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KEPCO execs' acceptance of huge gifts angers local consumers, Fukushima evacuees

Kansai Electric Power Co. Chairman Makoto Yagi, left, and President Shigeki Iwane, center, head to a news conference in Osaka's Fukushima Ward on Oct. 2, 2019. (Mainichi/Ryoichi Mochizuki)

OSAKA -- The finding that Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) executives accepted a huge amount of gifts from a former senior official of a town hosting one of its nuclear plants has sparked anger among local consumers and people who evacuated to the Kansai region in western Japan in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

It has also come to light that the late senior official, Eiji Moriyama, former deputy mayor of the Fukui Prefecture town of Takahama, himself received 300 million yen in commission from a local construction company that was hired for projects at a nuclear complex. This has raised suspicions that money paid by KEPCO to the construction company was returned to the utility in the form of gifts from the top local government official, who had influence on nuclear power projects.

"The electricity bills we paid ended up being pocketed by executives of KEPCO," lamented a 78-year-old man from Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, west of Osaka. He also criticized the company's in-house punishments -- including two-month pay cuts and severe reprimands -- as being "too lenient." "They should gracefully step down," he said.

Hideo Iida, secretary-general of the liaison council of Osaka consumers affairs organizations, described the executives' acceptance of the huge gifts as "outrageous." He said the money and gifts that KEPCO executives accepted from Moriyama "can obviously be traced to money collected from consumers as electricity bills."

"Specific reasons why KEPCO, which is a major company in the Kansai region and a contractee, were so afraid of Moriyama (that they say they couldn't return the money and gifts to him) remain unclear. Further information disclosure is necessary," he said.

A 44-year-old woman who voluntarily fled from the city of Fukushima to Osaka Prefecture with her three children following the outbreak of the nuclear crisis in March 2011, said the scandal has deepened her distrust in electric power companies.

"I thought, 'Oh no, not again,'" she said. "While there are no prospects for restoration of the (nuclear) disaster-hit areas, a massive amount of money is being moved behind the scenes to restart idled nuclear plants. It's so insincere," she lamented.

At the latest news conference, KEPCO President Shigeki Iwane, who also heads the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, expressed enthusiasm about promoting the use of atomic power.

"KEPCO executives accepted cash and gifts from Moriyama apparently because the utility felt that it couldn't win local residents' understanding of restarting nuclear power plants if it went by an orthodox method. They should keep in mind that the nuclear disaster threatened people's livelihoods," said the woman.

(Japanese original by Yuma Hori and Shuichi Abe, Osaka City News Department)

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