Monday 20 January 2014

New Year Plans

The new year is a time for resolutions and plans for the future. But Toden's new business plan has not got down well here. Buoyed by the current government's support for nuclear power, Toden (sorry, Tepco, in English - Tokyo Electric Power Company) plans to get the Kashiwazaki nuclear plant on the Japan Sea coast in Niigata  working again by July which will put the company back in profit by March next year. If the plant opens, they will even reduce electricity bills. If it doesn't open, bills will go up. That's the deal. Take it or leave it. People here are angry. They feel safety's not priority. 

There are seven reactors at Kashiwazaki. Three of them (reactors 2, 3 and 4) have been closed since the Chuetsu earthquake in 2007 when there was a fire. The governor of Niigata, Mr Izumida, is going to take some persuading, and now with anti-nuclear candidates standing in the Tokyo Mayor election things are looking complicated.

Other parts of Toden's plan include a government promise to increase its interest-free lending from 5 trillion to 9 trillion yen, and pay for interim storage facilities (1.1 trillion yen). 2.5 trillion yen's worth of decontamination costs are to be funded from the sale of Tepco shares (hmm ... wonder who's going to buy those?) and there are cost-cutting measures.

On the other hand you have to admire the new plan put forward by the town of Okuma. This administrative district spreads from east to west in a thin strip with Fukushima Daiichi on the coast at its north-eastern tip. Before the disaster there were 11,500 inhabitants, all now evacuated. From its offices in Aizu, the town's planners envisage repatriating the area in four stages starting from the east. So the infrastructure - roads, railways, utilities - will be repaired, new shopping and medical centres built, in five year chunks, with the area next to Fukushima Daiichi completed in 20 years time, by 2033. Work is to start next year on trying to attract inward investment in decommissioning technology, robotics and factory farming. But the plan is not without its problems, 96% of the population used to live near the coast where radiation levels are high and the effectiveness of decontamination as yet unknown, and there's also a plan to build storage facilities for radioactive waste. Nonetheless, pamphlets describing the plan have been distributed to residents. I wish them luck!

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