By SATOSHI OTANI / Asahi Shimbun / July 21st, 2015 / The father of pro-nuclear Kariwa Mayor Hiroo Shinada is a director of a company that received contracts worth millions of yen for work at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.
In addition, a gasoline stand run by Shinada’s wife is frequented by TEPCO employees as well as workers at nuclear plant-related companies.
Shinada, 58, said there was nothing inappropriate about the business transactions.
“In this community, there is no one who has zero ties to the nuclear plant, but I have always clearly separated family business with my work as mayor,” Shinada said. “I never asked the plant to provide work for the companies (with ties to my father and wife).”
Indeed, with a population of about 4,800, Kariwa as a whole depends on the nuclear power plant for much of its economic benefits. And there are no legal restrictions concerning contracts for nuclear plant work given to companies with ties to local mayors.
However, as mayor, Shinada also has the responsibility as representative of the village to make decisions on the safety of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power plant.
In the three years since October 2011, after the disaster unfolded at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the company where Shinada’s 84-year-old father serves as a director received at least 50 contracts worth about 50 million yen ($402,000) for equipment inspection work at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, according to documents submitted to the Niigata prefectural government.
The company was a subcontractor for most of those contracts, but it did receive a few direct orders from TEPCO.
Shinada has called for a restart of reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant despite doubts continually raised by Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida about whether TEPCO has done everything possible to prevent a recurrence of the Fukushima nuclear accident.
“Having the nuclear plant in operation is the normal situation for this community,” Shinada said. “It is the hope of the entire region for an early resumption of operations, and I believe there is a need for nuclear energy in Japan when thinking about the current supply of energy.”
The company where his father is a director was established in 1980, soon after construction work began at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant. It initially handled meal catering services within the plant but began work on the plant site in 1989.
Shinada’s father said he has served as director since the company was established and also owns company stock.
Kaichi Mitomi, 77, the Niigata prefectural assembly member elected from the district covering Kariwa, has been the company’s auditor since the beginning.
“While we would like to refrain from commenting on specific contracts, in general, contracts are based on fair procedures that do not favor any particular company,” a TEPCO official said.
The gasoline stand operated by Shinada’s wife is located about 2 kilometers from the main gate of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant. Shinada said the stand sells gasoline to those at the plant and fuel oil used for lighting purposes within the TEPCO-operated plant.
Shinada was an executive of the company operating the stand until he became mayor. He has since turned over management to his wife.
Shinada was first elected mayor in December 2000 after serving three terms in the village assembly. He is now in his fourth term as mayor.
There have been other instances in Japan of companies with ties to local mayors winning contracts for construction work at nuclear power plants located within the community. But there are no legal provisions prohibiting companies with ties to the mayors from winning such orders because those contracts are given by private-sector electric power companies.
SOURCE: Asahi Shimbun