Australian news, and some related international items

Japan’s corrupt “Nuclear Village” is still thriving

Hidden gold, ‘murky’ payoffs threaten Japan nuclear revival,  Straits Times,  TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) 9 Oct 19, – A payoff scandal has struck Japan’s nuclear world, threatening to delay the restart of idled reactors in what’s becoming the industry’s biggest crisis since the Fukushima meltdown of 2011.The issue, which emerged at the end of last month, centres around how an influential municipal official in a town that hosts a nuclear plant spent years doling out large gifts to executives of its operator, one of the country’s biggest power producers.

It’s an example of how big business and small towns work together, sometimes at the expense of corporate governance.

The payments to senior management at Kansai Electric Power Co included hundreds of millions of yen, US currency, vouchers for tailored suits and even gold coins hidden in a box of candy.

To make matters worse, the official in question was close to – and received money from – a company that won construction work from the utility.

The news is a blow to an already deeply unpopular industry as it seeks to resume operations at plants that were shuttered after Fukushima. It’s likely to have an impact beyond Kansai Electric, with the government’s top spokesman, who called the payoffs “murky,” vowing to investigate whether there are similar cases at other companies.

It’s also a headache for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has set his stall as a proponent of nuclear power, a cheaper source of energy than imported fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas. And questions in Parliament about the scandal may delay Mr Abe’s efforts to pass a US trade deal and proceed towards changing the country’s pacifist Constitution.

…….The scandal is the latest exposure of governance issues at Japanese companies, which include the arrest last year of Nissan Motor Co’s chairman for concealing more than US$140 million (S$193 million) in compensation and Kobe Steel’s indictment in 2018 for falsifying quality data.

Kansai Electric chairman Makoto Yagi and president Shigeki Iwane bowed in apology at a three-hour public briefing last week as they detailed how they and 18 other executives received almost 320 million yen (S$4.12 million) in cash and presents from 2006 to 2018 from Mr Eiji Moriyama, the former deputy mayor of Takahama town, where a nuclear power plant is located. Mr Moriyama died at the age of 90 in March……..

The immediate risk for Kansai Electric is that the issue may delay the restart of three of its reactors, including two in the town in question, Takahama. Every month a reactor stays offline saddles the utility with extra fuel costs of 3.6 billion yen ……….

Kansai Electric’s investigation will leave no stone unturned to determine the cause and events surrounding the payments, the company said in an e-mailed response. The utility will also make efforts to ensure that this type of incident doesn’t happen again, it said.

In a sense, the goings-on at Kansai Electric suggest things haven’t changed in the nuclear industry. They mirror what independent investigators said in a 2012 report led to the scale of the Fukushima meltdown: collusion between government officials and a power company.

“This is the nuclear village at its worst,” Temple University’s Mr Kingston said, referring to the nexus of companies, politicians, bureaucrats and others that promote atomic power. “The cosy and collusive ties are a hotbed of corruption and raise questions about other plants.”

October 10, 2019 - Posted by | General News

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