Japan thinks about taking over Tepco

 
Marion Dakers
SHARES in Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) fell 18 per cent yesterday on talk that the Japanese government could nationalise the power producer in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Tepco, which owns the stricken plants at Fukushima, had its shares temporarily suspended yesterday after a glut of sell orders on the back of nationalisation rumours.

Japanese national strategy minister Koichiro Gemba said yesterday that a debate on nationalising Tepco is possible, but chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano later said that the government is not considering that option.

Tepco said it was not aware of any plans to take the firm into public ownership. “Our first and biggest priority at this moment is to prevent the nuclear power plant accident from worsening further,” spokesperson Hajime Motojuku added.

The news came as traces of radiation from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant were found in Oxfordshire and Glasgow. The Health Protection Agency said the “minutest traces of iodine” were being seen in the UK and they pose no health risk.

Tepco’s shares have lost around three quarters of their value since the earthquake and tsunami on 11 March.

The firm was forced into an embarrassing apology at the weekend, after it overestimated radiation levels at the Fukushima plant where workers continue to work on stabilising the nuclear reactors.

Tepco has also found traces of plutonium in the soil at the site of the damaged reactors, but said the levels were within ordinary levels and would not stop repair work. The company said it is likely to take months or years to make the plants completely safe.