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Some will never learn

March 25, 2013


Utilities gave money to group led by atomic energy commissioner even after Fukushima disaster



Power industry entities such as Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC) have extended large sums of money to a nonprofit organization led by Etsuko Akiba, a commissioner of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC), the Mainichi has learned.

The nonprofit group, ASCA Energy Forum, based in Tokyo's Chuo Ward, has received at least 18 million yen from TEPCO, the FEPC and others even after the outbreak of the nuclear crisis at TEPCO's Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The revelation comes after the resignation of Akira Omoto, a former TEPCO executive, as a JAEC commissioner for having accepted advisory fees from TEPCO even after the Fukushima disaster triggered by the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. Omoto, 64, stepped down after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said it was hard for his government to gain the public's understanding of Omoto's action.

Akiba, 64, established ASCA Energy Forum in 2001 when she was a consumer advocate. The group acquired NPO status in 2003 and Akiba quit as its chief after assuming a JAEC commissioner post in January 2010. However, she has stayed on with the NPO as an adviser.

In business reports submitted to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, ASCA Energy Forum posted 20-40 million yen in annual revenue from fiscal 2009 to 2011, mainly from TEPCO, the power federation and related sources, according to ASCA officials. Even after the Fukushima catastrophe, ASCA registered revenue of over 22.8 million yen in fiscal 2011, including over 6 million yen from the federation, over 1.63 million yen from TEPCO and about 2.5 million yen from the Japan Atomic Energy Relations Organization (JAERO).

JAERO is an incorporated foundation created by the atomic power industry and academia to promote public understanding of nuclear power. It is now headed by a former executive of Chubu Electric Power Co. and its executive director is a former official of Kansai Electric Power Co.

In fiscal 2012, ASCA has received at least 18 million yen from the utilities industry, including more than 6 million yen from the power federation and about 1.5 million yen from JAERO. Despite its status as a nonprofit organization, ASCA chalked up net assets of over 38 million yen at the end of fiscal 2011.

Armed with these funds, ASCA has conducted study session primarily aimed at housewives on nuclear power plants and radiation, and published a journal. It was entrusted with consumer questionnaires from TEPCO, for which it received 800,000 yen a month through May 2011 and 9.6 million yen annually in fiscal 2009 and 2010.

In addition, ASCA has received an order for subcontract work to foster public understanding of high-level nuclear waste as an entity authorized by the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, getting about 10 million yen in fiscal 2011. Certain details about the subcontract deal have been made public, but ASCA has not disclosed funds received from TEPCO, the power federation or JAERO.

ASCA's secretariat says it cannot identify its partners but has briefed these partners on the ASCA's projects while releasing business reports. It also says it has provided venues for neutral study and its activities do not reflect the intentions of the power industry.

The secretariat also says Akiba works with no remuneration and is consulted only in a pinch because of her in-depth knowledge and network.

JAERO says it has entrusted ASCA with activities within the scope of funds it has given the nonprofit group, while TEPCO and the power federation declined to comment on individual dealings. Akiba has declined to respond to repeated requests for comment.

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