FUKUSHIMA–Masataka Shimizu, the president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., visited Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato on Friday to apologize for the ongoing crisis at the firms Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, but the governor expressed dissatisfaction with the company’s handling of the situation.

This was the first time the TEPCO president had met with the governor since the nuclear crisis began. Sato openly showed emotion when he talked about children who have been forced to evacuate due to the nuclear accident. Sato said about 6,000 children had moved to other prefectures.

Shimizu explained TEPCO’s plan to end the nuclear crisis and discussed compensation for evacuees with the governor. “We’ll soon begin handing out initial payments, set up consultation centers and respond to people’s requests,” Shimizu said.Sato replied, “Compensation must be provided at all cost,” and demanded the firm pay for several kinds of damages, including those caused by rumors.

Regarding the possibility of restarting the nuclear power plant, the governor said it was “impossible under the current situation.”

via TEPCO president apologizes in Fukushima : National : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE The Daily Yomiuri.

Paying compensation for rumours? How will that work, exactly? What’s the going rate for “damage caused by a rumour”? What kind of damage?

I understand Governor Sato’s feelings, but why does he have the power to decide, on behalf of everyone in Fukushima, whether or not there will be a nuclear power plant in Fukushima? (Click here to read more trenchant comments below the fold.)

Does he really speak for the residents? Has he considered how the electricity provided by Fukushima Dai-ichi will be provided in future? Does he imagine wind-turbines providing enough electricity for his and Tohoku communities to recover and flourish in the future? Or does imagine that nuclear power will be providing the electricity but in someone else’s backyard, not his? His words translate into a condemnation: “I hereby declare that there will never be sufficient electric supply in this area for it to regenerate.”

I’m probably flogging a dead horse here. He’s naturally upset, not only on his own account but also on behalf of all those displaced and inconvenienced citizens of Fukushima. He probably just wanted an easy way to hit out at TEPCO for their lax safety procedures and complacency prior to the earthquake/tsunami, well as their apparently lackadaisacal, if not Mickey-Mouse responses afterwards.

He might also even have been making a point on behalf of TEPCO employees. In fact, he was! (now that I read the Yomiuri article more carefully):

“[The workers in the nuclear plant] are working harder than the president. They’re the only hope for the residents of this prefecture. I wish their working environment would be improved,” Sato said.

Here’s the video of TEPCO president Shimizu’s visit to the evacuation cetnre and part of his exchange wiht governor Sato. More comments below.

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNkRvk1OPCM’]

In his statement afterwards (2:45 onwards), Shimizu said “The trust between TEPCO and communities hosting nuclear plants has been destroyed.” Yes, but not only by TEPCO’s actions after the tsunami, but also because of what has come to light about their actions and attitudes before the tsunami.

“I understand how important it is to come up with ways to rebuild these relations”  he said. He may understand, but he and his executives have not been quick to take advantages offered to rebuild or try and repair these shattered relations. What about their shoddy treatment of their own, front-line workers, for instance? Recognizing that these guys are heroes and treating them as they deserve would go a long way towards redeeming TEPCO’s image.

Part of their image problem is that, it is far too obvious to too many people that the executives are not the ones suffering any hardship (sure, poor president Shimizu had “high blood-pressure”; that deserves a medal), nor even the ones with a clear grasp of the technical and engineering problems or their possible solutions facing the Fukushima workers. Who contacted the US navy for fresh water supplies, for barges to temporarily store contaminated water? Was it the bright, energetic Mr. Shimizu? Somehow I don’t think so. He and his ilk are non-engineering elite. His job is probably to smooth the relations between TEPCO and government. He was probably chosen for his connections, his old-school-tie, and his ability to smooch with politicians. Look at his face, listen to his voice.  He doesn’t look sincerely sorry, or sound it. The guy is now a huge liability to the company. He’s a walking PR disaster.  There’s a guillotine with his name on it, waiting for the right moment to strike (preferably when no-one is looking).