* Tepco to seek partners for nuclear business
* Company operated the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant
* Aims to restart giant Kashiwazaki Kariwa station by 2020
* Advisor says Tepco needs to be transparent on safety
(Adds comment, detail, profit forecast)
By Osamu Tsukimori and Aaron Sheldrick
TOKYO, May 11 Japan's Tokyo Electric Power Co
said on Thursday it will seek partners for its nuclear
business as part of a recovery plan after the Fukushima disaster
of six years ago brought the utility to its knees and put it
under state control.
The company, known as Tepco, is trying to place itself on a
sounder financial footing after the government in December
almost doubled its estimate for the costs related to the
Fukushima disaster to 21.5 trillion yen ($188 billion).
It is the third attempt to boost its finances in the six
years since the disaster, after the targets in previous plans
proved to be unattainable.
Central to its efforts to boost profits and pay for the
costs of the disaster is the restart of its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa
(KK) nuclear plant in northern Japan, the world's biggest power
station not including hydroelectric dams.
Tepco estimates it can cut costs by between 40 billion and
90 billion yen a year for each reactor it restarts at the
seven-unit station. It is now aiming for a restart of the first
unit at the power station during the year through March 2020.
However, the governor of Japan's Niigata prefecture, where
KK is located, is opposed to a restart without a review of its
safety plans, which could take several years. It also must
resubmit applications with the national atomic regulator.
"Tepco has a responsibility to communicate effectively on
why KK is different from Fukushima, what actions they have taken
since the accident and why it is very unlikely that an accident
like that will ever happen again," Dale Klein, the chairman of a
committee advising Tepco on nuclear safety, said on Thursday.
An earthquake in 2007 near the KK plant caused radiation
leaks and damaged facilities and Tepco has been criticized for
not taking the threat of natural disasters seriously along with
a bungled response to the bigger Fukushima disaster.
In the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986,
three reactors at Tepco's Fukushima plant had meltdowns after an
earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan in March 2011.
Finding partners for Tepco's nuclear business will be
difficult. Top executives of Tohoku Electric Power and
Chubu Electric Power, which operate in regions abutting
Tepco's service area, have said they were not considering any
nuclear tie-ups with Tepco.
Yet government officials in charge of the fund that holds
the shares in the company said on Thursday it was "essential"
that Tepco find partners for its nuclear and transmission
Tepco submitted the revised business plan to the government,
which is expected to give its approval after providing its own
input over the last few months.
Tepco plans to allocate 500 billion yen annually in the
coming decades to pay for decommissioning at Fukushima and
Tepco is estimating net profit of 288 billion yen in the
year through March 2018, more than double the year earlier
period. Revenue is forecast to rise to 5.75 trillion yen from
5.36 trillion yen.
($1 = 114.1700 yen)
(Editing by Joseph Radford and Christian Schmollinger)