A record number of shareholders of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) gathered Tuesday in Tokyo for the annual meeting and voted in favor of nuclear power.
The proposal to give up nuclear power was nothing new, with antinuclear activist shareholders putting forward a motion annually, but this year the ongoing nuclear crisis led to the vote being closely watched.
Around 9,300 people – double last year’s attendance – entered the conference hall at the Prince Park Tower Hotel in central Tokyo, with high security surrounding the event as shareholders and protesters converged on the scene.
Tepco’s chairman, Tsunehisa Katsumata, has opened the meeting with an apology. Scattered applause and an angry shareholder shouting were the reaction. "We’re working to get out of this crisis as quickly as possible," Katsumata said. A woman who was on the verge of tears referred to the “irresponsibility” of the management and addressed the chairman by saying: "You should have quit on March 11."
Since March 11, the value of Tepco’s shares has plummeted by more than 80 percent. The company may have to pay up to $100 billion in compensation to the nuclear disaster’s victims.
"A fundamental structural overhaul is needed at the board level to enable Tepco to rebuild its reputation and recover financially," Glass Lewis, a U.S. consulting company that works with institutional investors with over $17 trillion in assets, said on Tuesday, shortly before the Tepco meeting.
Last week, the head of the investigation team that is analyzing the causes of the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant Yotaro Hatamura said the country should now focus on finding facts and making prevention plans instead of just blaming certain people for the disaster.
"Everyone makes mistakes," Hatamura, the scholar who leads the committee appointed by the government to investigate the nuclear crisis, said. "We must caution ourselves against making mistakes but we also have to be generous with people about their mistakes."
Hatamura was appointed by the prime minister Naoto Kan last month as the head of a 10-people team that will conduct an “impartial and multifaceted” investigation on the case.
His team will also try to probe whether All Japan news needs an energy policy related to atomic power. It is a mistake to think of the nuclear power as being “safe”, because of the inherent risks of the technology, according to the expert.