Executives at the Japanese utility behind the nuclear power plant sent into meltdown by the March quake apologised today to investors who repeatedly interrupted the annual meeting of shareholders with heckles, yells and outraged questions.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata promised that the company was doing its utmost to bring radiation leaks under control. He said it would speedily compensate people forced to evacuate the area around the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant and farms whose products were banned because of radiation contamination.
"All of us directors apologise deeply for the troubles and fears that the accident has caused," he said at a Tokyo hotel. "The entire group will work together to resolve this crisis as soon as possible."
But the meeting was punctuated by outbursts of emotion, as one by one, shareholders, their voices shaking, said the utility had ignored warnings about the dangers of nuclear power, the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant had been inadequately prepared for a tsunami, and the amount of radiation spewing into the air and water had not been fully disclosed.
One shareholder cried out that the executives should all jump into the reactor and die to take responsibility for the fiasco.
The disaster at Fukushima Dai-ichi has erased about 90 per cent of the value of TEPCO stock, once considered a safe investment.
Fuel rods have melted at three of the plant's reactors after a March 11 earthquake set off a tsunami that knocked out cooling systems, causing the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.
The quake and tsunami killed more than 23,000 people and damaged farms, ports and hundreds of suppliers of parts to the auto and electronics industries.
Leaking radiation forced the evacuation of thousands of residents, and the perilous struggle to contain the reactors is expected to continue into next year.