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Tepco looking to sell some uranium stockpiles to cut costs

Kyodo

Tokyo Electric Power Co. is planning to sell part of its uranium stockpiles for nuclear power generation in the current business year to cut costs amid uncertainty over the restart of idled nuclear plants, a company document obtained by Kyodo News showed Monday.

Tepco has not consumed uranium since the 2011 nuclear crisis started at its Fukushima No. 1 complex that eventually resulted in all of Japan’s nuclear reactors being taken offline amid safety concerns. By reducing the stockpiles, the utility is seeking to slash costs for managing them as it faces funding difficulties stemming from the nuclear crisis.

According to the document, Tepco aims to reduce the amount of uranium to levels prior to the Fukushima disaster by the end of fiscal 2015 through March. The company estimated in the paper it can secure ¥12.3 billion ($103.13 million) by selling around half of the planned amount.

The utility is hoping to restart by October its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, located on the Sea of Japan coast in Niigata Prefecture, but the outlook remains unclear due to the ongoing process for safety screening by the regulator and local reluctance to give approval for the resumption.

Major utilities including Tepco procure uranium, which could be diverted to military use, under long-term contracts from overseas suppliers in Canada and elsewhere.

As of the end of March, Tepco had a total of 17,570 tons of uranium (tU), equivalent to the amount used at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant for 10 years, compared with 16,805 tU at the time of the nuclear disaster in March 2011.

The amount would increase to 19,317 tU in fiscal 2015 if the company does not sell some of the stockpile.

The utility will likely return it to the suppliers or pay for the costs of uranium enrichment in kind, while it will also consider terminating uranium purchase contracts and reducing purchase volumes to streamline its business, according to the document.

Japan Atomic Power Co. has also taken the rare step of selling some of its uranium, apparently to raise money to repay loans amid its faltering business conditions.