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Reactor operators face shareholders

Utilities shoot down anti-nuclear proposals, push restart of facilities

Kyodo

Utilities, struggling amid the prolonged halt of nearly all of the nation’s nuclear reactors, expressed eagerness to restart their facilities during shareholders meetings Wednesday, shrugging off proposals from some stockholders to halt the country’s reliance on atomic power.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. was among the utilities pushing for the restart of idled reactors in a bid to turn its business amid the devastating nuclear disaster at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex that started in 2011.

Anti-nuclear shareholders proposed scrapping Tepco’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture, which was not damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. However, Tepco said the complex remained an “important power source,” and that the utility would take measures to improve safety there in an effort to resume operations.

Tepco, which is undergoing restructuring after receiving ¥1 trillion in public funds last July, hopes to restart its reactors to reduce the heavy costs of importing fuel for thermal power generation.

Tepco has seven reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant that remain offline. The utility remained in the red for the third consecutive year in the business year that ended in March.

At the outset of the shareholders meeting, Tepco Chairman Kazuhiko Shimokobe, an outside director serving the utility, which has effectively been placed under state control, vowed to revive the company’s business to meet stockholders’ expectations.

The annual meetings came just ahead of the introduction of the country’s new nuclear regulations on July 8, which will effectively reopen procedures for nuclear plant operators to apply for permits to bring reactors back online.

Hokkaido Electric Power Co., Kansai Electric Power Co., Shikoku Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co. are expected to apply to the Nuclear Regulation Authority for safety assessments of some of their reactors shortly after the new rules take effect.

“We will seek to restart our reactor at an early date by winning the consent of the local people,” Shikoku Electric President Akira Chiba told the utility’s shareholders’ meeting, referring to the No. 3 unit of the Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture.

Anti-nuclear proposals were submitted at the meetings, including those of Tepco and Shikoku Electric, but all were voted down.

Tepco also faced calls from shareholders to decommission Fukushima No. 2, located about 12 km south of the No. 1 plant. The utility said it would consider the matter by taking into account the nation’s energy policy and the opinions of local residents.

Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 were both affected by the March 2011 disasters, but workers at No. 2 plant were able to achieve a cold shutdown within a few days.