News

    Owner of Crippled Japanese Nuclear Plant Fights for Survival

    A protester wearing a mask holds a sign at a rally, in front of the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Company [TEPCO], aimed at criticizing TEPCO and demanding the abolition of nuclear power, in Tokyo,  March 3, 2012.
    A protester wearing a mask holds a sign at a rally, in front of the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Company [TEPCO], aimed at criticizing TEPCO and demanding the abolition of nuclear power, in Tokyo, March 3, 2012.

    The company at the center of the nuclear meltdown disaster in Japan has been subject to enormous public, government and international criticism over the past year. Now, Tokyo Electric Power Company finds itself fending off a government takeover plan. This is all part of the fallout from the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and resulting killer tsunami which swamped the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant last year, causing three reactors to melt down.

    Facing tens of billions of dollars in liabilities, clean-up costs and the eventual decommissioning of its Fukushima power plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as TEPCO, is in a fight for its survival.

    Media reports say in exchange for providing about $10 billion in public funds, the government will take a majority stake in the company.

    Japan has relied on nuclear facilities for nearly one third of its electricity, but now there is an unprecedented debate about the future of atomic power.

    It might be expected that with TEPCO's huge investments, the company would be loudly lobbying in support of nuclear power.

    But in the darkened halls of its headquarters, the utility is being very cautious.

    In a rare broadcast interview granted to foreign media, company spokesman Yoshimi Hitosugi tells VOA that TEPCO is focused on keeping the crippled nuclear plant stable and taking care of compensation claims.

    "That is what we are doing for the time being. As for the question about energy policy, at this moment, we are not in a position to say," said Hitosugi.

    A recent independent investigation into the reactor meltdowns at Fukushima concluded TEPCO was "astonishingly unprepared" for the disaster.

    However, the man who was the leader of Japan's government on March 11, Naoto Kan, said the utility is not solely to blame.

    "I think in many ways the accident at the Fukushima plant was man-made. That is to say, neither my government nor previous administrations put in place proper precautions for this sort of event. So some of the responsibility lies with my administration - and also with me," said Kan.

    No one yet has been charged with any crime related to the reactor meltdowns, which spread radiation over farmland, distant communities and into the sea.

    Officials estimate it will take 40 years to clean up and decommission the Fukushima-1 nuclear plant. Some nearby towns may never again be habitable.

    Thousands of TEPCO staff members are now processing victim's claims, following criticism the process was too slow.

    Company spokesman Hitosugi vows that compensation will be "generous and kind" once the claims are properly sorted.

    "We'd like to extend our deep apologies to people all around the world for causing such worries. With the help of supporting companies we are working hard to maintain the reactors in a stable state for the moment," said Hitosugi.

    TEPCO is to announce soon that it needs to raise electricity rates. That extra money and a massive injection of public funds, the company contends, are necessary to continue supplying electricity to 45 million people.


    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Yaakov Nahum Ben-Avraham
    March 06, 2012 7:45 AM
    G-d causes the Sun to Shine / This warms the ocean / Water evaporates / Clouds form / Precipitation occurs on the mountains / Water trickles into the steep mountainous valleys / Rushing rivers flow / These may be Dammed for Hydroelectricity / Most (80%?) of our electricity is Green (Renewable) thanks to the foresight of WAC Bennett / Conserve it with Heat Pumps, LED lights, etc. as this energy is Rationed by G-d...

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.