Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the utility company responsible for managing the Fukushima nuclear plant, has stated its plans to restart another one of its nuclear facilities sometime next year. Naomi Hirose, the newly elected company president, says that reactivating the Kashiwazaki Kariwa power plant, located in Niigata Prefecture and is also the largest nuclear power station, is “Plan A” for their 10-year business reconstruction. While there may be other parts to this 10-year reconstruction, restarting another of Japan’s nuclear reactors, and one managed the company seen as responsible for the March 2011 nuclear crisis, is not going to go over easy with Japan’s public.
This long-term reconstruction plan comes with the receipt of a 1 trillion yen (approx. $12.6 billion) bailout from the Japanese government, effectively bringing the company under state control. Despite Japan’s public opinion that the country should move away from its use of nuclear power, the international criticism that has poured in since Prime Minister Noda called for the first nuclear power plant to be restarted in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, and the calculation that the Fukushima disaster has cost the public an estimated $138 billion, Hirose says TEPCO has no choice but to do their best, as there is no “Plan B” at this point.
Tomoko Murakami, a nuclear analyst from Tokyo’s Institute of Energy Economics, says that TEPCO’s plan is nothing more than wishful thinking, and there is no chance the government will approve of any more reactor restarts. And while this may be true, without a restart, TEPCO has little chance to restore itself as a company. Why should the public care about the utility it despises so much? Because if the Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant isn’t restarted, and energy prices aren’t increased, both within one year, then the government will have no choice but to increase its bailout, which of course is made with public money.