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TEPCO to scrap 4 reactors at crippled nuclear plant; president hospitalized (Japan Today)

Tokyo Electric Power Co said Wednesday that it will scrap four crippled reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant as the country struggles to bring the nuclear crisis under control weeks after a powerful earthquake and tsunami.

The utility also signaled that the efforts to contain the crisis will take a long time, with Tsunehisa Katsumata, the company’s chairman, saying that ‘‘several weeks will be too short’’ to stabilize the reactors. disaster is overwhelming the power provider, Katsumata admitted at a news conference that the cost of compensation in connection with the disaster will undermine the company financially.

But he said the utility, known also as TEPCO, will try hard to remain afloat and avoid nationalization.‘‘We apologize for causing the public anxiety, worry and trouble due to the explosions at reactor buildings and the release of radioactive materials,’’ Katsumata said at the company’s head office in Tokyo, 220 kilometers southwest of the plant on the Pacific coast.

As to the managerial responsibilities he and President Masataka Shimizu should bear, Katsumata said, ‘‘Our greatest responsibility is to put everything into bringing the current situation to an end and under control.’‘

‘‘We have no choice but to scrap reactors 1 to 4 if we look at their conditions objectively,’’ he added at a time workers are continuing efforts to prevent the four reactors from overheating and restore their cooling systems.

TEPCO said earlier that the Nos. 5 and 6 reactors, the two remaining units of the Daiichi complex, are already in a state of stable condition called ‘‘cold shutdown.’‘

Katsumata also said Wednesday that ‘‘basic functions have been retained’’ at the Nos. 5 and 6 reactors, the two remaining units of the Daiichi complex, as well as at the four reactors of the Fukushima Daini plant, south of Daiichi. But top government spokesman Yukio Edano suggested that all six reactors at the Daiichi plant should be scrapped, saying at a news conference, ‘‘It is very clear looking at the social circumstances.’‘

Since losing cooling systems for reactors and pools holding spent nuclear fuel rods following the March 11 deadly natural disaster, the power plant has leaked radioactive materials into the air and sea.

On the financial burden of compensation for the nuclear disaster, Katsumata said that while the company has no room for calculating the costs at this point, its ‘‘dire situation’’ is certain to continue for some time. Katsumata said, ‘‘By consulting with the government, we will work hard to avoid experiencing fund shortages because we are coming up short no matter how much money we have due to mounting fuel and restoration costs.’‘

With concerns mounting over the utility’s financial viability amid rumors of nationalization and the plunging value of its stock, he added that the company will work hard to remain ‘‘privatized.’‘

Meanwhile, seven major banks and Shinkin Central Bank have decided to provide TEPCO with a total of 1.9 trillion yen in emergency loans. The troubled utility was requesting a maximum of about 2 trillion yen to restore thermal power plants to make up for a large shortfall in power supply following the tsunami. Earlier Wednesday, TEPCO said President Shimizu was hospitalized Tuesday for hypertension and dizziness.

Katsumata, who has already taken over Shimizu’s role temporarily in leading efforts to bring the crisis under control, said that it will not take long for the ailing president to return to work and resume taking the lead in handling the crisis.

Shimizu has rarely appeared in public since attending a news conference on March 13, two days after the natural disaster wreaked havoc on northeastern an eastern Japan. Shimizu fell sick for some days from March 16, the company said.

Compiled from wire reports

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