Japanese nuclear operator seeks bailout

Last Updated: Fri, 30 Mar 2012 06:52:00 +1100

The operator of Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant has asked the government for a $US12 billion cash injection to avoid insolvency.

Tokyo Electric Power has also asked a state-backed entity for an additional 846 billion yen in financial aid to pay ballooning compensation bills to victims of the nuclear accident which followed last year's earthquake and tsunami.

The utility known as Tepco faces a growing bill for the work to dismantle the crippled plant and to clean areas polluted by radiation.

In return for the $US12 billion capital, the government wants to take at least a 51 per cent stake in Tepco, with an option to take up to a two-thirds stake in the company, according to local media reports.

After a general shareholders' meeting in June, the government will acquire newly issued stock through the state-backed Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund, local media have said.

Tepco President Toshio Nishizawa said he wanted to keep Tepco as a private entity, despite repeated demands for substantial management control in exchange for the bailout.

"If we don't do anything now, and if all sorts of management cost increases, it is possible that we fall into a state where our liabilities will exceed our assets," he told a press conference.

"Our financial foundation is in a very severe situation. Everyday, rather than getting better, it is only getting worse. To shore up our finances, we had no choice but to take the step we took today.

"I think it is important that we express the energy of a private enterprise and nurture green shoots for future growth," Mr Nishizawa said.

If the fresh cash injections are approved, the total amount of taxpayers' money handed to Tepco would add up to 3.5 trillion yen.