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Osaka Mayor Threatens Kansai Electric Selloff Over Atomic Plants

Osaka will consider selling its shares in Kansai Electric Power Co. if the utility keeps ignoring its proposal to stop using nuclear power, Mayor Toru Hashimoto said, according to the Kyodo news service.

The city, whose 8.92 percent stake in Kansai Electric makes it the company’s biggest shareholder, may also file a lawsuit against the utility if it starts its reactors, Hashimoto said, according to Kyodo. A district court has already ruled against restarts at the company’s Ohi plant.

Kansai Electric spokeswoman Momoko Bano declined to comment directly on Hashimoto’s remarks. “We will try to boost shareholder value and do our best to gain understanding of shareholders,” she said by phone.

An official with Osaka’s energy policy department declined to comment and asked not to be identified, citing agency policy.

Hashimoto, who reportedly made his remarks yesterday at Kansai Electric’s shareholders’ meeting, has been a proponent of eliminating nuclear power since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011.

He dropped his opposition to restarting the Ohi plant before the summer of 2012 over concerns that the city would struggle to meet its energy needs during the peak demand period.

Court Ruling

The Ohi plant reactors, which were idled for safety checks in September 2013, are about 95 kilometers (60 miles) from Osaka and about 35 kilometers from Lake Biwa, which supplies the city and other municipalities in Japan’s populous Kansai region with drinking water.

The Fukui district court ruled on May 21 that the two units must remain idled, accepting plaintiffs’ arguments that an accident at the plant could endanger surrounding residents.

All 48 of Japan’s functioning commercial reactors are currently idled for safety checks after the March 11, 2011 nuclear accident at Tepco Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant.

Kansai Electric, which serves 13.5 million customers, including such businesses as Panasonic Corp. and Sharp Corp., applied in July 2013 for safety inspections needed for restarts at the Ohi plant. It also applied for checks at its Takahama plant about 90 kilometers from Osaka.

Restart Plans

Company President Makoto Yagi said it plans to restart reactors if their safety is assured and municipalities surrounding the plants agree to their resumption, according to Kyodo.

Kansai Electric fell 1 yen, or 0.1 percent, to 948 yen as of 1:13 p.m. in Tokyo after earlier surging to 996 yen.

Tokyo Electric shareholders also voted down a proposal yesterday by anti-nuclear activists to scrap its nuclear reactors.

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