NIIGATA, Japan - Tokyo Electric Power Co must give a fuller account of the Fukushima disaster and address its "institutionalized lying" before it can expect to restart another nuclear station, the world's largest, said a local government official who holds an effective veto over the utility's revival plan.
"If they don't do what needs to be done, if they keep skimping on costs and manipulating information, they can never be trusted," Niigata Prefecture Governor Hirohiko Izumida told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
Izumida must approve the embattled utility's plans to restart the reactors at Kashiwazaki Kariwa, the world's biggest nuclear complex on the Japan Sea coast some 300 kms (180 miles) northwest of Tokyo.
A former economy and trade ministry bureaucrat who has emerged as a leading critic of Tokyo Electric, or Tepco, Izumida said he would launch his own commission to investigate the causes and handling of the Fukushima crisis and whether strengthened regulatory safeguards were sufficient to prevent a similar disaster.
Izumida, 51, declined to provide a timetable for completing that review - a process that could force the utility to scrap or abandon one of the key assumptions behind its turnaround plan.
"If Tokyo Electric doesn't cooperate closely with the prefecture nothing will be solved," he said. "Unless we start we won't know," he added when asked how long his review could take. "If they cooperate with us, we will be able to proceed smoothly. If not, we won't."
Even if Japan's nuclear safety regulators approve Tepco's restart plans for its Niigata reactors, Izumida can effectively block it because of the utility's need to win backing from local officials.
That gives Izumida, a political independent, a platform for calling for a wider reform of Asia's largest listed electricity utility, which provides power to 29 million homes and businesses in and around Tokyo.