Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Friday filed for safety assessments of reactors 6 and 7 at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power plant in Niigata Prefecture, joining other utilities seeking to reactivate their atomic power stations.
Tepco spent more than two months seeking local approval to apply for the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety inspections, reflecting the sensitivity of reactor restarts by the utility responsible for the crippled Fukushima No. 1 complex. Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida on Thursday gave the green light to the utility’s plan to approach the NRA.
Economic and fiscal policy minister Akira Amari on Friday welcomed Tepco’s move, saying that “it is a good thing for nuclear power safety, for the stable supply of electricity and for the local economy (of the two host towns).”
After submitting the application, Tepco Managing Executive Officer Takafumi Anegawa told reporters the company will at the same time make “all-out efforts” to allay public concerns over the toxic water reaching the Pacific from Fukushima No. 1.
The move brings to 14 the number of reactors for which NRA safety checks are being sought. To go online, reactors must be inspected by the nuclear watchdog to determine if they satisfy the new safety requirements it adopted in July.
Tepco, struggling to meet the massive costs of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, is desperate to reactivate idled atomic units so it can reduce spending on costly fossil fuel imports for thermal power generation.
While it is not clear how long the NRA evaluations will take, it is important for Tepco to show it is at least making progress on improving business conditions so creditors will continue to extend loans.
Under a 10-year restructuring plan authorized by the government last year, Tepco is projected to move back into the black in fiscal 2013 by streamlining operations, hiking electricity rates and restarting reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.
Despite falling significantly behind schedule on firing up the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors, Tepco President Naomi Hirose separately told reporters he has no intention of altering profit target for the fiscal year ending next March.
He meanwhile said Tepco hopes to avoid further price hikes as much as possible.
Hirose also said the utility intends to ask the NRA to conduct safety assessments at more of its power stations. “Of course, we are preparing for that. Once we are ready, we must proceed” with the application, he said.
If reactors 6 and 7 in Niigata are brought back online, Tepco estimates it could manage to cut fuel costs by ¥200 billion to ¥300 billion per year. The two advanced boiling water reactors are the newest of the seven atomic units at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, which, with a combined capacity of 8.2 million kw, is the world’s largest atomic plant.
Under the new NRA rules, reactors must be equipped with filtered venting systems to reduce radiation if gas and steam must be released from containment vessels in an emergency. Izumida, the Niigata governor, on Thursday said the ventilation system should not be used at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa without first securing local approval.