28 Juin 2018
June 28, 2018
Utilities reaffirm faith in nuclear power despite safety concerns
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
Nine power companies said they are eager to restart their nuclear plants at their shareholder meetings on June 27, shunning calls to move toward renewables despite skepticism about the safety of relying on nuclear energy.
At the Kansai Electric Power Co. meeting, major shareholders such as the Kyoto and Osaka city governments called for nuclear power plants to be decommissioned.
“Kansai Electric should stop relying on nuclear power as soon as possible,” said Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa.
In reply, Shigeki Iwane, president of Kansai Electric, said, “While giving top priority to the safety of nuclear plants, we intend to continue utilizing nuclear plants.”
He did not rule out the possibility of constructing new reactors.
Kyushu Electric Power Co., which is now operating four reactors, showed reluctance about a major shift to renewables.
A proposal to “significantly bolster” renewable energy was turned down at its shareholder meeting.
“We cannot ensure the stability of frequency if we accept solar power more than at the current level,” said Michiaki Uriu, president of Kyushu Electric, noting the output of solar energy generated within the utility’s jurisdiction has reached the ceiling of 8.17 gigawatts.
At the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. meeting, a proposal was made to freeze preparatory work toward the planned resumption of its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture.
“Why does TEPCO bother to pursue nuclear power generation despite the Fukushima nuclear disaster?” said one shareholder. However, the proposal was rejected.
“The nuclear plant will continue to play an important role,” said Tomoaki Kobayakawa, president of TEPCO Holdings, referring to the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, one of the largest in the world. “We will strive toward the restart by soul-searching and taking a lesson from the unprecedented accident.”
Some shareholders hailed the company’s decision to decommission the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant, announced by Kobayakawa, although they said the decision came belatedly.
But others voiced their regret over the decision, saying the plant is too good to be decommissioned.
The Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant was damaged in the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, but it managed to avert a meltdown, unlike the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant nearby, where a triple meltdown occurred.
Another shareholder proposal concerned an end to providing financial support to Japan Atomic Power Co., which intends to resume operations at the Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant in Ibaraki Prefecture.
The same proposal was also made and rejected at a shareholder meeting of Tohoku Electric Power Co. the same day. Both TEPCO Holdings and Tohoku Electric fund Japan Atomic Power.
“We have offered debt guarantee to Japan Atomic Power due to the company’s efforts to ensure sustainability and cut fuel costs by restarting the nuclear plant,” said Jiro Masuko, vice president of Tohoku Electric.
All of Japan’s active nuclear power plants were shut down as part of precautionary measures after the 3/11 Fukushima disaster. Since then, nine have been restarted, and further 26 that remain idle could potentially be restarted.