Photo/IllutrationThe Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture (Takaharu Yagi)

Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. is seeking to restart its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, one of the largest in the world, in April 2019 at the earliest.

However, among the many obstacles that TEPCO faces is obtaining the blessing of the prefectural governor, who has taken a cautious stance on the restart.

TEPCO will add the scenario of restart into its new rebuilding plan, under preparation, to improve its financial status.

It needs revenue from the plant to help cover compensation for the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant accident following the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant is one of the world’s largest nuclear power stations in terms of output capacity.

All its seven reactors have been stopped from 2012 following the Fukushima disaster. The Nuclear Regulation Authority has been conducting a safety screening of the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors under new guidelines set up after the Fukushima catastrophe.

TEPCO plans to restart the two reactors in or after April 2019, followed by another two reactors in or after April 2021. The rest would follow, if the safety screenings proceed successfully.

TEPCO will release the new rebuilding plan within this month at the earliest after securing the cooperation of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry as well as the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp.

TEPCO hopes to generate an annual profit of 500 billion yen ($4.6 billion) to help fund compensation for the victims of the Fukushima accident as well as the decommissioning costs of the reactors.

The utility forecasts that it would boost profits by about 100 billion yen annually through the operations of the two Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors.

However, under the existing rebuilding plan, TEPCO hoped to restart the reactors in July 2014 one by one, but none have been restarted in the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa facility.

Furthermore, the emergency response center was found in February this year to be lacking an adequate level of earthquake resistance, which TEPCO had discovered three years ago, but not reported to the NRA. Therefore, when the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant could pass the safety screening is unknown.

TEPCO would also like Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama to support the restart of the plant. However, Yoneyama, whose term expires in October 2020, is reluctant to give his approval, putting the utility's timetable in jeopardy.

TEPCO is also preparing for the eventuality if it cannot restart the plant, where it would aim to increase profits through cost reductions by as much as the operations of the two reactors could generate.

(This article was written by Tsuneo Sasai and Yoichi Yonetani.)