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TEPCO bitterly criticized by shareholders

June 27, 2012


TEPCO shareholders' meeting marked by calls to break away from nuclear power



Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) came under bitter criticism over its corporate management and handling of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant at a general shareholders meeting in Tokyo on June 27, the utility's second since the outbreak of the crisis.

At 10 a.m., 3,112 shareholders filed into Yoyogi National Gymnasium in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward for the meeting -- highlighting the high interest in a horde of issues including huge compensation payments over the nuclear disaster triggered by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. The shareholders' meeting kicked off in a highly tumultuous atmosphere, with civic groups and ordinary citizens also gathering outside the venue, calling for a nuclear-free energy policy.

Individual shareholders and other interested parties started turning up shortly after 8 a.m., about two hours before the start of the meeting. Among them was a 45-year-old company employee from Tokyo's Edogawa Ward, who held a fan reading "No nuclear power."

"The people of Fukushima had to leave their homes. The top executives who promoted nuclear power should do their utmost to fully compensate them," he said.

The 45-year-old said he had become a shareholder of TEPCO after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in a bid to convey his thoughts to TEPCO executives. He added that he planned to support a proposal to be made during the meeting by a civic group of 402 shareholders that TEPCO's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Niigata Prefecture be decommissioned and a thermal power plant be built there.

Among the other shareholders attending the meeting were two members of German environmental group Ethecon Foundation Ethics & Economics, including its chairman Axel Koehler-Schnura. They, as TEPCO shareholders, planned to present a "Black Planet Award" trophy, a black filthy globe, to TEPCO management. The award is given each year to the company that has produced the worst effects on the global environment.

"TEPCO caused unrecoverable damage to the global environment and the human rights of people throughout the world," the chairman said.

Meanwhile, several shareholders voiced support for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's proposal to ensure transparency of TEPCO's management and introduce competition in the power industry.

Tomoyuki Tsukuda, a 37-year-old resident of Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, who attended TEPCO's shareholders' meeting for the first time this year, said, "TEPCO plans to give bonuses to its employees, but I wonder if money has been paid to those workers who have been dealing with the disaster (at the nuclear plant). Bonuses should be given to such people."

Fumiko Murakami, a 63-year-old housewife from Kisarazu, Chiba Prefecture, commented, "I have a feeling that the top management has released only self-serving information. I want them to promise to disclose information honestly."

Masanori Tagawa, 63, from Nara, called for the company to gradually break away from nuclear power. He said he would support the proposal to abandon nuclear power.

"It is unavoidable to operate nuclear reactors during the transition to clean energy, but I don't think the current measures can ensure safety," he explained.

Also among the shareholders were former TEPCO workers. Mikio Nakayama, 72, who served as a member of the Nerima Ward Assembly and the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, said, "Ideally, we should reduce nuclear power in stages, but when I think of people's livelihood in the immediate future, I would support the reactivation of nuclear reactors." He added: "TEPCO's responsibility is heavy, but nuclear power has been promoted as national policy. More national debate is needed."

Journalists were allowed to observe the shareholders' meeting live on a monitor. Last year the screen image was so blurred that the faces of the board members on the stage could barely be identified. There was some improvement this year, with close-ups of the board members who were speaking, but filming and broadcasting of the question-and-answer session were forbidden.

"We have not obtained approval from shareholders," a TEPCO spokesperson said.

TEPCO shareholders' meeting starts off tumultuously



TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s meeting of shareholders started off tumultuously Wednesday morning, with individual shareholders interrupting proceedings and its largest stockholder coming to the fore to press the utility to reform itself following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster.

The company known as TEPCO is seeking approval for changes in its articles of incorporation necessary to receive a planned 1 trillion yen injection of public funds, which would effectively put the country's largest utility under state control.

At the outset of the annual meeting, outgoing Tokyo Electric Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata apologized over the nuclear crisis and vowed to "start afresh from zero" to restore public confidence.

The proceedings were interrupted a few times as shareholders proposed motions such as to seek the dismissal of the moderator, served by Katsumata.

Also on the agenda are votes on shareholder proposals, including those from the Tokyo metropolitan government, the largest shareholder with about a 2.7 percent stake.

It is the first time that TEPCO has faced a proposal from a municipal shareholder, suggesting a change in the behavior of local governments, often seen as "silent shareholders," amid growing public criticism of the utility's move to raise electricity rates for households.

The Tokyo metropolitan government proposed that TEPCO stipulate in its corporate rules that it will "put customer service first" as its management philosophy and ensure transparency in management by disclosing information over electricity retail prices.

Tokyo Vice Gov. Naoki Inose appeared at the meeting to explain the proposals, saying, "What is needed for TEPCO, which has to restart from zero, is this kind of change in its way of thinking."

A group of individual shareholders, meanwhile, proposed the utility's withdrawal from nuclear power generation, an attempt it has been making repeatedly.

The company's board of directors has made clear its oppositions to such shareholder proposals, and they are likely to be voted down as it appears difficult to muster enough support from other shareholders.

The company also sought for approval to select 11 board members including Kazuhiko Shimokobe, a lawyer who is set to become next chairman.

TEPCO has decided to revamp its management as it will receive taxpayers' money as part of a 10-year business plan aimed at helping the company overcome its financial plight following the world's worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Based on the restructuring plan, TEPCO will avoid insolvency and continue to deal with three key tasks -- paying trillions of yen in compensation related to the disaster, scrapping the Fukushima plant's crippled reactors and providing stable electricity supply to areas including Tokyo.


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