TOKYO (AP) — The head of the Japanese utility that owns the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant says last year's meltdowns sapped away money it might have used to switch to alternative energy, making it all the more important for the company to stick with nuclear.
Naomi Hirose, president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., said Thursday it is "quite troubling" that the government, responding to public opinion, is moving toward eliminating nuclear power, but he said TEPCO would follow whatever energy policy Japan adopts.
The March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami wiped out the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant and caused extensive radioactive meltdowns that took months to control and will take decades to clean up. It was the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.
TEPCO was saddled with huge compensation and cleanup costs after the nuclear crisis. The company was nationalized in July after receiving a trillion yen ($12.8 billion) public bailout.
The company had attempted some diversification of its energy mix before the tsunami. TEPCO built three mega-solar power plants and more than a dozen windmills with its affiliate, Eurus Energy Holdings Corp.
But the company's difficult financial picture following the crisis means it doesn't have the money to invest in renewable energy, Hirose told The Associated Press at TEPCO headquarters in Tokyo.
"We tried to develop those renewable powers, but unfortunately after 3/11 we do not have much money and we probably cannot spend as much money to build renewable energy," he said.
Following last year's disaster, the government is finalizing a new energy policy to reduce or eliminate nuclear power. Surveys show the Japanese public overwhelmingly supports a complete phase-out of nuclear energy.
Before the accident, Japan relied on nuclear power for one-third of electricity needs and was planning to increase that to 50 percent by 2030. Since then, all of Japan's 50 reactors have been shut down for routine tests, and in the face of strong public opposition, only two have been restarted.
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