Japan mulls plan to create single company to manage nuclear reactors

Japan is weighing plans to establish a company to solely manage all of the nation’s 50 operating reactors, in a dramatic overhaul that would change the landscape of the world’s third largest nuclear power sector.

The proposed company will essentially be owned by Japan’s nine regional utilities and wholesalers Japan Atomic Power Co and Electric Power Development Co, says Taku Yamamoto, who chairs the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s energy committee.

The government and local reactor makers would provide financial and technical support, Yamamoto said in an interview.

The plan signifies a growing momentum in the government to restructure the nations’ decades-old electricity supply model in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis triggered by the disasters of March 2011.

Yamamoto said the new company will partially fund the cleanup of Tokyo Electric Power Co’s stricken plant as well as compensation for victims, which estimatedly costs more than 11 trillion yen ($112 billion).

“Who’s going to like a bankruptcy of Tepco? The company has to go on working hard for the Fukushima disaster until it dies,” says Yamamoto.

LDP lawmakers have mulled other options to restructure Tepco. Tadamori Oshima, the head of the party’s 2011 earthquake reconstruction task force, proposed a separate company to deal with decommissioning the problematic Fukushima plant and the government to provide financial aid.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is also seeking the Diet’s endorsement this month on a bill aimed at ending Tepco’s monopoly of electricity generation for decades.

The draft bill would unbundle generation and transmission operations and allow households to choose power suppliers for the first time.

“The power industry reform bill would help stop utilities’ dominance in Japan and encourage more newcomers from home and abroad to enter the mature power market,” Yamamoto said.

“The passage of the legislation is a prerequisite for the unification of nuclear plant management to move forward.”

By Maesie Bertumen

Image of Tomari plant under construction: IAEA Imagebank/Flickr

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