Restarting the world’s largest nuclear power plant will likely take “several years,” the governor of Niigata Prefecture said Thursday, highlighting the difficulty of concluding the nuclear disaster reviews sparked by the triple core meltdown of March 2011.
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., better known as Tepco, has been trying to reactivate the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, the world’s largest by generation capacity, to generate much-needed revenue to offset ballooning costs and redress claims stemming from the 2011 nuclear disaster.
“There can be no discussions about a restart without reviewing” factors including the cause of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and evacuation plans for residents, Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama said in his first talks with Tepco executives since assuming office in October.
Restarting reactors remains a sensitive issue in Japan following the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, a triple meltdown triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing tsunami that wrecked the coast of the Tohoku region in March 2011. Stricter safety standards were introduced after the crisis.
“I expect it will take several years to review” all the factors, Yoneyama told Tepco President Naomi Hirose and Chairman Fumio Sudo at the Niigata Prefectural Government’s offices.
The prefectural government plans to set up independent panels to probe the Fukushima disaster and its health impact, as well as arrangements for evacuating residents in the event of another disaster.
Hirose remained confident, however, that both sides will find common ground, telling reporters after the meeting that he had the impression that Tepco and the prefectural government “can continue to have positive discussions.”
Yoneyama has expressed his intention to visit the plant, as well as the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
Sudo told the governor that the utility will “earnestly address” the concerns of the prefectural government and community. After the meeting, he told reporters that local consent must “take priority.”
“As an operator, we must be prepared,” he said, suggesting that it will take a long time before the plant is restarted.
With total costs related to the 2011 disaster, including for compensation and decommissioning, likely to reach around ¥22 trillion ($189 billion), Tepco is speeding up its turnaround efforts, aiming to reform its nuclear power and electricity transmission businesses.
Yoneyama’s meeting with the Tepco executives was initially scheduled for November but postponed following a strong earthquake off the coast of Fukushima and the detection of bird flu in Niigata.
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