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2013年2月10日 (日)

東電経営悪化 現実的な政府支援が必要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 10, 2013)
TEPCO needs govt aid to deal with Fukushima compensation
東電経営悪化 現実的な政府支援が必要だ(2月9日付・読売社説)

Management reconstruction of the troubled Tokyo Electric Power Co. is becoming increasingly uncertain.

If its business erodes further, the power company might have difficulty dealing with the crisis at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and stably supplying electricity to its customers. The government should consider additional official assistance as quickly as possible.

TEPCO has revised downward its projection of its after-tax deficit in the fiscal year ending in March to 120 billion yen from its initial expectation of 45 billion yen.

The drastic revision was made because the firm's business has come under heavy pressure from soaring costs of fuel for thermal power generation, needed to make up for the shortage of electricity resulting from the substantial delay in the restart of TEPCO's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture.

Its business has been harmed by the yen's recent appreciation, which has driven up import prices of liquefied natural gas and other fuels for thermal power generation. The comprehensive business plan made last spring to rehabilitate TEPCO has apparently gone wrong in its very first fiscal year.


TEPCO plan hindered

TEPCO also aims to purchase electricity from outside coal-fired thermal power stations because their fuel costs are lower than those of plants using oil or LNG. However, Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara has frowned on the idea, saying, "It will have a negative effect on our efforts to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide."

This policy has turned out to be a hindrance for the rehabilitation of TEPCO.

TEPCO is planning to reactivate nuclear reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in phases, starting in April.

The restart of each reactor is estimated to improve the firm's balance sheet by nearly 80 billion yen a year. Whether nuclear reactors can be reactivated will determine the success or failure of TEPCO's rehabilitation.

However, the Nuclear Regulation Authority is to lay down new safety standards on nuclear plants in July. The new standards are expected to demand additional safety measures such as the installation of filtering vents, which can discharge steam while removing radioactive substances, for the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant. That will make the restart even more difficult.

Reactors must be reactivated smoothly once their safety is confirmed. To achieve this, the government has to establish trust with the communities hosting nuclear plants by carefully explaining to them the safety and necessity of nuclear reactors in advance.


Risk of financial failure

Unless TEPCO's business improves in accordance with the initial business plan, lenders might refuse additional financing for the utility, putting it in danger of financial collapse.

Some observers also said TEPCO might be forced to raise electricity charges again, as it did last year. To avoid that, the comprehensive business plan must be revised to a more feasible one at the initiative of the government.

The total amount of compensation TEPCO has paid to people affected by its nuclear crisis has reached 3.2 trillion yen and is expected to increase further. Some experts project the total cost related to the nuclear crisis, including those for nuclear decontamination and decommissioning of the reactors at the crippled plant, is likely to be 10 trillion yen.

The current system dealing with the crisis, which ultimately lays every yen of the gigantic costs on TEPCO, is not feasible. The government, which has promoted nuclear power generation, should shoulder its own share of the burden of compensating people for damage caused by the nuclear crisis.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 9, 2013)
(2013年2月9日01時40分  読売新聞)


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