TOKYO — Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., struggling to recover from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, is mulling collaborating with other utilities in conducting regular checkups of their nuclear power plants to cut down on costs, sources close to the matter said Wednesday.
The joint checkups will be based on the Tokyo-based utility’s restructuring plan unveiled last May to revitalize its nuclear power business through cooperation with other electric power companies.
For the checkups, Tepco is seeking cooperation with utilities which have boiling-water reactors, the same type as those at Tepco plants, or companies which own nuclear reactors in the vicinity of its own reactors.
Nuclear Engineering and Services Co., a subsidiary of Japan Atomic Power Co., and regional utilities such as Tohoku Electric Power Co., Chubu Electric Power Co. and Hokuriku Electric Power Co. are expected to be candidates for the prospective tie-ups.
The checkups often take several months and involve around 1,000 workers, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to secure many personnel with nuclear expertise in a country with a graying population, the sources said.
Deteriorating profitability at power companies due to the shutdown of nuclear reactors following the Fukushima crisis is another propelling factor for the streamlining of checkups, they said.
Tepco is making efforts to restart reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power plant in Niigata Prefecture to boost its profitability, but has met with strong opposition because of the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex.
The restructuring plan calls for Tepco to set aside 500 billion yen ($4.5 billion) annually for compensation payments related to the 2011 meltdowns and work to decommission the crippled reactors.
It also features setting up joint ventures with other utilities in operating nuclear power plants. Tepco said its Higashidori nuclear complex, currently under construction in Aomori Prefecture, is among the plants that could be jointly managed with other companies.
The company is also seeking a realignment of its power transmission and distribution businesses with those of Kansai Electric Power Co., Chubu Electric and Hokuriku Electric.