Tepco told to avoid sale of national park land

Kyodo

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano has urged Tokyo Electric Power Co. not to sell the land it owns in Oze National Park to help pay compensation for the nuclear crisis before exhausting other assets or cutting costs.

His remark, made Wednesday, followed a media report that Tepco may sell the property to acquire cash as several organizations, including a fishing cooperative in Ibaraki Prefecture, demand payment for damages caused by the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power complex.

With concerns growing about how the park would fare under different ownership, Edano suggested the utility cut pensions and retirement pay first.

“Considering the order of priority, I think there are a lot” of other assets Tepco should consider selling before letting go of the land in the park, Edano said.

Tepco holds 43 percent of the land in the 37,200-hectare national park, an extensive marshland stretching into four prefectures, including Gunma and Fukushima.

The utility’s land in the park was obtained by its predecessor before World War II to secure land for hydraulic power generation.

That plan was abandoned, due in part to opposition from local residents.

Tepco owned about 70 percent of a government-designated special preservation area in the park and is believed to be spending nearly ¥200 million a year on environmental preservation there.

Some analysts also say if Tepco fails to find a private buyer for the land, the government would likely buy it, which could raise criticism that taxpayer money should not be used to support the utility.

Still, Tepco is in dire need of funds to pay the massive compensation demands it faces.

On Wednesday, the fishing group from Ibaraki Prefecture visited Tepco’s headquarters and sought around ¥420 million, arguing that leaks from the crippled plant and its dumping of radiaoactive water into the sea contaminated the marine environment.

“We will respond swiftly to it. We are aiming to make a provisional payment by the end of this month,” Naomi Hirose, the utility’s executive director, was quoted as saying by a member of the fishing co-op.

The fishing group is the first to claim compensation for the nuclear accident from Tepco. Agricultural cooperatives in Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures have so far sought some ¥3 billion over the accident for damaging the reputation of their farm products.

Fishing unions in Fukushima and Chiba prefectures said they are considering seeking compensation from Tepco as well.

Futaba cleared for visit

Evacuees from Futaba, one of the towns hosting the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, will be allowed to visit their homes in the no-go radiation zone May 26 and 27 to retrieve personal belongings, the town’s mayor said Thursday.

Futaba is one of the nine cities, towns and villages that were designated off-limits in late April because it lies within 20 km of the radiation-spewing plant.

“I’m happy because I’ve been hoping for a temporary visit to take place soon,” said Futaba Mayor Katsutaka Idogawa. “I believe town residents have things they want to get done.”

The first visit will involve 120 residents from 60 households in three districts around 5 km from the plant. It is expected to take around two months for the brief visits to be completed.

The town has moved all of its municipal office operations to Kazo, Saitama Prefecture, where about 1,050 evacuees from the town are taking shelter in an old high school.

As with home visits conducted by other municipalities, the residents will be required to change into protective suits before entering Futaba. The duration of the stays will be limited to manage the risk of radiation exposure.