Nuclear agency under fire for donations from industry body


Donations to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency from an electric utility industry federation and 11 companies in the industry have raised the possibility of a conflict of interest.

The federation and 11 companies, including electric utilities and firms constructing and operating nuclear power plants, donated about ¥250 million over the past four years until Sunday, the last day of fiscal 2011, agency officials said.

Because the agency dispatches 10 staff members to a 62-strong examination committee at the government’s Nuclear Safety Commission, which oversees construction and modification of nuclear plants nationwide, the “donations could make the examinations a dead letter,” according to critics.

The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, an industry group that counts 10 utilities including Tokyo Electric Power Co. among its members, claims the donations were made at the agency’s request.

“The donations were to support research and development activities and personnel training,” a federation official said.

According to the agency, of the ¥121 million in donations received in fiscal 2011, about half, or ¥60.61 million, came from utilities. Manufacturers of nuclear power plants and related companies were also contributors, the agency said.

An agency representative said the agency sends letters requesting donations to utilities and other companies every year, and at times has even included a guideline on the amount of money to be donated.

Data kept since 2008 shows the agency received donations from the industry federation and nine utilities, which are members of the federation, as well as from Japan Atomic Power Co., the operator of a nuclear power plant in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, and Electric Power Development Co., which is constructing the Oma nuclear plant in Aomori Prefecture.

Okinawa Electric Power Co., which is a member of the federation but does not operate a nuclear power plant, did not donate any money, the agency said.

In fiscal 2008 and fiscal 2009, the federation’s nine member utilities operating nuclear plants separately made donations, with Tepco offering the largest amounts both years — ¥14.13 million in fiscal 2008 and ¥13.73 million the following year.

In fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2011, a donation worth the total amount offered by those nine electric utilities was made under the name of the federation, according to the data.

When constructing new nuclear plants or remodeling existing nuclear power plants, the government gives approval following examinations by such entities as various committees at the Nuclear Safety Commission.