Restarts, Shareholders & Who Runs Japan’s Nuclear Sector

Japan’s power companies will all have shareholder meetings this week, making some of the timing for restart possibilities at the same time seem planned. Some utilities have already applied for restarts and hint they plan to restart next month. The NRA has given no such timetable that would make this possible. Earlier statements by the NRA thought it could take a year or more to sort all of this out.

Nuclear plant owners have spent considerable amounts of money in attempts to retrofit plants in hopes of passing the new safety regulations. The Japanese nuclear utilities are heavily in debt with some having a debt to equity ratio of 300%. This leaves them heavily dependent on the financial sector. This has the financial sector unwilling to give loans to the nuclear utilities as they are all essentially bankrupt. Asahi Shimbun indicates that these financial sector companies have majority shareholdings in most of these nuclear companies. This could be adding additional outside influence to utility decisions to restart or not restart reactors. Banks may see restarts as the sole route to assure loans will be repaid.

Shareholders are expected to put forth proposals at these annual meetings for the utilities to end their use of nuclear power. These proposals are also expected to be shot down by the utilities and the financial sector shareholders.

In an editorial at Asahi Shimbun they point out that the nuclear utilities still do not get it. They refuse or are incapable of change and continue to be at odds with the NRA in Japan. The financial sector and the old guard industrial sector are of the same mentality. All of these things and the US pressure push Japan towards reactor restarts even as the public has been consistently against it.

 

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