Tepco Jumps Ahead of Regulator’s Decision on Nuclear Plant

By Bloomberg

Dec 06, 2023

image is BloomburgMedia_S56EDWT1UM0W01_06-12-2023_11-00-08_638374176000000000.jpg

Workers wearing protective suits and masks work on the Unit 2 reactor building at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima, Japan, on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. The sixth anniversary of the massive earthquake and tsunami that caused the meltdown at the TEPCO facility is on March 11. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Japan’s top utility surged as regulators indicated they will take a step that may lead to the restart of its nuclear power plant — the world’s largest.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority will make a final decision to remove a ban on restarting Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power plant after conducting an on-site inspection and meeting with the utility’s president, the commissioners said at a meeting on Wednesday. 

The regulator may be able to make a decision by year-end, Shinsuke Yamanaka, chairman of the watchdog, said in a press conference following the meeting. 

Tepco’s Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power station in Kashiwazaki City.Photographer: Soichiro Koriyama/Bloomberg

This is the clearest signal yet that the regulator could soon reverse the order, which it implemented in 2021 after serious security missteps were found at the facility. The watchdog compiled a draft report that said safety issues surrounding the power station have now been corrected, public broadcaster NHK reported earlier this week.

Tepco shares closed 8.1% higher in Tokyo, the most in more than a year. While it isn’t clear when the facility in Niigata prefecture will come back online, boosting nuclear power generation will cut Tepco’s dependence on expensive overseas fossil fuels and help lift profits.

The Japanese government has been shifting toward the use of nuclear power in an effort to secure stable energy supply, curb dependence on imported fossil fuel and help reach decarbonization goals. Yet utilities face numerous regulatory hurdles in restarting reactors following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. 

Indeed, Tepco — which has to clean up the wrecked Fukushima site — still has a series of steps before it can resume operations at the reactor units, such as getting the local government’s approval. 

Kashiwazaki Kariwa, which has seven reactors totaling 8.2 gigawatts in capacity, is located about 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Tokyo. The nation’s regulator said in 2017 that reactor units 6 and 7 met post-Fukushima safety protocols, which paved the path forward for restarts.

(Updates with comments from regulator chairman in third paragraph.)

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

By Shoko Oda

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