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Anger rises over nuclear plants being off amid power shortage

  • June 29, 2022
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 7:00 p.m.
  • English Press

Calls for a stable power supply erupted at electric utilities shareholders’ meetings across Japan on June 28 at a time when consumers have been asked to cut energy usage amid the simmering heat.

 

“Just asking consumers to cut energy use to ride out the power crisis is not the way a utility is supposed to be run,” said Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike.

 

Some shareholders angrily demanded nuclear plants be brought back online soon as they believe the facilities provide stable power and help the bottom lines of electric power companies.

 

In Tokyo, Koike proposed at the shareholders’ meeting of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. that it add in its statute an article ensuring a stable supply of power.

 

“Your company has issued a series of advisories warning about the tight electricity supply,” she said at the session in Tokyo’s Koto Ward, referring to the notice over the past several days.

 

The metropolitan government is a stockholder of TEPCO.

 

The proposal was voted down, but other shareholders voiced anxieties about a possible electricity cutoff during discussions of other issues.

 

TEPCO Holdings President Tomoaki Kobayakawa called for stockholders’ understanding of the challenge facing the company to achieve both decarbonization and a stable power supply.

 

“It is a formidable challenge to tackle,” he said.

 

The power crunch was partly caused by TEPCO’s decommissioning or suspending operations at its thermal power plants over the past years to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

 

That has rekindled calls for nuclear plants to be restarted to fill in the shortfall in power supply.

 

The central government is also pushing for nuclear plants to be restarted, saying they should be used to the maximum extent.

 

At the Chubu Electric Power Co.’s meeting, a shareholder expressed frustration that its Hamaoka nuclear plant in Shizuoka Prefecture has remained idle for more than 10 years.

 

“If the plant had been brought back online, consumers’ concerns about power shortages might have been eased,” the person said. “A spike in electricity rates as a result of a surge in fossil fuel prices could have been avoided as well.”

 

The central government asked Chubu Electric to shut down the plant following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster as the facility is in an area where an offshore megaquake is anticipated within decades.

 

The Nuclear Regulation Authority has been examining the plant’s safeguard measures over the past years.

 

Although local governments hosting the Shimane nuclear plant in Shimane Prefecture gave consent to a restart, a shareholder of the operator, Chugoku Electric Power Co., raised concerns about the facility’s safety and economic efficiency at the shareholders’ meeting.

 

However, Chugoku Electric President Natsuhiko Takimoto vowed to do everything possible to make use of the plant.

 

A shareholder at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s shareholders meeting pointed out the potential danger of a nuclear facility, noting Russian forces attacked a Ukrainian nuclear plant in its invasion of the country.

 

But Kyushu Electric President Kazuhiro Ikebe defended the nation’s reliance on nuclear power at a news conference after the shareholders’ meeting.

 

“Nuclear energy can play a big role when power supplies are tight,” he said. 

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