Tepco looks to tie up with other utilities to perform reactor checks, in order to cut costs

Kyodo

Struggling to recover from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. is considering collaborating with other utilities to conduct regular checks of their nuclear power plants in order to cut costs, sources close to the matter said Wednesday.

The practice of performing joint checks would be based on the utility’s restructuring plan, unveiled last May to revitalize its nuclear power business through cooperation with other electric power companies.

Tepco is seeking cooperation with utilities that have boiling-water reactors — the same type as those at Tepco plants — or companies that also operate nuclear reactors in the vicinity of its own nuclear plants.

Nuclear Engineering and Services Co., a subsidiary of Japan Atomic Power Co., and regional utilities such as Tohoku Electric Power Co., Chubu Electric Power Co. and Hokuriku Electric Power Co. are expected to be candidates for the prospective tie-ups.

The checks often take several months and involve around 1,000 workers, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to secure adequate personnel with nuclear expertise in a country with a graying population, the sources said.

Deteriorating profitability at power companies due to the shutdown of nuclear reactors following the Fukushima crisis is another factor in the desire to streamline checks, they said.

Tepco is making efforts to restart reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power plant in Niigata Prefecture to boost its profitability, but has met strong opposition because of the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex.

The restructuring plan calls for Tepco to set aside ¥500 billion ($4.5 billion) annually for compensation payments related to the 2011 meltdowns and work to decommission the crippled reactors.

It also includes setting up joint ventures with other utilities to operate nuclear power plants. Tepco said its Higashidori nuclear complex, currently under construction in Aomori Prefecture, is among the plants that could be jointly managed with other companies.

The company is also seeking a realignment of its power transmission and distribution businesses with those of Kansai Electric Power Co., Chubu Electric and Hokuriku Electric.