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TEPCO vows decommissioning of Fukushima N-plant

A TEPCO logo is pictured on a sign showing the way to the venue of the company's annual shareholders' meeting in Tokyo

FUKUSHIMA (Jiji Press) — The new leaders of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. told Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori on Monday of their resolve to promote the decommissioning of the company’s disaster-crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

There is no change at all that Fukushima is our basic focus,” TEPCO Chairman Takashi Kawamura said to Uchibori at a meeting in the prefectural government office, after explaining that TEPCO’s new management team was launched after approval at a general meeting of its shareholders on Friday.

Kawamura said, “We will proceed safely and steadily with the decommissioning work for the Fukushima No. 1 plant,” where a serious nuclear accident occurred after the March 2011 major earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan. The prefecture hosts the plant.

Meanwhile, Uchibori said the people of Fukushima Prefecture strongly want all reactors at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant, also located in the prefecture, to be decommissioned, the same as they want the decommissioning of the Fukushima No. 1 plant and the implementation of accident compensation plans.

Since the 2011 disaster, TEPCO has halted all four reactors at the No. 2 plant. The Fukushima prefectural assembly and the assemblies of all 59 municipalities in Fukushima have adopted resolutions calling on the company to decommission the No. 2 plant or taken similar steps.

http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003784590

June 26, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

New Tepco chief reaffirms Fukushima commitment, but underscored need for plant restarts

b-tepco-a-20170624-870x691Tomoaki Kobayakawa

 

Dealing with the aftermath of nuclear disaster at Fukushima No.1 power plant remains the most important mission for Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., Tomoaki Kobayakawa, Tepco’s new president, said Friday, but he also stressed the need to restart nuclear plants for the sake of continuing the utility’s business.

To fulfill responsibilities over (disaster in) Fukushima is the fundamental (policy) for our company, and that will never change at all,” Kobayakawa, the former chief of the Tepco’s electricity retail arm, said at a news conference at the firm’s headquarters in Tokyo.

Kobayakawa officially took the helm as head of the ailing power giant after the reshuffle of top management was approved at a shareholder’s meeting earlier on Friday.

Struggling financially amid ballooning costs for dealing with the aftermath of the nuclear accident caused by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011, Tepco is effectively under control of the state with the state-backed Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. holding the majority of its shares.

Ten of 13 board directors were replaced with new members, including honorary chairman of Hitachi Ltd. Takashi Kawamura. Kawamura was appointed the new chairman to back Kobayakawa.

Under the new board, Tepco will proceed with the new revitalization program it mapped out in May. The plan includes reactivating Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, so as to make up for the estimated ¥22 trillion cost of dealing with damage, including decommissioning of Fukushima No.1 and compensation for disaster-hit areas.

I believe securing safety and gaining the understanding of local people are our utmost priorities” in order to reactivate the nuclear plant, Kobayakawa said.

In October 2016 in the Niigata gubernatorial election, voters elected doctor and lawyer Ryuichi Yoneyama, whose anti-nuclear stance is firmly against any restart of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, over a pro-nuclear candidate from the Liberal Democratic Party.

At the shareholder’s meeting in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward earlier Friday, which was attended by about 1,200 people, some expressed diverse opinions on the company’s intention to restart nuclear power plants.

One suggested that restarting a nuclear power plant could be a “ray of hope” that stands as the symbol of recovery from the disaster, while another claimed Tepco’s financial recovery will “never be possible” without reactivating ceased plants.

Others were concerned about the firm’s plan to continue its nuclear power business.

One shareholder called the proposed restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant as “a long-shot gamble” repeatedly saying that the Niigata plant is “good-for-nothing”, and that it has only caused the utility to incur costs of ¥680 billion for safety measures.

Another shareholder urged the utility to abandon its plan to reactivate Fukushima No.2 and Kariyazaki-Kariwa, and open them for engineers worldwide to use as research centers for decommissioning technologies.

These proposals were turned down at the end of the three-hour meeting after facing opposition from board members.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/23/business/corporate-business/new-tepco-chief-reaffirms-fukushima-commitment-underscored-need-plant-restarts/

June 26, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

65th financial payment for Tepco: 1,46 billion $

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Tepco announces that it has received the 65th financial installment from the government support structure, which is advancing money for compensation: 164.8 billion yen (1,46 billion dollars).

This is a much higher amount than the last time and this money is loaned without interest.
Tepco has already received a total of 7,358.5 billion yen (67, 16 billion dollars at current prices) and this will not be enough.

http://fukushima.eu.org/65ieme-versement-financier-pour-tepco/

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Former Senator John Edwards Representing Thousands of United States Veterans Injured in Nuclear Disaster

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RALEIGH, N.C.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Today, the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the U.S. sailors who were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation assisting in humanitarian relief efforts to Japan following an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Based on the ruling, the sailors are able to continue their suit against Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. (TEPCO) allowing the sailors to pursue their case in the District Court in San Diego. It is possible that the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima plant affected up to 75,000 U.S. citizens, even after TEPCO deemed the conditions safe.

After meeting with attorneys from both sides last December, the United States Government submitted an amicus curiae brief expressing its belief that nothing should prevent the sailors from litigating their case here in America. Today’s Court of Appeals ruling reinforces the government’s desire that the sailors’ fight for justice will take place in the United States and not Japan as TEPCO and the Government of Japan had previously requested.

These members of the United States Navy deserve their day in court, and they will get it,” said former Senator Edwards. “These American heroes served the United States and were innocent victims in a nuclear disaster that never should have happened. This case has broad U.S. interests, both because of our nation’s long-standing relationship with Japan, and because plaintiffs in this case are members of the U.S. military harmed while on a humanitarian mission.”

As recently as this week, three former executives from TEPCO were charged criminally in Japan with contributing to deaths and injuries stemming from the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. In addition, the Japanese government investigated the nuclear disaster and found that TEPCO was grossly negligent.

In 2011, U.S. sailors aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ronald Reagan were poisoned by radiation during Operation Tomodachi (“friend”). The humanitarian mission was in response to a 9.0 magnitude earthquake which triggered a tsunami in Japan that led to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Relief efforts included delivering food, supplies and clothing to the people ravaged by the earthquake and tsunami.

The plaintiffs, led by Lindsay R. Cooper and other members of the U.S. Navy and their dependents, have suffered and continue to be diagnosed with extensive injuries including blindness, thyroid cancer, leukemia and brain tumors. The lawsuit is not only against TEPCO, but several other co-defendants, including General Electric, EBASCO, Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi.

Former Senator Edwards, his daughter Cate Edwards and California-based attorneys Charles Bonner, Cabral Bonner and Paul Garner are continuing to expand their suit against TEPCO. If you are a U.S. Sailor affected by this, you can reach attorneys working on this litigation at 844.283.9434 or http://fukushima.edwardskirby.com/

About Edwards Kirby:

Edwards Kirby is a national law firm, led by former U.S. Senator and trial attorney John Edwards and David Kirby, with offices in Raleigh, N.C. and San Diego, CA. The firm offers leading representation for plaintiffs in matters of personal injury, public and product safety, consumer protection, health care and medical liability, or civil rights and discrimination. For more information on the firm or its attorneys, please visit www.edwardskirby.com.

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170622006227/en/Senator-John-Edwards-Representing-Thousands-United-States

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | 1 Comment

9th Circ. Allows Sailors’ $1B Fukushima Suit To Proceed

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Law360, New York (June 22, 2017, 3:25 PM EDT) — The Ninth Circuit on Thursday upheld a lower court’s decision to allow sailors to pursue their $1 billion lawsuit against Tokyo Electric Power Co. over radiation injuries they allegedly suffered during their response to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

TEPCO had sought to dismiss the suit on the grounds that U.S. courts lack jurisdiction. A lower court declined to grant that motion, and on appeal, the Ninth Circuit sided with that judge, beginning with TEPCO’s theory that the suit is blocked by the 1997 Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage — an effort to establish an international liability framework for nuclear accidents.

The unanimous panel said the Convention’s provision that limits jurisdiction over nuclear accidents to the country in which it occurs only applies to claims arising after the Convention’s entry into force, which was April 2015. The sailors’ lawsuit was filed in December 2012. The panel paid particular attention to the portion of the Convention that gives exclusive jurisdiction to “the courts of the contracting party within which the nuclear incident occurs.”

“The use of the present tense suggests that the provision applies to future nuclear incidents and does not include past incidents,” the panel said. “One would expect the drafters to have used the past tense had they intended to alter jurisdiction over claims arising out of nuclear incidents that occurred before the CSC’s entry into force.”

TEPCO had also argued federal courts lack jurisdiction over the case because of the international comity doctrine, which allows a court to dismiss a case when another country has a strong interest in handling the claims and can adequately do so.

The panel noted that the Fukushima incident did happen in Japan, giving that country “a strong interest” in the litigation. But it also acknowledged that the plaintiffs are U.S. service members, giving this country a strong interest in the case as well. The government of Japan and the U.S. filed briefs on the question, both asserting their own country was the proper legal venue. Ultimately the panel was swayed by the U.S.’ argument that “allowing the suit to continue in California is consistent with U.S. interests in promoting the CSC.”

“In hopes that other countries would do the same, the United States [prior to the Convention] may have preferred that U.S. courts not exercise jurisdiction over claims arising out of foreign nuclear incidents. But that policy appears to have changed,” the panel said. “Now that the United States has ratified the CSC, the State Department takes the position that it would prefer to keep exclusive jurisdiction as a bargaining chip to encourage other nations to join the CSC. We owe this view deference.”

The panel also rejected TEPCO’s argument that the case does not belong in the U.S. under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, which allows a court to dismiss a case when it would be more conveniently handled in a foreign forum.

“In this case, plaintiffs are U.S. citizens, and their decision to sue in the United States must be respected. The district court properly took plaintiffs’ choice of their home forum into consideration and did not abuse its discretion in finding that other private and public considerations did not outweigh plaintiffs’ interest in suing at home,” the panel said.

Finally, the panel rejected TEPCO’s argument that the plaintiffs’ claims are nonjusticiable under the “political question” doctrine — which holds that the court cannot rule on fundamentally political questions.

But the panel left open the possibility that either the international comity doctrine or the political question doctrine could be used as a reason to dismiss the sailors’ lawsuit once the case progresses and more facts come to light.

U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino in October 2014 granted TEPCO’s motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ strict liability and design defect claims, but denied TEPCO’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Judges A. Wallace Tashima, Kim McLane Wardlaw and Jay S. Bybee sat on the panel.

The sailors are represented by Charles A. Bonner, Adam Cabral Bonner and Paul C. Garner of the Law Offices of Bonner & Bonner and John R. Edwards and Catharine E. Edwards of Edwards Kirby.

TEPCO is represented by Daniel P. Collins, Bryan H. Heckenlively and Gregory P. Stone of Munger Tolles & Olson LLP.

The government is represented by Benjamin C. Mizer, Laura E. Duffy, Douglas N. Letter, Sharon Swingle and Dana Kaersvang of the U.S. Department of Justice; Brian J. Egan of the U.S. Department of State; and Jennifer M. O’Connor of the U.S. Department of Defense.

GE is represented by Michael D. Schissel, John B. Bellinger III, Lisa S. Blatt, David J. Weiner, Elisabeth S. Theodore and Sally L. Pei of Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP.

The case is Lindsay R. Cooper et al. v. Tokyo Electric Power Co. Inc., case number 15-56424, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

https://www.law360.com/california/articles/937440/9th-circ-allows-sailors-1b-fukushima-suit-to-proceed

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June 24, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Radiation Sick US Sailors Allowed to Sue Japan’s State-Owned Nuclear Plant Operator Tepco

quake-carrier-large_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqbFWWpigZGUS2rP-sASCChpsJBeO1fiTp7A-5pLIp0iQ.jpgThe aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan heads towards the earthquake and tsunami affected areas of Japan in 2011

 

US sailors who ‘fell sick from Fukushima radiation’ allowed to sue Japan, nuclear plant operator

A US appeals court has ruled that hundreds of American navy personnel can pursue a compensation suit against the government of Japan and Tokyo Electric Power Co. for illnesses allegedly caused by exposure to radioactivity in the aftermath of the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled on Thursday that the 318 sailors who have so far joined the $1 billion (£787 million) class action lawsuit do not need to file their case in Japan.

Most of the plaintiffs were aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, an aircraft carrier that was dispatched to waters off north-east Japan after the March 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima plant. Three reactors suffered catastrophic meltdowns and released large amounts of radiation into the atmosphere after their cooling units were destroyed by a magnitude-9 earthquake and a series of tsunami.

The plaintiffs claim that they were healthy and physically fit before they were exposed to the radiation plume, with some personnel reporting the air on the flight deck tasting “metallic”.

The crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant

The California-based law firm representing the plaintiffs say they have been affected by a range of complaints, ranging from leukaemia to ulcers, brain cancer, brain tumours, testicular cancer, thyroid illnesses and stomach complaints.

The suit claims that TEPCO is financially responsible for the sailors’ medial treatment because it failed to accurately inform the Japanese government of the scale of the problem.

The Japanese government, the suit alleges, also failed to inform the US that radiation leaking from the plant posed a threat to the crew of the USS Ronald Reagan and other US assets dispatched to assist in “Operation Tomodachi”, meaning “friend” in Japanese.

The case was originally filed in San Diego in 2012, but has been delayed over the question of where it should be heard. The US government has also vehemently denied that any personnel were exposed to levels of radiation that would have had an impact on their health during the Fukushima recovery mission.

Interviewed for the San Diego City Beat newspaper in February, William Zeller said: “Right now, I know I have problems but I’m afraid of actually finding out how bad they really are.”

Formerly a martial arts instructor, he now uses a breathing machine when he goes to sleep due to respiratory problems he blames on his exposure aboard the USS Ronald Reagan in 2011.

“I literally just go to work and go home now”, he said. “I don’t have the energy or pain threshold to deal with anything else”.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/23/us-sailors-fell-sick-fukushima-radiation-allowed-sue-japan-nuclear/

“A federal appeals court has ruled that members of the US Navy can now, in a US court, pursue their lawsuit which alleges that they were exposed to radiation while providing aid after the nuclear crisis in Fukushima, Japan.”

USS Reagan crew can sue Japanese company over Fukushima nuclear disaster – court

A federal appeals court has ruled that members of the US Navy can now, in a US court, pursue their lawsuit which alleges that they were exposed to radiation while providing aid after the nuclear crisis in Fukushima, Japan.

On Thursday, the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled in favor of the sailors who were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation while providing humanitarian aid after an earthquake destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan.

The ruling allows sailors, who were aboard the ship at the time, to pursue their lawsuit against the state-owned Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) for misrepresented radiation levels in the surrounding air and water. The lawsuit alleges that TEPCO misled them about the extent of the radiation leak.

An investigation into the incident found that TEPCO did not take proper precautions to prevent the incident and described the meltdown as a “manmade” disaster. TEPCO later admitted the meltdown could have been avoided. 

The Japanese government set up the Nuclear Damage Claim Dispute Resolution Center to deal with all the claims against TEPCO. So far, a total of $58 billion has been paid out to victims of the disaster.

However, TEPCO asked the courts to dismiss the case from the US sailors under the “firefighter’s rule,” which states that first responders cannot sue those who caused the emergency.

Up to 75,000 US citizens could have been affected by the meltdown, according to former Democratic senator and presidential candidate John Edwards who is presenting the case in court.

“These members of the United States Navy deserve their day in court, and they will get it,”said Edwards. “These American heroes served the United States and were innocent victims in a nuclear disaster that never should have happened. This case has broad US interests, both because of our nation’s long-standing relationship with Japan, and because plaintiffs in this case are members of the US military harmed while on a humanitarian mission.”

The sailors continue to suffer from blindness, thyroid cancer, leukemia and brain tumors, Edwards said.

Attorneys are seeking $1 billion in damages from TEPCO and several other defendants, including General Electric,

https://www.rt.com/usa/393665-fukushima-reagan-lawsuit-us/

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Incoming Tepco chief vows decision on whether to scrap Fukushima No. 2

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The incoming president of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. has expressed eagerness to accelerate moves for tie-ups with other companies in an effort to revive its business following the meltdowns at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex in 2011.

Capital strength is important to seriously embark on growth businesses,” Tomoaki Kobayakawa, the head of Tokyo Energy Partner Inc., Tepco’s electricity retail arm, said in a recent interview. The 53-year-old is set to assume the post of president on June 23.

His remarks were in line with Tepco’s new business turnaround plan announced on March 22, in which it said it aims to realign and integrate its nuclear and power transmission and distribution businesses with other utilities to improve profitability.

The company, burdened with massive costs stemming from the Fukushima disaster, was placed under effective state control in exchange for a ¥1 trillion ($9 billion) capital injection in 2012.

Compensation and disaster cleanup costs have continued to rise, with the latest estimate reaching ¥22 trillion — twice the sum expected earlier.

Kobayakawa said JERA Co., a joint venture of a Tepco unit and Chubu Electric Power Co. in the area of coal power generation, is a “good example” of a tie-up, as enlarged capital has allowed it “to move powerfully.”

He said the power transmission and distribution businesses will also “produce outcomes if we can (align with other companies) and cover a wide network.”

I want to make more and more proposals,” he said, pointing to the possibility of forming alliances with businesses overseas, given that domestic demand for electricity is on the decline.

On the resumption of nuclear power generation, Kobayakawa expressed his intention to respect the view of local municipalities in restarting reactors 6 and 7 at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast.

Masahiro Sakurai, the mayor of Kashiwazaki, the city that hosts the nuclear plant along with the neighboring town of Kariwa, has said that the decommissioning of one of reactors 1 to 5 at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant would be a condition for the restart of reactors 6 and 7.

I haven’t met (the mayor) in person. I would like to confirm his intention,” Kobayakawa said.

Kobayakawa also reiterated the company’s position that it will decide “comprehensively” on whether the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant, located around 12 km south of the crippled Fukushima No. 1, would be scrapped as the prefectural government has urged the decommissioning of the plant.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/15/business/corporate-business/incoming-tepco-chief-eager-tie-ups-raise-funds-vows-decision-whether-scrap-fukushima-no-2/#.WUKt5zdpzrc

June 16, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO must regain public trust to ensure Fukushima’s steady recovery

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To ensure the steady recovery of Fukushima, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s revised business plan must not be allowed to end up as pie in the sky.

TEPCO has compiled a new business plan. The utility has strengthened its steps to improve profitability to raise funds for costs including decommissioning reactors and compensation related to the March 2011 accident at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. This is the second time the plan has been revised.

The total cost of cleaning up the nuclear accident has ballooned from ¥11 trillion to ¥21.5 trillion. TEPCO will shoulder ¥16 trillion of this amount over about 30 years. The ¥300 billion TEPCO spent in fiscal 2016 on compensation and reactor decommissioning costs will be increased to ¥500 billion annually.

TEPCO must boost its “earning power” to secure sufficient capital to meet those costs. Restarting reactors at TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture will be essential for this. Each reactor brought back online will raise TEPCO’s earnings by ¥40 billion to ¥90 billion per year.

TEPCO is working to gradually restart all seven reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant from fiscal 2019. However, as things stand, high hurdles remain in its way. This is because even if a reactor passes safety screenings conducted by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, local government authorities also must agree to the reactors’ restart.

The recent revelation that TEPCO did not disclose data about the insufficient earthquake-resistance of the main quake-resistant building at the plant has further heightened local distrust of the utility. Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama is not budging from his cautious stance because he believes safety measures at the plant are insufficient. “At the moment, I can’t agree to the restart” of the reactors, Yoneyama said.

An expert panel of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry also had some stinging criticism for TEPCO, saying it “has not earned enough trust from the public.”

Transparency vital

On June 23, TEPCO will switch to a new leadership lineup when Hitachi, Ltd. Honorary Chairman Takashi Kawamura becomes TEPCO’s chairman. Kawamura will need to work hard to regain trust in TEPCO so restarting its reactors can become a reality.

Strengthening cooperation with other electric utilities and launching new operations, such as gas retailing, also will be effective in solidifying TEPCO’s revenue base. Another issue that needs to be addressed is the overseas development of its thermal power business, in which TEPCO is pursuing integration with Chubu Electric Power Co.

The new plan stipulates TEPCO will “prepare a basic framework for cooperation with other companies” by around fiscal 2020, keeping in mind the Higashidori nuclear plant TEPCO is constructing in Aomori Prefecture.

TEPCO is considering working with Tohoku Electric Power Co., which has a nuclear power plant in that region. If this tie-up comes to fruition, it will be useful for establishing a stable supply of electricity. TEPCO’s intentions on this issue are understandable.

Other utilities that could become partners with TEPCO during a realignment in the industry hold deep-rooted concerns that cooperating with TEPCO could result in the costs of dealing with the nuclear accident being shunted on to them. TEPCO must lay the groundwork to dispel such concerns.

TEPCO and the government will, as soon as this autumn, establish a forum at which they can listen to the opinions of other electric utilities on steps to reorganize nuclear power and electricity transmission businesses.

Profits will be distributed based on the capital contribution ratio in a joint venture. Other companies should not be forced to shoulder the costs of the Fukushima nuclear accident. Highly transparent rules such as these will need to be drawn up.

http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003740107

June 5, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Tepco’s hopes rest on dubious reform plan, new 77-year-old chief

Former Hitachi chairman to become troubled utility’s chairman in June

20170524-Tepco-77-year-old-chief_article_main_image.jpgIncoming Tepco Chairman Takashi Kawamura, left, speaks at a press conference in Tokyo on April 3, alongside incoming President Tomoaki Kobayakawa and current President Naomi Hirose.

TOKYO — The incoming leadership team at Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings. faces an uphill battle. Turning around the struggling utility will require pushing ahead with badly needed reforms and overcoming deep internal divisions.

Takashi Kawamura, a 77-year-old former Hitachi chairman who currently serves as the industrial conglomerate’s chairman emeritus, will become chairman of Japan’s biggest utility, succeeding 76-year-old Fumio Sudo.

Tomoaki Kobayakawa, a 53-year-old Tepco director, will become president, taking over from 64-year-old Naomi Hirose, who will become a vice chairman with no representation rights.

The new team is set to be approved on June 23 at a shareholders meeting.

Difficult target

Tepco, still reeling from the 2011 meltdowns at one of its nuclear power plants in Fukushima Prefecture, on May 11 raised eyebrows by announcing the latest “comprehensive special business plan.” The plan contains what seems to be an overly optimistic target: securing 500 billion yen ($4.46 billion) in funds annually until 2026.

On May 12, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which supervises the electric power industry, convened a meeting of experts to discuss Tepco’s reforms. In their hearts, many of the panelists are skeptical about the plan’s feasibility.

Kawamura himself has acknowledged that putting Tepco back on its feet will be quite difficult. “Just making ordinary efforts will not be enough,” he said.

Kawamura is not acquainted with Kobayakawa. The two have yet to sit down and talk about Tepco’s future business strategy.

The costs of dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster are estimated to reach about 22 trillion yen. Tepco will have to cough up 500 billion yen annually over the next 30 years.

http://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Companies/Tepco-s-hopes-rest-on-dubious-reform-plan-new-77-year-old-chief

June 5, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , | Leave a comment

Fulfilling duties to Fukushima must top list in TEPCO reform

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A new plan has recently been worked out for rehabilitating Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. (TEPCO), the embattled operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The plan is centered on a bold management reform for enhancing the utility’s earning capacity so it can cover the ballooning expenses related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011, including the payment of damages and the cost of scrapping the hobbled nuclear reactors.

TEPCO obviously has the duty to fulfill its responsibility to the people and communities affected by the disaster. But the plan has set profit targets that are anything but easy to achieve, and some of the components of the plan appear unlikely to be realizable any time soon.

There is a need to continue reviewing the plan so it will not end up as simply pie in the sky.

TEPCO came under de facto government ownership after it could no longer keep operating on its own as a result of the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns. The utility has since been paying damages and otherwise dealing with the aftermath of the disaster while receiving aid in various forms under government supervision.

It was learned late last year that post-disaster processing would cost twice as much as the previous estimate. The government worked out a framework, wherein about 16 trillion yen ($141 billion), out of the total expense of some 22 trillion yen, would be covered either by TEPCO or with profits from the sale of the government’s share in TEPCO.

The rehabilitation plan, which was revised in response thereto, envisages that TEPCO can come up with 500 billion yen in necessary expenses annually over the coming three decades. It also sets the goal of substantially increasing TEPCO’s profits.

Many questions linger, however.

A restart of the idled Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, which is expected to be the key instrument for TEPCO’s turnaround, is unlikely to be feasible any time soon. The governor of Niigata Prefecture and others are growing increasingly distrustful of TEPCO, as it recently came to light that the company had failed to inform the government’s Nuclear Regulation Authority that one key building on the nuclear plant site is not sufficiently anti-seismic.

The first order of business is to take thorough safety measures. TEPCO should come up with ways for generating the necessary financial resources without relying on a restart of the nuclear plant.

The centerpiece of new measures for enhancing TEPCO’s earning capacity is a prospective reorganization of its operations along segment lines, such as in the field of power transmission and distribution and in nuclear power operations, which would also involve other utilities. That apparently came against the backdrop of the industry ministry’s hopes that TEPCO’s realignment will trigger a reform of the entire energy industry.

Other major electric utilities, however, are wary of the risk of having to play a part in TEPCO’s response to the nuclear disaster. It therefore remains uncertain whether the reorganization will actually take place as envisaged.

The framework for sharing the burdens of post-disaster processing, which the government has worked out as a precondition for the new plan, is in the first place ridden with problems.

The framework envisages that new entrants to the power supply market, who operate no nuclear reactors, will also have to pay part of the disaster response costs. Critics continue to argue such a plan is about passing the bill on to irrelevant parties.

The 4 trillion yen in radioactive cleanup fees are designated for being covered by profits on the sale of TEPCO shares. But that plan could fail unless TEPCO’s earnings were to expand and its share price were to grow significantly.

Using taxpayers’ money to fill the hole would then emerge as a realistic option.

TEPCO was allowed to stay afloat at the expense of taxpayers on the sole grounds that it bears heavy responsibility to the people and communities affected by the Fukushima disaster.

The government would have to take another step forward if TEPCO were unable to fulfill that responsibility. That would also fuel the argument for dismantling the embattled utility.

TEPCO is expected to soon make a fresh start under a reshuffled management. The utility and the government should not forget about the exacting eyes of the public.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201705150018.html

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

As I See It: Six years later, no time for TEPCO personnel squabbles

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Former Hitachi Ltd. chairman Takashi Kawamura, left, who will take the post of the next chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., and Tomoaki Kobayakawa, who has been tapped to be the next TEPCO Holdings president, are pictured here in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on April 3, 2017.

Six years since the outbreak of the nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima nuclear plant, the utility still faces massive challenges. And yet, what I’ve come to see through my reporting is that efforts meant to help revitalize the company’s finances in order to secure the funds needed to bring the nuclear crisis under control and compensate victims, have been overshadowed by petty feuds over personnel appointments between executives dispatched by the central government — which effectively owns the company — and dyed-in-the-wool TEPCO employees. Rebuilding TEPCO will be impossible if such squabbles are not put to rest.

In March of this year, TEPCO announced an outline of its revitalization plans, with a restructuring of its nuclear power business as a central pillar, as well as a reshuffling of executive personnel. According to the announcement, chairman Fumio Sudo, 76, will be replaced by Takashi Kawamura, 77, the previous chairman at Hitachi Ltd., and president Naomi Hirose, 64, will be replaced by 53-year-old board director Tomoaki Kobayakawa.

After the nuclear crisis began in March 2011, TEPCO was effectively nationalized. The plan has been for TEPCO to increase its earning power by rebuilding its finances under the central government’s management, so that it could secure the funds necessary to decommission the reactors at Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant and compensate victims of the disaster.

With the nationalization of TEPCO, the government swept the utility clean of all its old executives and in addition to placing bureaucrats from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) on the company’s board, in 2014 it put Sudo, formerly of major steel corporation JFE Holdings, in the position of TEPCO chairman. However, when Sudo, with the backing of the government, implemented cost-cutting measures, grumblings were heard within the company that Sudo was seeking too many results too fast and that staff evaluations were changing too dramatically. Sudo’s clashes with TEPCO president Hirose, who had worked up the ranks and was initially considered pro-reform, grew increasingly serious.

There was an incident in the spring of 2016 that could be considered a prelude to current conflicts. Sudo and METI, unhappy with the fact that Hirose would not cut his ties with former management, tried to re-appoint him to the post of deputy chairman. Hirose resisted and, according to multiple sources involved with TEPCO, was able to get the support of a former TEPCO executive who had close ties with the prime minister’s office. As a result, Hirose stayed in his post as company president, but his relationship with Sudo deteriorated beyond the point of repair. “It wasn’t uncommon for the two to criticize each other openly at management meetings,” a senior TEPCO official said.

At the end of 2016, METI announced that the amount of money necessary to deal with the nuclear crisis would be about 21.5 trillion yen, almost twice the amount of an earlier estimate. Because of the need to secure more funds, the government set up an expert panel, which then offered “recommendations” to TEPCO on how to rebuild its finances. When it was revealed that “the passing of authority down to the next generation” was one of the pieces of advice offered by the panel, industry insiders saw it as another government attempt at bringing Hirose down from his post, a source close to the case said.

Hirose is said to have resisted strongly to such renewed efforts. However, Sudo vowed that he would step down if Hirose did, forcing Hirose to bow to the pressure to resign. Some in the electric power industry have described the latest personnel reshuffle a “tie” in that both “camps” made concessions, but discontent is already spreading among career TEPCO employees. According to a senior TEPCO official, new executives, including Kobayakawa and the new president of a subsidiary company, are “all drinking buddies of outside board members who are former METI bureaucrats.”

TEPCO can’t afford to waste time on personnel feuds. In order to come up with the money needed to bring the troubled reactors under control, TEPCO must earn 500 billion yen per year for the next 30 years. The amount goes up further when taking into account the funds needed for capital investment. Meanwhile, TEPCO’s consolidated financial results for fiscal 2016 stood at just 258.6 billion yen in operating income.

TEPCO’s outline of its latest reorganization plan shows that it is aiming to raise earning power by realigning its various businesses, such as nuclear power, as well as the transmission and distribution of power, with other utilities. However, this plan is a carbon copy of the recommendations given by the government-established expert panel. Some long-time TEPCO employees have said the company only included the recommendation into its reorganization plan because the government has been on its back to do so, and that because other utilities will find no benefit to them in restructuring with TEPCO, the plan will never come to fruition. If people in the company remain this divided, TEPCO will never be able to follow through with rigorous reforms.

If TEPCO drops the ball on management reform and is unable to come up with the money it needs, it could lead to further burdens on the public in the form of higher electricity prices. TEPCO, under normal circumstances, would have gone under following the onset nuclear disaster. So if things go further south, not just the utility, but the central government, which allowed the utility to survive by pumping 1 trillion yen from national coffers into the company, will be held accountable.

Kawamura, who will be appointed TEPCO’s new chairman at the company’s general meeting of shareholders in late June, has the experience of having accomplished Hitachi’s v-shaped turnaround through fundamental management reforms. While his appointment was initiated by the government, many TEPCO employees welcome Kawamura’s pending appointment. The latest personnel change may be the last chance for TEPCO and the government to put its differences aside toward the goal of rebuilding the troubled power company.

Looking back at the latest personnel power struggle, a senior TEPCO official said, “I’m embarrassed when asked if any of the people involved (in the debacle) had ‘our responsibility toward Fukushima’ in mind.” The government and TEPCO must not forget its responsibility toward the victims of the nuclear disaster. If they focused on the fact that there are people out there whose peaceful lives in their beloved hometowns were taken away from them, they could refrain from feuds over personnel appointments. (By Daisuke Oka, Business News Department)

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170512/p2a/00m/0na/014000c

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Tepco Looks Beyond Fukushima Daiichi, Seeks Build Partners

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Tokyo Electric and Power Company, owner of the Fukushima Daiichi generating station that suffered a triple-reactor meltdown after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, said Thursday that is was seeking partners to help re-establish itself in the nuclear power business.

The partnership would focus on building two light-water nuclear reactors at the Higashidori nuclear power station in the Aomori Prefecture, the Japan Times reported.

Tepco, while facing massive expenses on Fukushima Daiichi clean up and decommissioning, is hoping to increase revenues through partnerships in both electricity generation and power grid operations, the Times said.

Tepco is currently supported by the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp., a government-sponsored organization that is a significant shareholder in Tepco. Tepco and the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. together submitted Tepco’s plan for partnerships for a state review.

The Higashidori plant is already the site of one reactor, owned by the Tohuku Electric Power Company. Tepco has plans to build two more reactors at the same site.

http://nuclearstreet.com/nuclear_power_industry_news/b/nuclear_power_news/archive/2017/05/11/tepco-looks-beyond-fukushima-daiichi_2c00_-seeks-build-partners-051102

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Diet Bill Requires Tepco to Create Fund for Decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi

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Japan passes bill requiring TEPCO to save money for decommissioning Fukushima plant

TOKYO, May 10 (Xinhua) — Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. will be required to raise funds for the decommissioning of the crisis-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant following the passing of a bill in parliament on Wednesday.

Under the law revised with the passage of the newly-passed bill, the government-backed Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. will be involved in the decommissioning of the stricken plant in a bid for the government to assert more control over the utility hemorrhaging its profits.

The cost of decommissioning the facility that went through multiple meltdowns in the wake of an earthquake-triggered tsunami knocking out its key cooling functions in March 2011 has surged from previous estimates of 2 trillion yen (17.56 billion U.S. dollars) to 8 trillion yen (70.24 billion U.S. dollars) and a state panel has called for funds to be raised without affecting the embattled utility’s performance.

The government forecasts that the plant’s decommissioning work, as well as compensation payouts and costs related to ongoing decontamination work, will amount to some 21.5 trillion yen (188.77 billion U.S. dollars) in total.

The new bill will require TEPCO, under the supervision of the government-backed organization, to set aside an annual sum each business year to be approved by the industry minister.

The amount eyed by the industry ministry required each year to be banked by the utility is around 300 billion yen for a period of 30 years.

The use of reserve funds for decommissioning work will also have to be signed off by the industry minister under the new scheme.

Private think tanks have put estimates for decommissioning the plant at being far higher than the government’s estimates.

TEPCO is also eyeing the restarting of four of its seven reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power plant in Niigata Prefecture from April 2019 as means to secure more finances.

The local governor, however, is skeptical about the reactors going back online.

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-05/10/c_136272026.htm

Tepco mandated to create fund for scrapping Fukushima plant

The Diet passed a bill Wednesday requiring Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to put aside extra funds to decommission its crisis-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant, as the state seeks to gain more financial control over the utility.

Under the revised law, the state-backed Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. will also be involved in the decommissioning process.

Currently, Tepco has been using profits to pay for scrapping the Fukushima No. 1 plant, which was destroyed after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered a triple meltdown.

The revised law is expected to take effect later this year. With the estimated cost of the decommissioning work already surging to ¥8 trillion from the previously forecast ¥2 trillion, a government panel has called for setting up a funding system that is not dependent on the company’s financial health.

The government projects the total cost to deal with the Fukushima nuclear disaster will reach ¥21.5 trillion, including decommissioning costs, compensation and decontamination work.

Under the new program, the state-backed organization will decide on the amount Tepco should store away each business year and the industry minister must approve it.

The utility must also formulate a financial plan and obtain the minister’s approval when it uses the reserve fund for its decommissioning work.

The new law will strengthen the monitoring power of authorities as well, enabling the industry ministry and the organization to conduct on-site inspections to check whether Tepco is putting aside the money.

The government has a major say in the utility’s operations after acquiring 50.1 percent of the company’s voting rights. Tepco faces huge compensation payments and decommissioning costs among other problems due to the 2011 disaster.

The industry ministry has projected roughly ¥300 billion will be needed annually for the next 30 years to complete the scrapping of the power plant, which involves the difficult procedure of extracting nuclear debris.

The costs could grow further. A study by a Tokyo-based private think tank has shown the bill for the decommissioning could balloon to between ¥11 trillion and ¥32 trillion assuming materials from the No. 1 to 3 reactors, which suffered core meltdowns, need to be specially treated for radioactive waste.

The Japan Center for Economic Research estimated the total cost of managing the disaster could reach ¥70 trillion, more than three times the government calculation.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/05/10/national/tepco-mandated-create-fund-scrapping-fukushima-plant/

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO Restaurant Opened to Public in Nuclear No-Go Zone

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Okuma, Fukushima Pref., April 17 (Jiji Press)–A restaurant of a Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. employee dormitory in an Fukushima Prefecture exclusion zone designated after the March 2011 nuclear accident was opened Monday to local residents who make temporary visits to their homes.


It is the first restaurant that can be used by residents of the town of Okuma, one of the host municipalities of TEPCO’s disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, since the accident at the plant forced a blanket evacuation.


The staff restaurant, Okuma Shokudo, has about 240 seats and is open to the general public from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., except on weekends and national holidays. It offers 21 menu items at the prices for TEPCO employees.

The restaurant operator, Torifuji Honten, is now based in the Fukushima city of Iwaki after evacuating from its head office in the town of Tomioka, also in the northeastern prefecture.


“We hope to contribute to disaster reconstruction if only a little bit,” said Takanobu Mori, 49-year-old manager of the TEPCO staff restaurant.

http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017041700795

 

April 20, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

After Fukushima, battling Tepco and leukemia

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Expendable’: Masaru Ikeda, a former worker at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, is suing Tepco for failing to take adequate precautions against radiation exposure. Following his second stint at the stricken plant, Ikeda was diagnosed with leukemia, which labor authorities have said is linked to the radiation he was exposed to at the plant.

Eight-year-old Kenji hands his mother a tissue, which she uses to dry her eyes beneath thick-rimmed spectacles, her free hand giving her son’s closely cropped jet-black hair a gentle stroke. Michiko Ikeda has cried before, deeply, achingly, she admits, during a darker time when she faced the very real prospect of having to raise Kenji and his two siblings alone.

Then, Masaru, her husband of 15 years, had been diagnosed with leukemia following stints working at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and the neighboring Fukushima No. 2 facility, starting in the fall of 2011.

Even when he first said it was leukemia I thought it must be a mistake,” Michiko says as the afternoon sun streams through the window of the front room of her home in western Japan. “When the hospital confirmed it, my mind went blank. I couldn’t stop crying, wherever I went. The only image I had in my head was that my husband was going to die.”

The road to Fukushima for Masaru Ikeda began to unfold the day after the March 2011 disasters, when images from the tsunami-devastated Tohoku coast flooded the TV and internet. Among them was footage of bodies being laid out in a makeshift morgue, the feet and legs sticking out from beneath mud-encrusted blankets clearly belonging to children.

It was overwhelming and I couldn’t help wondering how I’d feel if it was my kids lying there,” says Masaru, 42, who, after 10 months of cancer treatment, was discharged from his hospital cleanroom, the cancer having been found to be one step short of incurable. “I knew I had to to do something to help.”

Shortly after, his boss at the construction company where he worked told him about a Fukushima contractor who was looking for labor to assist with the ongoing battle to bring the devastated nuclear facility under control. Even though he had never set foot in a nuclear power plant before, Ikeda’s 15 years of experience as a welder would be invaluable.

He asked if any of us were prepared to go up there, but nobody wanted to take the risk,” he says, adding that he, too, had initially hesitated. “I talked with colleagues and they said, ‘The workers at “1F” are like kamikaze pilots.’ … I still wanted to go, not for the sake of the country, but for the people of Tohoku.”

His family and friends objected vehemently. His father told him bluntly that if he went, he’d end up getting leukemia.

He didn’t say ‘cancer,’ or another illness, but ‘leukemia,’ possibly because of what happened after Hiroshima,” Ikeda says, referring to the leukemia that was the earliest delayed effect of radiation exposure seen among A-bomb survivors. “I told him there was no way that would happen.”

Ikeda’s work at the plant was as varied as it was hazardous. At one point he helped construct a facility to dispose of workers’ TyVek suits, the ubiquitous white hooded jumpsuits that after exposure to radiation were discarded onto mountainous piles inside the plant’s evacuation zone.

Later he was involved in the construction of a temporary elevator at shattered reactor 3 and a 50-meter-tall heavy-duty steel structure to surround reactor 4 and support a huge overhead crane that was needed to remove the smoldering fuel assemblies in the fuel pool. These had been exposed to the elements following an explosion that blew away the reactor roof and the original crane.

I was shocked when I first got there and saw the sheer volume of abandoned equipment and vehicles — including fire department and military trucks that had become irreversibly contaminated.”

He was also surprised by the makeup of the on-site workers — a curious mixture of day laborers and the homeless — not to mention the pitiful shortage of suitable clothing and masks to protect them from radiation, he says.

Later, when a lot of fuss was made about radioactivity, that kind of gear and PDMs (pocket dosimeters, which monitor radiation) became more commonplace, but before that it was basically regular work clothes and surgical masks,” he says. “During work at reactor 4 the levels were so high we were supposed to wear lead vests, but there were not enough to go round so some of us had to do without.”

Nonetheless, the high radiation levels meant that work close to the reactors rarely lasted more than an hour per day and on occasion was terminated after just 10 minutes.

In late 2013, Ikeda returned home for rest and recuperation following a dispute with a subcontracting firm that was refusing to honor the daily ¥6,000 hazard allowance promised to workers — considerably less than the ¥19,000 pledged by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) president Naomi Hirose a month earlier.

It was about this time that he started to feel unwell. He couldn’t shake off a dry cough and found himself tiring far more easily than usual. Twice he scraped the side of his car without even realizing it.

In early 2014 a local doctor diagnosed him with a cold, making the news of a far more life-threatening illness during a company-sanctioned periodic health check a week later all the harder to swallow.

Results from a subsequent spinal tap revealed that 80 percent of the white blood cells in his bone marrow were abnormal. The doctor told him if he had waited a couple more weeks, treatment would not have been an option.

Nevertheless, it was still touch and go, and fearing he might not have much longer to live, Ikeda ignored the doctor’s recommendation for immediate hospitalization, instead returning home to spend time with his children, who were then only 5, 7 and 9.

It was only after I saw them through the glass of the cleanroom for the first time that I realized what a painful ordeal I had put them through,” says Ikeda. “I don’t regret going to Fukushima … but I do regret the distress I caused my family.”

Despite his father’s pre-Fukushima dispatch prophecy, Ikeda had yet to contemplate the possibility that his illness may be tied to the plant. The seed of that idea was planted by a surprising source — an official at Kajima Corp., a company he praises despite it being implicated in a kickback scandal that led some workers who had received little or no hazard compensation to take legal action.

For the time being, however, he felt fortunate and relieved. The health and labor ministry had recognized the illness as workplace-related, though it stopped short of stating it was directly tied to the 19.8 millisieverts of radioactivity he had been exposed to while working at nuclear plants.

Under health ministry guidelines, workers who are exposed to 5 mSv of radiation in a year can apply for compensation insurance payments. Ikeda did so successfully, meaning the government would help cover Ikeda’s medical costs and loss of income.

Shortly after, he was contacted by a friend still employed at the plant, who told him of a memo attached to a worker survey undertaken by plant operator Tepco.

The memo told workers not to worry about the decision to recognize the connection between my leukemia and radiation — that it was bogus,” Ikeda recalls. “It was as though Tepco was trying to erase the recognition of my work-related illness, which by law was its responsibility.”

Until then Ikeda insists he had “no intention” of suing Tepco, but its attitude made him “feel sick to the bone.”

I started to wonder what kind of people they are,” says Ikeda, who since his transfusions has suffered various ailments linked to the peripheral blood stem cell transplant he received for his acute myeloid leukemia (AML). “This is a company that for months denied the reactor meltdowns, and that caused the explosions by refusing to inject seawater (to cool the reactors) on the grounds it would render the reactors unusable. Then they turn a blind eye to a worker who helped clean up their mess. To them I was just another expendable laborer.”

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Heavy price: Masaru Ikeda looks through his bag of copious prescription medication.

Incensed, Ikeda started legal proceedings against Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., accusing the now-nationalized utility of failing to take adequate precautions against radiation exposure. His first hearing, where he filed for ¥59 million damages against both Tepco and Kyushu Electric Power Co., at whose Genkai plant he had also worked, commenced at the Tokyo District Court on Feb. 2.

A Tepco spokesperson denied the claims, saying the utility has endeavored “to manage all radiation exposure of workers,” adding there has been “no medical connection found (between radiation exposure and leukemia) … even from third-party or any other medical experts.”

A health ministry official stopped short of corroborating that view, saying it had awarded Ikeda compensation even though the “causal link between his exposure to radiation and his illness is unclear.”

Researchers worldwide are divided about the relation between radiation and leukemia and, indeed, some other cancers. Imperial College London cancer expert Geraldine Thomas, who is openly pro-nuclear, says there is in fact a connection, though leukemia and other cancers can also result from several factors.

AML … does have an association with radiation exposure. However, it also has an association with smoking, exposure to benzene (one of the contaminants in cigarette smoke), etc.,” says Thomas, who runs the Chernobyl Tissue Bank, which analyzes samples of tissue from people exposed to radiation after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. “The problem with … these cases is that it is easy to blame radiation exposure, but almost impossible to prove or disprove, as there are no biomarkers that can be used to distinguish between different etiologies.”

The total dose Ikeda received was “very low,” Thomas adds, leading her to suspect that exposure to cigarette smoke is more likely to be a higher risk factor. Ikeda says he only started smoking after a doctor had recommended it to counter the stress resulting from the sometimes debilitating side-effects of his treatment.

While scientists such as Thomas show caution in their assessment of low exposure doses, Hisako Sakiyama, a medical doctor and former senior researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Radiological Sciences, is among those who insist that even lower doses can cause irreparable DNA damage known as “double strand breaks.” Such doses are therefore “capable of inducing cancer,” she says, “because the energy of radiation is stronger than that of the chemical bonds of DNA.”

Thomas counters that this alone is not enough to prove nuclear plants are the root of the problem because “double strand breaks are not uniquely caused by radiation.”

Ikeda’s lawyer, Yuichi Kaido, concedes that it’s scientifically problematic to prove his client’s leukemia is tied to radiation, even though Ikeda’s illness has been officially declared as being linked to his work.

More importantly, he has been exposed to a level of radiation clearly exceeding the standard set by the government, and incidences of leukemia (among the general public) are extremely low,” he says, referring to the leukemia incidence rate in Japan of 6.3 per 100,000 people, or 1.4 percent of 805,236 cancers diagnosed in 2010. “In this case, I think it has been proven that the probable cause (radiation) is clearly far beyond the 51 percent probability normally required in these kinds of civil cases.”

To assess Ikeda’s case, painstaking investigations into his medical and employment background were undertaken. Ikeda himself said he had often noticed what he believes were public security officials in black vehicles who he alleges would park near his home and tail him wherever he went, presumably checking on his lifestyle habits and the types of people with whom he kept company.

The outcome of the official investigation was that no other factors, such as viruses or other illnesses, could have caused his leukemia, according to Kaido.

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In his corner: Lawyer Yuichi Kaido is cautiously confident about Ikeda’s chances in court against Tepco. ‘It has been proven that the probable cause (radiation) is clearly far beyond the 51 percent probability normally required in these kinds of civil cases,’ he says.

Until now, there have been only two other known lawsuits like Ikeda’s. One of those — involving plumber Mitsuaki Nagao, who had been diagnosed with a type of bone marrow cancer after being exposed to 70 mSv of radiation at nuclear power plants including Fukushima No. 1 — was rejected by the Tokyo High Court in 2009, by which time Nagao had died. Kaido says that ruling could prove to be a “huge hindrance” in gaining justice for the likes of Ikeda.

The big difference between then and now is the massive accident at Fukushima, where it is unthinkable that no health hazard resulted,” Kaido says, adding that in a wider social context, it is unconscionable that the utility that caused such environmental destruction and has since paid trillions of yen already in compensation to atone for the disaster, should fail to recompense a man who fell sick after helping Tepco overcome the dire situation at Fukushima No. 1.

Some people in Fukushima who were unable to return to their homes (because of high radiation levels) were paid hundreds of billions of yen, while my client hasn’t received a penny. That’s preposterous. Tepco has washed its hands of its social responsibility.”

Although initially reluctant to take action, Ikeda hopes that his legal suit will encourage others to come forward, even though since 1976, when the compensation regulations were introduced, only 13 workers have been officially recognized as having suffered illnesses related to workplace radiation exposure. Ikeda became No. 14, and the first since the meltdowns in Fukushima (see table).

I have heard that there are probably many more, but you never hear about them because settlements are reached” to keep them hushed up, says Ikeda, adding that accusations on various internet forums that people like him are nothing more than greedy opportunists had distressed him greatly. “I wouldn’t have taken this action if Tepco had shown some degree of remorse.”

Ikeda’s wife, Michiko, who works in an elderly care facility, says the most difficult time for her was during those long months of treatment, when her husband shed all his hair and over 20 kg in weight. He began to look pale and gaunt and didn’t have the energy to talk for more than five minutes when she visited, even though she remembers him chatting at length with a fellow cancer patient in the cleanroom — a patient who died three days later.

She also remembers the various memory-making trips, to Hokkaido and Okinawa, among others — trips they hoped would remain with their children throughout their lives. Just in case.

Nobody can say when (the leukemia) will return, and while I worry about that, there’s nothing I can do,” she says. “That’s fate. I still can’t help wishing he had never gone (to Fukushima), but also feel bitter that Tepco didn’t try to prevent this from happening.”

The family asked that their real names and location not be used. This article is based on a chapter from Rob Gilhooly’s book “Yoshida’s Dilemma: One Man’s Struggle to Avert Nuclear Catastrophe: Fukushima — March 2011,” published last month by Inknbeans Press (www.yoshidas-dilemma.com).


Nuclear plant workers’ illnesses officially recognized by the health ministry as being workplace-related (between 1976 and June 2014 — a total of 13 workers):

Leukemia

(recognized limit: over 5 millisieverts/year)

Accumulated doses (mSv) of workers in six cases:

1) 129.8
2) 74.9
3) 72.1
4) 50.0
5) 40.0
6) 5.2

Malignant lymphoma

(recognized limit: over 25 mSv)

1) 175.2
2) 173.6
3) 138.5
4) 99.8
5) 78.9

Multiple myeloma

(recognized limit: over 50 mSv)

1) 70.0
2) 65.0

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/04/02/national/fukushima-battling-tepco-leukemia/#.WOG7J2_ys7Y

April 3, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | 1 Comment