Utility claims it cannot cover the cost of compensating victims of the nuclear disaster

Tepco turns to government for cash

by Masami Ito

Staff Writer

Embattled Tokyo Electric Co. President Masataka Shimizu officially asked the government Tuesday to help shoulder the burden of compensating people affected by the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The utility is facing trillions of yen in payouts to residents and local governments around the plant, which has been leaking radiation since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Unlikely able to afford the compensation on its own, Tepco must also spend tens of billions of yen to decommission the reactors at the stricken plant.

At a meeting with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano and Banri Kaieda, minister of economy, trade and industry, Shimizu promised that Tepco would raise as much money as possible but asked the government to help cover the expected outlays.

“Our company is doing whatever it can to streamline the management,” Shimizu said in a written statement submitted to the government Tuesday. “We would like to ask the support of the government to ensure that compensation is given fairly and swiftly to the victims.”

According to Shimizu, the government didn’t give him an immediate answer.

After the meeting, Shimizu told reporters that Tepco executives, including himself and Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, would forfeit their salaries and sell off company assets.

He added that payroll cuts aren’t out of the question.

“We are considering further cost-cutting measures to swiftly pay damages and to seek the understanding of the public,” Shimizu said. “We will not consider any area sacrosanct.”

In April, Tepco announced it would cut compensation to board members by 50 percent, managers’ salaries by 25 percent, and rank-and-file workers’ wages by 20 percent.

But some Cabinet ministers and lawmakers of the Democratic Party of Japan have expressed dissatisfaction with Tepco’s restructuring efforts and demanded that it take further steps to secure capital.

The government, meanwhile, has been discussing a special law to set up a new entity to cover the compensation shortfall. The entity would collect contributions from nuclear power plant operators to prepare for future accidents.