The newly appointed president of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. said Monday he will push through reforms to put business back on track, while fulfilling the firm’s responsibilities over the 2011 disaster at its Fukushima nuclear power plant.
“We will carry out reforms and contribute to the development of the energy industry. We will also work to reconstruct our business to meet the expectations of the people of Fukushima and our customers,” Tomoaki Kobayakawa said in a news conference also attended by current President Naomi Hirose, who has served in the post since 2012. Kobayakawa will take over in June.
Tepco decided to revamp its top management to seek a breakthrough in its stalling turnaround plan, with massive costs stemming from the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power complex continuing to weigh heavily.
Among 13 directors slated to replace the current board following the annual general shareholders meeting in late June, 10 have been newly appointed. Takashi Kawamura, honorary chairman of Hitachi Ltd., will serve as new chairman to back the new president.
Kobayakawa, as the head of Tokyo Energy Partner Inc., Tepco’s electricity retail arm, has worked through increasing competition in the power sector following the full liberalization of the electricity retail market, which brought an end to regional monopolies on power supply.
Kawamura said the utility needed to undergo a “different level of reform” to secure enough funds to deal with one of the world’s worst nuclear crises that resulted in nuclear fuel meltdowns at three reactors.
The company has been seeking to revive its business after being placed under effective state control in exchange for a ¥1 trillion capital injection in 2012. But disaster cleanup costs have continued to rise, with the latest estimate reaching ¥22 trillion — twice the sum earlier expected.
In a new business turnaround plan announced on March 22, the company said it aims to realign and integrate its nuclear and power transmission and distribution businesses with other utilities to improve its profitability.
But other utilities are believed to be cautious about such tie-ups, as they are concerned about possible intervention by the government, which holds the majority of Tepco’s voting rights through a state-backed bailout fund.
Kawamura expressed hope Monday that realignment moves will accelerate, while adding that the company will seek to reactivate its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture despite public concern over the safety of nuclear power.
“We want to take time in sincerely communicating (with locals) that we will place top priority on safety,” Kawamura said.
Kobayakawa, meanwhile, was not clear on whether the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant, located around 12 km south of the crippled Fukushima No. 1, would be scrapped.
Hirose will take up the new post of vice chairman responsible for disaster compensation payments. He will not serve on the board.
“There have been a series of problems and incidents I had to apologize for,” Hirose said, recalling his five years as president.