Japan’s nuclear power sector, once one of the most powerful in the country, has been at a virtual standstill since the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in 2011. A government committee is now looking into a drastic overhaul of the industry, which would include building a single entity to manage the 50 reactors which are all currently offline for maintenance and security checks.
According to Taku Yamamoto, the chair of the energy committee of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the proposed company will be owned by the nine regional utilities, plus Japan Atomic Power Co. and Electric Power Development Co. The government will be contributing financially and technically to the entity, together with other local reactors. The nuclear management company will also help the government in its expansion plans for the export of nuclear technology and operation skills.
Another major purpose for the creation of the company is to help keep afloat Tokyo Electric Power Co,(TEPCO) the operator of the crippled Fukushima plant. The company would cover the clean-up of the plant and also victim compensation for those who were affected by the nuclear accident. Yamamoto said that the governemnt would like to help TEPCO out of their financial predicament without resorting to using taxpayer’s money. This is also to ensure that there will be no blackouts in the region by the time of the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. However, TEPCO spokesperson Tsuyoshi Numajiri refused to comment, only saying that plans like that are always subject to change. The LDP has also previously discussed other measures to help the operator out, like forming a separate company to deal with the clean-up and also providing financial aid to the beleaguered company.
The administration is also looking to have the Diet approve a bill that will bring about an end to the monopoly of regional utilities (including TEPCO), which has lasted for the last six decades or so. The bill will allow consumers to choose their preferred power supplier for the first time, and also unbundle generation and transmission operations. Data from the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry show that the regional utilities produce 90% of the country’s electricity output.
[ via Business Week ]