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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 September 25 - October 1  > NPP-related money scandal involving KEPCO should be fully uncovered
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2019 September 25 - October 1 TOP3 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

NPP-related money scandal involving KEPCO should be fully uncovered

September 29, 2019

Akahata editorial

It has come to light that 20 executives of Kansai Electric Power Company, including Chairman Yagi Makoto and President Iwane Shigeki, had received money or goods worth 320 million yen over the past seven years from the late deputy mayor of Fukui’s Takahama Town, where the utility’s Takahama Nuclear Power Plant is located. The deputy mayor was provided with funds by a construction company in the town which received Takahama NPP-related orders from KEPCO. It is strongly suspected that the executives as kickbacks through the deputy mayor accepted “nuclear money” whose resources were obtained from electricity charges paid by the general public. The full revelation of the truth concerning the corrupt relationship between KEPCO and the former deputy mayor is essential.

KEPCO remains secretive about scandal

The revelation of the scandal came from the fact that the Kanazawa Regional Taxation Bureau in January 2018 during a tax inspection noticed that the construction company in question had paid a total of 300 million yen to the deputy mayor in commissions associated with NPP-related orders. In the course of the inspection, the town official was found to have sent money or valuables to KEPCO executives.

KEPCO at a press conference on September 27 made public that it carried out internal investigations on the scandal from July to September 2018. The company acknowledged that between 2011 and 2018, 20 top KEPCO top officials, including the chairman and president, accepted 320 million yen in money or vouchers. The utility should be criticized also for not making public the investigation results for a year. President Iwane at the press conference expressed his apology and noted that the company penalized officials concerned. However, he did not explain how much or what kinds of goods the 20 executives received and how they dealt with the valuables. As to why the president did not refuse to accept the money and goods, he insisted that the deputy mayor was a very influential person in the town and greatly helped the company maintain a good relationship with local residents. The president added that he had attempted to decline the deputy mayor’s offer, but the late town official “strongly urged me to accept it, so I did not want to cause damage to our relationship”. This remark suggests the existence of a strong relationship between the former deputy mayor and the power company.

The utility secretly handled the money and goods sent to the 20 KEPCO executives. This is extraordinary. KEPCO looked into the books of only the past seven years because of the statute of limitations on taxation. It is very unlikely that the acceptance of such a sizable amount of money and gifts suddenly started in 2011. It is also dubious whether these valuables were flowing only inside KEPCO. The former deputy mayor is said to have played a leading role in having a nuclear power station constructed in Takahama Town around 1970. It is necessary to reveal the whole picture on when, how, what scale, and why "the money linked to the nuclear powerhouse " started.

The seven years from 2011 was the period when the delivery and receipt of gifts was discovered and the nuclear energy policy as well as the resumption of nuclear reactors' operations following TEPCO's Fukushima nuclear meltdowns were severely questioned, and also when the "nuclear power-interest community" promoted by the politicians-bureaucrats-businesses setup was under fire. At such a time, naturally accepting the questionable gifts shows that the nuclear power promoters do not have any regret about the 2011 accident.

Promotion of N-plant resumption unacceptable

Between April 2011 and July 2016, Yagi was chairman of the Federation of Electric Power Companies which consists of ten leading utilities. Iwane is the present chairman since July this year. Four of the nine nuclear reactors reactivated under the Abe government were KEPCO-operated. Power companies, including KEPCO, have taken the initiative on NPP resumption, and top executives of the industry were discovered to have cosy ties with an influential figure of the NPP-hosting municipality. The entire nuclear power sector should be called into question. Keidanren Chair Nakanishi Hiroaki, also Hitachi chairman, hesitated to comment on this scandal at a regular press briefing by saying, "Both Yagi and Iwane are friends of mine." This attitude is dishonest and irresponsible. The promotion of the restart of NPPs is impermissible.
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