Photo/IllutrationThe Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant in Tokai village, Ibaraki Prefecture (Asashi Shimbun file photo)

Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. may immerse itself in fresh controversy by helping a struggling power company pay a 200 billion yen ($1.82 billion) bill to fix up and restart an aging nuclear reactor.

The Japan Atomic Power Co. (JAPC) wants to restart the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant in Tokai village, Ibaraki Prefecture, and therefore extend its life beyond 40 years.

As TEPCO is supposed to be prioritizing dealing with the aftermath of the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, helping restart another company’s nuclear power plant might not go down too well in certain quarters.

JAPC owns four nuclear reactors, all of which are either off-line or being decommissioned, and cannot afford the huge renovation costs itself.

To save JAPC from a massive financial crisis, a plan for TEPCO and Tohoku Electric Power Co. to become loan guarantors has been discussed.

TEPCO will not decide whether to help out until the start of 2018 at the earliest, according to a source.

JAPC is planning to extend the life of the Tokai No. 2 power plant as it will reach its age limit of 40 years in November 2018. To keep operating beyond that, it needs a license extension from the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) and for this, additional safety work is required.

Of four reactors owned by JAPC, the Tokai power plant, which is on the same premises as the Tokai No. 2, and the Tsuruga nuclear power plant's No. 1 reactor, are both in the process of being decommissioned, and Tsuruga's No. 2 reactor has also been offline with a restart nowhere in sight as a possible active fault lies beneath the building.

So the company, which only generates nuclear power, has been unable to sell anything. It has been receiving “basic fees” paid by the patrons of the nine major electricity companies, including TEPCO, that founded JAPC in 1957 to cover the cost of maintenance of the reactors and other necessities.

If JAPC is unable to secure enough money to refit the Tokai No. 2 power plant and it ends up decommissioned at age 40, the company could face a serious crisis.

Banks are cautious about loaning money while the plant remains offline, according to the source. To solve that situation, TEPCO and Tohoku Electric, which hold shares in JAPC and bought power from the Tokai No. 2 plant, have been discussing whether to guarantee bank loans to JAPC or whether to lend the money themselves.

Last year, the government estimated that the Fukushima nuclear accident will cost the nation and TEPCO 21.5 trillion yen in total, for decontamination, compensation, decommissioning and temporary storage of radioactive materials.

Part of the compensation money will be raised by TEPCO and other electricity companies by increasing electricity prices.