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TEPCO meets wrath of shareholders
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) June 28, 2011

Clad in white radiation protection gear, activists of Greenpeace hold a banner denouncing Tokyo Electric Power Corporation (TEPCO) before its shareholders meeting in Tokyo on June 28, 2011. Already battered by the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years, Tokyo Electric Power Co. faces furious shareholders whose investments have evaporated after the March 11 disasters. TEPCO shares have lost around 85 percent of their value since a 9.0 magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami that crippled cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, with three reactors suffering meltdowns. Photo courtesy AFP.

Angry TEPCO shareholders on Tuesday slammed the company for its handling of the nation's worst ever atomic accident after the March quake-tsunami, amid calls for the firm to abandon nuclear power.

About 100 police officers were deployed around the Prince Park Tower Hotel where Tokyo Electric Power Co. held its first shareholder meeting since the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami battered its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

TEPCO shares have lost around 85 percent of their value since a raging wall of water crippled cooling systems at the facility, with three reactors suffering meltdowns and the plant spewing radiation into the environment.

"It would be worth harakiri if we were in a different era," said a shareholder, referring to a form of samurai ritual suicide, when asked if TEPCO's response to the accident had been adequate.

TEPCO has been accused of ignoring warnings about the coastal plant's vulnerability to a tsunami, dithering after the accident and initially declaring damage at the facility to be limited before admitting the contrary.

The government has put forward a scheme to ensure TEPCO meets huge compensation claims but worries for the firm's future remain under the weight of massive costs as it struggles to resolve the crisis by January 2012.

A record 9,309 shareholders attended Tuesday's fiery six-hour meeting, the longest in the company's history, fuming at its handling of the disaster with many demanding it stop using nuclear energy.

"I am so furious with the company," said shareholder Furukawa, who declined to give her first name. "They never changed even after repeated problems," she said referring to TEPCO's track record of safety issues.

Around 85,000 people have been evacuated from their homes, farms and businesses in a 20-kilometre (12-mile) zone around the radiation-spewing plant, with evacuation pockets also further afield.

"I would like to tell TEPCO that we no longer need nuclear power. I think the accident is a man-made disaster," said Torao Ogawa, a 60-year-old shareholder.

TEPCO officials were jeered during the meeting in which they again apologised for the accident, as 402 shareholders called on the company to abandon nuclear power in a proposal rejected by a majority vote.

The firm has a total of 933,031 shareholders, of whom 746,927 have voting rights.

The appointment of 17 board members was approved. New president Toshio Nishizawa will replace Masataka Shimizu, who announced his resignation in May.

Haruna Takida, 33, left Koriyama city, Fukushima prefecture, before dawn to travel to Tokyo on Tuesday to voice her protest.

"The accident deprived children of their right to live a healthy life, young people of hope to work in Fukushima, and elderly people of what they had built in their lives," she said.

One weeping shareholder stood up and demanded TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata be dismissed from the meeting, to rounds of applause.

"We left our funds to you for management. Fukushima, Japan and the world can't go back to what we used to be before the accident," she said.

Many Japanese households purchased TEPCO shares as long-term assets expecting stable and relatively high dividend yields, given its position as a power supplier for Tokyo and the Kanto region -- an area that contributes more than a third of the nation's gross domestic product.

But TEPCO is unlikely to pay dividends or make profits for years as it undertakes mammoth restructuring, battles to contain radiation, and pays out compensation claims that could reach 11 trillion yen ($136 billion) according to some estimates.

Shoichi Sano, 73, has held shares in the company for 50 years after inheriting them from his parents. Now he "may have no other way but to sell them."

TEPCO reported a $15 billion annual net loss for the year ended March, the biggest ever for a non-financial Japanese firm, on costs related to world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

Ratings agencies Moody's last week downgraded TEPCO to junk status, citing the volatile situation at the plant and uncertainty surrounding the level of state support for the power company.

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TEPCO resumes water recycling at Japan plant
Tokyo (AFP) June 28, 2011 - Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant Tuesday resumed operation of a vital water decontamination system to cool reactors after a 22-hour stoppage due to a leak, its operator said.

The operation was fully resumed at 3:55 pm (0655 GMT) after workers replaced parts of a leaking pipe joint and conducted tests, according to a spokesman for the operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO).

The so-called "circulating injection cooling" operation was halted at 5:55 pm on Monday, only 90 minutes after it started in an effort to decontaminate and recycle water back into reactors one, two and three.

The success of the system is seen as a key step in helping the company meet its goal of bringing the reactors to safe shutdowns by January 2012 at the latest.

The operation had already been delayed due to problems with the system used to cleanse liquid that has built up in the three-month effort to contain the crisis.

The system, which uses French and US technology, decontaminates the water, which is then pumped into reactor cores to prevent dangerous rises in temperature.

A 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11 knocked out reactor cooling systems at the plant, triggering meltdowns, explosions and radiation leaks in the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

Up until Monday, water to cool reactors had to be brought in from outside the plant.

Highly radioactive water has spilled into the ocean since the plant was crippled in the March 11 disaster, stoking outrage within the local fishing industry as well as fears in neighbouring countries including China and South Korea.

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Tokyo (AFP) June 25, 2011
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