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More "donations" from facilities

August 17, 2014

TEPCO, Tohoku Electric to 'donate' 200 million yen more to village hosting nuclear reprocessing complex


By SATOSHI OTANI/ Staff Writer

Embattled Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Tohoku Electric Power Co. will make a final combined 200 million yen ($1.95 million) "donation" to a village hosting the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, despite industry ministry criticism, The Asahi Shimbun has found.

The payment, which the two utilities have made annually since fiscal 2010, will go to assist the local fisheries industry in the village of Rokkasho in Aomori Prefecture.

An Asahi Shimbun investigation into the village’s financial data and interviews with local officials showed that the Rokkasho government sent a document requesting financial assistance to TEPCO and Tohoku Electric on July 14.

Tohoku Electric is a utility serving Aomori and other prefectures in the Tohoku region.

Local officials say the money will be spent on renovating port facilities and an operation to prevent the poaching of fish.

The two companies replied in a letter on July 22 that they will comply with the request.

TEPCO is expected to pay 133.4 million yen and Tohoku Electric 66.6 million yen as early as this month, as was requested by the village hall.

The decision comes despite a TEPCO announcement in 2012 that it would end donations in order to come up with funds to pay compensation to those affected by the 2011 triple meltdown at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees the nuclear industry, concluded in 2012 that such a payment to Rokkasho “is not necessary in terms of operating the business of supplying power and is tantamount to a donation.”

The finding means that TEPCO, which has been virtually nationalized after the nuclear accident, will still contribute the funds, despite passing the enormous costs of dealing with the accident onto taxpayers and electricity users.

The payment by the utilities will bring the total paid to Rokkasho to 1 billion yen over five consecutive years.

Such a payment by the companies began in fiscal 2010 under the aim of assisting the fisheries industry in the surrounding area of Higashidori, a village neighboring Rokkasho.

Higashidori hosts a single-unit nuclear plant operated by Tohoku Electric. The utility plans to build a new reactor there. TEPCO also plans on the construction of two reactors in the same area.

After the nuclear disaster, TEPCO received an injection of 5 trillion yen in government assistance to offer compensations to victims.

In addition, the government will spend 47 billion yen in taxpayer money to help the crippled Fukushima plant deal with the hundreds of tons of contaminated water being generated daily on the site.

TEPCO raised its power rates in September 2012, while Tohoku Electric took similar action in September 2013.

Hideyuki Ban, co-director of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center in Tokyo, criticized TEPCO for making the payment at a time when little progress has been made on bringing the nuclear crisis under control and compensating those affected.

“It is beyond our understanding why TEPCO continues with the payment when it is effectively bankrupt,” he said. “That money should be spent to compensate victims.”

Both utilities defended the payment, stressing that this will be their last such expenditure.

“We have paid the money because we are convinced that it is indispensable in terms of the construction of a new nuclear plant, and that it is not the same as a donation,” said a TEPCO public relations official. “The payment during the current fiscal year is expected to be our last.”

A Tohoku Electric official said, “We have made the payment because it is based on an agreement made before the nuclear disaster.

“Our cooperation to help the local fisheries industry will end in the current fiscal year, and we do not plan to continue it.”


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