manage the nuclear power business of Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., hoping it will lead to an earlier restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry also hopes the spinoff would boost profits to help the parent company cover the ballooning costs for the decommissioning of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and for compensating victims of the nuclear accident there.

The subsidiary’s headquarters would likely be set up in Niigata Prefecture, the location of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa facility, one of the world’s largest nuclear power stations in output capacity.

The ministry's proposal came at a meeting Oct. 25 of a panel of academics and business executives discussing reform of TEPCO. The ministry believes the new entity would find it easier to make profits by collaborating with other leading electric power companies.

Decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and compensating victims of the 2011 nuclear disaster will remain under the responsibilities of TEPCO Holdings.

TEPCO owns the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear plants and the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa facility.

The new subsidiary would sit alongside three other operating companies set up in April. They oversee the operation of thermal power generation, electric retailing, and electricity transmission and distribution.

The ministry also said the annual decommissioning costs of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant could increase from 80 billion yen ($76.9 million) to hundreds of billions of yen.

The costs are expected to surge in the coming years since the retrieval of melted nuclear fuel rods involves technological difficulties.

The combined costs for decommissioning and compensating victims are likely to jump from an estimated 11 trillion yen to 18 trillion yen.

The ministry hopes the proposal for founding a subsidiary to focus on the operation of the nuclear power business will lead to greater support from the public for a restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant.

Two of the seven reactors there have been scrutinized by the Nuclear Regulation Authority on whether they meet safety guidelines set after the Fukushima catastrophe.

Starting a reactor would add about 100 billion yen in operating profits a year to TEPCO’s coffers since fossil fuels to fire thermal plants are expensive.

Setting up the main office of the subsidiary in Niigata Prefecture is intended to appease local residents. Former Governor Hirohiko Izumida, who was cautious about a restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, called for the move while he was in office.

New Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama, who has succeeded Izumida's stance and took office on Oct. 25, welcomed the ministry’s idea for a spinoff, calling it “a good direction.”

But he denied a restart “under current circumstances.”

The new governor has urged a more detailed inquiry into what went wrong during the Fukushima disaster before discussing the possible restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa facility.

(This article was written by Yoichi Yonetani and Yuko Matsuura.)


Industry ministry unveils plan to split nuclear power division from TEPCO



The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry is planning to spin off Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) Holdings Inc.'s nuclear power generation division and aim for an alliance between the new subsidiary and another power company.

The ministry unveiled the plan at an Oct. 25 meeting of an expert panel on reform of TEPCO and issues related to the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The possibility has emerged that realignment of the major utilities' nuclear power divisions will be led by the government as the planned reactivation of idled nuclear reactors has stalled.

As part of TEPCO reforms this past April, the company's thermal power, power retail and power transmission and distribution divisions were transformed into subsidiaries and placed under the umbrella of the newly established TEPCO Holdings.

However, TEPCO Holdings has retained its nuclear power division because the company needs to decommission the crippled Fukushima nuclear complex and pay compensation to victims of the nuclear disaster, which broke out in March 2011.

Under the ministry's plan, a subsidiary would be set up to take over TEPCO's nuclear power business, excluding the Fukushima No. 1 plant, with an eye to forming an alliance between the new firm and another major utility.

The costs of decommissioning the crippled power station's reactors are likely to far surpass the initial estimate. The ministry released a revised projection at the Oct. 25 expert panel meeting stating that the annual decommissioning bill will likely balloon from the current 80 billion yen into the hundreds of billions, due to work to remove melted nuclear fuel from the reactors and other factors.

The panel discussed TEPCO reforms to raise funds to cover the massive expense of dealing with the accident, such as compensation payments and decontamination of areas tainted with radioactive substances emanating from the nuclear disaster, plus decommissioning.

The committee is aiming to increase TEPCO's profitability by promoting the realignment of the firm's nuclear power division and other cost-cutting efforts.

TEPCO set up a joint venture, JERA Co., with Chubu Electric Power Co. in April 2015 to gradually integrate their thermal power station fuel procurement and overseas power generation divisions. TEPCO has also formed a business tie-up with SoftBank Group Corp. to bundle electricity and communications device contracts.

The industry ministry furthermore proposed that TEPCO's power transmission and distribution subsidiary, which is highly profitable thanks to a large number of customers in the Tokyo metropolitan area, strengthen its alliances with other utilities.

The expert committee is poised to work out the details of a plan to spin off TEPCO's nuclear power division and how the subsidiary should join hands with other companies. The panel will draw up a draft of its proposals possibly by the end of this year, and incorporate the recommendations in TEPCO's corporate rehabilitation plan to be released next year.



October 25, 2016

TEPCO should consider reorganization



The Japanese government may call on Tokyo Electric Power Company to reorganize its nuclear power business.

The plan was proposed at a meeting of a panel formed by the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry.

The panel of experts is discussing ways to cover the ballooning costs of decommissioning crippled reactors at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The government expects the costs to expand to several billions of dollars due to the technically difficult work of removing melted nuclear fuel from the reactors.

That's a huge increase from the current annual amount of about 770 million dollars.

The government officials also said TEPCO needs to carry out drastic managerial reforms to cover the costs.
The government plan includes asking TEPCO to spin off its nuclear power business and promote ties with other power companies.

Some meeting participants asked how the government would help if TEPCO cannot cover the costs only by improving earnings through reforms.

The panel plans to discuss further how the government could provide public support for the decommissioning work.


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