Nearly 100 employees of utilities with nuclear power plants are serving on local assemblies, with 91 of them receiving salaries both from the power companies and local governments, The Asahi Shimbun has learned.
Many of these assembly members work in line with company policies to promote nuclear power, such as by voting against motions that propose a move away from nuclear energy or by organizing meetings to further understanding on nuclear power.
As of October, 99 employees of nine utilities were serving as local assembly members. Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, led the list with 23, followed by Tohoku Electric Power Co.'s 18 and Kansai Electric Power Co.'s 15.
Of those employees, 91 were receiving salaries from the utilities in addition to salaries as assembly members, and at six utilities, 52 employees were even given paid leave to engage in assembly activities.
The Asahi Shimbun interviewed 10 utilities that operate nuclear power plants, as well as their labor unions. It also received responses from 93 of the 99 employee-assembly members.
Salaries from utilities are funded by electricity rates paid by consumers. Utilities set rates for household users by calculating costs required for power generation and distribution, such as personnel costs including salaries for employees, with a certain amount added in for profits.
TEPCO stopped granting paid leave for assembly activities in August before it raised rates, saying the employees were not putting in work that warranted salary payments.
The industry ministry plans to call on Kansai Electric Power and other companies to examine personnel costs when they seek approval for raising rates, and the utilities are expected to be forced to review the practice of giving paid leave for assembly activities.
According to political fund reports, 90 employees serving as assembly members received a total of 600 million yen ($7.29 million) in donations from political organizations of labor unions during the three years through 2010. The money was received by their fund management organizations and supporters’ groups.
(This article was written by Satoshi Otani, Takuho Shiraki and Atsushi Otaka.)
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