TEPCO split proposed to speed up Fukushima reactors' scrapping

A senior official of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has proposed to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that Tokyo Electric Power Co. be split up through the creation of a company in charge of decommissioning reactors at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a party official said Saturday.

Tadamori Oshima, head of the LDP committee for the recovery of areas in northeastern Japan devastated by the 2011 March earthquake and tsunami, made the proposal Wednesday so that the utility will be able to focus on compensation for those affected by the nuclear crisis and its primary business while decommission work can be speeded up, the official said.

Of the plant's six reactors, TEPCO is moving ahead to decommission the Nos. 1 to 4 units that suffered meltdowns or hydrogen explosions in the early days of the crisis. Abe on Thursday urged TEPCO to scrap the Nos. 5 and 6 reactors as well, even though those two reactors suffered no major structural damage.

Under the plan of Oshima, former vice president of the LDP, TEPCO employees dealing with the plant's cleanup efforts and decommission work would be transferred to the new company, which will receive financial support primarily from the government.

However, observers say the plan may face resistance from some quarters as it could result in a confusion of responsibilities between TEPCO and the government over decommissioning work.

The LDP committee is expected to compile a proposal over the matter based on Oshima's plan in the near future.

But the proposal may also include other options of setting up a new government agency or an independent administrative institution for decommissioning, the official said.