TEPCO must regain public trust to ensure Fukushima’s steady recovery — The Yomiuri Shimbun

” To ensure the steady recovery of Fukushima, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s revised business plan must not be allowed to end up as pie in the sky.

TEPCO has compiled a new business plan. The utility has strengthened its steps to improve profitability to raise funds for costs including decommissioning reactors and compensation related to the March 2011 accident at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. This is the second time the plan has been revised.

The total cost of cleaning up the nuclear accident has ballooned from ¥11 trillion to ¥21.5 trillion. TEPCO will shoulder ¥16 trillion of this amount over about 30 years. The ¥300 billion TEPCO spent in fiscal 2016 on compensation and reactor decommissioning costs will be increased to ¥500 billion annually.

TEPCO must boost its “earning power” to secure sufficient capital to meet those costs. Restarting reactors at TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture will be essential for this. Each reactor brought back online will raise TEPCO’s earnings by ¥40 billion to ¥90 billion per year.

TEPCO is working to gradually restart all seven reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant from fiscal 2019. However, as things stand, high hurdles remain in its way. This is because even if a reactor passes safety screenings conducted by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, local government authorities also must agree to the reactors’ restart.

The recent revelation that TEPCO did not disclose data about the insufficient earthquake-resistance of the main quake-resistant building at the plant has further heightened local distrust of the utility. Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama is not budging from his cautious stance because he believes safety measures at the plant are insufficient. “At the moment, I can’t agree to the restart” of the reactors, Yoneyama said.

An expert panel of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry also had some stinging criticism for TEPCO, saying it “has not earned enough trust from the public.”

Transparency vital

On June 23, TEPCO will switch to a new leadership lineup when Hitachi, Ltd. Honorary Chairman Takashi Kawamura becomes TEPCO’s chairman. Kawamura will need to work hard to regain trust in TEPCO so restarting its reactors can become a reality.

Strengthening cooperation with other electric utilities and launching new operations, such as gas retailing, also will be effective in solidifying TEPCO’s revenue base. Another issue that needs to be addressed is the overseas development of its thermal power business, in which TEPCO is pursuing integration with Chubu Electric Power Co.

The new plan stipulates TEPCO will “prepare a basic framework for cooperation with other companies” by around fiscal 2020, keeping in mind the Higashidori nuclear plant TEPCO is constructing in Aomori Prefecture.

TEPCO is considering working with Tohoku Electric Power Co., which has a nuclear power plant in that region. If this tie-up comes to fruition, it will be useful for establishing a stable supply of electricity. TEPCO’s intentions on this issue are understandable.

Other utilities that could become partners with TEPCO during a realignment in the industry hold deep-rooted concerns that cooperating with TEPCO could result in the costs of dealing with the nuclear accident being shunted on to them. TEPCO must lay the groundwork to dispel such concerns.

TEPCO and the government will, as soon as this autumn, establish a forum at which they can listen to the opinions of other electric utilities on steps to reorganize nuclear power and electricity transmission businesses.

Profits will be distributed based on the capital contribution ratio in a joint venture. Other companies should not be forced to shoulder the costs of the Fukushima nuclear accident. Highly transparent rules such as these will need to be drawn up. ”

by The Yomiuri Shimbun

source

Advertisements

Editorial: Cost estimate needed first to decommission Fukushima plant — The Asahi Shimbun

” An industry ministry panel of experts is tackling two key questions concerning the decommissioning of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

One is how much money will be needed to decommission the plant’s reactors, three of which melted down. The other is who should foot the bill and how.

However, there are some serious flaws in the way the expert panel is working on these knotty questions, which could lead to a huge financial burden on the public.

First of all, the panel’s meetings are not open to the public. The main points of the discussions are published later, but many details, including who made specific remarks, are omitted.

The fate of Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the Fukushima plant and is responsible for its decommissioning, will be largely determined by whether it can restart its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture.

Panel members include many business leaders who have been promoting nuclear power generation.

The outcome of the recent Niigata gubernatorial election underscored the strong opposition of local residents against TEPCO’s plan to bring the plant back online.

The panel’s lineup raises concerns that its discussions may be based on the assumption that the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant will eventually be restarted, despite the situation in the prefecture.

Another troubling fact is that the government has yet to announce any estimate of the total decommissioning cost.

In the panel’s first meeting, some members urged the government to swiftly present an estimate of the cost. In the second meeting, however, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry only said that annual spending could grow to several hundreds of billions of yen from about 80 billion yen ($703 million) spent now.

The ministry says a specific estimate of the total cost will be announced as early as the end of the year, along with a plan for management reforms at TEPCO and a package of related measures the government will take.

But this timetable doesn’t make sense. Pinning down the overall decommissioning cost should be the starting point for the panel’s discussions.

With the conditions of the melted nuclear fuel remaining unclear, it is certainly difficult to accurately estimate the cost.

Still, an estimate should first be shown to ensure substantive debate on whether the method used for the work is appropriate and whether there are ways to curb the cost.

As for financing, the panel has supported the proposal that TEPCO should secure the necessary funds on its own through management reform over other options, such as the utility’s liquidation involving debt forgiveness by its creditors, tax financing by the government and a continuation of the current state control of TEPCO.

In an apparent attempt to stress the importance of TEPCO’s own efforts to save itself, the panel has also recommended that the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant should be spun off from TEPCO and integrated with the nuclear power business of another utility.

There is no disputing that TEPCO should push through thorough management reforms to prevent the public from shouldering part of the cost through tax financing or hikes in electricity rates.

The question, however, is whether the embattled utility’s own efforts will be enough to cover the entire decommissioning cost, expected to reach several trillions of yen.

If a plan based on the company’s own efforts fails and disrupts the decommissioning process, the reconstruction of disaster-hit areas in Fukushima Prefecture could be seriously delayed.

It is vital for the panel to win broad public support for its proposals on the national challenge of decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

This requires careful, exhaustive and reasonable debate, open to the public, on the cost and the financing method. ”

by The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 27

source

DPJ leaders deny urging cover-up of Fukushima meltdown — The Asahi Shimbun

” Former government leaders vehemently rejected suggestions in a report that they were pulling the strings behind a suspected meltdown cover-up when the Fukushima nuclear disaster was unfolding in 2011.

The report, compiled by an investigation panel commissioned by Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the crippled nuclear power plant, said Masataka Shimizu, who was TEPCO president at the time of the accident, instructed employees not to use the term “meltdown,” leading to a delay in the official announcement.

But the report also implied that Shimizu was acting on orders from high up in the government.

Yukio Edano, who was chief Cabinet secretary of the Democratic Party of Japan-led government when the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the nuclear crisis on March 11, 2011, described the report as preposterous.

“As far as I know, it is unthinkable for government officials back then to ask TEPCO to do such a thing,” Edano, now the secretary-general of the opposition Democratic Party, told reporters on June 16.

He accused the panel of merely skimming the surface of the matter and sidestepping the truth behind the instructions to avoid using the term “meltdown.”

“It is utterly irresponsible for the panel to say that it did not uncover that (Shimizu) was instructed by who and what,” he said.

The third-party panel of legal experts said in the report released on June 16 that it can be assumed that Shimizu understood that he was requested by the prime minister’s office to seek its approval beforehand if the company were to announce the “meltdown.”

The panel also said it would be difficult to conclude that TEPCO’s delay in declaring the meltdown was a “deliberate cover-up.”

“Since TEPCO released information on radiation levels inside the reactors and other related data at that time, just not using the term meltdown cannot be described as an act of a deliberate cover-up,” the panel said.

TEPCO declared the meltdown at three reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in May 2011, two months after it occurred.

According to the report, Shimizu entered the chief Cabinet secretary’s office, which is located at the prime minister’s office building, by himself on March 13, 2011. The following day, Sakae Muto, vice president of TEPCO, explained the conditions of the reactors at the plant.

During the news conference, Shimizu handed a memo to Muto through a TEPCO public relations official, telling him not to use the word “meltdown” on the instructions of the prime minister’s office, according to the panel.

Naoto Kan, who was prime minister at the time of the disaster, denied giving the instruction to TEPCO.

“I myself have never given directions to TEPCO not to use the expression ‘meltdown,’” Kan, a member of the Democratic Party, said in a statement.

One reason for the lack of clarity in the report is that Shimizu, who was interviewed twice for a total of four hours, said, “I do not remember very well” with regard to who gave what instructions.

Another TEPCO employee interviewed by the panel said Shimizu “was under tremendous pressure and must not have a detailed recollection.”

The panel interviewed about 60 former and current TEPCO officials but no government officials and bureaucrats who were involved in dealing with the crisis.

“Our authority to investigate is limited, and it is difficult (to uncover the entire truth) in such a short time,” said Yasuhisa Tanaka, the lawyer who headed the investigation.

Tanaka and another panel member, Zenzo Sasaki, a former prosecutor at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, were also in charge of the third-party investigation into the accident conducted in 2013.

That investigation, based on interviews of TEPCO officials, came under fire for “only arbitrarily presenting TEPCO’s argument that is convenient to the company.”

The findings by the latest panel showed TEPCO officials looking into the nuclear disaster were aware of Shimizu’s order not to use “meltdown,” but TEPCO’s in-house investigation team did not include it in its report in 2012, apparently believing it was not significant enough to mention.

“TEPCO’s efforts to share information inside the company were insufficient,” Tanaka said. “It lacked consideration for local governments, which should have been top priority.”

The revelation that Shimizu ordered the avoidance of “meltdown” fueled feelings of distrust toward TEPCO among local governments hosting TEPCO nuclear power plants.

“We are still in this stage of the investigation even five years after the accident,” said Toshitsuna Watanabe, mayor of Okuma, which co-hosts the crippled Fukushima plant.

Hirohiko Izumida, governor of Niigata Prefecture, home to TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, called for a further investigation to reveal the whole picture of the Fukushima disaster.

“We need to step up efforts to uncover what has not been sufficiently investigated before,” he said. “TEPCO, as an organization, should make a sincere response without hiding anything.”

The latest panel was established in March at the request of the Niigata prefectural government’s technology committee, which aims to determine why TEPCO waited until May 2011 to announce the triple meltdown.

TEPCO initially said it did not have the criteria for defining and determining a meltdown.

But it announced in February this year that the company “found” an in-house manual that explained whether a meltdown was taking place. ”

source

Tepco to issue all radiation data at damaged plant — NHK World

” Tokyo Electric Power Company says it will release all radiation data taken at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to improve information disclosure.

TEPCO made the announcement on Monday after mounting criticism about its handling of tainted rainwater leaking into the sea.

Its workers had been aware since April last year that radiation levels in a drainage channel at the No.2 reactor building rose every time it rained. But it did not make the problem public for months.

The workers were worried that it might impact talks with local farmers about a plan to discharge treated groundwater into the sea.

TEPCO will name an executive officer posted to the plant who is responsible for communicating information to the public.

President Naomi Hirose said his company will implement measures that take into account the public’s viewpoint. ”

source

Japan audit: Millions of dollars wasted in Fukushima cleanup — The Associated Press

Due to copyright law, I’m not reposting this article. You can access it on The Associated Press website HERE.

Four years out, Fukushima reactors still spewing — Bloomberg

” Fishermen trawling the waters off Japan’s eastern coast have been alleging for a while that radioactive water was again spilling into the Pacific from the Fukushima power plant that melted down after a massive earthquake in 2011. On Feb. 24, Tokyo Electric Power Co., which is responsible for the site, admitted those suspicions were justified. And it turns out that Tepco knew about this latest radioactive leak since last May — and the giant utility said nothing for almost a year.

In the 15 days since Tepco finally confessed, have investigators raided its Tokyo headquarters? Have regulators demanded that heads roll? Has Prime Minister Shinzo Abe used his bully pulpit to demand accountability from the company that gave the world its worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl? In any other major democracy, those steps would have been obvious. But none have occurred in Japan. And that raises troubling questions not just about Tepco’s corporate governance, but the rampant cronyism enabling it.

When he took office in December 2012, Abe pledged to make corporate executives more accountable to international codes of conduct. In August 2013, he had a perfect chance to show his mettle. At the time, Tepco was still the butt of international criticism for its handling of the aftermath at Fukushima. Abe — concerned that the bad press would affect Tokyo’s campaign to host the 2020 Olympics — declared his government would push Tepco aside and handle the cleanup efforts directly.

It was all for show. Abe’s government never intervened, and Tepco stayed in charge. Four years to the day since the earthquake, Fukushima is still leaking; 120,000 people remain displaced; and Tepco’s opacity and incompetence are unchanged. The company’s obfuscations “tell us all we need to know about its resilient corporate culture of irresponsibility,” says Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University in Tokyo. “It has not changed its stripes. The decommissioning efforts have been shambolic, it’s still incompetent and negligent and has a very deep hole to climb out of in trying to regain any public trust.”

How does Tepco get away with it? It’s protected from on high by the “nuclear village,” Tokyo’s answer to the military-industrial complex that is said to hold sway in Washington. This alliance of pro-nuclear politicians, bureaucrats and power companies promotes reactors over safer forms of energy like solar, wind or geothermal, and works to shield utilities from competition and global standards. (That’s how Tepco got away with consistently doctoring its maintenance reports for Fukushima and putting all of its backup generators underground in a tsunami-prone area.) Even after the Fukushima disaster, national nuclear regulators seemed more concerned about restarting Japan’s 48 remaining reactors (all of which have been shut down in the interim) than neutralizing the one contaminating the northeast of the country.

Tokyo was a scary place to be in March 2011 amid Fukushima’s triple meltdown. Most frightening, though, was the utter lack of transparency from the authorities. Tepco’s then- president, Masataka Shimizu, gave maddeningly contradictory accounts of events at Fukushima. Two months later, Shimizu took the fall for Tepco sending radiation clouds Tokyo’s way. Tepco’s idea of a new start was to replace him with a 36-year company veteran. Four years on, it’s still an open question whether Tepco, or the economy that spawned it, has learned anything.

“I find it galling that not only was Tepco never punished for constructing reactors well below the tsunami warning markers, thereby worsening the effects of the quake and tidal wave, but was even allowed to raise its rates to make the consumer pay for the cleanup costs,” says Robert Whiting, author of Tokyo Underworld.

Even in the context of Japanese cronyism, it’s astounding that nobody at Tepco has gone to jail. Criminal proceedings against Japan’s business titans aren’t unprecedented. Executives of the optics manufacturer Olympus were arrested over a 2011 fraud scandal. Internet entrepreneur Takafumi Horie and well- known fund manager Yoshiaki Murakami got locked up for insider trading. But Tepco’s executives continue to enjoy a get-out- jail-free card, courtesy of the Tokyo establishment.

At the very least, Tepco’s senior management should be fired without pensions and face charges from prosecutors. The company should also be nationalized. (Taxpayers are bearing the costs of Tepco’s negligence anyway.)

Abe’s desire to eliminate the cronyism endemic to Japan Inc. is laudable. It would make the economy more vibrant, productive and attractive to overseas investors. He should start by bringing the most egregious offender to justice. I’m sure the Fukushima fishermen will be happy to testify. ”

source