January 7, 2014 / 7:27 PM / 7 years ago

Dutch pension fund sells stake in Fukushima operator over safety concerns

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch pension fund ABP said it has sold its stake in Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501.T) after the operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant failed to respond to repeated requests to discuss public safety and environmental concerns.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) employees wearing protective suits and masks stand next to an impervious wall made of steel pipe sheet pile installed along the coast facing nuclear rector No.1 to No. 4 buildings, at the tsunami-crippled TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture November 7, 2013. REUTERS/Kimimasa Mayama

ABP, a fund for civil servants, is one of the biggest pension funds in the world with nearly 300 billion euros ($408 billion) in investments.

An earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 triggered three meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station, the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986, and exposed a lack of preparation by Tokyo Electric Power or Tepco.

ABP’s decision to put Tepco on its list of banned investments with effect from January 1 is the latest blow to the Japanese utility, which has faced strong criticism over its labor and other policies during the cleanup.

Harmen Geers, a spokesman for ABP, said on Tuesday the fund’s stake in Tepco was sold during the fourth quarter for an undisclosed amount. The stake was worth 18 million euros at the end of the third quarter, according to ABP’s quarterly statement of investments.

“During and after the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, the Japanese company structurally violated our standards. So they have little regard for public safety,” ABP said in a statement on Tuesday.

Geers said that ABP had tried repeatedly to meet with Tepco to discuss its concerns, but the company had not responded.

Every year ABP updates its list of banned investments, which include several companies involved in making cluster weapons.

In Tepco’s case, Geers said, the company failed to meet objectives regarding respect for human rights and environmental challenges, two of the 10 principles outlined in the United Nations Global Compact which ABP uses as guidelines for its socially responsible investing.

Tepco could not be reached immediately for comment.

Japan will chip in more taxpayer money and other support to help Tepco clean up from the disaster, officials said last month, the latest government lifeline for the embattled utility.

Criticism of its handling of the massive clean-up has sparked calls to spin off Fukushima-related work and place it under government control or even put Tepco into bankruptcy.

However a Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee, which includes four members from outside Tepco, was set up in 2012 in to monitor pledges to raise standards of safety culture at the company and last month the utility won praise from monitors.

“It’s nice to see the good progress Tepco has made in the last several months,” Dale Klein, a former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told the Committee, although he added that much work remained to be done.

($1 = 0.7349 euros)

Reporting by Sara Webb; Editing by Anthony Barker

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