Tepco Can’t Manage Fukushima Alone, Ruling Party Says

Japan’s government must take a bigger hand in cleaning up Fukushima and that may involve breaking up Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the wrecked nuclear plant, an advisory panel to the country’s ruling party said in a draft report.

Drastic internal improvement, including cost controls, must be made at the utility, the panel said in a document given to reporters before a meeting in Tokyo today. The government must be responsible for devising how the decommissioning at the Fukushima nuclear plant proceeds, the panel also advised.

Regardless of whether the government decides on a partial breakup, a full breakup or another form of restructuring, a decision must be expedited because Tokyo Electric, known as Tepco, is unable to manage the contaminated water flowing from the wrecked reactors while also overseeing their decommissioning, the report said.

Whatever structure the cleanup assumes, “I think at the center it will be Tepco people shouldering the burden of the work,” President Naomi Hirose told reporters today after the company’s release of first-half earnings.

The panel, consisting of lawmakers from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, today compiled a set of proposals to be completed next week. Led by Tadamori Oshima, the panel also suggested that the government must take responsibility for finding storage space for Fukushima’s nuclear waste in the midterm.

Pressure Mounting

Thirty months after the March 2011 disaster, pressure is mounting on the government to take charge of the Tokyo Electric-coordinated cleanup at Fukushima. Weekly reports of contaminated water leaks and mishaps at the station jar with Abe’s pledge to the Olympic Committee in September that the situation is “under control.”

Tepco is a utility serving about 29 million households and companies in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

About 400 metric tons of contaminated groundwater flows into the ocean from the Fukushima site every day. Tepco is scheduled next month to begin extracting spent fuel rods from one of the reactors buildings, a task that precedes the removal of melted uranium cores in three other reactors.

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