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METI Says Tepco Should Consider Temporary Government Control

Tokyo Electric Power Co. needs to consider all options related to its survival, including the government taking temporary control of the utility, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano told the company’s president Toshio Nishizawa in Tokyo yesterday.

The company yesterday requested 689.4 billion yen ($8.8 billion) in additional aid to pay compensation linked to the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster. Edano countered with the option to nationalize the company, without saying if that would require an injection of public funds or some other means.

The utility, which supplies power to Metropolitan Tokyo, the world’s biggest city, needs support from the government’s Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund to avoid insolvency. It may face 4.5 trillion yen in compensation payments by 2013 to those who lost livelihoods and homes in the March 11 disaster at its Fukushima Dai-Ichi atomic station.

“I want you to consider all options including temporary government control of Tepco” as the company needs to improve its finances for compensation payments and raise funds for decommissioning, Edano told Nishizawa and officials of the government-backed fund at the meeting.

Accepting a government takeover “is an option to avoid the collapse of the company,” Tepco spokesman Osamu Yokokura said when questioned before the meeting. “Options are still under discussion, nothing has been decided.”

Tepco revised its estimate for compensation payments for the disaster to 1.7 trillion yen by March 2013 from 1.01 trillion yen, it said in a statement on its website yesterday, announcing its request for support.

Nishizawa said he will draw up a business plan by the end of March based on Edano’s order. He declined to comment further when asked by reporters if the company will accept falling under government control.

The government’s Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund will seek approval from Edano as early as next month to provide the support to Tepco, said Soichi Yamamoto, an official at the body.

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