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30 billion yen a year

Panel eyes KEPCO upkeep fees

An expert panel of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry examining the rate hike planned by Kansai Electric Power Co. has begun coordinating views to allow KEPCO to include in initial costs its payments to maintain nuclear reactors at Japan Atomic Power Co.'s Tsuruga plant, according to informed sources.

The focus of discussion is the more than 30 billion yen a year in expenses that KEPCO pays to Japan Atomic Power for the maintenance of two nuclear reactors at the plant in Fukui Prefecture.

The panel, tasked with examining the electricity rate of power companies, is examining the average 11.88 percent rate hike for general-household users sought by KEPCO.

As the operation of the two nuclear reactors in question is suspended, KEPCO is not buying any electricity from the plant.

With regards to the No. 2 nuclear reactor at the plant, a Nuclear Regulation Authority expert panel has said there is a high likelihood that active faults run below the reactor.

Yet Japan Atomic Power denies the possibility of active faults running below the reactor, maintaining a stance that it will not decommission the reactor, but aims to restart it in the future.

The expert panel therefore finds the granting of approval to KEPCO to include maintenance expenses paid to Japan Atomic Power in its original costs to be unavoidable. The ministry is expected to confirm the panel's decision.

If approved, the sense of unease over the corporate management of Japan Atomic Power will be eased somewhat. But there is a possibility KEPCO customers will criticize the utility's payments for the maintenance of reactors that have such dim prospects of being restarted.

The government plans to scrutinize KEPCO's personnel costs and fuel procurement costs so as to hold the margin of its rate hike to a minimum.

Japan Atomic Power has signed contracts to sell power generated at its Tsuruga plant to KEPCO, Chubu Electric Power Co. and Hokuriku Electric Power Co.

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