Japanese Utility at Heart of Nuclear Crisis Survives Shareholder Revolt

Posted June 28th, 2011 at 1:55 pm (UTC-5)
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The Japanese utility at the heart of the country's nuclear crisis has won shareholder backing to maintain operations in the face of widespread anger from stockholders seeking an end to nuclear energy.

Tokyo Electric Power Company shareholders defeated a key motion Tuesday aimed at ending the use of nuclear reactors, in a fiery six-hour meeting attended by more than 9,000 shareholders. Another motion demanding the resignation of the company's top officers was also voted down.

It was the first such gathering since a March 11 earthquake and tsunami disabled the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, spawning the world's biggest nuclear crisis in 25 years.

TEPCO shares have plummeted 85 percent since disaster struck, with the company reporting $15 billion in annual losses by May – one of the largest losses in Japanese corporate history. International agencies have since reduced TEPCO's credit rating to junk status.

Meanwhile, engineers at the crippled plant on Tuesday restarted a new water-recycling system designed to cool reactors disabled by twin disasters.

A TEPCO spokesman said the system was returned to full operation after workers replaced a leaking pipe joint and conducted tests.

Cooling operations were suspended less than two hours after Monday's startup of the new system, which engineers say will decontaminate and recycle water back into the plant's number one, two and three reactors.

The success of the recycling operation is seen as critical step in helping TEPCO meet its promised goal to bring the reactors to safe shutdowns by early next year.

The 9.0 earthquake and tsunami triggered meltdowns in three of six Fukushima reactors, as well as radiation leaks into the air, soil and ocean. The twin disasters devastated much of coastal northeastern Japan, and left some 23,000 people dead or missing.