Struggling Japanese Utility to Seek Emergency Loan from Government

The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant will ask for $12 billion to keep it afloat, effectively putting the government in control of the private utility.

In addition to the bailout money, Tokyo Electric Power, or TEPCO, will also ask a government-backed fund for another $9 billion that will be used to compensate the victims of last year’s disaster.

Tepco President Toshio Nishizawa said the company had to act because its financial situation is extremely weak.

“We’ve been reviewing various methods, but our financial condition was extremely weak and our fundraising ability was too limited to deal with this adverse situation we’re in now. So we couldn’t avoid asking the public fund to support us financially by acquiring our shares.”

He also said the company will continue its efforts at reform.

TEPCO has faced massive costs involved in decommissioning and decontaminating Fukushima, which was crippled by the March 11, 2011, earthquake and subsequent tsunami. The tsunami knocked out the plant’s cooling systems, causing three of its reactors to melt down and leading to widespread radiation leaks.

The government announced late last year that the plant’s reactors had been stabilized, but it will take up to 40 years to safely decommission the facility.

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