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HOME  > Past issues  > 2011 July 20 - 26  > Who benefits from NPP ‘community of interest’?
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2011 July 20 - 26 TOP3 [NUCLEAR CRISIS]

Who benefits from NPP ‘community of interest’?

July 18, 2011
The following is an Akahata interview with Yoshii Hidekatsu, House of Representatives member of the Japanese Communist Party, who outlines the structure of the “community of interest” that includes both the political and business arenas benefitting from nuclear power generation.

NPP operators on top

On the top of the community of interest sit the electric companies. They have a long history of influencing Japanese business circles by having their executives, such as the chair of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), serve as the chairman or as senior officials of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren).

One of the factors providing electric firms with huge profits is the “regional monopoly” system. In the Kanto region (greater Tokyo area encompassing 7 prefectures), for example, TEPCO dominates electricity generation, transmission and distribution operations.

The second factor is the “comprehensive cost principle”. Electric companies are allowed to include in their charges on customers all the costs necessary for the generation of electricity as well as the generation of “appropriate profits”. In other words, the principle guarantees their profits.

Banks and constructors

The major corporations that benefit from the construction of nuclear power plants are the major manufacturers and general construction firms.

As either Toshiba or Hitachi is always awarded the contract for the design of boiling water reactors and Mitsubishi for pressurized water reactors, the same manufactures have always been designated as the makers of the same types of nuclear reactors. As for their construction, the major construction companies create joint ventures and get contracts for the construction projects.

Mega banks fund operators of nuclear reactors for 10 years from the planning of their construction to the start of their operation. These banks’ profits are guaranteed because the funds will never turn into bad loans because of the government guarantee.

As you can see, those who sit at the center of Japan’s business circles are members of the “community of interest.”

The electric companies, construction firms, and manufacturers are giving donations to NPP-supporting political parties or politicians with expectation for them to push bureaucrats to get bills and budgets passed to continue to promote nuclear power generation. The bureaucrats, after retiring from their ministries, often receive executive posts at utility companies. That is why this bureaucratic “Amakudari” practice is often referred to as “futures trading”.

In order to have mass media widely advertise the “safety myth” of NPPs, the Federation of Electric Power Companies has poured a vast amount of money into media advertisements.

Subsidies and discrimination

NPP operators are funding nuclear energy-related research at universities and other research institutes as a way to keep influential professors and scientists on their side. They have also offered jobs for their graduates.

JCP members or other conscientious employees of electric companies who raise questions over the safety of NPPs or try to disclose lack of safety measures based on scientific evidence, are all excluded from management positions in the utilities or their NPP-related sections.

Since I majored in nuclear engineering in college, I was hoping at first to work at an electric company, but I failed to obtain a position and I’m thankful of that now. Human rights violations by major utilities have occurred one after another in which dissident employees were discriminated against in promotion policy or isolated from their colleagues. Numerous lawsuits have been filed against TEPCO or Kansai Electric Power Co (KEPCO).

In our movement for a withdrawal from nuclear energy and for a shift to renewable energy sources, to expose these cozy relations is a significant task in order to establish a society governed by rules working in the public interest.
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