Tue, Dec 18, 2012 - Page 15 News List

Pro-nuclear win leads to TEPCO shares rise

AFP, TOKYO

Fukushima Dai-ichi operator TEPCO soared almost 33 percent yesterday, leading an energy firm rally after a pro-nuclear election win in Japan likely means any short-term plan to ditch atomic power will be shelved.

Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) rocketed 32.89 percent to ¥202 by the close, Chubu Electric Power jumped 9.59 percent to ¥1,188 and Kansai Electric was up 17.64 percent at ¥920.

Anti-nuclear sentiment has run high in Japan after last year’s Fukushima Dai-ichi atomic crisis, with opinion polls showing a majority of voters wanted to phase out nuclear power.

However, that failed to translate into wider support for the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which had pledged to work toward a zero-nuclear country, or a group of small anti-nuclear parties which had little impact at the polling booth.

Japanese Prime minister-in-waiting Shinzo Abe, the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) hawkish head, derided the zero-nuclear goal as unrealistic and “irresponsible” — and hinted at keeping atomic power.

The LDP has said it would decide on reactor restarts in three years and the nation’s “best energy mix” within a decade.

All but two of Japan’s 50 reactors remain switched off in the wake of last year’s atomic accident, the worst in a generation.

To plug the energy gap, Japan turned to pricey fossil fuel alternatives — nuclear once supplied about one-third of the resource-poor nation’s power mix.

“We think an LDP victory would reduce the long-term risk of even relatively new nuclear power plants being forcibly decommissioned,” Nomura Securities said.

The Abe administration was unlikely to rush on reactor restarts until experts from the Nuclear Regulation Authority decide which plants are safe to go back online, the brokerage said.

“Japanese electric power companies will still look to LNG [liquefied natural gas] as an alternative to nuclear power even if the LDP returns to government,” it added. “However, the move away from nuclear power would probably be slower than under the DPJ, meaning a corresponding slower shift to LNG.”

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