In September 2006, Kansai Electric Power Co. restarted the aging No. 3 reactor at its Mihama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture and informed the town of plans to operate it for an additional decade.
In that fiscal year, after a dry spell of three years, Mihama received about 1.2 billion yen ($15.4 million) in anonymous donations. The following year, 1 billion yen in anonymous donations poured into the town.
Town officials have refused to say where the money came from. But an investigation by The Asahi Shimbun shows that electric power companies have provided a huge amount of anonymous donations not only to Mihama, but also to other municipalities that host nuclear power facilities in Fukui Prefecture.
Through requests for information disclosure, The Asahi Shimbun found that at least 50.2 billion yen in large anonymous donations were made over the years until fiscal 2010 to Fukui Prefecture and four municipalities.
The prefecture is home to 15 nuclear reactors, including one now being dismantled, the largest number in Japan.
About 30 percent of those donations, or 15 billion yen, came from Kansai Electric and other companies that operate nuclear facilities in the prefecture, according to the findings.
"There are almost no large anonymous donations from companies other than those connected to the electric power sector," a local government source said.
The large anonymous donations have continued even after the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, sources said.
And the anonymous donation to Mihama in fiscal 2006 came after the No. 3 reactor, which had been in operation for 30 years, was the site of an accident in August 2004 that killed five workers and injured six.
The donations to the local governments were made anonymously because the companies apparently do not want to reveal the extent of their influence. But they came on top of the huge government grants paid to municipalities that host nuclear power plants.
Between fiscal 1974 and 2009, the government paid 324.5 billion yen in grants from electric bills paid by corporate and household users.
The Asahi Shimbun determined that Kansai Electric donated 5.2 billion yen in fiscal 1992 for the construction of a Fukui prefectural university.
The company also made anonymous donations of 3 billion yen between fiscal 2005 and 2010 to convert electricity transmission to direct current for the JR Hokuriku and Kosei lines as well as donations of 5.7 billion yen between fiscal 2000 and 2004 for the electrification of the JR Obama Line.