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TEPCO's hopes

November 23, 2013

TEPCO eyes restarting 4 reactors by 2015




Tokyo Electric Power Co. hopes to have four nuclear reactors in Niigata Prefecture back online by 2015, including two planned for next summer, despite the crisis at its hobbled Fukushima nuclear plant.

The company intends to reactivate the No. 1 and No. 5 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant during the first half of 2015 after restarting the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors as early as July 2014, sources said.

Both plans will be included in the utility’s rehabilitation program when it is revised toward the end of this year.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant has seven reactors. TEPCO estimates that for each reactor restart its annual profit will increase by about 100 billion yen ($1 billion).

The revised rehabilitation program will state that electricity rates will be lowered when the four reactors are back online, the sources said. TEPCO raised rates last year, citing increased fuel costs for thermal power plants.

A warning, though, about possible additional rate hikes if the reactors remain idle for an extended period is expected to be included in the revised rehabilitation program, the sources said.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority began full-scale safety screenings for the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors on Nov. 21. The examination, which is done to confirm whether a reactor meets new safety standards, is a prerequisite for reactivation.

TEPCO said it can expect a pretax profit of about 100 billion yen for fiscal 2014 if the two reactors restart operations next summer.

President Naomi Hirose has said the company will also apply for NRA screenings for the No. 1 and No. 5 reactors as soon as preparations are completed.

Safety equipment required under the new safety standards is being installed at the two reactors, including filtered venting equipment.

However, it remains unclear whether TEPCO can restart the reactors under its proposed time frame.

NRA screenings could drag on if regulators demand detailed investigations to confirm that no active faults run immediately under the reactors.

Consent of local communities is also essential, but Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida remains cautious. He has criticized plans to restart the two reactors next summer as a pipe dream.

Meanwhile, TEPCO will speed up streamlining its operations while expanding investments, the sources said.

The company plans to adopt a holding company structure as early as fiscal 2016 in view of the electric power industry reform planned by the government.

When the holding company is established, all 10 branch offices will be abolished and employees rendered redundant will be reassigned to other tasks, such as providing compensation to those affected by the 2011 nuclear disaster.

Branch offices fall between the head office and service centers in TEPCO’s three-tier organizational structure.

TEPCO will rejuvenate its work force by hiring new graduates in fiscal 2014 for the first time in three years while introducing an early retirement program targeting about 1,000 employees.

The company will also reduce procurement from affiliates by purchasing 60 percent or more of equipment and materials through competitive bidding in fiscal 2015, up from the current 30 percent.

The revised rehabilitation program will include new investment plans, such as an expanded gas business.

“Preparations are indispensable for future growth,” a senior TEPCO official said.

The company, which already sells gas to town gas utilities, is looking for new customers because the government plans to liberalize town gas retailing.

TEPCO will introduce “smart meters,” or power meters equipped with telecommunication functions, to all 27 million households it serves by around 2020.

New businesses capitalizing on the next-generation meters will be developed with start-ups and other partners.

TEPCO will also resume overseas investments, which were suspended after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. It plans to take part in projects for building power plants in Asia and elsewhere and selling electricity to local utilities.

(This article was written by Mari Fujisaki and Takashi Ebuchi.)


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