Tepco would like to restart reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant

Tepco pledges improvements to win over regulator

The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan has promised to draft in extra workers and improve equipment.

Under fire to put right repeated contamination mishaps, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, today promised to implement a range of measures as part of plans to make the site safe and keep the company solvent.

Though the company has posted more than $27bn in net losses since the disaster, it has received pledges of financing from banks totalling $5.9bn, but much of that is contingent on Tepco securing the regulator's approval to restart two of seven reactors at its Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant, the world's largest nuclear generating station.

The chairman of Japan's new Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRA) has said Tepco must prove its clean-up operations at Fukushima are in order before its plan to restart the new reactors at the giant plant on Japan's west coast can be approved.

"We will increase the workforce at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and make sure we have an accurate grasp of the situation, follow procedures, introduce proper communications and instructions needed to carry out competent management of the site," Tepco said in a statement after submitting a report to the regulator.

The increase, it said, would bring the number of workers drafted in since September to deal with contaminated water to 200. The clean-up of the disaster, the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986, is expected to take decades.

Tepco has been battling the rising contaminated water at Fukushima, 130 miles north-east of Tokyo, that is leaking into the adjacent Pacific Ocean, and last week it said radiation levels in nearby seawater had soared to the highest level in two years.

NRA chairman Shunichi Tanaka said last month it had yet to be determined whether Tepco "has the technological ability to operate a nuclear power plant", but in its submission today, Tepco said it had taken steps to improve safety at Kashiwazaki Kariwa based on lessons learned from the 2011 disaster.

But an early restart of the two new reactors is unlikely. A delay in Tepco's plan to have them running by the end of the month has already prompted the company to revise its reorganisation plan to cut costs and restore its finances.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, making a successful pitch last month to stage the 2020 Olympic Games, declared the plant stable, but he has also ordered Tepco to set deadlines for stopping leaks.

The government, which controls Tepco after a capital injection last year, will "respect" any decision by the NRA on a restart, an official familiar with the issues told Reuters.

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