Photo/IllutrationNiigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama, far right, holds talks with executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. in the Niigata prefectural government office on Jan. 5. (Yuko Matsuura)

NIIGATA--Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama met Jan. 5 with top executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) for the first time, reiterating his opposition to restarting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.

“It will be difficult to approve the restart as long as (the causes of) the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are not verified. In the present circumstances, I cannot accept the restart,” Yoneyama told Fumio Sudo, chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., and Naomi Hirose, president of the company.

It was the first time for Yoneyama to meet with TEPCO executives since he assumed the post of Niigata governor last October. The talks were held in the Niigata prefectural government office.

Yoneyama, noting that it will take several years for the Niigata prefectural government to verify the causes of the 2011 nuclear disaster, asked the TEPCO executives to provide more information and other forms of cooperation.

In response, Sudo said, “The priority is to hear voices of local residents.”

This seemed to suggest that TEPCO will not restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant as long as the Niigata governor continues to resist the move.

A council of experts of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced late last year that the costs for dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster will almost double to 21.5 trillion yen ($185 billion) from 11 trillion yen initially estimated in 2013.

To help cover the amount, TEPCO planned to restart two reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa to generate 100 billion yen in annual profits. But that now looks difficult, given Yoneyama's firm stance on the issue of restarts.

(This article was written by Yoichi Yonetani and Yuko Matsuura.)