Decommissioning the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant would be better handled by a separate entity, leaving its operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) to focus on its core business of generating electricity, advisers to the company said.
“I would like to see a structure where those involved on the clean-up are focused, and clearly know that their job, and their job only, is safe, reliable clean-up of that site,” Dale Klein, the chairman of Tokyo Electric’s Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee, said in an interview in Tokyo today.
The idea of relieving Tokyo Electric, or Tepco, of responsibility for a decommissioning process that could take as long as 40 years follows the Japanese government’s pledge last month to intervene in the clean-up of the plant.
Tepco reported a 300 metric ton leak last month at a tank used to store contaminated water, which Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority designated as the worst accident since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami forced Fukushima’s reactors into meltdown.
Klein served as chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 2006 until 2009. He said that the response to the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, in which operator GPU Inc. formed an independent unit for reactor decommissioning, could provide a model for the restructuring of Tepco’s clean-up tasks.
Barbara Judge, deputy chairwoman of Tepco’s monitoring committee, said another possible model for decommissioning would be to hand the task to a government-funded body, which could then contract private companies to retire the site.
It’s the model adopted by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in the U.K., where she served as chairwoman of the country’s Atomic Energy Authority.
“It’s a different skill,” said Judge, in a separate interview in Tokyo. “One is operating and producing electricity and the other is dismantling infrastructure that is old and dangerous.”
Tepco had spent 1.4 trillion yen ($14 billion) on the clean-up and decommissioning of Fukushima, as of the end of June, the company said in July.
“You’ve got this company that’s expected to be providing cash-flow on profit statements,” said Tom O’Sullivan, founder of Tokyo-based energy consultant Mathyos. “That’s a constraint on what they can do on the decommissioning side. They just don’t have the resources to do it.”
Tepco has no comment on proposals that decommissioning be assigned to another entity, spokeswoman Mayumi Yoshida said.
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