A majority of Kansai Electric Power Company (Kepco) shareholders this week rejected proposals to exit or limit nuclear power. Kepco, Japan's largest nuclear operator, joined other industry leaders in defense of atomic power, vowing to stay the course. Kepco President Makoto Yagi told shareholders:
Kepco stressed that nuclear power is essential for Japan to improve its energy independence. The country relies on imported fuel sources for 96% of its energy needs. Nuclear reactors provide a low carbon supply of energy than fossil fuels. The industry's embrace of nuclear power was a response to a reinvigorated Japanese antinuclear movement.
"We are quite aware there's a national debate over nuclear power, but we believe it's vital to our energy supply and will continue to pursue it. For energy security, efficiency and the environment, nuclear power remains an important component of our energy mix."
Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant, at a shareholders meeting on Tuesday rejected motions to abandon nuclear power. Some 9,000 shareholders were in attendance. Chubu Electric Power Company and Kyushu Electric Power Company, which operate reactors that have drawn scrutiny, also conducted lengthy, heavily attended meetings on Tuesday.
In the wake of the March disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, only 19 of the country's 54 reactors are in operation. Dozens of reactors that were temporarily closed for maintenance, effectively have been barred from reopening as local governments seek safety assurances from operators and regulators before clearing the way for restarts.
Kepco, which operates 11 reactors at three plants on the Japan Sea coast, has taken center stage in the debate over nuclear energy. With the shutdown of both of Tokyo Electric's two plants in Fukushima, Osaka-based Kepco currently operates the most reactors in Japan. The company long has been more dependent than any other Japanese utility on nuclear power, which accounts for 28% of Kepco's total generating capacity. (WSJ, 6/30/201, Photo courtesy WSJ)