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Thursday, June 28, 2012
Utilities defy shareholders' antinuke calls
Investors OK nationalization of Tepco; Kepco foils Hashimoto
By KAZUAKI NAGATA and ERIC JOHNSTON
Nine electric utilities held annual shareholders' meetings Wednesday, with antinuclear investors causing a ruckus by pushing them to shut down their atomic plants and increase the use of renewable energy.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Kansai Electric Power Co. also faced rare criticism from local governments, which own a considerable stake in the regional power companies and have started scrutinizing their financial structures after the catastrophe at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
"Public confidence in Tepco has been damaged," and the company has to seriously try to change itself, Tokyo Vice Gov. Naoki Inose told the meeting. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is Tepco's largest stakeholder.
Shareholders voted in favor of the plan to nationalize the utility.
Not a single proposal by shareholders was approved.
Kepco shareholders said no to all 28 motions made Wednesday to shift from nuclear power and fossil fuels to renewable energy, including one backed by the mayors of Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto that would have obliged the utility to eventually abolish its 11 reactors.
The rejections were not unexpected after Kepco's management announced earlier this month it opposed all attempts to reduce reliance on nuclear power and it was clear the majority of shareholders would vote against the motions.
But the defeat is likely to deal a blow to Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto's reputation as an effective antinuclear mayor, as he turned down a plebiscite drive by Osaka residents back in February to get the city out of nuclear power by saying it was better to oppose Kepco at the shareholders' meeting.
The city of Osaka, which owns about 9 percent of Kepco's stock, was represented by Hashimoto, who warned that the world is changing and Kepco needs to embrace renewable energy or risk going out of business.
"At this rate, Kepco is going to end up bankrupt. Explanations about the future risk (of continuing with nuclear power) are insufficient," Hashimoto said during the meeting.
He then posed detailed questions about the problem of spent nuclear fuel, including how Kepco is going to store its fuel in the mid- and long term. He also asked what would happen to Kepco's costs if its 11 reactors were halted permanently.
Kepco officials sidestepped most of his questions about spent fuel storage plans, but they said abolishing the reactors would mean spending ¥900 billion on replacement fuel sources.
Meanwhile, Tokyo Vice Gov. Inose slammed Tepco for planning to pay employee bonuses this winter. He pointed out that Resona Bank and Japan Airlines Corp., which both received public funds for rehabilitation, did not pay bonuses for several seasons during their rehabilitation.
Tepco will be selling ¥1 trillion worth of shares to the government-backed Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund, which will a stake exceeding 50 percent.
A shareholder proposed unsuccessfully that Tepco move its headquarters to Fukushima Prefecture. "That way you can give more sincere support" to the disaster victims, he said.
Some shareholders defended the utility, urging it to insist more loudly that the crisis is not just Tepco's fault, because the government failed to regulate it to prepare for the huge tsunami.