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Tepco Wins Rare Nuclear Test as Mayor Accepts Reactor Plan

Stephen Stapczynski and Aya Takada

(Bloomberg) -- Japan’s Tepco notched a rare nuclear win on the long road back from the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

A bid by the utility giant to restart the world’s biggest nuclear power plant, and potentially run all seven of its reactors, was virtually endorsed by the mayor of the city that hosts the facility on Monday. Investors welcomed the turn, which appeared to remove a potential obstacle to operations, with shares posting the best performance among Japanese power and gas companies.

At stake is the future of Tepco’s plant in Kashiwazaki, where the mayor had requested the company shut some of the older units -- No. 1 through No. 5 -- in return for endorsing the restart of newer reactors No. 6 and No. 7. But on Monday, the company appeared to flip the timeline, proposing to only explore closing one of the units after it restarted the No. 6-7 units. The mayor, Masahiro Sakurai, reacted by calling it the “the best possible proposal,” according to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper and broadcaster NHK.

While a local government’s approval isn’t required to restart reactors, it’s rare for a utility to move ahead without it. Tepco, known officially as Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., has already received approval from Japan’s nuclear watchdog to resume operations of the No. 6-7 reactors. Despite Monday’s events, the utility still doesn’t have a timeline for restart amid sustained pockets of local opposition and an ongoing review by Niigata prefecture.

Restarting reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant is vital to the utility’s turnaround plan in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima Dai-Ichi meltdown, which saddled it with 15.9 trillion yen ($151 billion) in cleanup costs. The facility has been fully offline since January 2012. Tepco has said restarting one of the newer reactors would boost profit by roughly 90 billion yen annually.

Tepco shares rose 0.6% as of 1:15 p.m. in Tokyo, the only gainer on Topix Electric Power & Gas sub-index. The broader Topix was down 1.6%.

To contact the reporters on this story: Stephen Stapczynski in Singapore at sstapczynsk1@bloomberg.net;Aya Takada in Tokyo at atakada2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ramsey Al-Rikabi at ralrikabi@bloomberg.net, Jasmine Ng

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