Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata on Tuesday apologized for causing troubles and concerns to shareholders over the accident at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, while reiterating that the operator will end the ongoing nuclear crisis as soon as possible.
"On behalf of all of the executives, I want to apologize to our investors and society for causing inconvenience," Katsumata said at the outset of TEPCO's annual shareholders meeting, which was held under tight security with more than 250 police officers.
"We are doing our best to get out of this crisis and compensate people forced to evacuate around the Fukushima plant as soon as possible," he said, seeking shareholders' support.
The magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11 knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima plant, 230 km north of Tokyo, causing reactors to overheat, triggering explosions and radiation leaks.
The worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986 has also forced nearly 80,000 residents around the plant to evacuate and damaged the agriculture, livestock and fishery industries in the region. TEPCO aims to bring radiation crisis under control by January.
According to TEPCO, a record 9,258 shareholders attended the annual event, compared with last year's figure of 3,342. The meeting was often interrupted with yells and harsh questions by angry shareholders. Some said the accident was a man-made disaster, and the other said senior executives are not taking enough responsibility.
The utility is also facing denuclearization motion submitted by more than 400 individual shareholders, on whether it will withdraw from nuclear power generation. The motion requires a two-thirds majority vote to be approved, and the voting is expected to be held later in the day.
Since the March 11 disaster, TEPCO shares have plunged 85 percent, and major US rating firms such as Moody's Investors Service Inc. and Standard and Poor's have downgraded its credit rating. The compensation to be paid by TEPCO could cost at least JPY 3 trillion (USD 37.4 billion).
Prime Minister Naoto Kan's government approved on June 14 a bill to help TEPCO to pay massive compensation to victims of the world's worst radiation crisis in 25 years while maintaining a stable supply of electricity. The bill calls for the establishment of a new state-backed institution that will receive financial contributions from other electricity firms facing possible future nuclear accident compensation claims.
Meanwhile, engineers at the Fukushima plant started cooling the damaged reactors by using decontaminated water on Monday, but the operation was suspended just 90 minutes later due to a water leak.