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Shareholders urge Japan’s utilities to end nuclear power generation

Kyodo

Shareholders urged nine power companies Tuesday to end nuclear power generation, reflecting safety concerns lingering since the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

However, the proposals were turned down at the firms’ shareholders meetings.

The companies, including Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex, are seeking to reactivate their plants.

At its shareholders meeting Tuesday, Tepco’s recently revealed instruction not to use the term “core meltdown” in describing the situation at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex in the early days of the crisis drew criticism from shareholders and company President Naomi Hirose apologized over the matter.

“I apologize for causing trouble and anxiety,” Hirose told the meeting.

Referring to the incident, one shareholder said at the meeting, “It was a cover-up. I am infuriated. All nuclear reactors should be scrapped.”

Some shareholders of Kyushu Electric Power Co. demanded that the utility halt operations of its nuclear reactors after the Nos. 1 and 2 units at its Sendai complex in Kagoshima Prefecture were brought back online last year.

Its shareholders meeting Tuesday was the first since the reactors were restarted.

Kyushu Electric Power President Michiaki Uriu told the meeting that the company returned to the black for the first time in five years in the fiscal year ended March 2016 thanks in part to the reactivation of the two reactors.

As for the idled No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture, he said: “We are aiming at resumption as soon as possible.”

Among other utilities, Shikoku Electric Power Co. is planning to resume operations at the No. 3 unit at the Ikata power plant in Ehime Prefecture in July.

Kansai Electric Power Co., which mainly serves western Japan, said it will seek an early restart of its nuclear power plants to bring down power costs.

The company suspended operation of the No. 3 unit at the Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture following a court injunction in March to stop the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors. The No. 4 unit was already offline at the time of the court order due to a technical issue.

“It is time to depart from nuclear power dependency by taking to heart the lessons learned from the nuclear accident at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 plant,” Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa told Kansai Electric’s shareholders meeting.

Among the many shareholders seeking an end to nuclear power generation, some questioned the justification for continued reliance on nuclear plants, while others voiced worries over what would happen in the event of larger earthquakes than the plant designers budgeted for.

A total of 73 proposals were made by shareholders to the nine utilities. In addition to calls to end nuclear power generation, there were also proposals to give up the nuclear fuel cycle in which plutonium is extracted through spent fuel reprocessing — a program pursued by the power industry and the government.