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2014年1月17日 (金)

東電新事業計画 今度こそ再建を軌道に乗せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 16, 2014
TEPCO must realize business plan to end N-crisis, speed reconstruction
東電新事業計画 今度こそ再建を軌道に乗せよ(1月16日付・読売社説)

To end the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and accelerate reconstruction efforts of the areas hit by the 2011 disaster, TEPCO’s revised business rehabilitation plan must not end up as “pie in the sky.”

The government has approved TEPCO’s new comprehensive special business plan, by which the utility aims to rebuild its business.

TEPCO was forced to drastically revise its original revenue and expenditure plan and add more streamlining programs, because prospects were low for the restart of idle reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture. Their restart was assumed in the initial special plan of May 2012.

The new comprehensive special business plan is based on the premise that four of the seven reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant will be reactivated during fiscal 2014. Reactivation of one nuclear power reactor can cut the fuel costs of a thermal power station by more than ¥100 billion. A surplus of about ¥100 billion is expected to be secured for a year, according to the projection.

The government decided at the end of last year to share in the cost for decontamination as an additional measure to support the utility, which is also a positive factor for TEPCO.

When TEPCO’s business operations are put on the right track, the government plans to sell all the TEPCO shares it holds by the end of the early 2030s and use proceeds from the sale to supplement decontamination work.

However, we cannot help but fear that the new comprehensive special business plan will stumble from the start.

This is largely because Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida still opposes the restart of reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, making such comments as, “The Fukushima No. 1 plant crisis should be thoroughly investigated [before reactivation of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant].”

The Nuclear Regulation Authority must conduct safety inspections of idle reactors without delay, ultimately based on the government’s safety regulation standards.

To implement the special business plan, it is indispensable to steadily restart nuclear reactors that the regulatory committee has confirmed to be safe.

Local govt heads’ position

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant is an important power source that supplies electricity to the Tokyo metropolitan area. The Tokyo governor and other heads of local governments around Tokyo, which consume the electricity supplied by TEPCO, need to be keenly aware they are in a position to insist that Izumida and other relevant parties show understanding to the restarting of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.
Such action is necessary to ensure the stability of local economies and residents’ daily lives.

In that sense, it is extremely irresponsible for anyone scheduled to run in the Tokyo gubernatorial election to advocate a zero nuclear power generation policy without proposing practical alternative sources of electricity.

TEPCO has increased its goal for cost cutting over the next 10 years from ¥3.4 trillion in the initial plan to ¥4.8 trillion in the revised plan. It will ask 2,000 or more of its employees to voluntarily retire. Managerial-level staffers aged 50 or older, who numbered 500 at the time of the March 11, 2011, disaster, will be removed from their posts and specially assigned to the Fukushima plant and related jobs to handle compensation demands and other related tasks.

It is important for TEPCO to carry out such restructuring programs to improve its earning capacity. However, if the morale of employees declines because of the programs, it will hinder work to decommission the crippled reactors and handle compensation requests—key tasks the company should steadily proceed with.

The revised special business plan also stipulates a policy of transforming TEPCO into a holding company system beginning in fiscal 2016.

The intent to make each business field into a separate corporation to clarify the responsibilities of each business sector is a reasonable one.

However, it is questionable to establish separate companies while dealing with such important issues as restoring a stable supply of electricity and devising countermeasures for radioactive contaminated water from the Fukushima plant.

For the time being, TEPCO must maintain its current management arrangement, in which it is easier to put the right people in the right jobs.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 16, 2014)
(2014年1月16日01時36分  読売新聞)


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