Tepco mulls building nuke plants in emerging economies in Asia

Kyodo News

Tokyo Electric Power Co. is considering enhancing its overseas business by building nuclear power plants in emerging economies in Asia, President Masataka Shimizu said in a recent interview.

“Tokyo Electric has accumulated considerable knowhow on the construction, maintenance and operation of nuclear power stations,” Shimizu said. “Based on the assumption that it (overseas nuclear power generation) is profitable, I think we should give it a try.”

Tepco is hoping to turn overseas nuclear power generation into a new source of earnings amid slowing electricity demand in Japan.

If the plan is realized, Tepco would become the first Japanese utility to construct a nuclear plant abroad.

Currently, Tepco provides technological consulting on nuclear plants in the United States.

Japan’s largest utility is contemplating building plants in countries with high potential for greater electricity demand, including Vietnam and India, sources at the utility said, adding Tepco may look at setting up joint ventures with local utilities.

Tepco will also study the possibility of launching overseas power generation jointly with a Japanese equipment maker, the sources said.

The move comes at a time when Japanese nuclear plant equipment suppliers, including Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi Ltd., are scrambling to compete with foreign rivals for orders for new power plants in the U.S. and China, where a nuclear plant construction boom is under way.

Against the backdrop of recent temporary surges in the price of crude oil, used as fuel for thermal power generation, nuclear power has gained a boost as a key electricity supply, industry observers said, adding atomic power is also gaining in popularity because it is viewed as a way to curb carbon dioxide emissions.

If Tepco joins the competition to build nuclear plants overseas, Japan will increase its presence in the global atomic plant market, they said.

Due to sagging electricity demand in Japan, other domestic utilities are also exploring ways to expand overseas.