Dealing with the aftermath of nuclear disaster at Fukushima No.1 power plant remains the most important mission for Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., Tomoaki Kobayakawa, Tepco’s new president, said Friday, but he also stressed the need to restart nuclear plants for the sake of continuing the utility’s business.
“To fulfill responsibilities over (disaster in) Fukushima is the fundamental (policy) for our company, and that will never change at all,” Kobayakawa, the former chief of the Tepco’s electricity retail arm, said at a news conference at the firm’s headquarters in Tokyo.
Kobayakawa officially took the helm as head of the ailing power giant after the reshuffle of top management was approved at a shareholder’s meeting earlier on Friday.
Struggling financially amid ballooning costs for dealing with the aftermath of the nuclear accident caused by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011, Tepco is effectively under control of the state with the state-backed Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. holding the majority of its shares.
Ten of 13 board directors were replaced with new members, including honorary chairman of Hitachi Ltd. Takashi Kawamura. Kawamura was appointed the new chairman to back Kobayakawa.
Under the new board, Tepco will proceed with the new revitalization program it mapped out in May. The plan includes reactivating Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, so as to make up for the estimated ¥22 trillion cost of dealing with damage, including decommissioning of Fukushima No.1 and compensation for disaster-hit areas.
“I believe securing safety and gaining the understanding of local people are our utmost priorities” in order to reactivate the nuclear plant, Kobayakawa said.
In October 2016 in the Niigata gubernatorial election, voters elected doctor and lawyer Ryuichi Yoneyama, whose anti-nuclear stance is firmly against any restart of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, over a pro-nuclear candidate from the Liberal Democratic Party.
At the shareholder’s meeting in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward earlier Friday, which was attended by about 1,200 people, some expressed diverse opinions on the company’s intention to restart nuclear power plants.
One suggested that restarting a nuclear power plant could be a “ray of hope” that stands as the symbol of recovery from the disaster, while another claimed Tepco’s financial recovery will “never be possible” without reactivating ceased plants.
Others were concerned about the firm’s plan to continue its nuclear power business.
One shareholder called the proposed restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant as “a long-shot gamble” repeatedly saying that the Niigata plant is “good-for-nothing”, and that it has only caused the utility to incur costs of ¥680 billion for safety measures.
Another shareholder urged the utility to abandon its plan to reactivate Fukushima No.2 and Kariyazaki-Kariwa, and open them for engineers worldwide to use as research centers for decommissioning technologies.
These proposals were turned down at the end of the three-hour meeting after facing opposition from board members.