The electric power industry donated 250 million yen ($3 million) to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency over four years, including 55.1 million yen after the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant last year.
The agency, which sends many of its officials to the nation’s nuclear regulatory bodies, disclosed the amount of donations in the four years through fiscal 2011 following a request from The Asahi Shimbun.
Donations to nuclear-related organizations and local governments that host nuclear facilities are reflected on electricity rates. But electric power companies have not released even the total amount of donations they make.
For decades, the electric power industry has made donations to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, an independent administrative agency under the jurisdiction of the science ministry, according to a former executive at the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan.
“(The agency), in charge of safety regulation and working closely with the government, is on the industry’s back,” a former senior official of an electric power company said. “It is an important job for the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan to maintain a good relationship.”
The Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan has 89 commissioners and examination committee members, including 15 from the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, more than the number of experts from the University of Tokyo.
Agency officials also sit on many groups under the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy, a government advisory panel.
Donations from the electric power industry accounted for nearly half of all donations the agency received each year.
Nine regional electric power companies that operate nuclear power plants donated a combined 60 million yen in fiscal 2008 and 58 million yen in fiscal 2009, according to documents obtained by The Asahi Shimbun.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. accounted for about 14 million yen, nearly one-quarter of the total, followed by Kansai Electric Power Co. and Chubu Electric Power Co.
The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan has determined the total amount of donations through consultations with the agency and decided the amount for each utility based on the share of power generation, the former federation executive said.
In fiscal 2010 and 2011, the federation donated 58 million yen and 55.1 million yen, respectively, on behalf of the nine utilities.
It is unclear which companies donated the 55.1 million yen in fiscal 2011 after TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was crippled by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. TEPCO decided to increase electricity charges for large-lot industrial users after the accident.
Separately, Japan Atomic Power Co. and Electric Power Development Co., two nuclear power plant operators but not members of the federation, donated about 6 million yen annually for three years through fiscal 2010.
Electric power companies would not discuss details of their donations.
A federation official said the donations, made at the request of the agency, were designed to support nuclear research and development as well as to nurture human resources.
The agency is at the center of Japan’s nuclear power research, working on everything from nuclear reaction and safety of nuclear power plants to reprocessing spent nuclear fuel and disposal of radioactive waste.
“We cannot find many nuclear research institutes even in the world as comprehensive as the agency,” a former senior official of an electric power company said.
According to documents released last autumn, the agency has nine executive directors and auditors, including four who are former officials of the science ministry.
The agency has asked for donations from electric power companies, as well as suppliers of goods and services, by specifying the amount in its requests.
The agency said it spends donations on “free research,” but it would not disclose details.
This article was written by Satoshi Otani and Yusuke Nikaido.
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