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Tepco sorry for Fukushima meltdown

Executives at the Japanese utility behind a nuclear power plant sent into meltdown by the March quake apologised today to investors.

Investors repeatedly interrupted the annual meeting of Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) shareholders with heckles, shouts and outraged questions.

Tepco 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, Fukushima Dai-ichi 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% 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.

Leaking radiation has prompted the evacuation of thousands of residents, and the perilous struggle to contain the reactors is expected to continue into next year.

Despite the anger, many of those attending the shareholders’ meeting welcomed executives’ remarks with enthusiastic applause.

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