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TEPCO still paying pro-nuclear Rokkasho

October 4, 2013

As Fukushima compensation stalls, TEPCO continues to pay pro-nuclear village



By SATOSHI OTANI/ Staff Writer

Tokyo Electric Power Co. “donated” tens of millions of yen to a pro-nuclear village government in August despite promising to abolish such payouts to accelerate compensation for victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

TEPCO, operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, and Tohoku Electric Power Co. paid a combined 200 million yen ($2 million) to Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, which hosts facilities related to spent nuclear fuel reprocessing, sources said.

The two regional utilities have raised electricity rates, citing financial difficulties due to the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 plant. The government has also decided to use taxpayer money to deal with the radioactive water problem that TEPCO seems unable to control at the plant.

TEPCO said the payment to Rokkasho was based on a promise made before the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami caused the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in March 2011.

“The payment is associated with construction of a nuclear plant, and we believe it is different from a donation,” a TEPCO official said. “But we will refrain from commenting on a specific case.”

The industry ministry, however, said the payment to Rokkasho is “close to a donation.”

Masaru Kaneko, a professor of public finance at Keio University, said the government should do something to end such actions by TEPCO, which has been effectively brought under state control.

“The provision of this sort of money is abnormal, given that compensation for nuclear disaster victims and containment of contaminated water have stalled and that further hikes in electricity rates have been mentioned,” Kaneko said.

The payment to the village has been made since fiscal 2010 in the name of promoting fisheries business around Higashidori, a village north of Rokkasho, where TEPCO is planning to build a nuclear plant and Tohoku Electric already operates another.

The two companies agreed to pay 200 million yen annually for five years. TEPCO and Tohoku Electric paid 133.4 million yen and 66.6 million yen, respectively, until fiscal 2012.

In May 2012, when the government decided to inject taxpayer money into TEPCO, the utility said it would stop making donations to local governments.

According to documents obtained by The Asahi Shimbun and sources in the Rokkasho village government, this year’s payment was initially expected around May or June.

TEPCO, citing financial difficulties, proposed an installment plan. Eventually, TEPCO and Tohoku Electric completed payments on Aug. 30 and Aug. 26, respectively. The breakdown was the same as in past years.

When TEPCO applied to increase its electricity rates in 2012, the company included the payment to Rokkasho--as part of construction expenses for the Higashidori nuclear plant--into power generation and other costs used as a basis for calculating the rates.

However, the industry ministry refused to include the payment in such costs, saying “it is not essential to supply electricity and is, therefore, close to a donation.”

The ministry noted that compensation was separately paid to fishermen over the construction of the Higashidori plant.

Rokkasho officials said they spend the money from the utilities on squid-fishing boats and farms for kelp and sea urchins.

A Rokkasho official in charge of agricultural, forestry and fisheries business said the village expects to receive the payment next year, too.

“We know that TEPCO and Tohoku Electric are in difficult times, but village programs are planned based on the assumption that the payment will be made,” the official said.

Tohoku Electric began operating a reactor at its Higashidori nuclear power plant in 2005, and TEPCO began building one at its plant in January 2011. The two companies each plan to build an additional reactor.

Tohoku Electric said the company is shouldering its fair share of the expenses for fisheries industry promotion in line with a pre-quake promise, adding that it is necessary to continue to make the payment.

TEPCO, Tohoku Electric continue donations to village building nuke fuel processing plant



Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and Tohoku Electric Power Co. have continued to extend donations to the Aomori Prefecture village of Rokkasho, where a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant is under construction, even after the Fukushima nuclear accident, it has been learned.

This is despite the fact that electricity charges have been raised because the utilities have to rely more on thermal power stations and that the national government has provided a massive amount of taxpayers' money to finance countermeasures against radioactive water accumulating at the Fukushima plant.

TEPCO and Tohoku Electric donated 133.4 million yen and 66.6 million yen, respectively, to Rokkasho in August this year as funds to help vitalize the local fishing industry, according to the municipal government.

The two companies contributed the same amount to the village in 2011 and 2012 following the outbreak of the nuclear disaster in March 2011. The municipal government is set to also demand donations from the two companies next fiscal year.

The donations are based on a 2009 agreement signed prior to the outbreak of the disaster, under which the two utilities would extend donations to the village over a five-year period from fiscal 2010. The village is supposed to use the money to provide subsidies to a local fisheries cooperative to help its members build and improve facilities to farm fish and maintain fishing boats.

The utilities are supposed to extend the donations to the village in May, but provided the funds in August this year after cash-strapped TEPCO asked for a delay.

TEPCO announced in May 2012 that it would discontinue any donations. The utility denies that the funds provided to the Rokkasho Municipal Government are donations, explaining that the money comes from funds set aside to build a nuclear power station in the neighboring village of Higashidori. The official denied that the cost is added to electricity charges.

Utilities still paying village for planned reactors




Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Tohoku Electric Power Co. are continuing to make payments to the municipal government in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, over plans to build additional nuclear reactors in a nearby village, the municipal office said Friday.

Rokkasho, located south of the village of Higashidori on the Pacific coast, received ¥133.4 million from Tepco for fiscal 2013 on Aug. 30 and ¥66.6 million from Tohoku Electric on Aug. 26, the office said.

Tepco, which has received government funding to deal with the radioactive water leaks at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, says its payments to Rokkasho are not included in its costs for power generation, which form the basis for its electricity rates.

Tepco plans to build two reactors in Higashidori, while Tohoku Electric, which already has one reactor in the village, plans to build another. The two utilities began making payments to Rokkasho, itself home to nuclear fuel-recycling facilities, in fiscal 2010 to back the local fishing industry.

Rokkasho has used the funds to assist the purchase of squid-fishing vessels and gear, and improving fishing grounds. The village hopes the utilities will continue with the payments in line with a promise made before the 2011 Fukushima disaster, a municipal official said.

Tepco started to construct a 1.38 million kw reactor in Higashidori in January 2011, but work was suspended after the Fukushima crisis started. The utility plans to continue with construction and build an additional reactor there.

In 2005, Tohoku Electric began running its Higashidori plant with a 1.10 million kw reactor on land adjacent to Tepco’s and plans to build another reactor, but the existing reactor remains shut down along with all other reactors in Japan.

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