The plan hinges on Tokyo Electric (Tepco) restarting its Kashiwazaki
Kariwa nuclear plant to cut fossil fuel costs, a contentious
undertaking staunchly opposed by the local governor.
An earlier plan by Tepco outlining a revival after its Fukushima
plant was hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011,
triggering triple meltdowns at the site, had to be torn up because
it could not restart Kashiwazaki.
"As for the restart of Kashiwazaki Kariwa ... this is simply an
assumption built into the financial plan," industry minister
Toshimitsu Motegi said as he gave formal approval of the plan to
Tepco President Naomi Hirose.
The previous revival plan revolved around a Kashiwazaki restart in
early 2013. The new plan envisages a restart of two reactors at the
station in July.
Motegi and Hirose said there may be a time lag between the plan's
assumption and any restarts.
The recovery of Fukushima prefecture, dealing with compensation for
those who lost homes and businesses and decommissioning the damaged
plant are national priorities, Motegi told Hirose.
"Tepco will throw all available resources at taking responsibility
for Fukushima. We will compensate every last person and the company
has many things to do in order for residents to return quickly,"
The company, which is majority owned by the government after an
earlier bailout, said in the plan it may increase electricity prices
if there are long delays in the restart schedule.
The new plan sees deeper cost cuts and more staff reductions than in
the previous version. Tepco says it is aiming to report recurring
profit of 167.7 billion yen ($1.62 billion)in the year through March
Tepco said it would seek savings on fuel purchases of 650 billion
yen annually by buying supplies in partnership with other companies.
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The disaster at Fukushima, the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl
in 1986, eventually brought about the halt of all nuclear power
plants in Japan so they could be vetted under tougher new standards.
Opposition to atomic power remains strong in the country and is set
to become a major issue in an election next month for governorship
of metropolitan Tokyo, which owns a stake in Tepco.
Most candidates are opposed to restarting nuclear power plants and
one, former prime minister Morihiro Hosokawa has received the strong
backing from Junichiro Koizumi, one of Japan's most popular leaders,
who ruled between 2001 and 2006.
In the nearly three years since the disaster, the utility has been
plagued by a string of setbacks at the Fukushima station north of
Tokyo, including leaks of highly radioactive water last year,
prompting the government to step in with more support.
The local governor in Niigata, where Kashiwazaki is located, has
been a vocal opponent of Tepco's management and has questioned
whether the company has the ability to operate a nuclear station,
following the failings in its preparation and response to the
disaster. He has publicly called for the Tepco's liquidation.
(Reporting by Mari Saito and Kentaro
Hamada; editing by Aaron Sheldrick and Jeremy Laurence)
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