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But TEPCO is not convinced...

June 26, 2013


Utilities unreceptive to shareholders' proposals to phase out nuclear power



Proposals to phase out nuclear power were rejected at general shareholders' meetings held at nine of the country's 10 utilities on June 26.

With Japan's new nuclear standards set to take effect July 8, and the government's enthusiasm for resuming operations of idled nuclear reactors around the country, Hokkaido Electric Power Co., Kansai Electric Power Co., Shikoku Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co. have also voiced a willingness to restart their reactors at an early date.

As Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) shareholders arrived at a gymnasium in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward where the shareholders' meeting for the operator of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant was to take place, they were welcomed by anti-nuclear activists holding placards.

"Abandonment of nuclear power is the will of the people. Since there have been changes in the (board) membership, I have some hope," said 60-year-old Yui Kimura, who heads the civic group Nuclear Phase-Out TEPCO Shareholder's Movement.

Individual stockholder Kenji Furuhashi, 34, said he took the day off of work to participate in the meeting. "I want to feel the passion of people who are against nuclear power, and listen to the voices of people from the disaster areas," he said. "I want the company to move in the direction of eliminating nuclear power."

Inside, TEPCO President Naomi Hirose opened the meeting at 10 a.m. by reiterating his intention to devote energy to bringing the disaster under control and rebuilding Fukushima Prefecture.

"We will continue to deal responsibly in compensating victims of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant accident and the long-term decommissioning process of the reactors," he said.

Meanwhile, outside the site of Kansai Electric's shareholders' meeting, anti-nuclear civic groups held banners calling for "non-nuclear management," and passed out flyers to shareholders walking in demanding that Oi Nuclear Power Plant be stopped and that operations at Takahama Nuclear Power Plant remain halted.

Inside, Kansai Electric President Makoto Yagi reemphasized his plan to move toward reactivation of idle reactors, saying, "We're in a serious crunch in terms of power supply and revenue, seeing as we don't know when reactors, with the exception of Oi Nuclear Power Plant's No. 3 and No. 4, can be reactivated."

There were a record 15 proposals from shareholders at the TEPCO meeting, including proposals to abandon the Fukushima No. 2 and Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plants. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government, a major TEPCO shareholder, proposed improving management transparency through measures such as the release of balance statements for each power plant.

With the exception of Hokuriku Electric Power Co.'s shareholders' meeting, some shareholders submitted proposals for the utilities to pull out of nuclear power and abandon reactivation. The Osaka Municipal Government, a shareholder at Kansai Electric, proposed a "swift abolition of nuclear plants." It is highly likely such proposals will be rejected, however, as utilities have already expressed objections.

Thermal power generation to compensate for the long-term halt of the country's nuclear reactors has raised fuel costs, resulting in consolidated losses for eight utilities -- the exception being Hokuriku Electric -- for the financial year ending in March 2013. The utilities, save for TEPCO and Hokkaido Electric, proposed dipping into cash reserves set aside for harsh financial situations, and of these, Tohoku Electric Power Co., Shikoku Electric, and Kyushu Electric proposed using their entire reserves.

The utilities all apologized to their shareholders for their declining performance, and sought their understanding for rising power bills and management's improvement efforts.

Protesters gathered at other meeting sites as well, including at Tohoku Electric and Hokkaido Electric, where anti-nuclear shareholders called on fellow shareholders to push for nuclear abandonment.

Shareholders also argued about the Hamaoka nuclear plant at the Chubu Electric Power Co. shareholders' meeting in Nagoya's Higashi Ward.

"If the national government were willing to offer assistance for the public to become energy self-sufficient, we could go without nuclear power," a 62-year-old woman from Nagakute, Aichi Prefecture, said.

A 76-year-old man from Nishio, Aichi Prefecture, meanwhile said, "The Hamaoka nuclear plant is still serviceable for years. It would be a waste not to use it."

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