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Saturday, July 2, 2011
Spreading anti-nuclear sentiment
Tokyo Electric Power Co. and three other power companies held shareholders' meetings on Tuesday and six more on Wednesday. The shareholders' meetings were overshadowed by the crisis at Tepco's Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
At some meetings, many shareholders presented motions calling for withdrawal from nuclear power generation. Their motions were voted down because institutional shareholders did not support them.
What happened at the shareholders' meetings indicates that the Fukushima nuclear crisis is leading more and more grass-roots people to take a serious view of the risks inherent in nuclear power generation.
A record 9,309 shareholders attended Tepco's meeting, which lasted six hours and nine minutes, much longer than the past record of three hours and 42 minutes in 1999.
The meeting lasted so long because of a heated expression of views from the floor on nuclear power. Some shareholders called on Tepco to consider utilizing solar and wind power to generate electricity.
Tepco's management responded negatively toward such calls, stressing the importance of supplying electricity with stable frequency and voltage.
A total of 402 shareholders presented a motion proposing that withdrawal from nuclear power be included in the company's certificate of incorporation. Since institutional shareholders including the Tokyo Metropolitan Government had sent letters of proxy to the chair, the motion was voted down, with only about 8 percent supporting it.
But this figure should not be taken as meaningless. In Tepco's 2010 shareholders' meeting, only 5.3 percent supported a motion calling on the company to stop its cooperation in the project of the prototype, fast-breeder reactor Monju.
Remarkably, Mayor Kunio Hiramatsu of Osaka said at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s shareholders' meeting on Wednesday that Kepco has the social responsibility of developing renewable energy sources and withdrawing from nuclear power generation. The Osaka City Government is Kepco's No. 1 shareholder.
Given their strength in technology and know-how, Japan's power companies should become serious about developing "green" energy sources.
Also, Tepco should faithfully fulfill its duty of paying compensation to sufferers from the nuclear crisis without passing the burden on to consumers and taxpayers.