Tokyo Electric Power Co. President Naomi Hirose, left, hands a report to Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama at the prefectural government office in Niigata on April 19.
NIIGATA–Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama said a longer period may be needed to verify safety at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, destroying Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s schedule to restart reactors there.
Yoneyama announced the possible extension of the safety-confirmation period, which he had earlier put at three or four years, at a news conference on April 19 after his meeting with TEPCO President Naomi Hirose here.
The governor said it will take time to confirm that the nuclear plant can withstand major earthquakes, especially a building that is expected to serve as the headquarters in the event of a severe accident at the site.
Only after safety is confirmed can discussions begin on restarting the nuclear plant in the prefecture, Yoneyama said.
Under TEPCO’s reconstruction plan currently being worked out, operations at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, one of the largest in the world, will resume in April 2019 at the earliest.
However, TEPCO needs the prefectural government’s consent to restart reactors, and Yoneyama’s words show that the utility’s plan will be impossible to achieve.
TEPCO in 2014 became aware that the headquarters building at the plant was insufficient in terms of earthquake resistance. But the company failed to disclose the shortcomings and maintained its policy of using the building as a disaster headquarters.
The deficiencies of the building came to light in February this year.
Hirose visited the Niigata prefectural government office on April 19 to explain to Yoneyama the issue of the insufficient anti-quake capabilities at the plant’s building.
He acknowledged problems in the mindset of his employees.
“They had a tendency to put priority on the benefits of their own company,” Hirose told the governor.
As for the time needed to confirm safety at the nuclear plant, Yoneyama told Hirose, “The period could become longer depending on the circumstances.”
The prefectural government plans to set up a committee in June at the earliest to verify safety at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.
“I don’t think nuclear power plants are indispensable for the economies of Japan and Niigata Prefecture,” Yoneyama said at the news conference after his meeting with Hirose.
The reactor restarts, however, may be crucial for TEPCO’s finances.
The company needs to secure 500 billion yen (about $4.6 billion) every year for 30 years to decommission the reactors at its crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and pay compensation to those who evacuated after the disaster unfolded in March 2011.
Resumed operations of two reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant could provide 100 billion yen a year for TEPCO.
Tokyo Electric is now aiming to restart the Kawashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture in April 2019, sources say.
The company plans to include the goal in its financial outlook under a reconstruction program, the sources said Friday.
Restarting the giant plant is considered important to Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s ability to recover from the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in March 2011.
But the prospects for rebooting the plant are dim because it is opposed by Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama.
The reconstruction plan is also expected to include Tepco’s commitment to pursuing integration with other companies in some areas.
Tepco is expected to draw up the new plan and file for government approval as early as this month.
Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama, center, is briefed by the chief of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in the No. 6 reactor building in February, while TEPCO President Naomi Hirose, right, looks on.
Recent revelations concerning Tokyo Electric Power Co. raised fundamental doubts about whether the utility has done sufficient soul-searching over the accident at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011.
The revelations concern the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, where the company is seeking to restart the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors as soon as possible. In one instance, a key facility has been found to be lacking an adequate level of earthquake resistance.
TEPCO’s latest blunders emerged during the final stages of the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s screening of the two reactors, based on stricter safety standards introduced after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The NRA summoned TEPCO President Naomi Hirose. It should come as no surprise that the NRA’s chairman, Shunichi Tanaka, instructed Hirose to re-submit documents in the application for the restarts after ensuring their accuracy as a matter of his responsibility.
The new standards are nothing but the NRA’s minimum requirements for safe reactor operations.
Utilities have the primary responsibility for keeping track of the latest scientific knowledge and improving the safety of nuclear power plants.
A company that fails to pay appropriate attention to developments it finds inconvenient or cannot make swift decisions when faced with such a situation is not qualified to operate a nuclear reactor.
The NRA summoned Hirose over the earthquake resistance of a key building that is designed to serve as an on-site emergency response headquarters at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in the event of a severe accident.
TEPCO had said the building could withstand an earthquake with a maximum intensity of seven on the Japanese seismic scale. In the process of the NRA’s screening, however, the company acknowledged that it may not be able to withstand even half of the assumed strongest seismic shaking.
TEPCO said it learned about the inadequate level of earthquake resistance in 2014. The utility said the information was not shared within the company due to poor communications among different divisions. But that explanation should not be allowed to let it off the hook.
TEPCO also failed to disclose until recently other pieces of information about the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, such as the possibility that an earthquake could cause liquefaction of the ground under a seawall built to protect the plant from tsunami.
NRA officials have criticized TEPCO for its reluctance to disclose problems in a straightforward manner.
Local governments around the plant are similarly aghast.
Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama, who has been cautious about endorsing TEPCO’s plan to restart the reactors, has stated that he does not trust the utility.
TEPCO also appears to be losing the trust of Kashiwazaki Mayor Masahiro Sakurai, who had shown some understanding to the idea of restarts. He said anxiety about TEPCO’s nature has “heightened” due to the latest revelations, combined with the disclosure last year that the company tried to cover up the core meltdowns at the Fukushima plant.
“There is now the possibility that I may not give my consent” to the restarts, he said.
The 2007 Chuetsu offshore earthquake destroyed an administrative building at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.
Learning lessons from the disaster, TEPCO started constructing base-isolated buildings designed to serve as on-site emergency response headquarters at its nuclear power plants.
During the 2011 nuclear disaster, such a building at the Fukushima No. 1 plant was used as the on-site command post.
But the NRA’s screenings of reactors operated by other utilities had revealed that there are cases where buildings constructed with base isolation technology do not meet the new safety standards.
Critics say TEPCO is not eager to incorporate new findings.
It has been repeatedly pointed out that TEPCO first needs to thoroughly reform its organization and corporate culture, among other aspects.
We feel compelled to state again that the company must confront its problems.
NIIGATA, Japan (Kyodo) — Smoke emerged at a service building of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture on Thursday but it quickly halted after a firefighting effort by workers, its operator said.
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. said there was no radiation leak in the incident. The utility has not identified the cause of the incident.
The plant operator confirmed smoke coming out around 3:25 p.m. from a locker room inside the service building, located near the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the plant. The building is not a radiation controlled area, according to the company.
The two reactors on the Sea of Japan coast are being screened by the Nuclear Regulation Authority as TEPCO is seeking to resume their operation after they were halted following the 2011 nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, also operated by TEPCO.
TEPCO admits error in screening report
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority is demanding an explanation from Tokyo Electric Power Company.
TEPCO has admitted to submitting inaccurate information from calculations 3 years ago on plans for restarting two of its nuclear reactors in Niigata Prefecture.
The regulator is in the final stages of screening the No.6 and 7 reactors at TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.
The reactors must meet new government requirements introduced after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
Regulators gathered on Tuesday for discussions with TEPCO about buildings at the plant to be used as headquarters in an emergency.
TEPCO officials admitted one of the buildings lacked the necessary quake-resistance in all 7 of the company’s tests.
They had earlier said that the building had failed 5 of the 7 tests. They said they would not use the building.
They blamed the discrepancy on a failure by the civil engineering department to convey test results to the equipment design department.
The regulators noted the lack of coordination between TEPCO departments on the impact of soil liquefaction on breakwaters.
They called the mistakes unacceptable, and they’re demanding that TEPCO provide details and countermeasures.
Kashiwazaki Mayor Masahiro Sakurai, center, visiting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture during an emergency drill in December. He is briefed by plant chief Chikashi Shitara, right
Key Niigata nuclear plant building may not be quake-proof
Tokyo Electric Power Co. has revealed that a key building at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant may not be able to withstand even half of the assumed strongest seismic shaking, contrary to its earlier assurances.
TEPCO’s disclosure came Feb. 14 during a screening by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) for the restart of the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, which is the world’s largest.
The utility became aware of the possibility in 2014, but the information was not shared within the company. TEPCO reported to the NRA that the building can withstand temblors of 7, the highest category on the Japanese seismic intensity scale.
The building is designed to serve as an on-site emergency headquarters in the event of a severe accident, such as one caused by an earthquake.
An earthquake that occurred off the Chuetsu region of Niigata Prefecture in 2007 badly damaged the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.
In response, TEPCO constructed the building in question in 2009. At that time, it said the structure could withstand the assumed biggest earthquake motions that are 1.5 times stronger than those described in the Building Standards Law.
In 2014, the utility checked the building’s anti-quake capabilities again. It found that it may not be able to withstand horizontal movements triggered by even half the anticipated strongest earthquake, and that it could collapse into the side of an adjacent building.
That information was not conveyed to the company’s division in charge of the NRA’s screening, and thus escaped notice from NRA inspections.
Takafumi Anegawa, managing executive officer of TEPCO, apologized, saying, “We did not conceal the possibility. The in-house liaison was insufficient.”
An NRA official said, “Information is not shared in the company. Lessons from the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are not utilized.”
Ryuichi Yoneyama, governor of Niigata Prefecture, poses for a photograph in Tokyo on Jan. 23.
The man blocking the world’s largest nuclear plant says he grew opposed to atomic energy the same way some people fall in love.
Previously an advocate for nuclear power, Ryuichi Yoneyama campaigned against the restart of the facility as part of his successful gubernatorial race last year in Niigata Prefecture.
He attributes his political U-turn to the “unresolved” 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and the lack of preparedness at the larger facility in his own prefecture, both owned by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.
“Changing my opinion wasn’t an instant realization,” Yoneyama said in an interview. “It was gradual. As people say, you don’t know the exact moment you’ve fallen in love.”
Yoneyama won’t support the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture until an investigation is complete into the chain of events that resulted in the triple meltdown at Fukushima No. 1, which he visited Wednesday. While utilities don’t need approval from local authorities to restart plants, power companies are tradition-bound not to move ahead until they get their consent.
Yoneyama, a 49-year-old doctor and native of Niigata, is one of the highest-profile local opponents pitted against a political establishment led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The establishment sees nuclear power as crucial for the country’s long-term energy security and environmental goals.
Regulations and public opinion are keeping nearly all of Japan’s atomic stations shut almost six years after the meltdowns at Fukushima, where the search has barely begun for fuel that burned through to the bottom of the reactors.
“If the local governor remains firmly opposed to the restart, it will be very difficult for the reactors to come back online,” said James Taverner, an analyst at IHS Markit Ltd. “In addition to the local government, building the support and trust of local residents is key.”
A Kyodo News poll on the day of Yoneyama’s October election showed about 64 percent of Niigata voters opposed the restart of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, known popularly as KK. The restart of the facility was one of the key issues in the race to replace Gov. Hirohiko Izumida, who was famous for his tough stance against Tepco. He unexpectedly announced in August that he wouldn’t seek a fourth term.
To the residents of the prefecture, Yoneyama was the candidate who would make nuclear safety a priority, while his main opponent gave off the vibe that he was a member of the reactor restarts camp, the former governor said by email.
In last year’s gubernatorial race in Kagoshima Prefecture, where Kyushu Electric Power Co. operates the Sendai nuclear plant, a three-term incumbent was defeated by an opponent campaigning to temporarily close the reactors. A district court last year barred Kansai Electric Power Co. from running two reactors at its Takahama station in Fukui Prefecture only weeks after they’d been turned back on.
Yoneyama supported bringing back online Japan’s reactors during his unsuccessful bid in 2012 for a seat in the Lower House. The country was being forced to spend more on fossil fuel imports after the disaster, so restarting the plants was needed to help the economy recover, he said at the time.
Though Yoneyama’s position switch helped secure his first electoral victory after four failed campaigns for the Diet, nuclear opponents see him driven by more than political opportunism.
“I had my reservations about Yoneyama,” said Takehiko Igarashi, an official at the Niigata division of the anti-nuclear group Nakusou Genpatsu. “But after he was vetted and endorsed by the Japanese Communist Party and other smaller parties that have an anti-nuclear slant, I knew that I could trust him.”
Tepco and Abe’s government see restarting KK as one way for Japan’s biggest utility to boost profits and help manage its nearly ¥16 trillion ($139 billion) share of the Fukushima cleanup. Resuming reactors 6 and 7 will boost annual profits by as much as ¥240 billion, the utility has said.
The economic argument, however, is beginning to hold less sway, with Yoneyama saying the benefits to the local economy are “overstated.” While the prefecture risks missing out on ¥1.1 billion a year in government support without the restarts, that represents a small slice of the prefecture’s budget, which tops ¥1 trillion, according to Yoneyama.
Abe, a strong backer of nuclear power, leads a government aiming for nuclear to account for as much as 22 percent of the energy mix by 2030, compared with a little more than 1 percent now.
While restart opponents like Yoneyama demand the government guarantee the safety of the reactors, they’ve also criticized the evacuation and emergency response plans as inadequate.
In his first meeting with Tepco executives since taking office, Yoneyama earlier this month told Chairman Fumio Sudo and President Naomi Hirose that he won’t support KK’s restart until a new evacuation plan is drawn up using the results of a Fukushima investigation. Tepco will fully cooperate with the probe and stay in communication with the governor, the company said in response to a request for comment.
“Once I realized that the Fukushima disaster couldn’t be easily resolved, of course my opinion changed,” Yoneyama said. “If another accident occurs, overseas tourism will become a distant dream. Even Japanese may flee the country.”
Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama, far right, holds talks with executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. in the Niigata prefectural government office on Jan. 5.
Niigata governor rejects restarts in 1st meet with TEPCO execs
NIIGATA–Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama met Jan. 5 with top executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) for the first time, reiterating his opposition to restarting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.
“It will be difficult to approve the restart as long as (the causes of) the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are not verified. In the present circumstances, I cannot accept the restart,” Yoneyama told Fumio Sudo, chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., and Naomi Hirose, president of the company.
It was the first time for Yoneyama to meet with TEPCO executives since he assumed the post of Niigata governor last October. The talks were held in the Niigata prefectural government office.
Yoneyama, noting that it will take several years for the Niigata prefectural government to verify the causes of the 2011 nuclear disaster, asked the TEPCO executives to provide more information and other forms of cooperation.
In response, Sudo said, “The priority is to hear voices of local residents.”
This seemed to suggest that TEPCO will not restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant as long as the Niigata governor continues to resist the move.
A council of experts of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced late last year that the costs for dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster will almost double to 21.5 trillion yen ($185 billion) from 11 trillion yen initially estimated in 2013.
To help cover the amount, TEPCO planned to restart two reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa to generate 100 billion yen in annual profits. But that now looks difficult, given Yoneyama’s firm stance on the issue of restarts.
Gov. says restart of nuclear plant in Niigata to take “several years”
The restart of a nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. on the Sea of Japan coast will likely take “several years,” the governor of Niigata Prefecture said Thursday, highlighting the difficulty in concluding post-2011 nuclear disaster reviews.
The utility known as TEPCO has been seeking to reactivate the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, the world’s largest by generation capacity, as soon as possible to boost revenue, as it grapples with ballooning costs stemming from the 2011 nuclear disaster in Japan’s northeast.
“There can be no discussions about a restart without reviewing” factors including the cause of the Fukushima nuclear accident and evacuation plans for residents, Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama said in his first talks with TEPCO executives since assuming office in October.
Japan governor tells Tepco bosses nuclear plant to stay shut
The governor of Japan’s Niigata prefecture reiterated his opposition to the restart of Tokyo Electric Power’s (Tepco) Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, adding it may take a few years to review the pre-conditions for restart.
During a meeting on Thursday with Tepco Chairman Fumio Sudo and President Naomi Hirose, Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama, who was elected in October on his anti-nuclear platform, repeated his pledge to keep the plant shut unless a fuller explanation of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster was provided.
He also said that evacuation plans for people in Niigata in case of a nuclear accident and the health impacts that the Fukushima accident have had would need to be reviewed before discussing the nuclear plant’s restart.
The Japanese government last month nearly doubled its projections for costs related to the disaster to 21.5 trillion yen ($185 billion), increasing the pressure on Tepco to step up reform and improve its performance.
Three reactors at Tepco’s Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant melted down after a magnitude 9 earthquake struck Japan in March 2011, triggering a tsunami that devastated a swathe of Japan’s northeastern coastline and killed more than 15,000 people.
Pro-nuclear candidate wins mayoral race in plant host city
KASHIWAZAKI, NIIGATA PREF. – A candidate who pledged to conditionally approve the restart of the world’s biggest nuclear power plant has been elected mayor of Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture.
Masahiro Sakurai, a 54-year-old former member of the city’s assembly, on Sunday defeated Eiko Takeuchi, 47, a former municipal employee who opposes the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex on the Sea of Japan coast.
During the campaign, Sakurai said he would not reject a restart of the power plant if Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. takes into account the opinions of nearby residents and ensures the facility’s safety.
He was supported by the Liberal Democratic Party and local businesses.
Takeuchi promised not to accept the plant restart, saying it will expose the public to danger. She had official support from the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party.
Speaking with reporters Monday morning, Sakurai repeated his pledge to gradually reduce dependence on nuclear power but that he sees value in the plant operating for a certain period of time.
He also referred to decommissioning some of the reactors, saying the process should create jobs in the city.
It remains uncertain whether Tepco will be able to resume operation of the plant due to opposition from Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama, who was elected in October.
An agreement, though nonbinding, between the utility, Kashiwazaki and Niigata Prefecture is essential to restart the nuclear power station.
The power station straddles Kashiwazaki and the village of Kariwa.
Kariwa Mayor Hiroo Shinada, who supports restarting the plant, was handed a fifth term Nov. 15 when no one ran against him.
Whether to restart nuclear facilities has dominated several local elections across Japan, especially since the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.
Reactors 6 and 7 at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant are boiling water units, the same type that suffered core meltdowns at Fukushima No. 1, raising safety fears.
If all of its seven units are in operation, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa is the world’s largest nuclear power complex, boasting a combined output capacity of around 8.2 million kilowatts.
Mayoral candidate in Japan campaigning to bring world’s biggest nuke plant back online set to be elected: exit polls
A pro-nuclear power advocate who campaigned on a platform of rebooting the world’s largest nuclear power plant is placed to win the mayoral election in the Japanese City of Kashiwazaki, in Niigata Prefecture, exit polls reported by local media showed Sunday.
According to Kyodo News, Masahiro Sakurai, 54, who formerly worked for the city council in Kashiwazaki, will become mayor, having beaten his opponent Eiko Takeuchi, 47, a former employee of the city, who stood in opposition of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear complex being restarted.
Despite the likely win for Sakurai however and his plans to bring the mega-plant on the Sea of Japan back on-line, the plant’s utility may not get the green light to restart its idled reactors, as a month earlier Ryuichi Yoneyama, an anti-nuclear candidate, won the gubernatorial election in Niigata Prefecture.
Yoneyama winning the race was a major blow to Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. as well as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling administration, who favors bringing the nation’s nuclear power plants, idled in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in 2011, back online, as he has unequivocally stated that he will not accept the plant being restarted.
“Let me clearly say that I cannot accept the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant under the current circumstances where I cannot protect people’s lives and live as I have promised,” Yoneyama was quoted as saying to his supporters recently, with reference to major concerns in the area over the plant’s checkered safety record.
The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station that Sakurai wants to reboot is located in the towns of Kashiwazaki and Kariwa in Niigata Prefecture, on the Sea of Japan, and was central to Yoneyama’s winning campaign, with incumbent Gov. Hirohiko Izumida, who was not seeking reelection, also voicing skepticism over the safety of the plant’s restart.
For the power station, with a potential output of 8.2 million kilowatts making it the largest in the world to be restarted, an accord has to be struck between the city, the prefecture and the utility, with Yoneyama likely to be the bottle-neck.
Safety concerns have been rife in the region as the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant’s Nos. 6 and 7 units use the same boiling water technique as the reactors at TEPCO’s Daiichi plant in Fukushima that suffered multiple meltdowns in 2011, leading to the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant itself has been no stranger to accidents and controversy and in 2007 an earthquake caused reactors at the plant to catch fire and leak radioactive materials. As with Fukushima Daiichi, the plant is also owned and operated by the embattled Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which is currently under state control.
Following TEPCO’s numerous coverups, continued misinformation and other monumental gaffes related to the ongoing Fukushima disaster, public opinion towards the utility, and, by default, the government here, has remained indignant and distrusting.
Pro-reactor restart candidate wins mayoral race
Voters in a Japanese city that hosts an offline nuclear power plant have chosen their new mayor. Independent Masahiro Sakurai conditionally supports plans to restart the plant.
He defeated the only other candidate, who opposes the restart, in the election in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, on Sunday.
Sakurai endorses the plan to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant with some conditions, including ensuring its safety. He also insists that the number of nuclear plants needs to be reduced in the future.
During his campaign, Sakurai said the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, as well as the central government should play a proactive role in preventing nuclear disasters. He promised to work for necessary legal revisions.
Sakurai also urged the city to overcome the division regarding the restart.
He garnered support from local business leaders and many municipal assembly members.
Last month, a candidate with a cautious stance toward the restart won the election to become the prefecture’s governor.
Masahiro Sakurai (left), a former Kashiwazaki city assemblyman, and Eiko Takeuchi, a former Kashiwazaki municipal government worker, kick off campaigning Sunday for a mayoral race set for Nov. 20.
Campaigning for the mayoral race in the city of Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, kicked off Sunday, with two candidates locking horns over whether to approve the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.
Masahiro Sakurai, 54, a former Kashiwazaki city assemblyman, and Eiko Takeuchi, 47, a former Kashiwazaki municipal government worker, registered their candidacies in the Nov. 20 election to choose a successor to incumbent Mayor Hiroshi Aida, who decided not to see a fourth term.
Sakurai said he would approve the restart of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s nuclear plant if assured of Kashiwazaki citizens’ safety.
Takeuchi, backed by the opposition Democratic Party and Japanese Communist Party, however, has said she would demand that the plant, which straddles Kashiwazaki and the village of Kariwa, be left offline.
Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama, who is reluctant to allow the plant to resume operations, won the gubernatorial election last month.
METI proposed that TEPCO would start a subsidiary to manage all its nuclear plants. Saying it would facilitate restarting the reactors at the Kashiwazaki Kariwa NPP, as since the beginning of the Tepco-owned Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster the government planned to use profits from the Tepco-owned Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP to finance the Fukushima Daiichi disaster costs; and that it would also encourage collaboration among other utilities nuclear power plants, and make merger or sale easier. METI thinks such change would also encourage the public to support nuclear reactors restarting.
As the total decommissionning costs could double, Tepco would also like the rules to be changed so as not take an added large loss on their books.
One day later Hitachi announced that they consider merging their nuclear business with Toshiba and Mistubishi.
These recent new developments show Japan nuclear industry on the defensive, former PM Koizumi warned the Liberal Democratic Party could lose the next election if it focuses on the nuclear power issue.
Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama receives flowers on his first day in office Tuesday at the Niigata Prefectural Government office in the city of Niigata
NIIGATA – On his first day in office, Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama reiterated his opposition to an early restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.
“I can’t discuss (the matter) while the investigation is still in progress,” Yoneyama told a news conference Tuesday, referring to the probe into the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
“I can’t accept a resumption of the plant’s operation under what I understand as the current situation,” he said.
Having never before held public office, Yoneyama won a landslide victory on Oct. 16. His campaign stressed his negative stance toward the restart of the power plant that straddles the village of Kariwa and the city of Kashiwazaki.
Operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., it is the biggest nuclear power plant in the world.
Supported by three opposition parties — the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Liberal Party — Yoneyama defeated a candidate backed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito.
At his inaugural news conference, Yoneyama expressed his intention to “thoroughly investigate” the Fukushima crisis.
He referred to Tepco’s failure to quickly disclose the meltdowns at Fukushima No. 1, which a joint committee of the Niigata Prefectural Government and the company is currently investigating.
The matter will be “scrutinized to an extent at which guidelines to judge (nuclear plant) safety can be drawn up,” Yoneyama said, expressing his hope of hashing out a conclusion by the end of his four-year term.
He said he hopes to hold talks with the central government and Tepco soon on the possible restart. “It’s important to confirm each other’s positions,” he observed.
At a news conference in Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said there is no change in the central government’s policy of pursuing a restart of any reactor that has passed a Nuclear Regulation Authority safety examination.
“We hope to secure local support while listening sufficiently to the new governor,” Suga said.
The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture
In an upset, Ryuichi Yoneyama, a rookie candidate backed by the opposition Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Liberal Party, was elected governor of Niigata Prefecture on Oct. 16.
Yoneyama presented a tough stance toward the proposed restart of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in the prefecture, which was the main election issue.
He emerged victorious in a virtual one-on-one contest against Tamio Mori, a former mayor of Nagaoka in the prefecture, who was backed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, Komeito.
The outcome could be called a manifestation of the public will that wants to halt the headlong way the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is seeking to have Japan’s idled nuclear reactors brought back online.
The election highlighted the strong anxiety that Niigata Prefecture residents have concerning nuclear power.
Yoneyama said in his campaign pledge that he would not discuss the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant unless the causes of the 2011 disaster at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, its impact and the challenges it highlighted are scrutinized.
He has the responsibility to follow through on his promise and confront the central government and TEPCO, which are seeking to have the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa’s nuclear reactors brought back online, with a resolute attitude.
Hirohiko Izumida, the incumbent governor who has consistently taken a cautious stance toward a nuclear restart, did not seek re-election.
Attention was focused during the gubernatorial race on whether Izumida’s policy line would be succeeded. It was initially thought that Mori, a former head of the Japan Association of City Mayors who emphasized the connections he has with the central government, had an overwhelming advantage.
But Yoneyama, who announced his candidacy immediately before official campaigning started and asserted he would follow Izumida’s stance over the nuclear restart issue, turned out to have more pull.
An Asahi Shimbun survey of eligible voters in Niigata Prefecture found that, while only about 20 percent of the respondents said they approved the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, more than 60 percent opposed it. Yoneyama was elected by that public opinion.
Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, where seven nuclear reactors are concentrated, is one of the world’s largest nuclear plants. A serious cover-up of technical problems there came to light in 2002. The Niigata Chuetsu-oki Earthquake of 2007 resulted in a fire and the leakage of a small amount of radioactive substances there. It stands to reason that many feel anxious about plant operations.
Izumida told the central government that plans for evacuating local residents in the event of a nuclear plant disaster are not covered by the screenings by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, and called for the central government’s Nuclear Emergency Response Guideline to be improved. He also used an expert panel of the prefectural government to pursue an independent investigation into the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The governor also questioned TEPCO’s delay in announcing that core meltdowns had occurred at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. That led to TEPCO’s acknowledgment this year of a cover-up.
One can say that Izumida has demonstrated that a prefectural governor can play various roles without leaving the safety of a nuclear plant up to the central government. The election results have shown that many residents of Niigata Prefecture want their governor to continue that stance.
The Abe administration, which defines nuclear energy as an important mainstay power source, is hoping to restart nuclear reactors that have passed NRA screenings. It also defines the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant as an indispensable step for rehabilitating the embattled TEPCO, which has virtually become a government-owned entity.
The administration, however, should sincerely face up to the public will in Niigata Prefecture.
In Kagoshima Prefecture as well, the winner in a gubernatorial election this summer was a candidate who called for a nuclear plant in the southern prefecture to be taken temporarily offline.
It is the duty of top officials responsible for national politics to listen to the voices of the public.
TOKYO — The election of an anti-nuclear candidate as governor of Japan’s Niigata Prefecture could hit the finances of not only Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings but the public as well, as the utility is relying on a reactor restart in Niigata to cover Fukushima cleanup costs.
The central government reached an arrangement in 2014 to extend up to 9 trillion yen ($86.6 billion currently) in interest-free loans to pay for dealing with the fallout of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster. Of this, 5.4 trillion yen is to go toward compensating those affected, with Tepco and other power companies, including Kansai Electric Power and Chubu Electric Power, to repay the loans. Another 2.5 trillion yen is earmarked for decontamination work, with the costs to be recouped through the sale of Tepco shares held by the government.
But more than 6 trillion yen in compensation has been paid out so far, and cost overruns on decontamination are seen as all but certain. Decommissioning work at Tepco’s Fukushima plant, such as extracting fuel, falls outside the 9 trillion yen framework.
The 2 trillion yen Tepco had aimed to secure on its own to pay for scrapping the plant will be nowhere near enough. The utility and Japan’s industry ministry had counted on bringing the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture back online, which would improve Tepco’s earnings by 240 billion yen a year. But Gov.-elect Ryuichi Yoneyama has indicated that he is not amenable to a quick restart.
An expert panel set up by the ministry started discussing how to handle the additional costs this month. It laid out a scenario in which improved profit margins at Tepco via restructuring, along with profits from the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa facility, would be used to minimize the amount shouldered by taxpayers.
The longer it takes to restart the plant in Niigata, the larger the hit will be to Tepco’s available funding for Fukushima costs. Though the utility will squeeze out some money via internal reforms, Tepco may use rate hikes to pass on to the public what it cannot cover itself. Tepco and other utilities already have raised rates to recoup part of the compensation costs. A top industry ministry official indicated that rate increases will also be on the table to pay for decommissioning.
Power companies besides Tepco could be affected as well. Since many nuclear plants in eastern Japan use boiling-water reactors like those at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, further delays could hold up other reactor restarts in the region.
The election Sunday of Ryuichi Yoneyama as the new governor of Niigata Prefecture may make the financial situation at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. even more unstable, as Yoneyama is cautious about restarting reactors at the company’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.
In the wake of the March 2011 accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, operations at all of the company’s 11 nuclear power reactors were suspended — excluding those at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, which are to be decommissioned.
The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant holds seven of the company’s reactors, all of which have been idle since March 2012.
TEPCO has applied for safety inspections to be carried out by the Nuclear Regulation Authority on two of the reactors at the plant.
TEPCO’s dependence on crude oil and liquefied natural gas has deepened because the company relies mainly on thermal power generation. As thermal power plants are affected by the import prices of the fuels, the situation is weighing on TEPCO’s financial situation.
If just one reactor at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant can be reactivated, TEPCO’s annual profit is expected to rise by up to about ¥100 billion. The reactors can produce electric power at a lower cost than thermal power generation.
For now, TEPCO remains profitable, but this is largely because lower crude oil prices have lowered the company’s expenditures.
Though crude oil prices are currently low, prices are forecast to rise in mid- and long-term projections.
If the fuel costs of thermal power plants rise, electric power companies’ balance sheets will be adversely affected. This will make nuclear power plants increasingly important.
However, during the election campaign, Yoneyama said, “Unless examinations of the accident in Fukushima Prefecture are completed, it’s not possible to begin discussions about reactivation.”
The possibility he will tolerate swift reactivation of the reactors is very low, even if the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant passes the NRA’s safety inspections.
The total amount of compensation for those adversely affected by the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has surpassed ¥6 trillion, and the amount is likely to grow.
It is also assumed that work to decommission the reactors that caused the accident will cost trillions of yen. Thus TEPCO has asked for assistance from the government.
An expert panel of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry began discussions this month about TEPCO’s future direction, and how to share the financial burden of decommissioning nuclear reactors.
Reactivation of its nuclear reactors will be key to stabilizing TEPCO’s financial situation back on track, and enable the company to procure funds for compensation for damage and future decommissioning.
Anxiety will continue to mount over TEPCO’s financial situation the longer reactivation is delayed.
Electricity rates of major electric power companies in fiscal 2015 were about 20 percent higher on average for households, and about 30 percent higher on average for corporate users, compared to before the nuclear accident.
In TEPCO’s service area, the rates for households currently stand about 20 percent higher than before the nuclear accident.
An analyst estimated that if reactors Nos. 6 and 7 of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant are reactivated, TEPCO will be able to lower the rates by 2 to 3 percent.
Niigata Newly Elected Governor Says No Restart for Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP, Tepco’s World Biggest Nuclear Power Plant
Japanese anti-nuclear candidate wins election at site of world’s biggest atomic power station
Ryuichi Yoneyama, the newly elected governor of Niigata, says he will not restart Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station shut down after Fukushima
An anti-nuclear candidate has been elected in a region of Japan that houses the world’s biggest atomic power station, striking a blow to Tokyo Electric Power’s attempts to restart the plant in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
Ryuichi Yoneyama, a doctor-lawyer who has never held office and is backed mostly by leftwing parties, won the race for governor of Niigata, north of Tokyo, Japanese media projected on Sunday. Shares in Tokyo Electric Power fell 8% on Monday after the news broke.
The vote was dominated by concerns about the future of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station and nuclear safety more than five years after the Fukushima catastrophe. The result represents a challenge to the government’s energy policy.
“As I have promised all of you, under current circumstances where we can’t protect your lives and your way of life, I declare clearly that I can’t approve a restart,” the 49-year-old told supporters at his campaign headquarters.
Cheers of “Banzai!” erupted as media began projecting him the winner over former mayor Tamio Mori, 67, backed by prime minister Shinzo Abe’s pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic party (LDP).
Yoneyama had more than 500,000 votes to about 430,000 for Mori with 93% of the vote counted, public broadcaster NHK said. Voters opposed restarting the plant by 73% to 27%, according to an exit poll by the broadcaster.
Mori, a former construction ministry bureaucrat, apologised to his supporters for failing to win the election.
Yoneyama, who has run unsuccessfully for office four times, promised to continue the policy of the outgoing governor who had long thwarted the ambitions of Tepco, as the company supplying about a third of Japan’s electricity is known, to restart the plant.
Reviving the seven-reactor site, which has a capacity of 8 gigawatts, is key to saving the utility, which was brought low by the Fukushima explosions and meltdowns, and then the repeated admissions of cover-ups and safety lapses after the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
Tepco, put under government control in 2012, is vital to Abe’s energy policy, which relies on rebooting more of the reactors that once met about 30% of the nation’s needs.
The election became a litmus test for nuclear safety and put Abe’s energy policy and Tepco’s handling of Fukushima back under the spotlight.
The government wants to restart units that pass safety checks, also promoting renewables and burning more coal and natural gas.
Only two of Japan’s 42 reactors are running, more than five years after Fukushima, but the Niigata plant’s troubles go back further.
Several reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa have been out of action since an earthquake in 2007 caused radiation leaks and fires in a disaster that prefigured the Fukushima calamity and Tepco’s bungled response.
Yoneyama, who has worked as a radiological researcher, said on the campaign trail that Tepco didn’t have the means to prevent Niigata children from getting thyroid cancer in a nuclear accident, as he said had happened in Fukushima. He said the company didn’t have a solid evacuation plan.
The LDP’s Mori, meanwhile, was forced to tone down his support for restarting the plant as the race tightened, media said, insisting safety was the priority for Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, while promoting the use of natural gas and solar power in Niigata.
Setback for operator of world’s largest atomic plant as anti-nuclear doctor elected Niigata governor
NIIGATA – Sunday’s victory of an anti-nuclear activist in the Niigata gubernatorial election is a setback for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s energy policy.
Doctor-lawyer Ryuichi Yoneyama, 49, defeated the candidate endorsed by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party. Former construction ministry bureaucrat Tamio Mori, 67, was expected until the last moment to cruise to victory.
Yoneyama has never held office.
Campaigning for Sunday’s vote was dominated by concerns over the future of the world’s biggest atomic power station, the seven-reactor Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex. Nationwide, all but two reactors are shut down in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and Abe has pushed hard for restarts.
“Under current circumstances where we can’t protect the lives and the way of life of citizens in the prefecture, I can’t approve a restart,” Yoneyama told reporters on Monday.
Supported by the Japanese Communist Party and two other small parties, Yoneyama secured close to 530,000 votes. Mori trailed with 465,000.
The focus will now be how Yoneyama will be able to cooperate with local municipalities and the central government in creating evacuation plans for nuclear disasters. These will be key before restarts can take place.
Abe, meanwhile, told a Diet committee that he will respect the choice of Niigata and that he will cooperate with the new governor.
Shares in Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., which operates the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors, fell 8 percent on Monday.
The complex has a capacity of 8 gigawatts. Its revival is key to saving Tepco, which was brought low by the Fukushima meltdowns and hydrogen explosions, and then repeated admissions of cover-ups and safety lapses after the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
“Senior management at Tepco have made it clear that restarting the Kashiwazaki reactors is fundamentally important to restoring their finances,” Tom O’Sullivan, founder of Tokyo-based consultant Mathyos, said by email. “There now has to be significant uncertainty over restarting those reactors.”
Yoneyama’s victory came after Tepco President Naomi Hirose highlighted the utility’s financial vulnerability this month. He said it may face insolvency if it were to recognize the cost of decommissioning the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.
Resumption of operations at just one of Kashiwazaki Kariwa’s reactors would boost the utility’s profit by about ¥10 billion a month, the company has said.
Yoneyama previously tried to run for office four times. He was unsuccessful.
In this election, he promised to continue the policy of the outgoing governor who had long thwarted the ambitions of Tepco to restart the plant. Tepco supplies about a third of Japan’s electricity.
As the race tightened, the election became a litmus test for nuclear safety and put Abe’s energy policy and Tepco’s handling of Fukushima back under the spotlight.
“The talk was of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, but I think the result will affect nuclear restarts across the country,” said Shigeaki Koga, a former trade and industry ministry official who is a critic of nuclear restarts and the Abe administration.
Koga said it was important that Yoneyama join forces with another newly elected governor skeptical of nuclear restarts, Satoshi Mitazono of Kagoshima Prefecture.
“Without strong support from others, it won’t be easy to take on Tepco,” he said.
The government wants to restart units that pass safety checks, also promoting renewables and burning more coal and natural gas.
Only two of Japan’s 42 reactors are running more than five years after Fukushima, but the Niigata plant’s troubles go back further.
Several reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa have been out of action since an earthquake in 2007 caused radiation leaks and fires in a disaster that prefigured the Fukushima calamity and Tepco’s bungled response.
Yoneyama, who has worked as a radiological researcher, said on the campaign trail that Tepco lacks the means to prevent Niigata children from getting thyroid cancer in a nuclear accident, as he said happened in Fukushima. He said the company did not have a solid evacuation plan.
The LDP’s Mori, meanwhile, was forced to tone down his support for restarting the plant as the race tightened, media said, insisting safety was the top priority for Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, while promoting the use of natural gas and solar power in Niigata.
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