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Energy

Japan's Tepco weighs retiring some reactors at massive plant

Dismantling one or more units geared to easing local opposition to resuming operations

When fully operational, Tepco's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa facility is the largest nuclear power plant in the world.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings is considering decommissioning one or more of the seven reactors at a key nuclear power plant in northern Japan, Nikkei has learned, as it attempts to ease community pushback against restarting it.

Tepco will not aim to reactivate all of the No. 1 through No. 5 reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa in Niigata Prefecture -- meltdown-hit Fukushima Prefecture's western neighbor. It will instead pick at least one of them to dismantle after restarting the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors, as approved by the central government. Tepco President Tomoaki Kobayakawa is expected to convey that intent to Masahiro Sakurai, mayor of the city of Kashiwazaki, in meetings on Monday.

The plant -- the world's largest when fully operational -- is undergoing separate checks led by the prefectural government, leaving the time frame for a restart unclear.

The utility hopes that offering a plan for decommissioning down the road, as Sakurai has demanded, will help win over locals for its efforts to restart the two greenlit reactors, an important step in improving its financial health.

Tepco decided in late July to retire all its remaining reactors in Fukushima Prefecture on top of the ongoing decommissioning of disaster-stricken Fukushima Daiichi, the site of the 2011 meltdown resulting from a massive earthquake and tsunami. Coming on the heels of July's move, the utility judged that issues of manpower and finance would preclude immediately moving to dismantle parts of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa.

In June 2017, Sakurai asked that Tepco present a plan for dismantling at least one of reactors No. 1 through No. 5 within two years as a condition for restarting No. 6 and No. 7. Tepco has missed that deadline. Restarting the two reactors, which passed central-government safety inspections in December 2017, would likely create an easier environment for tackling the problem.

Tepco aims to shoulder the costs of decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi and paying out compensation. An outflow of customers on its capital-area home turf has left it in worsening financial straits. It hopes for relief from Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, where each reactor it restarts is expected to provide a roughly 100 billion yen ($939 million) shot in the arm per year.

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