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Utility chief resigns over nuclear crisis

Sat., May 21, 2011, midnight


Japan company posts $15.3 billion loss

TOKYO – Tokyo Electric Power Co. President Masataka Shimizu resigned Friday in the face of increasing allegations that the utility has mishandled the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, damaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The resignation came on the same day that the troubled utility announced $15.3 billion in net losses for the fiscal year that ended in March, due to the nuclear disaster that spewed radioactive isotopes into the air, soil and sea and caused the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents in northeast Japan.

Tokyo Electric Power’s annual losses were the largest in history for a Japanese company, excluding financial institutions, according to Japanese media. Tepco last year had reported a profit of $1.6 billion.

Reporters had been asking for months when Shimizu planned to step down. The graying, bespectacled corporate leader had hinted at the possibility this summer. In March, days after the disaster, Shimizu, 66, reported that he suffered dizziness and high blood pressure “through overwork” for several days. He later recovered, the company reported at the time.

Shimizu said he was stepping down to take personal responsibility for growing criticism of Tepco’s handling of the nuclear crisis, which many have compared to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The practice, known as kejime, is common in corporate Japan.

He will be replaced by Tepco Managing Director Toshio Nishizawa, 60.


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