TEPCO expects Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant to restart next July

Tokyo Electric Power Co. expects its idled Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture to restart in July next year and may mention the likelihood when updating its business turnaround plan soon, sources close to the matter said Wednesday.

Under the existing restructuring plan compiled last year, TEPCO projected restarting several reactors in April or later this year to improve its tough business conditions following the severe nuclear accident at its Fukushima Daiichi complex in 2011.

TEPCO applied for state safety inspections of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant's Nos. 6 and 7 reactors in late September, seeking to resume their operations in April. But the checkup process by nuclear regulators is not yet in full swing amid concerns over the utility's poor handling of the Fukushima plant.

By presenting a more realistic schedule for resumption of the reactors, which would enable the utility to save costs from importing fuel for thermal power generation, TEPCO apparently wants to assure banks that its earnings will significantly improve in the next fiscal year so that it can secure 500 billion yen in loans in December.

TEPCO has no intention of resorting to further electricity rate hikes in the meantime, according to the sources.

But the plant's restart could be delayed further, depending on discussions held by the Nuclear Regulation Authority and whether TEPCO can secure local approval on the issue.

TEPCO's business plan, compiled jointly by the utility and a state-backed bailout fund, may be revised by the end of the month. The Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund injected 1 trillion yen in public funds in July last year to bolster the firm's financial standing.

All of the country's 50 commercial reactors are currently offline, with many of them unable to restart after shutting down for regular checkups.

Since Japan revamped its nuclear regulations in July, a total of 14 reactors, including the two owned by TEPCO, have applied to the NRA for safety confirmation required for their restart.