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Gov’t, TEPCO should take Niigata gubernatorial election results seriously

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A candidate who is cautious about restarting idled nuclear power plants won the Oct. 16 Niigata gubernatorial election, defeating a rival backed by the ruling coalition. The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) should take seriously the outcome of the election, in which the pros and cons of reactivating the utility’s atomic power station in the prefecture was a key point of contention.

Ryuichi Yoneyama, 49, supported by the opposition Japanese Communist Party, Liberal Party and Social Democratic Party, beat former Nagaoka Mayor Tamio Mori, 67, backed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partner Komeito.

Mori had been expected to score an easy victory as the approval rating of the Abe Cabinet has been high and both the ruling coalition parties enjoy support from the business community and related organizations. Therefore, the results highlight prefectural residents’ deep-rooted distrust in TEPCO, the operator of the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

The governing bloc’s loss in the Niigata election follows its defeat in the July Kagoshima gubernatorial race, in which journalist Satoshi Mitazono, who called on Kyushu Electric Power Co. to stop operations at its Sendai Nuclear Power Plant in the prefecture during his campaigning, scored a victory.

The outcome of the Niigata race also apparently shows local residents’ displeasure toward Mori, who failed to clarify his stance toward whether the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in the prefecture should be restarted, as well as their criticism of the Abe administration that is proactively trying to reactivate atomic power plants.

Close attention was focused on the latest election because incumbent Hirohiko Izumida abandoned seeking a fourth four-year term as governor.

The reason why Izumida gave up on running in the race remains unclear. However, Izumida has continued to demand TEPCO clarify the cause of the Fukushima nuclear crisis as a precondition for sitting at the negotiation table to discuss whether the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant should be reactivated. As such, TEPCO and the Abe government had expected that the retirement of Izumida would help facilitate the resumption of operations at nuclear plants.

As the election campaign went on, however, Yoneyama, who declared that he would take over Izumida’s policy line, garnered growing support from local voters. Alarmed by the situation, LDP heavyweights, including Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai, delivered campaign speeches and urged the local business community and industry organizations to vote for Mori.

Numerous voters in Niigata, who saw the LDP’s desperate efforts to persuade local voters to vote for Mori, probably felt the old-fashioned culture of the LDP. During his campaigning, Mori emphasized his experience of serving as president of the Japan Association of City Mayors to demonstrate his close relations with the national government. However, he gave local voters the impression that he was hesitant to clarify his position on reactivation of atomic power plants.

Many challenges have been left unaddressed by Izumida, such as whether the evacuation plan for local residents in case of an accident at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant is appropriate. Yoneyama must address these challenges as he pledged during his campaigning.

The manner in which the largest opposition Democratic Party (DP) approached the election was poor. The DP did not officially support Yoneyama although the party had initially planned to field him in the next House of Representatives election because the TEPCO union has strong influence within the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), which is a major supporting organization for the party. However, DP leader Renho did an about-face and delivered campaign speeches for Yoneyama in the final phase of the campaign apparently after being convinced that he would win.

The DP cannot win support from voters unless the party discusses its nuclear power policy and clarifies its stance on the issue.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161017/p2a/00m/0na/009000c

October 18, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Government likely to retain grip on beleaguered Tepco

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The government might stay involved in the management of Tokyo Electric longer than planned, given the ballooning costs of scrapping the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, sources close to the matter said.

The delay in reactivating the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture, the main pillar of the utility’s reconstruction plan, is another factor prompting the government rethink, the sources said Saturday. It had planned to end state control next April.

The government is leading the business operations of struggling Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings, which is facing huge compensation payments and other problems from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, because it has acquired 50.1 percent of the firm’s voting rights via the state-backed Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp.

Some bureaucrats at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry have been dispatched to Tepco.

Tepco said in a business plan in 2014 that it would turn itself from a “temporarily publicly managed” company to a self-managed one starting next April.

The industry ministry will hold the first panel meeting Wednesday to discuss additional government support for the utility.

Tepco faces swelling costs for decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 plant and compensating those affected beyond the previously estimated ¥11 trillion ($108 billion). Two reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant are under prolonged safety examinations by nuclear regulators.

The prospect of restarting the giant plant is also being complicated by impending changes in the leadership of the Niigata Prefectural Government, which hosts it.

To restart the plant, approval from the Niigata governor is needed.

Hirohiko Izumida, the current governor, was cautious about restarting the reactors because of Tepco’s failure to fully examine the cause of the Fukushima disaster. He withdrew his bid for re-election at the end of August.

Of the four candidates running for the Oct. 16 election, former Nagaoka Mayor Tamio Mori, 67, backed by the Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito ruling coalition, and Ryuichi Yoneyama, a 49-year-old doctor, are leading the race. Yoneyama has said he will follow Izumida’s stance and is opposed to any discussion of restarts unless the Fukushima disaster is thoroughly explained.

Tepco’s new business plan, including the revised schedule for ending state control, is expected to be compiled next January.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/10/02/business/japanese-government-considers-longer-support-tepco/#.V_GLUyTKO-d

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October 2, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Tokyo Electric Power : Gov’t planning to stay involved in TEPCO’s management longer

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The government is considering staying involved in Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s business management longer than currently planned, given larger-than-expected costs for scrapping the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, sources close to the matter said Saturday.

A delay in the process for reactivating its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, a main pillar of the utility’s reconstruction plan, is another factor prompting the government to think it would be too soon to end state control next April as initially planned, they said.

The government is leading business operations of the utility facing huge compensation payments and other problems from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster as it has acquired 50.1 percent of the firm’s voting rights through the state-backed Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp.

Some bureaucrats of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry are dispatched to the utility, known as TEPCO.

TEPCO said in a business plan in 2014 it would turn itself from the “temporarily publicly managed” company to a self-managed one starting next April.

The industry ministry will hold the first panel meeting Wednesday to discuss additional government support for the utility.

TEPCO faces swelling costs for decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi plant and compensating those affected beyond the previously estimated 11 trillion yen ($108 billion). Two reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant are under prolonged safety examinations by nuclear regulators.

TEPCO’s new business plan including the revised schedule for ending state control is expected to be compiled next January.

http://m.4-traders.com/TOKYO-ELECTRIC-POWER-COMP-6491247/news/Tokyo-Electric-Power-Gov-t-planning-to-stay-involved-in-TEPCO-s-management-longer-23147373/

October 2, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment