20 Août 2012
August 20, 2012
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and Tohoku Electric Power Co. paid a total of 400 million yen to an Aomori Prefecture village near a nuclear plant under construction following last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster, it has been learned.
TEPCO, the operator of the disaster-crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, and Tohoku Electric paid the massive amount of money to the Aomori Prefecture village of Rokkasho under the pretext of promoting local fisheries following the nuclear crisis at the plant in March last year. Rokkasho is neighboring Higashidori village, where the utilities' Higashidori Nuclear Power Station is under construction.
Although the utilities denied that the payments were "donations," insisting that the money was earmarked as part of the construction cost of the Higashidori nuclear plant, they were not included in the plant's initial costs such as personnel expenses, based on which electric charges are calculated.
According to the utilities and sources familiar with the Rokkasho Village Office, Rokkasho Mayor Kenji Furukawa demanded that TEPCO and Tohoku Electric "cooperate in regional development" aside from compensating fishermen in connection with the construction of the Higashidori nuclear plant when the utilities negotiated with the village's fisheries cooperative over additional compensation. Mayor Furukawa was serving as a mediator in the talks.
Both parties reached an agreement in 2009 that the utilities pay an annual 200 million yen to the Rokkasho Village Office for five years starting in fiscal 2010, and a total of 400 million yen was paid to the village in May 2011 and May 2012.
The village office earmarked the funds as "miscellaneous income" in its budget and provided the entire amounts to the fisheries cooperative, which were used for replacing squid-fishing boat equipment and other purposes.
According to sources close to the village, the municipal office sought cooperation from the utilities after the village's tax revenue declined due to a delay in the completion of a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant at the village.
In its comprehensive special business plan drawn up by TEPCO in May this year, the utility stated that it would "abolish donations." The company explained that the funds provided to Rokkasho Village "are not interpreted as donations as they were expenses related to construction work."
"There was no problem in receiving the money because it was decided before the disaster (at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant)," said Rokkasho Deputy Mayor Mamoru Toda in defending the transactions. "We will discuss what we will do from now on."
TEPCO and Tohoku Electric are jointly planning to construct four reactors at the Higashidori nuclear plant. The No. 1 reactor run by Tohoku Electric started operations in 2005. The construction of the other No. 1 reactor, run by TEPCO, began in January last year, but the work has been suspended since the Fukushima nuclear disaster broke out in March that year.