TOKYO Dec 20 Japan's government on Tuesday
urged Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco)
to integrate its transmission and nuclear operations with peers
to cut costs and generate higher income to pay the costs from
the 2011 nuclear disaster.
A government panel that has held intensive meetings since
October said the next six months will be "make or break" for
Tepco's reform efforts, after it earlier nearly doubled the
estimated costs of the Fukushima disaster to more than $180
Tepco's two previous business plans written to map out a
recovery from the three meltdowns at its Fukushima Daiichi
nuclear plant after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami were based on
assumptions of other nuclear reactors returning to service that
now look unlikely anytime soon. The panel said that now is the
time for Tepco to act boldly.
"Tepco needs to focus on securing funds for compensation and
decommissioning as well as boosting income through management
reforms. And it needs to carry out those actions with a sense of
urgency," the panel said. "The next half year is make or break
for Tepco's reform."
Tepco said it will come up with a new plan next year.
"We take the proposal seriously and will put bold reforms
into effect to fulfil our responsibilities for Fukushima," Tepco
President Naomi Hirose told reporters after the meeting where he
attended as an observer.
The panel earlier this month doubled its estimate for the
Fukushima-related costs to 21.5 trillion yen ($182 billion).
Tepco's portion of the burden has risen to 15.9 trillion yen
from 7.2 trillion yen.
The panel also recommended that Tepco fully integrates its
fuel and thermal power operations into JERA Co, a joint venture
between the company and Chubu Electric Power, and urged
the same for its transmission and nuclear operations.
"We will look into policies that enhance alliances," said
Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko when
asked if the government will change regulations to support
consolidation between Tepco and other utilities.
Other utilities have voiced opposition to joining with Tepco
because of concerns they will get saddled with the Fukushima
The panel also called for financial institutions and other
Tepco stakeholders to provide support to what was once Asia's
Tepco's Hirose reiterated that his company still aims to
issue bonds by the end of March.
The panel will check whether the Tepco's revised business
plan and its management scheme reflects its proposal in the
early half of next year, the proposal said.
($1 = 117.8300 yen)
(Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and