Tepco halts sales of souvenirs from Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant following public outcry

by Chisato Tanaka

Staff Writer

Tepco suspended the sale of souvenirs at its crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant Wednesday — just eight days after launching the products — following public outcry that it was looking to profit from the 2011 disaster.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. had been selling plastic file folders imprinted with pictures of the Nos. 1 to 4 units at the crisis-hit plant at two of the facility’s convenience stores since Aug. 1, after receiving requests for memorabilia from visitors and workers.

But the sales by the utility immediately drew criticism with many people posting angry comments on social media. One comment said Tepco was responsible for the disaster and “had no right to profit from” it, adding that the move was “arrogant and showed scant consideration for the disaster victims.” Others said the plant operator should at least donate the proceeds from the sales to local residents and charities.

“We have received a wide variety of opinions over the past week and decided to suspend sales in order to reflect on those views and consider what would be the proper way to handle such merchandise,” Tepco spokeswoman Yuka Matsubara said.

Matsubara also said the utility is unsure if sales would ever resume.

She emphasized the company never intended to take profits from the sales as the ¥300 retail price for a set of three folders was almost the same as the production cost.

“We had learned that visitors and workers had been keeping the receipts they received from the convenience stores at the complex as souvenirs to show their families,” Matsubara said. “To allow visitors a chance to share their experiences and inform everyone that Fukushima is gradually recovering, we made the decision to sell souvenirs.”

After the sales of souvenirs were reported by several news outlets, mixed comments began appearing on Twitter.

A tweet by @mtycskni_ said, “I guess it would be proper to give away such things to the visitors who wish to have them” instead of selling them, while another from @potetohakusyaku asked, “Why don’t visitors buy local products made in Fukushima instead of such goods?”

The Fukushima plant that suffered nuclear meltdowns following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster is not open to the general public. Only plant workers, decommissioning support staff, media representatives, local politicians and residents are permitted on the grounds as long as they are 18 or older. Last year, 12,500 people visited the complex — up 1,800 from 2016.